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Four Ways Leaders can #BreakTheBias

The women on the Three Over Four team… damn. They’ll awe you, and not only because they practically run the joint, or because of their impressive work across the content. 

They’ll stun you because of who they are and how effortlessly they embody the values of 3o4 (that they helped shape). Three Over Four hit the jackpot with our nearly all-female team, and honoring them during Women’s History Month is just a small way to share some gratitude. 

And look, we’ll say it before you think it: we know this is a cliché. 

Anyone who’s paying attention knows that women keep our world running ​culturally, politically, socioeconomically, and more, so the only kind of gratitude (yup, also cliché) that counts is advocacy and rallying behind them in the global fight for equality, equity and inclusion. Sometimes, that means realizing there’s no way around doing the cliché thing. So, we’re doing it, but we won’t be cheesy. Pinky swear. 

If you didn’t know, March also observes International Women’s Day annually on the 8th, and it promotes a new theme each year. Here’s this year’s:


IWD 2022 campaign theme: #BreakTheBias

Imagine a gender-equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

This got us thinking. What more can leadership do to create this kind of environment for a team that’s largely composed of women? (In marketing, this kind of team composition isn’t at all unusual.)

To find out, we asked the team.

Four Ways Leaders & Organizations Can #BreakTheBias

For Women’s History Month, we asked the Three Over Four team two questions: 

  1. In six words, what actions are you taking/will you take to #breakthebias and help create a gender-equal world?
  2. What can companies and organizations like Three Over Four do to #breakthebias and create a gender-equal world?

Listen, when it comes to complex subjects about humanity, we don’t pretend to know the most equitable solutions to support the agencies, experiences, and many identities of marginalized communities. 

Especially from Aaron, the founder of Three Over Four, from his place as a privileged white guy. 

💡 Quick thought: We know the “privilege” word can be tough, but we’re comfortable with the awareness of how the world is kinder to some than it is to women or BIPOC folks. And, honestly, it might not be possible to really show up for each other as people without these difficult internal and external conversations. This is something we try to embrace as a culture at Three Over Four.

We want to keep building teams that break biases and stop perpetuating gender inequality. We feel immense gratitude (there it is again!) to work with people who are pumped to put these goals into action. 

Sorry, long intro. Here’s how some of the team responded to those questions, plus the changes we’re committed to making as a company.

 1. Invest in internal training

To answer these two questions, copywriter and content strategist Skye Miller provided an awesome example of what breaking gender biases in the workplace can look like

While she considers that video exaggerated and mostly for fun, it still reflects a lot of important elements that come into play when you challenge the status quo and empower others:

  • Penny, the character in the clip, feels comfortable speaking against a lack of inclusivity, and her male colleagues don’t object to her suggestions to improve. “It’s clear everyone supports Penny, and this is a safe space for her to challenge social norms,” says Skye. 
  • Creating a safe space isn’t always enough. Women also need the support of advocates (besides other women), especially those in positions of power and privilege — AKA bosses, execs, managers, etc. In the clip, Penny, who’s the only woman in the room, takes on the responsibility of educating her colleagues. But as Skye puts it, she shouldn’t always “have to be the #BreakTheBias police.” 
  • As Penny challenges the presenter’s gender bias, a colleague pulls out a flow chart that specifies who to prioritize listening to. To Skye, this shows that “this organization has already been doing the work.” 

No matter how organizations choose to challenge gender bias, Skye believes internal training is required. 

So, what’s the role of an organization’s leadership here? For starters, we can implement hiring practices that make sure only people committed to equity join the team. Plus, in our company and across others, workforce development should prioritize women for visible leadership positions and mentorship opportunities. Finally, hire pros to help build an inclusive culture that nurtures all employees. Group effort, right?

Skye’s six words: Stand my ground. Speak my truth.

2. Intentional recruitment, retention, and succession planning

“Organizations of all shapes sizes have an opportunity and a responsibility to be intentional about recruitment, retention, and succession planning,” says Gina Bonar, another Three Over Four content manager. “That’s the only way things like board composition change to incorporate valuable diversity of all kinds, including women.”

To prove her point, Gina shared the Women in the Boardroom report by the Deloitte Global Boardroom Program. 

Maybe you’ve seen these stats: Women hold only 19.7% of board seats globally, and only 6.7% of board chairs belong to women, with even fewer women holding CEO roles, at just 5%. If you think this underrepresentation doesn’t affect companies, guess again.

A 2020 global study that tracks diversity across corporate governance found that including one more woman on a company’s board — while keeping the size unchanged — produces an ROI of 8 to 13 basis points.

What would you be willing to do in your company to increase your ROI by 8 to 13 points?

Across the board, more companies are interested in having more balanced representation in senior roles to create more diverse experiences and perspectives, which improves the bottom line — but creating balance at the top starts at the bottom.

One super important thing companies can do for women is to dramatically increase their efforts in developing entry- and middle-level women. For women to grow into leadership positions, they need exposure to the experience needed to reach the next step.

What that looks like at 3o4 is simple: We let the team make their own decisions about their careers, and we always offer our support and assistance to help them reach their goals, be they with us or somewhere else.

Gina’s six words: Start with myself; bring others along.

3. Face your unconscious biases

Admitting and addressing biases can be difficult and ongoing, but somewhere along the line we came to understand that we can’t maintain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive company culture without being real with ourselves. 

Three Over Four’s whip-smart project manager Paula Lee says, “Bias is part of being human, but we can’t tackle it if we don’t acknowledge this.” If you need a starting point, she suggests taking an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to learn more about any unconscious biases you might have. 

Paula suggested to us that awareness is a key step to beginning change. Consider these tips to start kicking bias (within yourself or your company) to curb:

  • Use better language. If you’d describe a passionate female employee as bossy but consider her male colleague assertive, dig deeper and ask yourself why. 
  • Look for opportunities for gender-blind evaluations in hiring. 
  • Support working parents and don’t make assumptions about their shifting career goals — and don’t shun caretakers for prioritizing family. 
  • Give women a platform. Men tend to dominate more space in meetings, while women are interrupted more, given less credit for their ideas, and have less overall influence.  
  • Who’s doing more office “housework”? Women often take on more service and support work (like tidying shared spaces), so make sure to distribute office chores evenly between everyone. 
  • Make the women in your organization feel encouraged to negotiate rather than push back or punish them when they do.

Paula’s six words: Shh. Don’t interrupt. They are speaking.

4. Elevate women

Our amazing digital marketing expert Tarah Holland put it simply and perfectly: “Elevate women by amplifying our voices, celebrating our accomplishments, and seeking our expertise.” She says representation matters, but the work to #breakthebias shouldn’t just stop at diversity. 

Instead, there has to be a shared focus on equity and inclusivity to transform culture. Couldn’t agree more with Tarah.

Tarah’s six words: Be me, speak up, uplift women!

You’re Never Too Small to Champion Equality

Here are Aaron’s six words: Welcome discomfort as opportunities to learn.  

That’s what we all need to remember about the journey of breaking biases — it’s uncomfortable. It’s not easy, and it’s not about you being right or wrong. 

Creating a more gender-equal world is all about learning, empathizing, connecting with each other as humans, and daring to fight against injustice you may not ever experience. 

We’ll leave you with a final thought. 

Breaking biases is like wearing a mask in public: It isn’t just about the health and well-being of our organization and the people in it. Companies need to recognize that when we build equitable and inclusive cultures rich in trust and compassion, it brokers connections between other groups. 

We’re taking part in building an infrastructure for idea exchange across many groups, which helps society thrive — not just our own corner of it.

Thanks to the wonderfully compassionate mind of Farrah Dominique Daniel for the bulk of the writing in this post. 

And to Gina Bonar, Tarah Holland, Paula Lee, and Skye Miller for chipping in. 

Love this team! Pass the salt and pepper.

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