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‘Unconscious bias’ is the term to fight gender inequality, says top JP Morgan executive
The term is powerful because nobody wants to think of themselves as a sexist, says chief marketing officer Kristin Lemkau
By  Lucy Burton

Using the term 'unconscious bias' helps address gender inequality issues more effectively than suggesting sexism, as everyone is willing to acknowledge that they suffer from it, according to one of JP Morgan's top female executives.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Kristin Lemkau, the chief marketing officer of JP Morgan Chase, said that as a marketing person the term was "really powerful" because nobody wants to think of themselves as a sexist.

She added that her leadership team is "two-thirds badass working mums", which means she has proved the point of unconscious bias by hiring people like her.

Sitting on a gender equality panel on January 18 alongside a number of senior executives, including Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg,  Lemkau said the small but significant everyday events she dubbed "paper cuts" was the most important challenge that needed to be addressed.

These include "being interrupted in meetings, having your idea being represented by somebody else, saying the same thing as a guy and he says it five minutes later and is credited with it", she said.

The discussion was organised by consumer goods giant Unilever following the publication of a report it had commissioned on gender stereotypes, with the responses highlighting deep-rooted biases about who should take senior jobs.

Based on interviews with 9,000 men and women across the UK, US, India, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Kenya and Indonesia last month, it found 77% of men and 55% of women believed a man to be the best choice to lead a high stakes projects, with 75% of women and 57% of men saying that they believe men don't want women in the c-suite.

The majority of women (67%) also said that they felt pressured to just 'get over' inappropriate behaviour in the office, the study found.

Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive officer, said that empowering women and girls was the "single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth."

He added: "It goes without saying, it’s crucial for business. The World Economic Forum’s latest Gender Gap Report notes that we may not achieve economic equality among men and women for another 170 years. That’s just not good enough. We need to lead the change in tackling unhelpful stereotypes that hold women – and men – back."

Source: Financial News
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