Unconscious bias is making the payments gender gap hard to bridge

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Women in the U.S. earned the right to vote 99 years ago, giving rise to women’s empowerment and gender equality for generations to come. Today, side by side, men and women run companies, lead governments, raise families, fight wars, create wealth and save lives.

Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, we are still 108 years away from gender equality in the U.S. workplace. How can that be? Part of the answer is unconscious bias, and it challenges gender equality in all businesses, including payments.

Leading research firms including McKinsey & Co., Korn Ferry, Oliver Wyman and Goldman Sachs, all agree that incorporating diversity is not just the ethically right thing to do, but the economically essential thing to do. The success of an organization improves when leaders integrate diversity into a company’s strategic vision; products or services; and employee development.
Business Roundtable states that the new definition of the “purpose of a corporation” is to go beyond serving shareholders to investing in employees. Today, presenting a diverse workforce to shareholders or the board is essential.

Diversity is a game-changer. So, why is the needle moving so slowly?

Wnet advisor and advocate Joe Carella, the assistant dean at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, says researchers at Eller are addressing the neuroscience of bias in men and women. It's becoming clear that unconscious bias in leaders and within an organization’s culture are the primary reasons why the gender gap still exists. By understanding how bias becomes embedded in how we lead, recruit and advance others, we can change patterns and create inclusive organizations. Above all, men and women leaders must have a platform for dialogue.

Integrating diversity into any corporate culture is complex, even when we are truly committed to doing so. Even when we set policies and established internal programs to remove hurdles, we are still faced with one of the most confounding aspects of increasing diversity and inclusion: our own brains.

Within nanoseconds, our brains make instant observations and assumptions based on our beliefs and experiences. Unconscious bias is the result, with unchecked conclusions and judgments. They are ubiquitous. Becoming self-aware and keeping bias in check takes constant focus. Calling them out when you see it happening takes courage. Leading resulting change is risky. Unless we embrace the need to focus, have courage and take risks, we’ll be on a 108-year journey.

At this year’s Wnet Leadership Summit, "Leading in a Changing World,” nearly 300 payments executives will examine ways to empower women to be leaders within this ever-changing industry.

McKinsey will present hot-off-the-press results of this year’s Women in the Workplace study findings. Through Wnet’s partnership with McKinsey, this year’s study includes more payments industry data than ever before, and the findings will reveal what we need to know to move the gender diversity needle more quickly.

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