You want to be respected and seen for who you are, yet you find yourself cornered into gender roles. What lies behind this contradiction? Somehow, beneath your conscious thinking, your brain is processing many more thoughts than you are aware of. Some of those notions are false perceptions that limit your genuine expression. Getting beyond what psychologists call cognitive bias requires taking a fresh look at yourself and the world, like a child observing things for the first time. Gender imbalance comes from your interpretation of aspects within yourself. Those misconceptions manifest outwardly into gender bias. For sustainable deep changes in society, as individuals, we must first recognize and correct our inner thought distortions.
Each of us picks up underlying biases from childhood. They exist in the environment and transfer to children via observing adult behaviors. "If they [children] are in an environment where questions about gender or race are shhhh'd, then they realize this is taboo. It's not what I can talk about," says Lee Anne Bell. When left unquestioned, the thinking patterns overshadow clear and logical perception.
Cognitive bias is the perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment and illogical interpretations that subconsciously occur in the mind, and, in turn, limit thinking. Common biases include: ignoring other perspectives that disagree with our opinion or group tradition, rationalizing previous decisions regardless of the current outcomes and assuming that other's have your same opinion.
"Everyone thinks their perception of the world, or their world view, is completely accurate," explains Shakti Butler, film maker and the founder of World Trust, an organization designed to be a catalyst for racial equity. "It's difficult for people to see other people's perspectives if it doesn't line up with their own," Butler expands on the challenge people have in genuinely seeing one other.
Culturally-directed preconceived notions drive many of our ideas about race and gender. A man or a woman is often met with a generalized prejudice about who they are based on their sex. In dating, for instance, partners ignore clear information while trapped in their cognitive bias. Then later, they feel deceived because the preconceived picture of their partner crumbles into the genuine person. "Pigeon-holing sexes is one of the most frequent and worst things we do when dating," states Paul C. Brunson, matchmaking guru and best-selling author of It's Complicated (But Doesn't Have to Be). Successful relationships come via sincere engagements.
In business, gender-based preconceptions create other fantasies of a man or a woman that can form obstacles in productive working relationships. For example, cognitive bias can present men as best suited for leadership positions. "Leadership is leadership. At the end of the day, in an ideal world it doesn't have a qualification in gender or race," Janet Salazar, CEO and founder of Impact Leadership 21, an organization hosting collaborative programs for gender equality including "Conversations with Men."
Meeting one another as equitable individuals is the goal and the challenge. Yet, unconsciously, we may be harboring the prejudices that we feel are coming from others. "The key to remember is that the way we treat ourselves is directly associated with the quality of our social circle," Brunson recalls. Look at how you treat your own masculine and feminine side to check your own inner balance and equality.
To dispel your own cognitive bias, objectively observe masculine and feminine qualities in their basic, organic state as the equinox. Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine) aspects both compliment and blend into one another. The masculine, protruding and progressive qualities only function in complement to the feminine, receptive and holding qualities. For example, in order to step forward there has to be space; for a statement to be heard, it has to be received; for greatness to manifest, there must be planning. The similar, yet different qualities flow together in integration so as to expand life.
Both qualities exist in each individual. Counter-productive conflict and the accompanying problems come when the equal value is denied. This inner persecution expands into societal gender inequality. The divided self, where one natural aspect is suppressed under the other, is the foundation for treating others unequally. The split hinders individual's potential, and thus, society's health. "We are doing a huge injustice for our world in not tapping into half our population [as we suppress women]. It would be the same if we ignored our men," emphasizes Michelle Patterson, president and CEO of the California Women's Conference.
What we ignore within ourselves -- qualities that are yin-like, receptive or feminine -- are the missing elements in society. The world culture is currently masculine weighted with emphasis on action and aggression (outward excursion). Ignoring the feminine elements create ills in the world, similar to how an individual becomes sick without rest and nourishment (taking in). Male-female aspects are integrated within us and should be fluid in society. "We are indelibly connected to one another as human beings but the brain likes to focus on all of the differences that are among us, which are also real, but there is a deeper connection. That connection -- that possibility of building a world where everyone thrives drives my work," Butler sums up.
Aggressively allow balance, connection and possibility to move you to inner, and thus, outer equality, wellness and peace... and alas! You are set free!
All interviews were performed myself.