Karly Cortez is a senior accountant at Advicent, the financial planning technology provider of choice for nearly 100,000 financial professionals.
While it is true that the financial services industry is largely served by male employees, the women here at Advicent have come together to form an “employee resource group” (ERG) that we proudly call “RAD Women.” The idea behind the group is to create a safe space for women and other underrepresented employee demographics to grow their careers, share their experiences, and deliver ideas to better contest unconscious bias in the workplace.
The mission of RAD
Did you know that in the FinTech industry, women make up only 37 percent of the workforce and just 19 percent of C-suite leaders? Women over 35 years old are three times more likely to be in a junior role compared to their male counterparts. Considering these stats, the mission of RAD Women is simple – to promote an increasing presence of female all-stars at every level of our organization.
Our three main focuses RAD are to:
1. Retain female talent
2. Attract female talent
3. Develop female leaders
We believe this mission is entirely within our reach and are hoping that through our collaboration as a team, we can all contribute to making this mission come true.
What is unconscious bias?
Unconscious bias is when discrimination and incorrect judgments occur due to stereotyping. This can happen automatically, without the person even being aware of it. These types of biases are often so ingrained in culture and society that they go unnoticed by many people. When thinking of our own unconscious biases, it is easy to feel like a bad person for having these thoughts, but it is important to remember that having an unconscious bias is normal and that everybody has it! Although we have come a very long way in recent years, there is always room for improvement!
As I was doing my own research on unconscious bias, the number one bias that presented itself repeatedly was “gender qualities,” or the idea that men are leaders and women are supporters. For a very long time, we have identified traits such as “rational, dominant, and driven” to be male characteristics and “emotional, supportive, and caring” to be female characteristics. The thought that there are human characteristics that are specific to one gender only is a close-minded way of thinking, but these types of thoughts have been ingrained into society for so long that unconsciously, we already have a predetermined bias on certain groups of people based on what society “tells” us is correct. Unconscious bias is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if we do not recognize, challenge, and act on these ideologies. This is exactly what the RAD Women group is trying to do!
What is an Employee Resource Group?
There are many ways to help with unconscious bias in the workplace. Forming an employee resource group (ERG) is an easy, yet efficient way to give employees who feel underrepresented a platform to share their thoughts and experiences. An ERG is a group of (often underrepresented) employees who have shared characteristics or life experiences. These groups are organized and led by employees themselves. Some of the most common ERGs are related to race, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation.
It is important to note that an ERG, (especially ours) is not exclusionary – which means that even if you are not a woman, you can still join and contribute! In the last meeting that I attended, there were some men in the group, and it was interesting to hear their thoughts and perspectives. I also believe it can be beneficial for men to hear the personal experiences of women getting treated differently in the workplace so that we can form more awareness of possible instances of unconscious bias.
While women in the workplace have come a long way, there is no reason why things could not be even better. Our hope for RAD Women is to give women, as well as others who experience a similar unconscious bias in the workplace, a safe and comfortable space to share their experiences. Our hope is to be able to come together to support one another and provide employees with the right tools to contest the inevitable biases that one might face in the workplace.
As our former First Lady, Michelle Obama once said: “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”