Originally published on Linkedin.
Have you experienced bias in 2020?
Most people know me as someone, who is very open to different perspectives and many times I have odd perspectives which I can try to explain. I believe that I am someone who can be open to different perspectives if someone can give me reasons or insights to what they are saying. I pride myself in being someone who is willing to collaborate even in contentious situations.
Without going into too much detail here is how I am dealing with Gender bias in 2020. Today I was berated by a white male lawyer who assumed that I wasn't educated enough for him to actually walk through a legal document or understand legal code. On my own, I can't read legal code but I do know that most legal code has a logic and a lawyer should be able to walk me through it so I can understand it. (NOTE - this was not some free consultation - this is through a paid service).
According to the lawyer, he kept to the same line of defense which is, due to my relationship status (I'm not married to my partner), I have no rights in the situation we were talking about. I am open to believing him but he kept using the words married and spouse which were no where in the legal code I was asking him to look over. First of all, he didn't even hear my entire case before giving me his initial answer. Second, he was not willing or open to talk through the legal code. Lastly, he wasn't even willing to listen to questions I had in regards to the case. Which in effect did not show me the language that proved that he was correct that I have no right in this situation because I am not married to my partner.
When speaking to me, his tone - berating, rude and elevated voice level was very indicative, to me, of how he felt about talking to me. The exact words he kept repeating were, "You are not married, you have no rights." He said this at least 5x and it was the only response he had for me. In 2020, as a professional executive woman, I was not expecting to deal with a white male who felt he could berate me and treat me as someone who could not understand him and walk me through his conclusion as a lawyer.
I was and am still SHOCKED. I tried multiple ways to get him to see where I was coming from and he kept getting more agitated with me. In turn this turned me from a collaborative mindset to being very agitated and focused on processing the situation instead of dealing with the answer I needed.
How I responded. At some point, quickly, I thanked him for his time and hung up. I called the legal service back and asked to speak to a supervising lawyer (who called me back about 30 minutes later). We talked through the situation and he was very apologetic but also mentioned that it wasn't the lawyers responsibility to explain the law and that he might have been busy due to tax season. I was able to push more to say that if their job is not to explain, then the lawyer should have said that, instead of berating me and just saying the same thing over and over. Additionally, if tax season was keeping him busy then he shouldn't have been given the case.
Overall, I do appreciate how the supervising attorney responded with apologizing. Understanding and being empathetic that this shouldn't have been handled this way. The mistake was a human error and he can't refute how I felt and does not want their clients to feel this way. He mentioned that the company does do training around customer service, being empathetic and more importantly around humility. It shows good values in the company and I can appreciate that. However, this also goes to show that just putting in programs doesn't change that individuals may not be on the same plane. He did also mention that usually their clients just take their answers at face value and they usually don't have client who try to understand what the answers are. So this may have also been something different for the lawyer I was working with and instead of being collaborative and fluid he decided to be fixed and rooted in the way he was used to dealing with clients. The one good thing is that this lawyer usually never has clients saying anything against him so it truly was a one time issue for now.
I do live in my fairytale world sometimes and see the good in people (Belle's World). However, I am aware of the issues many people are facing day in and day out interacting with each other. Focusing on cognitive diversity everyday, may make me even more heightened and aware of how individuals react and interact with me more than they did before. My situation is just one of many that folks are dealing with on a daily basis. It's not just about demographics at all. It's about the humanity we all need to have with each other so that we can truly move with the times and create a world around us that move us to the future in a positive manner versus negativity.
Would love to hear your thoughts, on any other ways, I could have dealt with the situation in the moment or even afterwards. I feel like I was able to close the loop but this definitely gave me more fodder to think about long term.
What are your stories of dealing with bias in 2020?
Update 2/8/2020: I did eventually speak to another lawyer.
From the documents we needed to provide I was in fact considered a "qualifying relative." Which the original lawyer kept telling me I wasn't at all and berated me for by saying "I am not married, I have no right." --> As much as the supervising attorney would like to believe this is not bias, I vehemently disagree. This lawyer did not do his due diligence to give me an answer.
What the second lawyer did tell me, is that there are tax implications and that is something he can't answer and I would have to talk to a tax individual / accountant for that.
I would think all of us are open to hearing logic and process if we are treated as equals rather than dismissed. Additionally, when making it clear to the other side that you are not the expert in their field but would like to understand a little bit of the logic people should not get defensive and dismiss (as the first lawyer did).
Self awareness makes it much easier to understand that we all have different perspectives and we should be able to communicate, connect and collaborate to get to solutions and discussions.
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