Bias lurking in feedback…

I’m not going to lie; it’s not been an easy week. Last Friday I was sent a spreadsheet of feedback following the delivery of a 3-day live leadership training event. When I first opened the feedback, I was actually excited and hopeful because I’d had such an amazing time there, I was looking forward to reading all the nice comments and finding ways to improve and grow for next time.

When I opened the spreadsheet, all I could see was rows and rows of highly dissatisfied.  In fact, if you had asked me at the time, I would have said there was nothing on that spreadsheet other than highly dissatisfied. I started to panic, impending dread hitting the pit of my stomach, “Where did it all go so terribly wrong?” I thought to myself. The next day I went back into the feedback and noticed, oh actually there were a lot of positive comments, in fact the vast majority were highly satisfied and only three people out of 70 were highly dissatisfied. Why had I not noticed that before? Well because my brain had gone into fight or flight mode.

Here are the three highly dissatisfied comments.

  1. “She would be good for the right audience such as at high school or lower level.”
  2. “To study about the facilitator before committing to attend a workshop.” *Given in the context of someone who would have preferred to not have 1 person (me) deliver all of the training elements.
  3. “It would be more productive to have true leaders teach about leadership than someone who has just read about it in books. Changing the coach could make it more useful and productive.”

On the surface, I treated these comments as feedback the first time I read them which sent me into panic mode. Taking some time before approaching it again helped me to access my prefrontal cortex. From this place I could regulate my high-order decision making. Was this feedback aimed to help me? Was it actionable in some way?

Here’s what I discovered.

  1. The first comment is the equivalent of me saying to a leading Professor in their field, “I think you are better suited to teaching high school science.”
  2. The second says to me, “If you study about the facilitator and find out she is award-winning, highly qualified, and a leading authority and author in the field of early-mid careers, then you won’t attend an early careers leadership event?”
  3. The third? Cross-functionally leading two European scientific teams, being Managing Director of a start-up company, and leading my own business and team is purely academic?

All of it was abusive, focusing solely on diminishing my expertise. The only part I do not know is if it was conscious or unconscious bias.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

After venting my frustrations, I felt activated. I am driven by my mission, to eradicate inequity in the workplace by guiding women to design careers for fulfilment with a mindset for leadership to build progressive workplace cultures in which every individual feels valued.

We cannot reach equity through silence and inaction.

Here’s what I did next…

I wrote to the organisation and highlighted the three abusive comments so that they are aware the behaviour exists, just how unconscious it is, and how important it is to include training in allyship (how to recognise bias, not do it, and how to better support people).

I then took to LinkedIn to highlight why this is abusive so that a wider group of people can learn from my experience. I do hope it will make the unconscious conscious and change people’s behaviour as a result.

And now I’m writing to you too, because there’s no doubt in my mind that you will also have been at the receiving end of bias.

“Micro-aggressions are everyday verbal, non-verbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative message to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership.”

Don’t forget this bias can be lurking in so called feedback too!

Hit reply and tell me your story.

Keep Opening Up,


PS If you have read and enjoyed Intentional Careers for STEM Women, do please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It helps my book and methodology reach more people that really need it. < < Leave a Review > >

PPS Here are all of the next steps

  • Join cohort 6 of the Career Design Mastermind starting 1st May 2024 < < Join here> >
  • Register for the next £295 free Intentional Careers WebClass here(multiple dates available)
  • Book a free 45-minute 1:1 coaching consultation call here.
  • Get a copy of Intentional Careers for STEM Women < < Buy now> >

Listen to the latest episode of the Women in STEM Career & Confidence podcast. Dr Lucy Fernandes is a Senior Customer Success Scientist at Protein Metrics and has had a really interesting career journey that completely makes sense when you connect the dots looking backwards.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. Making the shift from superwoman fuelled by fear to authentic feminine leadership
  2. How our thoughts shape our reality
  3. Using a coaching tool called batching for energy matching to be more effective with productivity and time management.

Tune in on your favourite platform 🎧 iTunes 🎧 Spotify 🎧 Other Platforms.