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Episode 24: Murder On The Planet Express Extra Quality

It was very amusing to see the episode toss in cannon fodder characters like McMasters and Jackie Jr. before quickly feeding them to the alien monster. The episode also had a few expertly executed subversions of our expectations about who the monster was at any given time. The three murders in the Planet Express panic room were the best examples of that.

Episode 24: Murder on the Planet Express

Ira talks with UC Davis Professor Kathy Stuart about a macabre trend that dates back to 17th and 18th century Europe. It seems that in order to avoid eternal damnation for the sin of committing suicide, a number of people began committing murder for the express purpose of turning themselves in, confessing their sins to a priest in order to be blessed and forgiven before being executed. (9 minutes)

GEORGIE FROST: Every company wants to unlock more value and growth, but how much bias is being allowed to creep in? Biases across your business, but especially from leadership in the recruiting process, can seriously stunt those aims. Acknowledge and compensate for them, boost your business, or ignore them and risk letting competitors steal a march on you. I'm Georgie Frost, and this is "The So What from BCG."NAN DASGUPTA: Bias is everywhere, and it's everything that might seem small. And then it's big bias. It's unconscious bias, and then it's pervasive systemic bias that's been built into what we do.GEORGIE: Today, I'm joined by Nan DasGupta, a lead in BCG's People & Organization practice, and an expert in people and organizational strategy.NAN: Oftentimes, you have a direction in mind. You want to achieve certain outcomes. But the real question is how do we get there? Gender equity and inclusivity is one of those big areas where, actually, we know we need to do better, but we simply don't know how. It seems a little bit too big of a problem. So companies are looking for, we are all looking for, ways to move the needle and actually make progress on that really good ambition.GEORGIE: Don't worry, Nan, we're going to solve this in the next 20 minutes, aren't we?NAN: Right.GEORGIE: Let's start with unconscious bias. How big an issue is it in the workplace and how do you understand it?NAN: Well, I think bias is a big term, and it's pervasive. I mean, it's certainly in the business context, in the corporate environment that we work in, bias is everywhere. And it's everything that might seem small, and then it's big bias. It's unconscious bias, and then it's actually fairly pervasive, systemic bias that's been built into what we do. And if I were to describe, Georgie, how I think about it, I mean, fundamentally, this may be a provocative way to say it, but our business world, our context, was made by men for men, and it works for men. And more specifically it works for white cisgender straight men who often have partners at home who don't work. I mean, it works really well for those people.GEORGIE: How? I like provocative, and that's OK, but it's a sentiment that we hear quite a lot, and I think it needs some qualification. What is the evidence of that and how is it manifesting itself?NAN: Well, I think the evidence in that is how we make decisions in the context of recruiting people into our talent pools. It's how we evaluate performance. It's how we think about promotion decisions, leadership decisions, those subtle biases have really just permeated all of that field, if you will. And in the end, you end up with what we do have today, which is dramatic under-representation of women in leadership roles, and a constant feeling that it is more challenging for women to thrive in the business context and be themselves and be their whole selves.GEORGIE: While we will have unconscious bias of some sort, to varying degrees, that individual bias can filter through a company, from a leadership level, to become that systemic bias that you spoke about.NAN: I agree. I agree. And I'll give you a couple of examples where I see this at play. I think that there is an unwritten assumption that in order be a serious senior executive, a serious corporate manager, you must live, breathe, drink, eat, work, all times, 24/7. It's your biggest priority in life, clearly. And actually, there's not any room for anything else. And that has just been how we think about what a successful senior serious businessperson looks like. It is completely incompatible with large swathes of our population, many women, who actually have caregiving responsibilities, whether it's as a parent or for their elderly, who actually have really broad interests and needs to fulfill from a purpose perspective. It's completely incompatible with people like that thriving and being great leaders. It's ridiculous, right? It's not fact-based. It's not true. It's just absolutely not necessary to be that person to be a great CEO or a great C-suite executive. It's just not necessary. And we have to challenge that sort of systemic belief and say, "Well, why should it be that way? Why does it have to be that way? What if it weren't that way? Why have we created that systemically in our belief system?"GEORGIE: Are we not in danger here of putting women in a box? Should the emphasis be less on encouraging companies to perhaps accommodate these more, quote-unquote, "traditionally female" ways of working? And more on the men themselves, getting men to want to, to take up some of those caregiving roles?NAN: For sure. I think that's why it's important that we focus on the act and the work of caregiving and not just the act of making the workplace equitable for women. Honestly, that is a bias that impacts men in a very dramatic way as well. I think, I believe, I know, there are many men in this day and age that actually get tremendous purpose, reward, satisfaction, joy out of caregiving. And yet biases prevent them from really dedicating themselves more fully to that role in their family, whatever their family might look like. So yes, we have to break that stereotype that caregiver equals women. It does so happen, though, that in today's day and age, in most societies, women are carrying the massive load of caregiving, if you will, more so than men. So that is the way it is today. And that's why that bias against caregiving, the fact that we don't recognize caregiving as valuable, we often don't pay for it, or we underpay for it. All of those biases are impacting women in a very, very dramatic way today.GEORGIE: Actually, this can be a lot smaller, a lot more pervasive in the way that people think about the way that women react to certain things. There's a famous chef here in Britain who has made a comment about why he prefers to work with men, because they deal with pressure better, because women are too emotional. A famous scientist once said, "One of the problems with women in the lab is you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, or they cry." Right, those are two examples of very stereotypical ideas of women being emotional. My first question would be, what is the damage of that? And two, what's wrong with emotions?NAN: I think that's the right question, right? So of course we have so many stereotypes, and those examples are excellent ones. I'm not saying that there are no differences between men and women or between people in general. We have so many differences between us. The problem is how we've been ingrained and trained and systemically biased ourselves to thinking emotion is bad, right? In truth, what we know today, for example, is that leaders that show authenticity, reflect that they're human, have empathy, are not afraid to express emotion at the right times, those are very, very effective leaders. And they're effective because they make their people believe in them and want to do well for them. And they're effective because it's just a very, very strong way of leading. But our record books and our sort of stereotypes would say, "Well, that's incompatible with being a serious business leader. And those are the biases we have to break down.GEORGIE: I'm curious, you and I both come from backgrounds in industries that are heavily male dominated. Me, before finance, which is heavily male dominated, I was in sport, and you in engineering. How did we manage? Was there something that we can do better or differently, or did the rules not apply to us? Or did they, we just didn't realize? Saying that, I've got lots of examples of sexism that I could talk to you about, but this is only a 20-minute podcast.NAN: We'll do that another time, Georgie. You know what, Georgie, I don't know about you, but for me, as I grew up loving science, loving sports, participating in sports, it actually never occurred to me this was unusual or I shouldn't. It just didn't occur to me. And I credit my parents. Absolutely I credit my parents. At no point in time did they ever reflect to me that, "Hey, wait a minute. That's a weird path. Don't do that." They weren't thrilled that I was playing soccer, because I was injured a lot, but it wasn't because I was a girl. I think somehow the truer you are to yourself and have the confidence, that self-expression is valued, the more you're able to sort of filter out some of how others are perceiving you in that field. But I'm not trying to diminish the impact of being the lonely only or always the minority. You do feel it. It does take lot of resilience and resolve just to say, "You know what? That doesn't really matter. I know what I bring to this party."GEORGIE: That's made me think of two things. One, do you think that we, to a degree, internalize that? Some of the comments that are made: "you're emotional," "perhaps women shouldn't be in sport." It's already within us. We've just for some reason chosen to ignore it. But also the importance of role models, because my parents played a very important role in me deciding that I could go into sport or I could do anything I want to. Because, well, my mom was always the main breadwinner. She was always the one out at work. And so that's the role model I had growing up. How important are role models in business?NAN: Incredibly important, in my opinion, I mean we hear all the time, and I certainly felt this way, moving up through the ranks in my corporate career that it's very helpful to look ahead and say, "You know what? I can see myself being that person. I can see myself following that success pattern." And it's troubling when you look ahead, and there's no one that you can relate to. You just feel like you have to forge a path. You have to blaze a trail. You have to prove to everyone that you can do it. So role models are very important, and we're stuck in a numbers game right now where we don't have enough role models. So there's an additional ask and tax and burden on those that we have to really make sure that they are able to have the impact on all those following them.GEORGIE: How do you solve that problem in a business context?NAN: Well, ultimately, I think you solve that problem or at least chip away at that problem by nurturing and enforcing and incubating just inclusivity as a general cultural trait, as a general value that all leaders demonstrate. So I don't necessarily have to have a female role model. As I grew up in my company, which is a fairly male-dominated industry, I had multiple role models who I could see myself being like, even though they were male, because they amplified and they demonstrated the qualities that felt genuine to me. They were inclusive. They did care about me. They did recognize that I was living a different life than they had lived. And that made me interesting to them. That made me valuable to their understanding of the work that we do. So I think what it really means is that everybody has a role to play here. It is about inclusivity. It is about recognizing, appreciating, loving, and valuing difference rather than being scared of that difference because of biases we may have, because we don't understand the difference as much.GEORGIE: Now how much can and, indeed, should we force change? Because on many levels, women are smashing it. I mean, girls in the UK are doing better in school than the boys. In the US, women reportedly make up almost 60% of all college students. I only need to look at my own old profession, sports journalism, and see how far that's come. Shouldn't we just wait? I think there's an argument that says, "Look, it's going to happen anyway, and actually we should pat ourselves on the back for the speed of that change and where we are now."NAN: Heck no, as my daughter would say. Heck no, no. I mean, look, I don't feel like we're smashing it. Look at the representation alone of women, the CEO ranks, and the board tables, the important decision-making tables in politics. We are dramatically underrepresented. And that doesn't make sense. That's not right. I mean, with all due respect, as a society, as a human race, I don't think we're crushing it. I don't think we're crushing it. We have a lot of things that we can do better on. And I have to believe that giving other voices a greater chance to weigh in on how we do things, on how we lead, on how we drive society is going to make us better as a race, as a human kind, as a planet. We have to keep reminding ourselves that, you know what? We don't have equality in the workforce, certainly, in society as well, in many societies. And yes, we do have to push that conversation.GEORGIE: To go back to the unconscious bias conversation we were having before. There's obviously unconscious bias with leaders and how that filters down into a company. Of course it does. But what about, I speak as women here, our own unconscious biases, perhaps toward ourselves, our own ambitions. Is there something that we could do as women to put ourselves in better positions that we could feel more comfortable in the workplace?NAN: Yeah, I think first of all, unconscious bias is in everyone. We all have biases that we bring every day to how we process information, how we treat other people, assumptions we make about who people are, what they should do, we all have that. Men and women both. We do it to ourselves as well. I mean, it's actually just the way our brains work, right? Our brains have pattern recognition. They try to protect us from things that we don't understand or drive to fear. And so yes, absolutely, women have those same unconscious biases. So I think the message and the recipe is the same for everybody, for all humans, is to really be wary of your thought processes in terms of engaging with people, in terms of making decisions. Where might you actually need to open up your thinking? And really look at the things that are different from what you thought, look at the things where you're actually making some crude assumptions, and explore that.GEORGIE: I want to ask you, because actually it's something I've been focusing on a lot at work, about menopause. Seems a strange start to a conversation, but I think it shouldn't be. I think it should be a conversation that we all have. There's some research in the UK from our trade unions saying that one in four women have considered leaving their job due to symptoms of menopause. And yet only 19% of businesses say they have any policy toward menopause in place. This is something that is affecting 13 million women in the UK. And it is something that doesn't seem to be considered by businesses. Why is that?NAN: Because nobody wants to talk about menopause, Georgie, let's face it. I think it's a great question, right? And it is such an interesting point that menopause occurs in a woman's stage of life where they're probably at that very senior stage of their career where they might be in consideration for something bigger, where they are asking themselves, "Do I really want something bigger? Because right now I'm not feeling it." It happens at a very, very particular point in a typical career life stage. And nobody wants to have that conversation, right? Nobody really wants to talk about it.GEORGIE: But why is that? I mean, technically, menopause is just one day, but perimenopause can last over a decade. It can affect women in their late 30s, 40s, 50s. These are key periods for women building a career and trying to reach the top. And I'm wondering if the reason that it's not talked about or considered in company policies goes back to that idea that you were talking about right at the start of the podcast of the business environment being created by men for men. Can, should, businesses do better here?NAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. But to be honest, because there are so few women in those positions that might be asking the questions that you're asking, Georgie, it doesn't get brought up, right? It does not get brought up. But it should be, it should be. And honestly, I think we should be way more introspective and innovative about honestly what are the changes that humans go through at that stage of life. How does that impact what they're trying to do, what they want to do, how they're feeling, and think about how we might incorporate that a little bit more into talent progression, career paths. And frankly, just be a little bit more understanding about how great leadership is influenced by life.GEORGIE: Exactly right. I mentioned menopause much as we mentioned caregiving, having children, taking career breaks, all things that that affect women, largely. If you were to talk to, as you do, you go into businesses regularly to discuss these sorts of things, where do you start as a business leader?NAN: Well, to me, the starting point is always when you look at representation, when you look at just the raw numbers: Is that right? Or is that wrong? And you have to fundamentally believe that we have to change it, right? We actually aspire to more balance and complete balance, complete equality, if you will. Every part of the organization. That has to be the aspiration. I think as long as you think that, "OK, well, this industry is always going to be skewed this way, or it's always going to be challenging for a woman to devote herself to her career the way men do." As long as you keep those beliefs at the back of your mind, I think we're stalled. We're stalled. So I think that's the start. So the belief and just the general acceptance that there's got to be a different normal is the starting place. Then I think it's systematically looking at all of the processes that we have in place, all the practices that we have in place to grow our talent and our organizations. Everything from who are we recruiting? Where are we recruiting them from? What is our message to them? What are our belief systems about? What "fit" means? What experience you need to have. Being willing to challenge that with the overarching North Star in mind that, you know what? It ought to be equitable in the end because that's actually what normal should be. It's looking at every time we assess someone's performance or make some sort of judgment about how they're doing, is that based on true performance, true outcomes delivered, true deliverables delivered, or is it based on a dated version of what that needs to look like from a style perspective, from a way of doing things perspective?And then it's based on every time the


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