The real Bolanle
Bolanle describes herself as “a fun loving, down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky woman who loves her family to infinity”.
“I feel every day that I get to live, it’s a blessing to be alive. I honour the activity of getting up every morning and being here,” she says.
At ANZ, Bolanle feels she’s able to bring her whole self to work. “I can embrace who I am as a woman, as a black woman, as a mother, as an African-American. Whatever it is, I’m able to just show up as who I am and I’m here ready to work,” she says.
“It feels amazing to come to work and when someone asks my name I don’t have to abbreviate it. I don’t have to make up a nickname for myself. It feels great to say ‘Hi, I’m Bolanle.’”
A world of unconscious bias
According to the University of California, unconscious bias is defined as social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.
After numerous job applications with no call-backs or feedback, Bolanle’s frustration mounted.
“What needs to be done just for me to get seen?” she remembers thinking at the time. A well-intentioned friend suggested changing her first name to something more “European” to see if it would result in more call-backs.
In a 2003 study, thousands of résumés were mailed to employers with job openings to measure which were selected for interviews. However, random stereotypically African-American names (such as “Jamal”) were used on some and stereotypically white names (like “Brendan”) on others.
The same résumé was roughly 50 per cent more likely to result in a call-back for an interview if it had the stereotypical white name. Because the résumés were statistically identical, any differences in outcomes could be attributed only to the factor that was manipulated: the names.
Fortunately, Bolanle decided against following her friend’s advice. “I realised if I had to change a significant part of myself to become appealing to an organisation, it wasn’t one I wanted to work for,” she recalls.
Unconscious bias can also play a part in gender stereotypes. Experts at Harvard developed the IAT (Implicit Association Test) to better understand the biases we commonly hold: 76 per cent of participant’s associate men with career and women with family.
Inspiration for tomorrow
Seeing women in positions of leadership and as positive role models has inspired Bolanle. “My boss is female and is an incredible leader and I look across the room at the head of one of our major initiatives, who is also female. This demonstrates to me the company values having a female voice at the table, which tells me they value me, as a person.”
Bolanle says ANZ’s Return to Work program has changed her life and draws on many of her strengths. “It gave me hope and allowed me to see there really wasn’t anything wrong with me,” she says.
“It’s also given my older daughter the ability to see not just Dad going to work but Mum going to work too. She now knows in a few years, anyone can work. Anyone can do any type of job. Anyone can achieve what they set out to achieve, as long as they put their minds to it.”