5 types of people who help #BreakTheBias

As I’ve thought about what International Women’s Day means to me, I’ve realized the day itself is just a day. The power really lies in the idea, the movement, and the efforts of people around the world to empower women in the workplace and in their lives. I see these efforts happening around me every day, and breaking the bias requires the whole of a community around you to make it possible.

Kahly Berg

I have been truly fortunate to have some amazing people throughout my life and career who’ve shared their skills, support, and trust to help me grow, thrive, and break barriers – it would be impossible to recognize them all. So instead, I wanted to share with you some of the most important types of people you can surround yourself with and/or the important role you can play to help women break the bias everywhere.

I believe these five types of people can be instrumental in changing women’s lives, as I know they have changed mine: The Advocate, The Mentor, The Mentee, The Confidant, and The Ally.

1. The Advocate

The Advocate believes in you. They use their position of power to create pathways for you. When I think of what it means to be an advocate, I immediately think of Corley Hughes. When I had my first job out of college, trying to navigate the (at the time) highly male-dominated culture of Microsoft, I had an advocate in Corley. She helped create opportunities to shine, gave me stretch projects to challenge me to grow, and advocated for my promotions, allowing the youngest years of my career to be accelerated. Advocates reduce the headwinds for women. Be an advocate. Get an advocate.

2. The Mentor

The Mentor coaches you. They guide you and inspire you to push yourself. A mentor whose impact I feel daily is Stephanie Trautman. One year after the acquisition of Rational, I found myself among a small population of female leaders at Wipro, struggling to find a voice and also stay true to myself. As a mentor, Stephanie forges the path in front of me, providing wayfinding for success and being a sounding board for the challenges and opportunities of the moment. Without her, I’d be lost.

3. The Mentee

The Mentee looks to you to lead by example. Your impact on their present also helps shape their future, and this responsibility calls you to greatness every day. One of my mentees, Shawna Strickland, has taught me so much over the years. She has shown me high accountability and has held me to that same standard. She has grown and thrived in her career, giving me a sense of pride and joy in her success. She comes to me for advice but equally helps me see new perspectives. A mentee will provide you with as much, if not more than you will give them.

4. The Confidant

The Confidant understands you. They’re the person you can trust with anything. In my mind, the word confidant is synonymous with Kyra Purvis. Okay, okay... she is my sister – but she has been an incredible confidant for me throughout my entire career. From when I was young and trying to figure out the path I would ultimately take, and even today as I’m struggling with things like imposter syndrome and anxiety. I can trust Kyra with anything – no judgment, no influence – just an ear to listen.

5. The Ally

The Ally breaks the bias right along with you. For me, this is absolutely my husband, Jason Berg. Since having our first child five years ago, Jason has enabled me to continue pursuing my career while he has stayed at home with the kids. Breaking the bias goes both ways, and it requires us to redefine our preconceptions around women in the workplace as well as men at home. My equal, my partner, my ally.

I feel immense gratitude when I think about these five people, and I recognize that not everyone has the same privilege. If we can collectively shine a light on these types of relationships and embrace them when the opportunity arises, I think we will have taken one step forward in breaking the bias. If you identify as a woman, I encourage you to consider how you can develop or deepen these relationships and if you don’t, I invite you to think about how you can serve one of these important roles for women in your life and career.