Breaking the Language Barrier and Fostering Inclusion: How Linguistic Bias Impacts Business and Diversity with Heather Hansen

When it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, one hidden bias continues to hold businesses back: linguistic bias. This hidden bias affects much more than just non-offensive language, influencing the way we judge people from the moment they open their mouths.

Where do these biases come from? How do they hinder hiring and promotion decisions? How can businesses make sure their preference for eloquent speakers in leadership doesn’t create barriers for certain groups?

This eye-opening talk delves deep into the issue of linguistic bias and its impact on businesses, providing insight into how this bias can be addressed and mitigated. By the end, you’ll be speaking and listening to everyone around you in a whole new way.

Heather Hansen helps top global professionals show up, speak up, and inspire action in a changing world. She is on a mission to empower global voices to contribute to conversations that matter – in business, politics, and life. Only through conscious, confident, and connected communication can we achieve our collective potential and peacefully solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Heather is a leader in the field of global English communication and she is known for being an outspoken advocate for global voices. She fights against micro-inequities related to language and accent in international teams and helps companies build communication cultures where every voice is heard. She is called upon by some of the world’s largest companies to unmute leaders and teams so they can be more innovative, inclusive and efficient while adapting to modern challenges.

Heather’s 2018 TEDx talk titled 2 Billion Voices: How to speak bad English perfectly has had over 190,000 views and is used by many university professors and English language specialists in their own teachings. Heather is also an External Industry Expert in Communication for National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School’s Executive Education programs.

“The words are one thing. But there’s so much more to it than that. We’re really listening when we…have the cultural intelligence to understand and hear the meaning behind the message.” – Heather Hansen

Listening SUPERPOWER Notes:

00:46 – Heather’s biggest learning moments around listening the first time she was aware of it.

03:46 – Don’t know what to say?: “You don’t have to say anything; you can ask some really good questions very authentically.

04:56 – Heather’s mission in life: “How do we make sure everyone’s voice is heard at the table so that when that brilliance is spoken, we hear it and we understand it, and we act on it?”

06:06 – The huge shift in her listening perspective: “There is no one perfect proper English. We’re all navigating and negotiating meaning in every conversation.”

08:59 – How her voice changed in the process of helping people find their voices: “By stepping into helping people to express themselves more authentically has allowed me to be more authentic in my own communication.”

10:35 – Cultural intelligence as a significant factor for noticing the real meaning behind the message.

13:24 –The kind of support we provide for people when it comes to accents for them to be more understood, more clear and have the confidence to show up.

17:15 Getting the stress off about the accent and just focusing on the message.

18:53 – The idea behind Heather’sTEDX talk about 2 Billion Voices: How to speak bad English perfectly

21:08 – A big tip for someone who is speaking a second language: “Be very aware of the sounds and words that are difficult for you; have a list of alternatives available.”

22:45 – Highlighting the importance of honing your listening abilities.

24:09 – Understanding microaggressions and how to deal with them.

27:28 – Overcoming prejudice based on accents and ensuring you are tapping into the potential of a person.

29:47 – Facilitating awareness of language and accent in organizations with multicultural teams: “Sit down with everyone individually, get a really good feel of them, build those relationships through listening.”

32:52 – A key message for leaders and organizations encapsulated in Heather’s book: Unmuted: How to Show Up, Speak Up, and Inspire Action

Key Takeaways:

“There is no such thing as perfect English or perfect any language; as much as we try to control language and we try to put rules on it. The reality is, we all use it in our own way.” – Heather Hansen

“Being a good listener is the key to being an amazing conversationalist.”– Heather Hansen

My mission in life is to hear more of our global voices, especially voices that have been silent for too long.” – Heather Hansen

“So many people are very frustrated, including myself, from pandemics to financial crises, to war to… you name it. And I feel like this can’t possibly be the pinnacle of human potential, there’s got to be more.” – Heather Hansen

“Either the people with all the great ideas are not speaking up or we are not listening to them, and it’s probably a combination of both.” – Heather Hansen

“When we’re truly listening and trying to understand someone, it’s digging deeper than the simple words.” – Heather Hansen

“A huge part of my message at this point in my career is trying to get organizations to start including language and accent in their formal diversity policies.” – Heather Hansen

“In order to truly unmute we need to mute first.” – Heather Hansen

“I honestly think that the best leaders I ever met do the least amount of talking.” – Heather Hansen


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