Unconscious biases are not permanent. In fact, they are malleable and steps can be taken to limit their impact on our thoughts and behaviors (Dasgupta, 2013).
When considering strategies to address unconscious bias one must consider individual and institutional strategies.
Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, Vice Dean and Professor, School of Pharmacy on individual strategies to address unconscious bias. (Transcript)
Individual strategies to address unconscious bias include:
- Promoting self-awareness: recognizing one’s biases using the Implicit Association Test (or other instruments to assess bias) is the first step.
- Understanding the nature of bias is also essential. The strategy of categorization that gives rise to unconscious bias is a normal aspect of human cognition. Understanding this important concept can help individuals approach their own biases in a more informed and open way (Burgess, 2007).
- Opportunities to have discussions, with others (especially those from socially dissimilar groups) can also be helpful. Sharing your biases can help others feel more secure about exploring their own biases. It’s important to have these conversations in a safe space-individuals must be open to alternative perspectives and viewpoints.
- Facilitated discussions and training sessions promoting bias literacy utilizing the concepts and techniques listed about have been proven effective in minimizing bias. Evidence suggests that providing unconscious bias training for faculty members reduces the impact of bias in the workplace (Carnes, 2012).
Elizabeth Ozer, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine on institutional strategies to address unconscious bias. (Transcript)
Studies and reports on bias and how it affects members of protected demographic communities have been gaining popularity over the years. This phenomenon was brought to prominence about 20 years ago by a team of social psychologists at the University of Washington and Yale with the Implicit Association Test (IAT).
Hannah Devlin from the Guardian wrote in an article titled Unconscious bias: what is it and can it be eliminated?
“Since then, countless studies have confirmed the power of racial biases to shape everyday decisions in almost every aspect of life. White job applicants were found to be 74% more likely to have success than applicants from ethnic minorities with identical CVs. University professors were found to be far more likely to respond to emails from students with white-sounding names. US doctors have been found to recommend less pain medication for black or Latino patients than white patients with the same injury. White participants in a study were found to perceive black faces as more threatening than white faces with the same expression.”
Neuroscientists have uncovered that stereotypes begin to form during early childhood finding brain regions associated with gender and racial bias. Their findings show that these stereotypes are unconsciously processed by our brain by placing people with similar traits into buckets to help us navigate the world without being overwhelmed by information. This means that the potential for prejudice is hard-wired into the human brain.
Though most of us have difficulty accepting or acknowledging these unconscious biases (also known as “implicit bias”), outcomes in recruitment, access to healthcare and in criminal justice have shown to disadvantage people from ethnic minorities. A Yale University study found that male and female scientists, both trained to be objective, were more likely to hire men, and consider them more competent than women, and pay them $4,000 more per year than women.
Even our founders have experienced descrimination in the recruitment process. Knockri was founded because our CEO Jahanzaib Ansari was applying for career opportunities he was qualified for but never got called back once. He was consistently passed up and months went by without interest from the companies he wanted to work for.
Things changed quickly when Maaz Rana, our co-founder and COO, made the suggestion to anglicize his name to “Jay”. Within weeks the same companies that overlooked him now were on his trail to hire him. This experience inspired him to look to AI as a possible solution for allowing other, competent candidates to overcome these biases – introducing it as a cost effective and fair solution.
In talent acquisition, AI has recently emerged as the new solution to help mitigate bias. There have never been so many data points available to help recruiters and hiring managers make better decisions.
With machine learning and natural language processing AI is able to screen, assess and shortlist candidates by leveraging large quantities of data. Using algorithms derived by machine learning engineers, the AI can analyze data points to make predictions on top performing talent.
The AI can be programmed to dismiss gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexuality, and education. Ignoring these data points can make the recommendations more objective thus in theory mitigating bias in the process.
The AI can be calibrated, validated and continually tested for leakages in bias. That, and the ability to process giant volumes of data faster than any human brain really creates a tool that humans can use to help make better decisions.
A relevant use case would be in the case of large applicant pools created by the increase in unemployment by COVID-19. I have met with many recruiters from enterprise organizations that deal with volume hiring. Their biggest challenge is adequately screening the applicant pool to make great hiring decisions.
However, when you have thousands of applicants and a small number of recruiters tasked with shortlisting the best, it creates a problem. For the sake of filling requisitions faster, potentially good talent often slips through the cracks by being overlooked by biases such as similarity bias. AI is able to scale the volume of equally-assessed candidates, deliver assessments, score and shortlist faster than any human subject matter expert.
At Knockri we leverage behavioral skills video – assessments that are believed to have the best combination of high predictability and low sub group differences:
Our lead IO Psychologist, Dave Mayers hosts webinars concerning digital selection procedures & diversity during hiring. His insights and deep dives into the data are highly recommended for learning more about how Knockri’s AI implementations helps improve the talent acquisition process.
Although AI is very helpful in fighting unconscious bias, it is not a miracle cure all. It is still very much a tool to be leveraged by humans. Humans should be making the hiring decisions and data from AI can aid in making better choices.
One of the biggest challenges we see today in the world of AI is homogenous tech teams teaching bias to their machines. A recent MSNBC article titled Silicon Valley’s Achilles’ heel threatens to topple its supremacy in innovation highlights that the lack of workforce diversity and unconscious bias is a systemic problem in Silicon Valley. It revealed that in companies like Uber, Twitter, Google and Facebook, fewer than 3 percent of tech workers identify as black.
The Times reported that in 2018 “Google AI has a striking history of bias against black girls”. AI and machine learning is designed to learn patterns. This means that our implicit biases can be learned by the AI. This is why organizational diversity right down the tech teams is so important but also why we cannot leave all the work to the machines.
Humans provide that touch that ensure that machines do not further perpetuate bias, and machines provide the data that allows us to intervene in the case there is adverse impact. In the new age of technology companies must do their part to responsibly adopt new technology that will help make the landscape less biased, more equitable and more inclusive.
27 May How to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
Blatant examples of workplace discrimination are starting to become few and far in between, but the occasional headlines still cause obvious inflammation. From explicit signs of “blacks need not apply” to women being forced by managers to “get along with the boys”, these overt cases of discrimination not only deserve vigorous scrutiny, but also are now downright illegal. But there is a more subtle form of discrimination, known as unconscious bias that can have a more insidious effect than the most obvious form.
What is Unconscious bias?
Everyone has unconscious bias. The human mind has a blessing to create connections and group things together. But this a tendency to create shortcuts is also a curse when it comes to filling in missing pieces between our personal experiences. The environment we have grown up in has conditioned a certain way of automatic thinking that comes into play even if we are not aware. And this way of thinking doesn’t just automatically go away when we get older and learn to consciously create our own values.
How does it affect the workplace?
For one, unconscious bias brings irrelevant factors into the decision-making process such as: age, ethnicity, gender and weight. Even hair color can play a role in subjective assessments of candidates and employees and influence the decision to hire, fire, and promote in the workplace. While these influences may be unintentional, it does not change the fact that they are fundamentally unfair.
Why is it worse than blatant discrimination?
Of course, experiencing any kind of discrimination is far from ideal with negative consequences.
From a psychological perspective, it is very human to try to understand why people treat us the way we do. If a a manager told a female employee that she is not suited to handle a certain type of work, then that can be easily identified as blatant bias. If instead, the boss tells her that he doesn’t believe she is ready, then the reason is less clear and can lead to an endless search to find the reason behind it. Is it because she is a woman, or is it because she genuinely isn’t ready for that kind of pressure? People will inevitably spend a lot longer ruminating than in instances of clear-cut sexism.
Furthermore, there is little or no legal recourse for subtle discrimination as the difficulty in qualifying and identifying it is only amplified by evidential threshold in law. There is no doubt it is of higher frequency, but only overt forms of discrimination tend to yield a favourable decision for plaintiffs in the courts.
What can managers and organisations do?
HR professionals and workplace scientists alike are trying to answer this question. The only solution that is tried and true is to increase objectivity in the decision-making process. For pre-hire screening, measuring and selecting based on a candidates cognitive ability is a completely objective process. For interviewing, adding structure such as fixed format and panel is a better predictor than open conversation with a single decision maker. Structure is what keeps bias from creeping in to the decision making process, and the more decision makers involved in a decision helps mitigate the likelihood of bias.
Building awareness is a step in the right direction, but awareness alone is insufficient. This is because at a fundamental level, we are unaware of most of our insidious biases. Efforts of awareness building must pair with behavioral goals and strategies. Techniques such as empathy and perspective taking can be good exercises for consider experiences of individuals who are different from ourselves. Being proactive in setting diversity goals has also been found to enhance overall attitudes and behaviors.
Ultimately closer attention needs to be paid to the subtle stuff. Blatant forms of discrimination might take less time and effort to identify and address, but the only way to uncover unconscious bias is to target it with objectivity and actively set pro-diversity goals.
Posted on May 11, 2021
While everyone has unconscious bias — preferences for and against something — the current spotlight on improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has raised expectations for organizations to be proactive in reducing the negative impact of unconscious bias on workplace behaviors, attitudes and decisions.
What is unconscious bias?
Unconscious or implicit bias occurs when individuals make judgments about people based on stereotypes or preconceived opinions. Favorable or unfavorable, these social stereotypes and associations stem from the human brain’s tendency to process and categorize vast amounts of information. To prevent information overload, the brain takes shortcuts, which results in individuals making snap judgments and generalizations.
Whether unconscious biases are positive or negative, the key is “unconscious.” When people aren’t aware of their biases it can lead to unfair and discriminatory practices. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor reached a settlement of over $3.8 million with a multinational technology company over allegations of systemic compensation and hiring discrimination against women and Asian employees and applicants.
Unconscious bias covers dozens of traits and preferences
Beyond gender and racial bias, there are many different types of unconscious bias. For example, name bias, beauty bias, height bias, weight bias, age bias, ability bias, conformity bias and confirmation bias — the tendency of people to look for evidence that supports their beliefs, and reject evidence that is counter to them.
People are more susceptible to unconscious biases when they are multi-tasking, under stress or rushed to make a decision. One of the strategies to reduce the influence of unconscious bias is to slow down and carefully think through decisions. It also helps to seek out different opinions and perspectives, and encourage interaction between different departments and positions within the organization.
Rethink hiring practices
People who are involved in hiring, recruiting, promotions, performance reviews and disciplinary decisions should be especially aware of biases — their own and the organization’s. As the economy picks up steam and more companies increase hiring, organizations should consider new approaches to the recruiting process to counteract bias. For example, revising job descriptions and requirements so they are gender neutral and attract more diverse candidates, focusing on work-related experience and skills rather than personality traits or attributes and tracking and measuring the number of diverse candidates against goals.
Benefits of unconscious bias training
As part of a multifaceted initiative to improve DEI, implicit bias training for all employees, including management and executives, is both a practical and strategic tool to raise awareness and understanding of how unconscious bias impacts in different situations. The idea is to motivate people to think about how unconscious bias drives their own behavior and decisions.
Other steps that individuals can take to counteract biases:
- Seek out different resources to learn about unconscious/implicit bias
- Observe how stereotypes are reinforced in the media
- Be aware of first assumptions when meeting someone new
- Spend time with people from diverse groups
- Speak up about biased behavior in the workplace
- Participate in ally and mentoring programs
As part of an organization’s DEI strategy to recruit and retain diverse talent and create a more inclusive culture, employees and managers, at every level, can benefit from unconscious bias training and other long-term initiatives to address and minimize all forms of bias.
Sign up for a free trial of our Unconscious Bias Training course:
Unconscious bias is a reality in our lives, in our culture, and in the workplace. And now it’s becoming codified in artificial intelligence (AI).
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Unconscious bias is hard for us to acknowledge – partly because it’s a painfully enlightening process, and partly because, being unconscious, our biases are hard for us to recognise. Consider the following – are any of them things you think or used to think?
- Blue is for boys, pink for girls.
- Boys are better at maths and science.
- Tall people make better leaders.
- New mothers are more absent from work than new fathers.
- People with tattoos are rebellious.
- Younger people are better with technology than older people.
Biases develop and are reinforced over time through the influence of family, friends and colleagues who share these biases, as well as from the wider influences of culture and media. They can often become part of our unconscious thinking.
The false beliefs we encounter in everyday life can also manifest themselves in our everyday decision-making, including in the workplace. Legislation aims to protect citizens from these many biases in the workplace. For example, the Equality Act protects against discrimination in employment.
Bias in recruitment
Recruitment advertising and the selection process have been subjected to bias scrutiny for many years, with organisations implementing a variety of neutral hiring practices. The removal of name, age and gender from CVs and other applications is common practice before passing this information to interviewing managers. Recruitment advertising agencies use a number of copywriting techniques to ensure that job adverts don’t include vocabulary or phrases that could be misinterpreted.
Blind recruitment is often used at the audition stage for musicians: screens are used to hide the gender of a candidate musician from the judging panel in order to reduce any potential gender bias. This has increased the proportion of female musicians moving to the final rounds of a selection process.
You may well be saying you know all this already. But did you know that there is potential for unconscious bias in automated systems, too?
Bias and machine learning
Artificial intelligence and machine learning rely heavily on the use of code libraries that have been built up over many years, and predominantly written by Caucasian white male engineers in the technology sector. We are building the potential for bias to be codified.
In the US, the use of facial recognition software in law enforcement has highlighted racial biases in the coding of algorithms and associated training data. Research by the University of Bath, reported in the magazine Science shows that computers which use human written language as a source for machine learning learn a level of implicit bias too, which could have knock-on effects in their supposedly ‘bias-neutral’ performance, such as in language translation or recruitment screening.
There is an increasing call for the technology sector to investigate any biases in artificial intelligence software and understand the implications of its use, whether that be on a legal basis or otherwise.
5 steps to reduce unconscious bias in your workplace
1. Be aware of generalisations
Stereotypical views and generalisations creep into our language. Listen and reflect on the language used by you and your colleagues. Be alert for misplaced adjectives, broad sweeping statements and questions in conversations, meetings, reports and presentations: ‘the new trainees always want. ‘, ‘working mums never. ‘, ‘why can’t the finance team do. ‘.
2. Challenge your decision-making
Get into the habit of asking yourself ‘why am I thinking this way?’ Be particularly aware of first impressions and gut reactions in your decision-making. These biases may be more prevalent when we are stressed, tired or under pressure.
3. Take a test
Harvard University have developed a series of Implicit Association Tests (the Harvard IAT) to enable individuals to discover any unconscious biases. These tests are online, open to all and free to use. Businesses are now using these and similar tests throughout their organisations to actively address the issues of unconscious biases.
Invest time in understanding your own tendencies by taking these tests. Once aware of any biases, you can take steps to own your personal biases, reflect on your behaviours and introduce steps to reduce and eliminate bias from your actions.
4. Avoid groupthink
We all have a tendency to surround ourselves with similar people – people like us. This is called affinity bias. Repeated, shared decision-making can lead to groupthink, and this may have unintended consequences for other groups.
5. Work beyond your comfort zone
Look for ways to involve yourself with groups who have different backgrounds outside your organisation. Look for opportunities to spend time with people who have similar skillsets but different working environments. Offer positive feedback to the work of different groups, not just your own.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
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Seven Tips for Managing Unconscious Bias
Bias—a tendency to believe that some people and ideas are better than others—wrecks havoc in the workplace. It keeps women and people of color out of the boardroom, limits job opportunities, prevents organizations from the true monetary and cultural benefits of a diverse workforce, makes it difficult for Baby Boomers to get tech jobs, and more. It’s easy to identify and limit bias when it’s overt, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes bias is completely unconscious.
Unconscious bias is harder to pin down and eradicate for obvious reasons—it’s unconscious. Even those with the best intentions behave in biased ways and simply have no idea they’re doing it. Most of us use biased language without giving it a second thought.
Companies like Google, whose employees are 70% male and only 3% Hispanic, look to unconscious bias, or hidden bias, as a way to explain their inequitable diversity statistics. How else could such a well-educated, well-intentioned company account for hiring mostly young, white and Asian men?
How Can You Manage Something You Can’t Tell Exists?
The good news is that unconscious bias hiding in plain sight works in management’s favor. That’s because the concept is relatively blameless. If we all have hidden biases, then admitting to them, and working on eliminating them, won’t single us out. Managers will meet less defensiveness in this regard, hopefully increasing employees’ and leadership’s willingness to learn.
Yes, leadership. No one is immune to unconscious bias and all initiatives should be company-wide.
Here are seven tips for managing unconscious bias that you can use for yourself, and introduce to your team:
1. Take the IAT test here .
A good place to start is the Implicit Associations Test (IAT), developed by Tony Greenwald, a University of Washington professor who started unconscious bias research in 1994. The tests takes five minutes and is a speed exercise that cuts through the perceptions of our own bias. Prepare test takers for a possible surprise. For example, about 75% who have taken the IAT show ethnic and gender biases.
2. Watch your language.
Avoid words or phrases like: ‘the kid’, ‘oh man’ or ‘oh brother’, ‘manpower’, ‘you guys’, ‘attendees and their wives’, ‘man-sized job’, etc. These words are biased and feed the subconscious biases of those around you. Here is more information about biased language, including a table of alternative words to add to your vocabulary.
3. Identify particular elements in company processes that function as entry points for bias.
Start by taking a look at these four things:
- How people are hired
- How work is assigned
- What happens during performance evaluations
- How compensation is determined
Where does bias have the opportunity to influence each process? For example, when looking at how people are hired, you may notice that 70% of people interviewed are men. You could then strip names and other identifying aspects from resumes before review. Learn more about using interruption as a strategy to eliminate workplace bias here.
4. Include positive images and words of diverse groups in the workplace such as posters, newsletters, videos, reports or podcasts.
Exposure to negative stereotypes can influence your behavior in ways you may not notice. To counteract that, surround yourself and your team with the opposite: positive images and words. For example, if you have a Nigerian woman joining your IT team and you notice you’ve assumed language will be a problem, look at positive images of people from Nigeria, and read success stories about Nigerians who have integrated well into English-speaking organizations.
5. Visualize a positive interaction with the group toward whom you may have a bias .
Research shows that visualizing a particular situation can create the same effects behaviorally and psychologically as actually experiencing the situation. In addition, brain studies reveal that mental imagery impacts several cognitive processes in the brain, including attention, perceptions, planning, and memory. This means you can train your brain for action through visualization.
6. Include both men and women with equal decision-making authority on employment interview panels.
It’s easy to perpetuate gender bias when one gender has more decision making power than another. The reason can even be as basic as the fact that people tend to hire and promote people who look like them.
7. Encourage workers to call out bias and hold each other accountable.
Part of making a concerted effort to eliminate prevailing bias is working together. This is especially key when it comes to hidden bias. Awareness is the first step to enacting any sort of change, so help those on your team be more aware of their behaviors so they are able to self-correct. This goes for management and leadership too. All major organizational changes need to have complete buy-in and support from leaders.
Biases come in all forms. There are biases against each generation, people with disabilities, LGBT people, working parents—even a person’s height can cause bias! It’s important to realize that racial, ethnic and gender biases hurt the success of organizations. So create an environment for an open dialogue by emphasizing that everyone is guilty of unconscious bias, and make a strong effort to address the issue, starting with the tips above.
Do you witness unconscious bias behavior around you? What do you see most often? I’d love to hear your experiences. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.
Implicit bias is the preferred term for “unconscious bias” among psychologists, and in its most basic definition, the Perception Institute—whose mission is to create solutions to reduce discrimination—notes it occurs “when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge.” For example, studies show that white people tend to associate black individuals with criminality without being consciously aware of the link. And voters have been found to undervalue female candidates in elections (ugh).
“B eing socialized in American culture means that when people encounter a person from [a minority or marginalized] group, that association might spring to mind automatically.” —psychologist David Amodio, PhD
“E ven if a person doesn’t consciously endorse these ideas, the fact that they experience the associations by being socialized in American culture means that when they encounter a person from [a minority or marginalized] group, that association might spring to mind automatically in the head,” says David Amodio, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at New York University whose work focuses on behavioral regulation. “It can bias their judgment a little bit—even if they don’t realize they’re having this thought.”
Below, Dr. Amodio explains how these biases are formed, and what we can all do to override them on a day-to-day basis.
Check out a psychologist’s advice for treating everyone equally despite your prejudices (because yeah, you have them).
Graphic: Well+Good Creative
What causes implicit biases to form?
According to Dr. Amodio, these biases likely don’t come from individual experiences with people of specific races, genders, sexual orientations, or socioeconomic groups. Rather, they stem from cultures and institutions that create stereotypes and biases about whole groups of people. “Especially in America, there’s a history of oppression and discrimination of African Americans and also toward Latinos and other minority groups,” he says. “W hen you’re perceiving the face of a person, and there are stereotypes about this person being threatening based on their racial-group membership, it’s possible that you might subtly perceive them to be a little more threatening than they really are.”
Neurologically speaking, a biased reaction happens in two main parts of the brain: the amygdala, which controls our flight-or-flight response, and the fusiform cortex, which detects human faces. “The brain is managing a lot of things that we’re not aware of at any given moment. Implicit biases operate on a lot of peripheral things that are going on in our minds and in our brains that we’re not necessarily aware of,” Dr. Amodio says.
Beyond unintentionally perceiving people as threats, biases can also prompt us to simply like certain people more than others. A 2001 study from the International Journal of Obesity, for instance, tasked 84 medical professionals who treat obesity to with completing an association test. They used the terms “fat” or “skinny,” for classification and further subjectively differentiated using two qualifiers: good or bad, and motivated or lazy. The results showed that the doctors overwhelmingly exhibited an anti-fat or pro-thin bias.
So…how do we make sure biases don’t dictate our actions?
If a way to rewire our prejudices does exist, psychologists haven’t found it yet. “ That’s the million-dollar question for a lot of us,” Dr. Amodio tells me. Even though you can’t blot out the inequities in your mind, he does say it’s possible to consciously “override” the ideas—and doing so is probably your best bet for being as fair as possible. “Instead of undoing these associations of the mind, we have to make sure these biases don’t influence our behavior,” he says. “Oftentimes, that requires people to detect when there might be a bias. It’s then important to figure out how to best act fairly.”
“Instead of undoing these associations of the mind, we have to make sure these biases don’t influence our behavior.”
In practice, Dr. Amodio’s advice means adding another level of self-awareness to the way you interact with people. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that behavioral discrimination doesn’t just happen on a macro scale: Micro-aggressions (verbal and nonverbal communication that reflects negative biases about the group as a whole) can also add up in a big way. So, just in case you needed another reminder to take a breath before you say something, consider this your cue.
Let your actions take the lead.
Do you ever find yourself having reactions you’re not proud of? For example:
- Reflexively laughing at an offensive joke.
- Thinking, “That overweight person shouldn’t be eating that giant dessert.”
- Adjusting your posture or walking speed when you walk past a young male of a different race at night.
- Treating male and female children differently.
- Having a discomfort reaction to gay men displaying signs of affection, or to people who are transgender.
Some people are explicitly racist, sexist, classist, and/or homophobic and don’t care. However, implicit bias is a huge problem, too. Implicit bias refers to sneakier attitudes or stereotypes that we hold but are not generally aware of. Your explicit belief might be that everyone is equal, but you may find yourself reacting inconsistently, as illustrated by the examples above.
Here are 6 tips for bringing your implicit attitudes more in line with your explicit ones:
1. Take the Implicit Associations Test.
The first step to changing your implicit biases is acknowledging that you have them. You can check your level of implicit bias by taking one (or several) of the Implicit Association Tests on Project Implicit. You will answer demographic questions before the test; the entire process takes around 10 minutes. There are various test options including race, sexuality, and weight. The weight bias test is especially interesting because bias against people who are overweight is one of the few biases that remains at least somewhat socially acceptable. But the bias matters—e.g., a hiring manager may be more likely to hire someone who is not overweight because they perceive people who are overweight as less energetic or less focused.
2. Identify situations in which your implicit biases impact your behavior.
Make a list for yourself of instances where implicit biases may be impacting your behavior, similar to the one at the top of this post. Be as specific as you can. For example, you bake cookies when you’re babysitting your niece but play basketball with your nephew. Make plans for alternative behaviors that run counter to your biases, like planning to bake with your nephew next time he visits.
3. Make an effort to be friendlier and act less threatened when interacting with people you perceive as different.
Behavior influences thoughts. If you act friendlier toward other people, over time you will feel more comfortable with them. Brainstorm some specific plans; maybe there is a neighbor you never talk to because they’re older or have tattoos. If you’re a college student and are more likely to ask questions of your American professors than your foreign-born instructors, it may be helpful to decide to visit those professors’ office hours more often.
4. Become aware of your “positive stereotypes.”
Positive stereotypes may seem harmless—but they can still register as and feel offensive or restrictive to those on the receiving end. No, your lesbian friend probably doesn’t want to help you assemble your IKEA furniture, and your Asian friends may not be the best people to ask for computer help.
5. Hang out with people who have better attitudes than you.
My spouse, for example, volunteers with an organization in which she works alongside homeless men. I get to hear stories about these men and it helps me to have a better attitude towards homeless people in general.
6. Expose yourself to media that aims to break down prejudice and discrimination.
One way to do this is via friends who post that type of content on social media. I have a few Facebook friends who are awesome at this and who routinely expose me to information I wouldn’t normally see.
Unconscious bias has become something of a buzzword in corporate circles recently. But what is it and why is it important?
In this article you will learn:
What unconscious bias is
Different types of unconscious bias
How to stop unconscious bias affecting your workplace
What is unconscious bias?
We all have unconscious biases. They are learned sterotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply engrained within our beliefs, universal, and have the ability to affect our behaviour. For example, if you’re stuck in a car park with a flat tyre, chances are you’d be most likely to approach a man, rather than a woman, if you needed assistance in changing it.
While this unconscious bias may seem innocent, problems can arise when unconscious biases make their way into workplaces.
McKinsey’s Deliverng Through Diversity report says that “gender, ethnic and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide.” However, when unconscious biases are allowed into the workplace, diversity suffers.
Recruitment efforts can be undermined by unconscious biases that people hold, such as a belief that foreign workers won’t have a good enough understanding of English to be able to complete the job, or that only men are suited to the role. Neither of these things are true, but if the person in charge of recruiting holds these unconscious biases then without even realising it themselves, they will disregard anyone who fits into those groups.
Types of unconscious bias
There are many types of unconscious bias – and, without realising it, you’re probably guilty of them already. Here are some of the main biases that can affect workplaces:
Affinity bias – the tendency to ‘warm up’ to people who are like yourself
Halo effect – the tendency to think that everything about a person is good simply because you like them
Perception bias – the tendency to believe one thing about a group of people based on stereotypes and assumptions, making it impossible to be objective about individuals
Confirmation bias – the tendency to seek to confirm your pre-existing ideas and assumptions about a group of people
Group think – the tendency to try too hard to fit into an existing culture, mimicking others and holding back thoughts or opinions, resulting in the loss of identity and lost creativity and innovation
How to avoid unconscious bias
There are, of course, steps you can take to avoid unconscious bias in your workplace – and many big businesses are now sending all staff on unconscious bias training to reduce its impact on the company. Here are some ways that you can reduce your own unconscious biases and help to prevent them impacting your decision making.
1. Recognise your unconscious biases
Start to think about the unconscious biases you may have. What decisions have you made regarding people without really giving it a second thought? Question why you made the decision that you did.
For example, maybe you believe that men and women are equally capable of leading, but you think that men lack the ability to show empathy the way that women do so you chose a woman for a role that you knew would require empathy. While this might not sound like a negative, decisions should be based on who is the right person for the role, not who is the gender you perceive to be most capable.
Harvard University has carried out research into unconscious bias and has released the Implicit Association Test to help people identify their biases.
2. Focus on people
Rather than thinking about the characteristics of someone’s ethnicity, gender or class background, focus on them as an individual. Give them merit on the evidence you see in front of you, rather than what you’re expecting based on your own biases.
3. Increase exposure to biases
Once you’ve identified what your biases are try exposing yourself to them more regularly. This might sound like confirmation bias, but if you seek to prove your biases wrong it can have a positive impact on your behaviour.
Using the example of women being better at showing empathy than men, if you seek out stories of men who have shown great empathy and been highly successful as a result, it will start to challenge your bias.