Unconscious bias happens all of the time. Maybe sitting on a train or having a coffee somewhere, just people watching – then out of nowhere, innocently making assumptions about the passing crowd purely by the way they look or interact. Unconscious bias can come in so many forms – from judging someone’s job, their partner, their education, or even an element of their behaviour or personality. All based on things that we see at face value, without knowing the person at all.
Where unconscious bias can be especially challenging is in your business and in how you develop diversity. No 20-page diversity policy can overcome the unconscious decisions both you and the people in your business make.
According to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, former International Human Rights Lawyer, and Co-Founder of Project Include, the way you manage bias and diversity is essential to your business success.
“As a child I didn’t really want to believe that discrimination existed. When I got the talk that all black parents give their children, I chose not to believe my mother. I chose rather to think that she was crazy. The idea that she was crazy was so much more palpable to me than the truth.
The truth was that I would have to work harder for longer to get the things that my white friends had. That no matter how nice or how hard working I was, some people were just not going to want to acknowledge me. For many years I chose to believe that my mother was irrational and out of touch rather than acknowledging this truth.
I think that there’s a myth about people from underrepresented groups and bias: that we want to call it out, that we enjoy shining a light on it. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us desperately wish that it didn’t exist. Most of us hate that it does and that it defines the ways in which we are treated totally outside of our control. I for one got to be pretty good at pretending that it didn’t exist. I kept pretending the bias that I experienced didn’t exist until pretending was no longer an option.”
Y-Vonne goes on to describe her experience of when discrimination has not only caused a toxic work environment, but how harmful it can be for recruitment, engagement and overall business success, and how often people aren’t even aware of how their actions, or bias, is impacting others.
In additional to racial diversity challenges, the same goes for other diversity issues – the fact that women occupy less than 10% of CEO positions in the Fortune 500 and are significantly missing from leadership positions in lots of organisations; the imbalances in opportunities between countries and social groups; the fact that women and men still have certain jobs that they are pre-dispositioned to; the fact that we hold people to standards that reflect our own view of the world, the list gets longer and longer.
So what is unconscious bias, and how can you make sure that it doesn’t happen in your business? Take a look at how Google is helping make the unconscious conscious.
A lot of the work we do with our clients at Duo is focussed around making more of the unconscious, conscious, and using this insight to make strategic decisions that strengthen your business culture – whether this is focussed specifically around tackling diversity in your workplace, or other business challenges that may be impacted by unconscious bias. Get in touch to find out how we might be able to work with you!