Career Progression Diversity & Inclusion Employee Development Leadership

What is unconscious bias - and what to do about it

Our unconscious biases are mental shortcuts that simplify the world and the people around us to enable us to make fast decisions about who and what to trust.

 

It means we often rely on stereotypes rather than opening ourselves to people who might be able to help us better than the usual, familiar faces.

 

Science has shown that no one is to ‘blame’ for unconscious bias. It is an evolutionary response to danger. It is part of what has helped to keep us alive for millions of years. 

 

The problem is that the evolution of our unconscious responses hasn’t kept up with the cultural, demographic and technological changes which have created better mechanisms for keeping us safe. 

 

While our unconscious brain prefers the safe familiarity of those who are most like us, unconscious bias can now create problems.

 

This is especially true of the modern workplace where we must frequently interact and work with colleagues who are not like us.

 

We know that diverse teams that include everyone equally produce better results. But our unconscious bias can stop us from engaging with all colleagues equally.

Unconscious bias can lead us to make snap judgments that can be useful if we are faced with a dangerous situation.

 

However, a snap judgment about people can be harmful. 

 

Experts at Harvard developed what’s called IAT, or the Implicit Association Test, to better understand the biases we commonly hold. 

 

The results were eye opening.

Even today, 76% of participants associate men with career and women with family. 

 

It’s hard to admit our biases because we don’t want to see ourselves as being capable of falling into these traps.

 

But it is no one’s fault, and NO ONE is immune from bias.

 

Unfortunately, awareness of bias is not enough. Attending an unconscious bias course is neither a vaccine nor a cure. It’s the start of an awakening which will require constant vigilance.

In a workplace context bias impacts, for instance, hiring decisions. Factors that lead to bias include: 

  • Visual social identity: stereotypes are formed based on gender, ethnic and other social categorises. 
  • Dress: what a candidate wears can have a powerful impact on how interviewers think about them. 
  • Accent: interviewers make all sorts of assumptions about a candidate’s education and skills based on their social accent. Unconscious assessments (and biases) include the extent to which a candidate will fit into the prevailing organisational culture. 

We need to accept that gender biases can lead to harm. We then need to learn how to counter act them in real life from challenging ourselves to slow down and make more measured decisions to speaking up when you see biased behaviour in others. We need to commit to be part of the solution – it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

How can you prevent unconscious bias affecting your decisions and opinions?

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt: Everyone is here to learn and do better—and an open and honest exchange is part of that process. 
  • Accept we all fall into bias traps: People of all genders – and ethnicities, and sexual orientation – can consciously or unconsciously make biased comments or behave in other ways that disadvantage women.
  • Knowing that bias exists isn't enough: We all need to look for it in our responses and take steps to counteract it.
  • Become gender bias literate: Research shows that women experience a number of common biases that affect their ability to perform to their best: Performance Bias, Attribution Bias, Likability Bias, Maternal Bias, Affinity Bias, Double Discrimination & Intersectionality Bias. 

Businesses around the world report that employees on diverse teams are more committed, work harder and companies with more women leadership have more generous employee policies and produce better results.

 

We all benefit when we tap everyone’s talents and ideas, and we all rise when women rise. 

 

We will be exploring these specific examples of biases towards women with clear recommendations for what you can do in each case in other articles based on cards creates by the Lean In organisation. 

Read more about Career Progression:
Leadership Career Progression Employee Development
Nominate an inspiring woman for the Automotive 30% Club Awards 2021
Nominate an inspiring woman for the Automotive 30% Club Awards 2021

Find our more about why you should nominate an inspiring woman for the Automotive 30% Club Awards 2021

Read the Article
Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Career Progression
IWD 2021 How did you choose to challenge?
IWD 2021 How did you choose to challenge?

International Women's Day 2021 at Enterprise was a busy programme of events, blogs, resources and conversation

Read the Article
Leadership Career Progression Diversity & Inclusion
Group rental manager profile: Alyssa Kreutzer
Group rental manager profile: Alyssa Kreutzer

Alyssa Kreutzer is Enterprise UK’s only female Group Rental Manager. She advocates 'finding your voice' to promote equality.

Read the Article
Leadership Wellbeing Career Progression Employee Development Diversity & Inclusion
What is maternal bias and what to do about it
What is maternal bias and what to do about it

Many working mothers encounter discrimination arising from maternal bias. Research shows that it is the strongest type of gender bias

Read the Article
Leadership Wellbeing Career Progression Employee Development Diversity & Inclusion
What is attribution bias and what to do about it
What is attribution bias and what to do about it

Attribution bias refers to the errors we make when we try to find reasons for behaviour and that this means we favour men

Read the Article
Leadership Wellbeing Career Progression Employee Development Diversity & Inclusion
What is performance bias and what to do about it
What is performance bias and what to do about it

Performance bias is the tendency to underestimate a woman’s performance and to overestimate a man’s

Read the Article

Submit your ideas for an article

Get in touch

Connect with Drive on Twitter

THE WAIT IS OVER! 🎉 Watch the full episode of #InspiringConversations - @dianemul11 & @LALAUK 👉 https://t.co/i2Em1ct89o Inspiring Automotive Women Award winners, discuss everything, from what they do to promote gender diversity to what motherhood has taught them. @Auto30Club