See that bias over there…. that’s you
There is a saying that all 5 fingers are not equal. Together they make a hand function and that is how we are used to it. Our body is an amazing creation and there is a reason behind the difference.
Here, difference does not mean inequality. In the modern workplace however that difference does mean inequality.
As we have seen recently with the BBC, diversity is not synonymous with equality. Bias plays into our working life. In hiring, in pay scales, with promotion and so on. At what point is it unconscious? It’s not the same for everyone. We have affinity bias where we prefer people who are the same as us. We talk about Company Culture and Fit being a reason why people progress or are hired. Same doesn’t always mean the best.
An understanding that we are beset with pre-judgements, prejudices and affinity bias means an awareness. It’s only with awareness that one can spot bias as it arises. The subconscious heading into the conscious therefore slowing down our thinking. It’s in this place of slow thinking that change can happen.
Unconscious bias happens when we form stereotypes through our background, environment, social and societal influences. This cultural context we place on others to create stories about them impacts our decisions without us being aware.
Going back to the BBC, largely white males from a similar socio-economic background hold senior positions and command higher salaries. The BBC will not be alone here. A scan at the FTSE 500 would no doubt show similar results.
Gender, age, ethnicity, religious persuasion and appearance all factor heavily in our implicit or unconscious bias. Removing barriers to this bias can turn corporations into more collaborative, conscious, progressive and intuitive companies. Innovation will grow alongside profitability and a happy workforce.
Numerous studies now show that you can save money, work smarter and be more competitive through recognising and removing bias. Alongside this we need to become more culturally intelligent. We have access to a global people in a way that can only encourage sharing and learning beyond the stereotype.
We all have unconscious bias. We need to learn how to spot it and how to overcome it. Silicon Valley shone the spotlight onto the biases in such a glaring way that change inevitable. Companies are commonly moving to blind CV’s, employees are being tested and trained. Google, Royal Bank of Canada, Roche, companies from all industries and taking the tests and making changes. With new structures and new monitoring practices in place we can move towards a more inclusive, happier and healthier workplace.