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Being Unconsciously Biased: The Art of Inclusion

Diversity is a critical issue in today’s business environment. Leading organizations consider inclusion a powerful strategy that should be integrated into different aspects of the talent lifecycle to improve brand, enhance employee engagement, and drive performance. However, achieving these could be impeded by unconscious bias, which many executive-level professionals struggle to overcome.  What’s Unconscious Bias? […]

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Diversity is a critical issue in today’s business environment. Leading organizations consider inclusion a powerful strategy that should be integrated into different aspects of the talent lifecycle to improve brand, enhance employee engagement, and drive performance. However, achieving these could be impeded by unconscious bias, which many executive-level professionals struggle to overcome. 

What’s Unconscious Bias?

Bias is the prejudice that pushes one to favor or be against one group, thing, or person compared with others, often in a way that may be considered unfair. Biases can be held by an institution, individual, or group and could have negative consequences. 

Unconscious bias is a social stereotype about groups of people that one could form outside their conscious awareness. This form of bias can influence many decisions as it affects one’s behavior. If you fail to recognize unconscious biases, you cannot avoid them, which could lead to decisions that will harm both the company and individuals. 

Examples of Unconscious Bias C-Suite Should Be Concerned About 

Here are some common examples of unconscious bias you should avoid in the workplace. 

  • Gender Bias – According to International Labor Organization (ILO), unconscious bias remains a barrier to women’s career advancement. Gender bias occurs when specific traits – such as confidence or assertiveness – are viewed as negative when manifested in one gender, but positive in another. When a company is influenced by gender bias, it can miss out on opportunities. A common unconscious bias in the workplace is “bropropriating”, a situation where a female member shares a point and there’s little interest in it. A while later, a male member makes the same point and all members support it. This could discourage female workers from sharing their ideas, thereby frustrating and demotivating them. 
  • Age Bias – Another way unconscious bias can influence decisions is by discriminating against colleagues because of their age. Age discrimination persists despite the fact older workers may not be necessarily less healthy, less skillful, or less educated than younger counterparts. This often happens in tech-heavy projects where unconscious bias causes a manager to assume only younger persons are apt to work on the job better than older counterparts. In this situation, the manager assumes a worker’s proficiency or experience is based on an opinion not backed up on fact. Many older people are tech-savvy, so it’s unfair to lock them out of projects based on their age. 
  • Similarity Bias – This is a form of bias that encourages you to pick people with similarities to you. Unconscious similarity bias happens when the manager hires candidates based on their own image. This means considering candidates who went to the same university as the manager, or those with similar interests or from the same ethnicity as them. 

How to Overcome Unconscious Bias 

There are several solutions C-Suite could embrace to mitigate unconscious bias:

  1. Be More Aware of Unconscious Bias 

The thought process includes unconscious notions, including biases. Once you acknowledge everyone has unconscious biases, you can work on ways to reveal your biases and embrace tools like mindfulness to expose how you perceive things without judgement. 

  1. Design Processes to Eliminate Bias in Mentoring, Hiring, etc. 

Create panels composed of different kinds of individuals to interview new hires, review employees’ performance, and track the type of people hired. Use data to implement adjustments if there are biases impeding inclusivity. 

  1. Develop Structures to Promote Minimization of Bias 

This includes offering training to raise awareness among employees on how unconscious bias can manifest and how to deal with it. Create cross-cutting groups with different types of people to determine the most practical steps to move forward. 

Why C-Suite Should Embrace Inclusion and Diversity 

Today’s world is increasingly interconnected and globalized, so workplaces should embrace the benefits of the diverse range of skills people from different languages and backgrounds can bring. Some of the benefits of workplace diversity include: 

  • Increased Productivity: Creating a diverse workplace means more processes and ideas. Diversity of talent brings a broader range of skills, and diversity of perspectives and experiences enhances the potential for increased productivity. 
  • Better Marketing Opportunities: When potential customers or employees see a company has a diverse workplace, they find it relatable. This encourages individuals from all groups to embrace the brand. 
  • Increased Creativity: When different cultures and backgrounds collaborate on projects, the opportunity for better creativity arises. There are more people with unique perspectives and solutions, offering a greater chance of an effective solution to a problem at the workplace. 
  • A Positive Reputation: Companies with diverse workplaces often earn a positive reputation as they’re perceived as better employers. 

As old models of diversity change, the trend to create an inclusive workplace will accelerate. The demand for diversity will continue to receive greater attention, motivating the private sector to take responsibility and offer structures that help overcome unconscious bias and other barriers that prevent inclusion. 

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