Unconscious Bias at Work

Bianca Pickett - 23/06/2017

The tech industry is an incredibly competitive marketplace, and in order to stand out from the crowd innovation and creativity are vital. When you have a great team that embraces different experiences, cultures, genders and ages, you create a far more innovative workplace. Despite this, the IT industry (and plenty of others) still have some way to go when it comes to true workplace diversity.

At Kiandra we aim to buck this trend. As part of our strive in improving workplace diversity, we recently held a training session around the implication of Unconscious Bias. Not only was it well received but it helped to challenge long held beliefs and actions, and I thought it was worth sharing some of the key points.

Unconscious Bias is our unintended people preferences, or very simply we unconsciously pigeon hole people to make sense of them. This video explains: what is Unconscious Bias?

We are at an interesting point in world history, where the amount of information we are fed daily is near on overwhelming. What we can and can’t process, is now often down to what we are fed, based on our preferences and choices online over time. Facebook for instance has become a platform for conformation bias. If you believe or support something, you like it; and are subsequently fed a whole lot more of the same things that support your original belief, whether that is based in fact or not.

Match a world of confirmation biased social media, with the core beliefs that we ourselves have, through the nurture of our upbringing; the experiences we had through childhood and our friends and associations ever since, and what you have is a miasma of Unconscious Bias. Why is it important to try and understand our Unconscious Biases? We are in a world that is more aware than ever of biases – where religion, race, gender, attire and much more are major world issues. As humans we have always judged those around us, the difference now is the accessibility and connection of social media that can drive a spiral effect.

Why does it matter at work?

Australia is a multi-cultural society that welcomes all, and our workplaces are filled with an amazing diversity of people. I think we need to make sure that we are, at the very least, aware of our own biases, of the unconscious response and reactions that we have when we are around people not like ourselves. How we do that is to try and make the unconscious conscious, and question whether we react differently to a man as opposed to a woman; whether we preference people that are of your own faith and culture, over ones that are not.

If you want to test your own biases, Harvard has done an amazing study and you can try it out here. I highly encourage it!

And I highly recommend viewing this Ted Talk where Yassmin beautifully explains her perspective.

My challenge to you is awareness. Next time you judge, think about why you did it.

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