Theory – Part 1

An equitable workplace is one where the culture builds respect, fosters inclusiveness and diversity and embraces the unique skills and qualities of all employees. It’s everybody’s responsibility to support and promote inclusiveness. Increasing your skills and knowledge of unconscious bias will help develop an appreciation of the nature and prevalence of bias and contribute to a more inclusive workplace.

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unconscious bias is a set of mental shortcuts we all use to make quick decisions and to detect threats. Unconscious bias is something we all have and use daily; we filter information continuously and our ability to use bias helps us to make thousands of decisions all day long.

How does this work? Various research has shown that many biases are formed throughout life. Bias is held at the subconscious level, mainly through cultural, societal and familial conditioning as we gather millions of bits of information. Our brain processes that information in a certain way, unconsciously formatting it into familiar patterns. These factors influence the assessments that we make of people and form the basis of our relationship with others, and the world around us.

Why is it important to know about Unconscious Bias?

It’s important for us to think about the influence of unconscious bias in our lives. It can be difficult accepting or acknowledging that we are biased. If unconscious bias goes unchecked, it can lead to fixed generalized views of how people should act or even negative attitudes towards a person or group. This can lead to a plentiful ground for growing stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination.

Research shows that diverse teams are more productive and more innovative. Unconscious bias can lead to a disruptive effect in the workplace such as:

  • talented people being left out and lack of development and career progression
  • diverse voices not being heard in meetings and decisions can be impaired
  • employees not able to fully contribute to the organization and
  • creativity and productivity being compromised.

Unconscious bias may not affect every single interaction or decision. But even if it happens once or twice – all of our unconsciously biased outcomes add up over time and can have a significant impact on someone’s life and opportunities. There’s the snowball effect and the impact compounds over time.

Source: Male-Female Differences: A Computer Simulation

Interrupting unconscious bias can therefore:

  • improve decision making
  • create innovative solution
  • improve people’s health and wellbeing and
  • create a positive and healthy workplace culture.

To learn even more about unconscious bias, take a look in our resources