A half-day workshop on ‘Understanding Unconscious Bias’, facilitated by Mary Carroll, will be held at Engineers Ireland on Wednesday 15 June from 2pm-5pm. Participants will explore what unconscious bias is, how it manifests itself in the workplace, its effects and how to address it. For more information, see here.
Why are nearly 60% of corporate CEOs in America over 6ft tall, when not even 15% of American men are over 6ft? Why would only 49% of people reviewing a CV with a female name deem the person worthy of hire when 79% reviewing the exact same CV, with a man’s name, elected to hire him? Why are people more likely to buy French wine when French music is playing in a supermarket and German wine when German music is playing?
It’s all due to unconscious or implicit bias. ‘Unconscious bias’ is bias that is automatic, outside our control and of which we are unaware. It triggers rapid assessments and judgements. It’s why we duck if a tennis or golf ball is coming straight for our head. Imagine how dangerous the roads would be if all of us were driving consciously the way we did when we were learner drivers. We couldn’t function, or indeed survive, if all our decisions were made consciously.
It’s estimated that at any moment, we have 10-40 million bits of information in our brains, but that only 40 of those are being processed consciously. So, these unconscious assessments and judgments generally serve us well. The problem is that they can and do lead to mistakes and errors of judgment.
Traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion have assumed that people who discriminate do so consciously – if only ‘they’ got it the way ‘we’ do, everything would be ok! The reality is that we all have unconscious biases and research indicates that we often don’t even realise that they are influencing our behaviour.