Unconscious Bias Starts With You
Today marks the first day of our new Diversity Series! Every Wednesday for the next few weeks we will be discussing topics concerning the challenges and importance of diversity and inclusion, a mission we’re passionate about at Abodoo.
The key to understanding the concept of unconscious bias is to realize that everyone has unconscious biases. It doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, it just makes you human.
First and foremost, unconscious bias starts with neuroscience. The brain absorbs around 11 million pieces of information every second, but only 40 are capable of being thought of consciously. This means that most of those millions of pieces of information have to be assimilated by our unconscious brain. Can you even imagine consciously thinking about absolutely everything you say and do? Our brains would be working overtime.
Unbeknownst to us, subconscious associations are working constantly to make connections between knowledge gained from personal experiences, social preferences, cultural norms and even media representation.
These mental shortcuts are what we call unconscious bias. It is our unconscious brain’s tendency to associate and develop preferences based on any social category. Those categories are normally related to visual features (age, skin colour, gender, weight, height) but it can also include religion, job role, social background or political affiliation.
The Dark Side
It is part of natural human behaviour to create social filters so we can make judgements and identify differences and similarities. We are all naturally exposed to unconscious beliefs throughout our lives. The problem with unconscious bias is that it affects our perception and often leads us to make misjudgements. Even worse, we don’t even realise how these influences are impacting us. So, we are susceptible to agree with negative stereotypes supported by society and the media.
Where There Is A Brain, There Is A Bias
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
– T.S. Elliot
The most important step to cope with your unconscious bias is to accept that you are biased. You’ll have to get over the fact that being unbiased is a work in progress. The issue is not “to have bias” but rather “what are my biases?”
How do we know what our unconscious biases are? Take a few minutes to take this Implicit Association Test (IAT) by Harvard University.
What If I Don’t Agree With My Unconscious Bias?
That’s absolutely normal. The apparent innocence of unconscious bias carries negative social stereotypes that we don’t intentionally agree with. And believe me, you can even have a bias against yourself!
That’s what happened to Kristen Pressner, Global Head of Human Resources at a multinational firm and advocate for gender equality in the workplace. During her TEDxTalk, she revealed that she had an unconscious bias against women leaders. Can you imagine?
Be Better Than Your Bias
The word unconscious should not be underestimated. It means it requires that extra bit of attention because we simply can’t access the mental processes responsible for bias. Also, because we are just so used to them. That’s the biggest challenge of coping with our subconscious biases.
In this case, awareness is everything. Being consciously aware of your unconscious bias leads you to take action to improve it. It works as a mental exercise, a test of self-questioning your choices and beliefs. Why do I act like this? Do I feel comfortable or awkward about someone? Or a situation? Where are does these feelings come from? Why do I prefer this rather than that?
It is a matter of being smarter than your brain. Overcoming your unconscious bias ensures you live up to your values and beliefs. It will benefit everything and everyone around you. It’s a win-win.
One Step Closer To Diversity
Awareness has the power to reduce and eventually lose your unconscious bias. It can take time, but it ensures a more honest, diverse environment. It’s an opportunity to replace misjudgements, preferences and assumptions by respect, trust, empathy and inclusion.
One of the main reasons we started Abodoo was to help eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring process. By focusing on an individual’s skills and experience rather than their age, gender or ethnicity is central to our jobs-matching process.
As we’ve discussed, everyone is guilty to and has been a victim of unconscious bias. If you’re looking for a new career or are just curious about how a non-bias job application platform works, why not register with Abodoo. You might see the world from a new perspective.