When we meet people, we often judge them based on what we see, like their age, weight and attractiveness. But we may also judge them on their accent, where they studied and their socio-economic status.
Rapid processing occurs when our brains make quick judgements of people and situations around us, often without realising it. This can sometimes lead to unconscious bias. Our biases are likely influenced by our background, culture and personal experiences. However, these biases can lead to out-groups being treated less favourably and even discrimination.
Research has shown that unintentional bias can negatively impact recruitment, training, and other work-related decisions.
Key equality & diversity facts
- Women make up just 17% of boards in FTSE100 companies.
- Over a third of UK adults report experiencing workplace discrimination
- Only 8% of FTSE100 board members are BAME; the overall population is 14%.
- And only 9 of the FTSE100 companies are headed up by BAME individuals.
- 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women.
- 38% of women with dependent children work part-time compared to 7% of men.
- Pregnancy discrimination results in 54,000 women losing their jobs and 44,000 losing out on promotion or pay rises.
Top tips to help tackle unconscious bias in your firm
1. Accept that we all have unconscious biases
Bias is part of being human, but we can't tackle it if we don't acknowledge this. Take an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to become more aware of your own biases.
2. Make considered decisions
Unintentional bias is more likely when you make fast decisions or act on the spur of the moment, so be sure to take a step back.
3. Monitor your behaviour
Question your first impressions and extreme reactions to people; reflect on any rapid decisions you make (i.e. were they made objectively or was unconscious bias at play?)
4. Pay attention to bias related to protected characteristics
For example, age, disability, sex, maternity, race, religion, etc. - as this is discrimination and hence illegal.
5. Widen your social circle
Don't sit with the same colleague every day. Move around and spend time with people from different cultural and academic backgrounds etc. This will build your cultural competence and lead to better understanding.
6. Set ground rules for behaviour
Don't tolerate interruptions in your team; make sure everyone gets a fair hearing and has an equal chance to give their opinion.
7. Avoid making assumptions or relying on gut instinct
For example, "My boss said that she didn't offer me the project because I have a new baby and there's some travel." Don't assume you know best, as you may jump to the wrong conclusion.
8. Use rotas to avoid stereotyping
Have rotas for 'housekeeping' tasks, such as taking the minutes in a meeting, organising refreshments, etc., to ensure fairness and reduce the potential for gender stereotyping.
9. Speak out if you notice bias
For example, if a male colleague talks over a female colleague, tactfully point out that you wanted to hear what she had to say. If your boss only ever assigns the stretching projects to the guys or your white colleagues, have a quiet word.
10. Apologise if you get it wrong
Remember that we can only deal with bias if we're honest and admit our mistakes.
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