Renee Navarro, PharmD, MD, Vice Chancellor, Diversity and Outreach, UCSF defines unconscious bias as follows:
Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
Our unconscious biases impact decisions made in the workplace such as who we recruit, hire and promote. It is because of these unconscious biases that the STEM fields continue to be dominated by white men.
So how can we change the way we view the world? It isn’t as if, in most cases, we are even aware of our bias – thus the word “unconscious.” These are beliefs and views that have been built into our brains since childhood.
Dr. Navarro says:
A majority of research has explored the impact of unconscious racial bias; however it’s important to recognize that individuals may have unconscious bias towards those from other groups. One’s age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical abilities, and many other characteristics may be susceptible to bias from others.
Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, Vice Dean and Professor, School of Pharmacy offers her strategies for changing the way we view the world and offers individual strategies to address unconscious bias. She says:
Unconscious biases are difficult to change… but not impossible. Research suggests that there are actions we can take and techniques we can utilize to minimize the impact of unconscious bias on our thoughts and behaviors.
Check out her video found on the diversity.ucsf.edu website which has a large amount of information dedicated to unconscious bias – what it is and how to address it.
In an article offering tips for addressing unconscious bias by Courtney Connley, we learn these tips:
– Create a guilt-free zone
– Clearly define job qualifications
– Encourage second chances
– Be explicit that you disapprove of workplace bias
– Educate yourself on the potential of people and the value they can bring to your company
– Welcome feedback
On Tech Savvy Women we recently talked about the fact that unconscious bias can start as early as Little League and there are things, as parents, we need to consider when raising our children.
The process of recognizing and changing gender bias is a very personal, one-on-one process, however managers can help facilitate the process. The first step is to recognize that gender bias exists. No one is immune. I invite you to take one or more of the bias quizzes available on the Harvard website so that you can gain a clearer understanding of how your mind is processing information.
If we are going to create a more diverse, balanced work environment – we need to recognize the reality of unconscious bias and work diligently to override those ingrained biases so that we ensure the creation of a diverse thought leadership team that includes people of all ages, backgrounds, races and genders.
JJ DiGeronimo, a speaker, author and thought-leader for Women in Tech and Girls and STEM, empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract Women in Technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
Check out JJ’s new award winning book Accelerate Your Impact by downloading three free chapters.