What is Unconscious Bias?

Bias is a prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another; usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.

There are two types of bias:

  1. Conscious bias (also known as explicit bias) and

  2. Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias)
     

It is important to note that biases, conscious or unconscious, are not limited to ethnicity and race. Though racial bias and discrimination are well documented, biases may exist toward any social group. Your age, gender, gender identity physical abilities, religion, sexual orientation, weight, and many other characteristics are subject to bias.

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 our tendency to organise our social worlds into categories.

 

How can Unconsious Bias Awareness Training help?

Not all princesses are beautiful - a common bias we pick up as children!

We all have a different view of the world which is the result of our own unique experiences throughout our lives to this point.

As children, with limited experiences, our view of the world is fairly fluid.  What is accepted as fact one day, will be discarded the next in favour of something new.  Friends we loved today, we’ll dislike tomorrow and love again the next day.  To adults, children can appear very fickle.

 

As we get older, our combined experiences tend to result in attitudes that become much more ingrained –often only a major event will dramatically change our perception of the world in which we live in.  Our perception is often referred to as “our map”.  Day to day events and experiences are used to reinforce our existing perceptions of the world.  In fact, our view becomes selective, as we tend to ignore or “leave out” information that doesn’t support “our map”

 

“Our map” is not necessarily right or wrong.  It is just different.  However, this selective view of the world, and, therefore, the situations we face, can lead us to take up a position when managing others or negotiating, and can make it extremely difficult for us to see the same situation from someone else’s perspective.

Understanding what Unconscious bias is, and where it can 'come to play' in the workplace is vital for organisations.  Awareness training helps people to assess their own biases; become aware of them in the first place - and then choose to take steps to remove those biases if they are unhelpful in the workplace.  Until the awareness is raised and engaged, we may never know what the biases are that hold us back.

Until a movement like 'Black Lives Matter' comes along and holds us all to account, our unconscious bias can go unchecked for many years.  I'm hoping that we can all be more accountable for our bias and move into a world where we are more open-minded and accepting of all viewpoints, perceptions, opinions and beliefs.  No single one of us can be right or wrong - there is room in this world for all of us to be 'right' (within the law!) and to be listened to.  Awareness training is the first step.

Why should we work with you?

As a learning and development partner, I've been asked to deliver Equality and Diversity training in many of my previous employers.  Most notably, with Surrey Police working with police officers and staff to help them understand how their unconscious bias might affect their actions, especially when they are under pressure on the front line. I've also delivered workshops for a private healthcare provider as part of our compulsory training for all supervisors and managers.  Unconscious bias awareness for any organisation in the service of the general public is so important!  It cannot be understated.  Without awareness, we cannot change our beliefs, potential prejudices and ultimately, our behaviour.

Now, while engaging with Blue Gnu clients who are recognising this heightened need for awareness,  I'm being asked (particularly in smaller and more diverse/global businesses) to deliver workshops for their teams which brings unconscious bias to the front and centre of their diversity conversations - and raise the awareness of their deep-seated and long held beliefs, to the surface in a safe and managed way; watch this space for the client feedback!

If you'd like to have a conversation about how I can design an Unconscious Bias workshop/virtual learning for your team, please do get in touch.

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