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UNCONSCIOUS BIAS SASHA SCOTT & DAMIAN JENKINS. What is it? Natural, in-built preferences Filters we apply to every day life to make handling of information.

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Presentation on theme: "UNCONSCIOUS BIAS SASHA SCOTT & DAMIAN JENKINS. What is it? Natural, in-built preferences Filters we apply to every day life to make handling of information."— Presentation transcript:


2 What is it? Natural, in-built preferences Filters we apply to every day life to make handling of information possible at all

3 What is going on? Brain receives app. 11,000,000 pieces of information per second Needs to ‘attend’ to only a small proportion of this information Rest dealt with by sub-processors

4 Brain anatomy for beginners..


6 So I’m not in charge?

7 Even ‘free decisions’ partly subconscious Soon et al 2008 People asked to make decision freely Brain scan records activity Brain active for up to 7s before conscious decision areas active!

8 You can even answer questions unconsciously.. HEALTHY SUBJECT VEGETATIVE-STATE PATIENT Answering YES to a question Answering NO to a question

9 Why not think consciously about everything? Too slow Too costly Would ruin ‘fight or flight’ SO unconscious decision making necessary for survival

10 Discrepancy between unconscious & conscious thinking % with prejudice against

11 What determines this unconscious response? Previous experiences & teachings Hard wiring No previous experience means no previous hard wiring

12 Some Terminology Kinship Group: Those people who share externally, and self-ascribed, characteristics – These set the group apart from others – White versus black – Male versus female – Gay versus straight

13 This is despite the fact that we could each identify with many different groups

14 Some more terminology Schema: expectation about a person’s characteristics based on their membership of a group – Schemas can conflict with what you think your conscious view point is (I get on with gay people: implicit tests argues otherwise etc.) – Changes with repeated exposure to different people and experiences

15 Most likely to rely on schemas when.. Stressed Distracted Under time pressure There is ambiguity There is a lack of ‘critical mass’

16 Critical mass If you have lots of black people in a group you are more likely NOT to see the colour and to start differentiating between individuals If you do a diversity test in a mixed colour group you are likely to score higher If you do a test of bias against women in a group consisting 50% women rather than 10% women you score as being less biased

17 LGBT difficulty Critical mass may not be reached Far fewer openly gay men amongst soldiers Far fewer gay women amongst officers Vanishingly small number of bi and transgender personnel

18 What price is paid for not addressing unconscious bias? IT MIGHT FEEL AS IF THERE IS NO COST

19 But at the organisational level Means teams become very similar in their mix of people Minority groups alienated. Accumulation of minor disadvantages leads to an overall view that ‘I cannot get on in this job’  Loss of talent from groups HOMOGENEITY IS EVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE Organisations lose out on operational effectiveness. This is clear from all business case examples

20 Use of schemas is prevalent when Recruiting Undertaking appraisals When deciding which employee goes on a course/training/AT Awards and promotions

21 Evidence that the brain sees what it wants

22 Handbook 1 Diagram 1 – Stare at the crosshair in the middle Diagram 2 – Which is bigger? Central circle on the left or right? Diagram 3 – Which dude is larger?

23 Seeing what you want to see

24 It’s all about the angle from which you look

25 How does this relate to the workplace? Explicit bias is no longer accepted Despite this minorities still under-represented ‘Not a team player’ ‘Just didn’t fit in’ This shows how pernicious is the effect of implicit bias

26 Bias affects the performance of those being type-cast Three groups of Asian post-grads given maths test Before sitting test asked to sit questionnaire 1 st group: Qs about Asian-ness 2 nd group: Qs about Female qualities 3 rd group: Neutral questionnaire Scores on maths test: – Gp 1 52% > Gp 3 45% > Gr 2 42%

27 Promotes homogeneity 5’9’’ 6’ 5’9 Av Male Height 6’ Av Height CEOs 14.5% of men are >6’ YET 58% of all Fortune 500 CEOs are >6’

28 Limits potential UK female managers earn an average salary of £31,895 UK male managers earn an average salary of £42,441 With exactly the same CVs women score 3.33/5 for ‘competency’ and men 4.05/5

29 Gives rise to irrational statistics The average ‘good looker’ earns 3-4% more over their lifetime than someone considered not a ‘good looker’.

30 ..and clear discrimination Women begin being discriminated against at a BMI of 27 For men it’s 35 Overweight men earn 2.3% less than their colleagues For women it’s 6.2%

31 BIRMINGHAM NEWCASTLE COCKNEY WORST 5 ACCENTS IN UK (>2600 EMPLOYEES SURVEYED) LIVERPOOL GLASGOW 72% employees victimised at work because of accent 63% employees with an accent have hidden it at a job interview In telephone interviews people from Edinburgh 4x more likely to get job than person from Glasgow with same CV

32 What is clear about this? Ability in the workplace is not linked to: Height Gender Sexuality Colour Accent Looks And yet all of these factors come into play!




36 And when the affected person complains.. You have no reference point for what LGBT people are like Therein you associate LGBT soldiers with moaning This makes you less likely to helpful to the next LGBT person you meet The cycle continues

37 Ultimately LGBT staff unmotivated Negative mind set Make no effort to integrate with a team that also makes no effort to integrate Withdraw Complain or leave or ‘fly solo’  Brain drain  Human cost, team cost, financial cost  No winners

38 Which means We are not representative of the society we seek to serve and protect

39 The Good News You can unlearn unconscious biases BUT it requires effort MINDFULNESS

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