Dr O's Blog

 

Organizations aiming to become more diverse and inclusive are recognizing that the systemic challenge to achieving this objective is unconscious bias. As we become who we are, living in larger societies and smaller sub-cultures, we develop stereotypes and implicit beliefs that unconsciously drive our decisions and actions. Twenty years of data from 1.51 million people completing Implicit Association Tests administered by Harvard’s Project Implicit has shown the following inconvenient truths:

  • The preference for “young” is just as strong in those in the over-60 age group as it is among 20-year-olds.
  • Women show an implicit attitudinal preference for females in careers over males, but they nonetheless show an implicit stereotype linking females closer to family than career.
  • Younger people are just as likely to display an implicit race bias as older adults, women are as likely to display an implicit race bias as men and educational attainment appears to make no difference with respect to implicit race bias.
  • Approximately even numbers of Black respondents show a pro-White bias as show a pro-Black bias.

 

These are just a few of the often disturbing IAT results. Another finding that stood out for me was the people who will adamantly profess not having some particular bias are likely to have that bias. So don’t be so quick say “oh, that doesn’t apply to me!” These are traits of being human.

What can one do to recognize and counteract bias? While there’s a growing body of training and reports that raise awareness of the need for managing unconscious bias to improve diversity and inclusion, there’s little about how to do it. Applying a combination of my doctoral research, leadership development work and instruction, and 30+ years as an African American female manager in the tech industry, I’ve learned that “the way out is the way in” – it’s building emotional intelligence. EQ allows us to apply our self-awareness, self-management, and the curiosity of cognitive empathy to question and manage our motives and go beyond assumptions we have about others as well as ourselves.

I’m excited about my recent work providing Managing Unconscious Bias with EQ training and leadership development. Current clients are tech companies with D&I goals or related initiatives, but this isn’t just a tech issue. Unconscious bias underlies the lack of diversity in every sector. If you’re interested in learning about the workshop or leadership coaching, I’d love to hear from you!

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