In today's diverse and interconnected society, organisations must prioritise the management of biases in the workplace – whether these biases are conscious or unconscious – as they can significantly impact organisational culture, employee morale, and decision-making processes.
One example of bias translating into inequality is the gender pay gap. Statistics reveal persistent disparities, with women's wages at 83% of men's wages. The gender pay gap continues to prevail in 2022, with women earning a median weekly income equivalent to 83% of men's median weekly earnings. This discrepancy highlights the ongoing presence of gender bias in the workplace.
Another bias requiring attention is its disproportionate impact on people of colour. A Gallup poll conducted in 2020 found that 24% of Black and Hispanic or Latinx employees reported experiencing workplace discrimination. These findings emphasise the higher likelihood of workplace bias affecting individuals from these communities.
To create a fair and inclusive workplace where individuals from all backgrounds can thrive, it is essential to acknowledge and address biases. This article explores how to manage unconscious biases in the workplace more effectively:
1) Recognise the importance of self-education
Active engagement in learning and unlearning is fundamental to reducing biases. Merely avoiding racism is insufficient; individuals must strive to be anti-racist. By exposing ourselves to different perspectives, educating ourselves about various cultures, and cultivating empathy, we can identify and challenge our own biases.
Engaging in dialogue with others and practicing self-reflection enables us to uncover and confront our unconscious biases that may contribute to inequity.
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2) Understand contextual factors
Acknowledging that societal behaviours influence biases is the first step towards addressing them. Research, for example, has revealed disparities in hiring practices based on factors such as names. Understanding the cultural nuances behind these implicit biases proves the need for proactive measures to address them.
3) Sensitise managers to inequities in everyday life
Managers play a crucial role in shaping workplace culture, and their unconscious biases can manifest as 'micro' inequities and micro aggression. To sensitise managers and the broader organisation to these biases, comprehensive training, educational resources, and ongoing support should be provided. This approach creates awareness and encourages proactive efforts to mitigate negative behaviours that are so subtle that they are almost imperceptible or taken for granted.
4) Establish open dialogue and collaboration
Creating spaces where individuals can openly discuss issues and collaborate on solutions is essential to fostering a positive work environment. Establishing forums and programs that encourage open dialogue provides opportunities for individuals to share experiences, discuss actions, and collectively work towards increased diversity, equity, and inclusion. By fostering a culture of open communication, organisations can address biases and promote inclusivity.
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5) Use tools for self-reflection
Gaining deeper insights into biases requires individuals to examine their perspectives and attitudes. Tools such as Harvard's Project Implicit, offer valuable tests that measure implicit attitudes and beliefs. Taking these tests can help individuals become more aware of unconscious biases and take steps to address them.
6) Practise substitution and empathy
The technique of "substitution" involves mentally putting oneself in someone else's shoes to gain a different perspective. Individuals can challenge their biases and develop empathy by considering how they would feel or respond if they were in another person's position. Introspection and self-reflection can help pinpoint the underlying reasons for biases and thus foster personal growth.
7) Seek diverse perspectives
Actively seeking perspectives beyond those found in one's social and professional circle is crucial to addressing biases. By engaging with those different from us – even through casual conversations or connecting with individuals outside our social or professional circles – we can broaden our understanding and challenge biases.
8) Build diverse teams
Building diverse teams is key to increasing awareness and avoiding homogeneity in decision-making. Research indicates that companies with diverse management teams outperform those with homogeneous teams.
By implementing these strategies, organisations can actively reduce biases in the workplace, promote diversity, and create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all employees.