Unconscious Bias

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UnconsciousBias

FountainBlue’s May 18 When She Speaks in East Bay event was on the topic of Overcoming Unconscious Bias. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such a passionate, articulate and diverse panel, representing a wide range of companies, roles, perspectives and backgrounds. They were each passionate about the topic of Unconscious Bias for different reasons, but generally it was from their own early direct experiences and their thoughts when they witnessed biases, conscious and otherwise.

Our panelists agreed that it’s normal, and even adaptive to have unconscious biases. They help us make wise decisions related to our safety, like not taking the subway at night by yourself, traveling through rough neighborhoods. Unconscious biases may also help us do the quick-filters we need to succeed at work, making sure that the candidates which pose the least amount of risk are assigned to the most mission-critical roles for example.

But there are also the kinds of unconscious biases which limit our ability to grow and transform ourselves personally, or our teams and our companies. Each panelist resolved to make a stand against unjust biases and commented on the benefits of being more inclusive, more diverse in the workplace. Specifically, they pointed to the following benefits of having more diversity in the workplace:

  • the improved company brand
  • the improved sense of community
  • the improved problem-solving abilities
  • the improved ability to recruit and retain more diverse candidates
  • the innovation advantages which come from having diverse viewpoints
  • the ability to better understand the diverse needs of a broad customer base

Below are our panelists’ suggestions for overcoming biases you may not know you have.

  • Approach each challenge and opportunity with an open mind.
  • Push your own comfort zone when you’re doing something the same way every day, every time. Challenge yourself to find an alternative approach, perspective, partner or mindset.
  • Understand your own upbringing and how it might impact how you’re showing up at home and at work.
  • Find support to help you challenge your own conscious and unconscious biases.
  • Be open to thoughtful and measured feedback.
  • Be self-aware enough to know when your biases may be limiting your successes at work or at home.

Some suggested best practices for overcoming unconscious bias are highlighted below.

  • Nurture an inclusive culture from the top down, from the bottom up.
  • Think, speak and act inclusively.
    • Call each other on it when that’s not happening.
    • Make it safe to call each other on it, even when a ‘subordinate’ is calling a ‘superior’ on it.
  • Create a tight community where a broad range of diverse people feel they can belong.
  • Adopt a corporate strategy which includes hiring a diverse workforce.
  • Build bridges between siloed teams and projects. Help them understand motivations of people not-like-them. Align diverse people to common corporate and team goals.
  • Expose teams to successful people from different perspectives and backgrounds.

The bottom line is that Unconscious Bias is a reality and can be helpful. But Build Self-Awareness in yourself to manage how you’re personally responding to these biases. Then Manage and Lead your team so that they can mitigate their own.

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Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Lam and our panelists for FountainBlue’s May 18 When She Speaks in East Bay event.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Anne Nemer Dhanda, Managing Director, Global Learning and Organizational Development, Lam Research
  • Panelist Jennifer Geisler, Vice President of Marketing, ForeScout
  • Panelist Gina Lau, Director of People Experience & Development, HelloSign
  • Panelist Lisa McGill, Chief Human Resources Officer, CrowdStrike
  • Panelist Suchitra Narayen, Vice President, Legal and Associate General Counsel Commercial, Digital Realty
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