Unconscious bias - where are we at?
If you’re white, answer this quickly - are you racist?
Your conscious response was probably, ‘Of course not!’ But a computerised ‘unconscious bias’ test could reveal that your subconscious mind is slower to associate positive words with Black faces than with white ones. And if that happens in a test, it’s almost certainly happening in your workplace.
A new CIPD review of Diversity & Inclusion practices has found that while diversity training does increase awareness of issues like unconscious bias, evidence that it drives attitude and behavioural change is “extremely limited”.
In fact, some people may be coming away from unconscious bias training more biased than ever - thinking that since their bias is unconscious and everyone has it, it’s okay.
The report concluded that diversity training alone is not enough to create a diverse and inclusive organisation. A more impactful approach is “perspective taking” - getting staff to listen to the stories and experiences of marginalised people and to think about the disadvantages they face.
The report, which used workshops with professionals as well as reviewing existing research, recommended that employers carry on running diversity training but make it mandatory, repeat key sessions, and focus on perspective-taking exercises and specific skills.
Louise Ashley, senior researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, called for “stronger levers for change” to improve workplace practices, and more government legislation and positive action on diversity.