Bias – inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. (Wikipedia)
Unconscious bias – refers to a bias that we are unaware of and which happens outside of our control. It happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences. (Wikipedia)
There have been a lot of discussions about unconscious bias, however, we still did not find an effective way to actually remove or at least reduce bias in organisations and work cultures. Removing this bias becomes even harder if we believe, which I do, that most people want to do the right thing. Here are examples of attempts to resolve the issue and why they don’t seem to work:
Diversity and inclusion training
In the last 20 years, diversity and inclusion training programmes became the norm with most organisations. It is not clear if these programmes really work and some studies even found that sometimes these strategies actually increase unconscious bias. why-diversity-programs-fail
Use of Artificial Intelligence
We hope that the use of artificial intelligence and particularly machine learning can help remove unconscious bias from the hiring processes. After all, machines do not have feelings. The challenge is that machines learn through algorithms designed by humans with biases. For example the Events like a Google photo mechanism that mistakenly labeled an image of two friends as gorillas.
Treat the symptoms
An interesting research by the Talent Innovation Organisation measured the effect that perceived bias has on the employees and the costs for the organisation and suggests strategies to disrupt bias by changing the perception rather than removing it. The strategies are: diverse top leadership, inclusive management and connect diverse talent to sponsorship. While the research shows if applying these strategies the effects of bias can be reduced, these strategies are hard to implement if bias is there to start with.
The truth is Bias is the way our brain works, maybe we should just accept it?