Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is a “must” for an organization’s success. While many workplaces can attest that they are committed to DEI initiatives and actions, unconscious bias can often get in the way of achieving a truly inclusive and equitable workplace.
Acknowledging our efforts in practicing open-mindedness is good, but no matter how hard we try to live a life free from biases and prejudices, we still carry them. Unfortunately, we also carry them with us into the workplace.
So, what’s the first step to combating unconscious bias in the workplace? It starts with identifying our own biases.
What is Unconscious Bias?
Unconscious biases, also known as implicit biases, are learned prejudices or judgments towards a social group (or groups) that are often so deeply rooted that we are unaware we carry them. Even with the best intentions, these biases can shape how we see and interact with others in and out of the workplace.
These unconscious biases come from our personal experiences, beliefs, and values. We may have inherited them from our families or the culture we grew up in.
How Does Unconscious Bias Impact the Workplace?
Our biases impact our ability to truly see others as individuals and as their true selves. They can cause us to make unjust assumptions of a person’s identities, intentions, abilities, and much more. Unconscious biases can also create barriers to entry for opportunities within an organization. Overall, unconscious biases create unknown fractures in our lens making an inclusive and equitable workplace further out of reach.
Why Should We Know Our Biases?
The first step to combating unconscious bias in the workplace is becoming aware of our own individual biases. We each have our own unique life experiences that have shaped us into who we are today, forming many of our social identities and perspectives. By acknowledging our unconscious biases, we can begin to work on reducing their impact in the workplace and other areas of our lives. It’s the first step to cultivating an inclusive and equitable environment; it allows us to understand where we are starting from so that we can develop a path to our DEI goals.
How Can We Become Aware of Our Unconscious Biases?
Doing this work isn’t always easy. It takes courage to look within ourselves and acknowledge prejudices we may hold. We can discover our own biases by reflecting on our own experiences and beliefs; the messages we received while growing up, our identities and level of privileges, etc, with compassion and non-judgment.
Taking the edge off unconscious bias in the workplace starts with educating ourselves and others about unconscious bias. We have to be open to learning about and celebrating other cultures, social groups and identities to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs. The problem starts with us, so the solution must also come from us. Let’s take the first crucial step of learning, revealing, and understanding our own unconscious biases for the betterment of our quality of life in and out of the workplace.