Unconscious bias training has become a hot topic in recent years as companies and organizations look for ways to address systemic inequalities and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. The idea behind unconscious bias training is that by raising awareness of our subconscious biases, we can learn to recognize them and overcome them.
But what exactly is unconscious bias? And how can unconscious bias training help us combat it?
Unconscious biases are attitudes or stereotypes that we hold about certain groups of people without even realizing it. These attitudes can be based on factors such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or any number of other characteristics. Unconscious biases are often rooted in societal norms and cultural conditioning that have been ingrained in us from an early age.
The problem with unconscious biases is that they can lead to discrimination and inequality in the workplace. For example, a hiring manager may unconsciously favor candidates who share their own background or experiences over those who do not. Or a team leader may unwittingly exclude certain team members from important projects because they don’t fit their preconceived notions of what makes a good contributor.
This is where unconscious bias training comes in. The goal of this type of training is to help individuals recognize their own biases so they can take steps to mitigate their impact on others. In order to do this effectively, unconscious bias trainings typically involve education around the science of implicit bias as well as interactive exercises designed to raise awareness among participants.
One common exercise used in these trainings involves showing participants images or words associated with different groups (e.g., black vs white faces; male vs female names). Participants are then asked to quickly categorize these stimuli using computer keys while trying to minimize errors. This exercise highlights how our brains automatically process information based on pre-existing associations we have learned throughout life.
Another popular exercise has participants write down three adjectives commonly associated with different groups (e.g., women, African Americans, senior citizens). They are then asked to reflect on why they chose those specific adjectives and if any of them were based on stereotypes or assumptions that could be harmful.
While these exercises can be uncomfortable and challenging for participants, they are designed to help individuals recognize their own biases so they can take steps to mitigate their impact on others. This might involve consciously seeking out diverse perspectives in decision-making processes, re-evaluating hiring practices to reduce bias in the recruitment process or simply being aware of micro-behaviors that may exclude certain members of a team from feeling included.
Unconscious bias training is not without its critics, however. Some argue that it can lead to a “checklist mentality” where people feel like they have done their part by completing the training but don’t actually change their behavior as a result. Others worry that focusing too much on individual unconscious biases takes attention away from larger systemic issues such as institutional racism or sexism.
Despite these concerns, there is evidence to suggest that unconscious bias training can be effective in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. A study by researchers at Stanford University found that participants who completed an online implicit bias course were more likely to challenge discriminatory behavior than those who did not complete the course.
There are also some best practices organizations should consider when implementing unconscious bias training programs. For example, trainings should be mandatory for all employees rather than optional so everyone has an opportunity to learn about this important topic. Additionally, it’s important to make sure trainings are led by experienced facilitators who understand how to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all participants.
Ultimately, unconscious bias training is just one tool organizations can use in their efforts towards creating more equitable workplaces. But it’s an important one – by helping individuals recognize and overcome their own biases we can begin to build cultures of inclusivity where everyone feels valued and supported regardless of their background or identity.