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Businesses Can Take Steps To Eliminate Workplace Bias

There have been many moments in recent years where race and gender biases become hot-button topics. Yet despite the good intentions of many employers and managers, unconscious biases at work mean that white men and still more likely to be hired, promoted and well-compensated than equally deserving employees who are women or racial minorities.

This unconscious bias may even be the case with companies who are trying to hire and advance talent in these very same groups. In fact, training for diversity may actually backfire – there have been many well-publicized examples of women negotiating a raise only to have it negatively impact their career.

An article in the Atlantic, offers some tips on how to eliminate or disrupt these preconceptions. While some experts are baffled for the reason why the careers of women and minorities continue to stall, Joan C. Williams, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings, offers some suggestions.

Three concrete tips that can help

The culture of every business is different, but Williams argues that these three “bias interrupters” may provide some new thinking on this issue:

  1. Look for these biases: Even if you don’t believe your company has unconscious biases, conduct internal research to confirm or refute that belief.
  2. Follow up: You can do this by creating metrics for tracking the results of the changes (referred to by Williams as “interventions”) to see if they are getting the desired results.
  3. Long term change: Try to make the interventions to subconscious bias on an ongoing basis.

Like so many other parts of changing human behavior, change can be slow. These three step method enable companies to identify, address and then adjust and fine tune to get optimum results.

What is a bias interrupter?

Common examples of this would be to change the structure for advancement in a company. Studies find that men are more likely than women to nominate themselves for advancement. If the company usually accepts self-nomination as part of the process, the company can interrupt this bias by encouraging employees to recognize themselves and also direct managers to indentify qualified candidates even if the employee did not nominate themselves.

Diverse companies and workgroups generally produce better results. If there is overt or unconscious bias, an employee should speak with human resources. An attorney who handles business or employment law can be helpful in protecting employee rights and voicing concerns involving bias.