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Tackling unconscious bias

Unconcious bias

Unconscious bias has been referred to in the press quite a lot lately but what it actually is, how it works and what it takes to change it is not widely understood. As humans we have many unconscious biases and in organisations, our leadership decisions are also subject to them.

Our conscious minds process about 40 pieces of information each second, a tiny share of the total information available to us. It’s estimated that our unconscious mind deals with between 8 million and 40 million pieces of information per second, processing this information by using automatic associations that are learned patterns. However these shortcuts create bias and distortion, for example by categorising people as either male or female we minimise their individuality and shut out valuable information.

Gender bias leads to predetermined views of talent, creating inequalities and a loss of capability and commitment.

Unconscious gender bias prescribes leadership as a male domain and lies at the heart of why men are disproportionately chosen ahead of women for leadership roles, even when managers believe they are being fair. Gender stereotypes are learnt early, stored in memory and accessed without awareness. Our conscious and unconscious beliefs are often likely to contradict each other, especially when it comes to contentious issues such as gender. Usually, what we say represents our conscious beliefs, while what we do represents our unconscious beliefs.

Changing unconscious biases means changing cemented patterns of thought. It’s unrealistic to expect results overnight and be aware that attempts can sometimes backfire, resulting in strengthened biases. The best way to tackle unconscious bias is to first understand what it is, how it works and become aware of the biases we hold. Attuning people to their own biases builds awareness and starts a change process.

Download below the white paper to learn more about unconscious bias and how it impacts business decision-making: Getting to grips with unconscious bias.

Want to learn more?

To determine the extent of the unconscious bias across your organisation and the differences in each level and division, find out more about our gender diversity survey.

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