Stereotypes and assumptions affect our perceptions of others and make it difficult to be objective when working with individuals we may not be as familiar with. Diversity and recruiting expert Stacey Gordon walks through ways to question assumptions and operate with facts.
- The University of North Carolina Executive Development Program defines perception bias as the tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that makes it difficult to make an objective judgment about individual members of those groups. Meaning, if we have had the experience, that our neighbor's child, who is a Boy Scout, is a kind and generous child, who is always polite and helpful, when you meet another child who is also a Boy Scout, you might have a difficult time seeing any of his negative traits.
There's a reason being a Boy Scout is now synonymous with being a good person. And we apply the same logic to people we work with. According to a study led by researcher Moss-Racusin, and published in the proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences, there is an assumption that men are better suited to science and technology-related projects than women. So how does this affect women? As an example: when hiring for a web engineer, an SEO analyst, or a data scientist, if eight out of 10 candidates are male, it's difficult to put aside the perception that men do these types of jobs, and hire a woman.
Our experience has shown us that men work in these roles, not women, so we gravitate towards the perception we're used to. While there are many programs in place to increase the number of women in these fields, the disparity cannot be addressed until women are perceived as just as capable as men in traditionally male-dominated fields. The problem actually lies in the bias that makes those assumptions in the first place, and not as much in the hiring process. If the bias is based on a stereotype rather than fact, the act of overlooking underrepresented groups of people will continue.
Tackling the underlying unconscious bias can be achieved by acknowledging the problem exists, ensuring there is widespread awareness of it, resolving to do something about it, and becoming accountable for your actions. With this in mind: what steps can you take today to change your perceptions? The next time you make a statement about someone, ask yourself if that statement is based in fact. And facts need to be questioned too. It might be factual that all of the engineers in your department are male, but is that a fact that you want to remain unchanged? Remaining curious and questioning assumptions is a great way to keep our minds sharp and our actions unbiased.
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- What's unconscious bias and why does it matter?
- The impact of bias
- Identifying unconscious bias
- Affinity bias
- Halo bias
- Perception bias
- Confirmation bias