While it’s true that we’re all biased and that unconscious bias is difficult to address, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work towards creating a better workplace for all. This video shines a light on our behaviors and helps us to acknowledge that we're biased, while resolving to do something about it.
- It's been said that blondes have more fun, and maybe that's because they have 7% more income to spend on entertainment. According to studies, blonde women on average make 7% more income over their lifetime than women with brown hair. In his book Beauty Pays, Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, studied the relationship between personal attributes and economics. Hamermesh confirmed that skinny people make more money than overweight people.
Tall men are promoted more often than short men. White women are paid more than black women and much more than Latino women. Bald men make less money than men with a full head of hair, yet men in general are paid more than women. Why does this type of bias happen? No one sets out to pay brunette women less than blondes, yet it happens consistently enough and on a large enough scale for it to be studied. If someone has an attribute we find favorable, subconsciously we think that person is good, and of course we want to associate with good people.
It's this unconscious need to categorize people that leads to the kinds of decisions that favor some and leave others out in the cold. According to studies in cognitive science, our brains receive 11 million pieces of information every second, and we can only process 40 of those details consciously. This makes us more than 99% unconscious. Sadly, this lack of awareness means we don't realize just how biased we are. Ask anyone if they're biased, and very few will admit it.
And those who do are unaware of just how deep the bias actually runs. So pinpointing bias is hard but not impossible. Harvard University's Project Implicit offers a free, online test that measures attitudes and stereotypes. Regardless of our education, race, ethnicity, age, or gender, this assessment helps identify areas where we're biased, so we can begin to become more aware of our unconscious thoughts. Our thoughts affect our behavior, and our behavior affects everyone around us.
By understanding that we're all biased, we can make the decision to work together to be more conscious of our thoughts and actions when relating to others. And while we can't always stop ourselves in the moment, we can think about our actions to see why we chose a particular person for a task or put a specific individual on a team, and then, if need be, we can remedy that situation. We can put our egos aside and admit we may have made a decision based upon a bias. And not only can we fix the current situation, we can resolve not to do it again.
Over time, it's possible to learn to think and behave differently. By using an objective test to measure our bias and by reflecting on our actions, we can change the way in which we are biased, and maybe brunettes can regain that 7% earning differential.
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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