Think Twice – Is it Bias?

Think Twice – Is It Bias?

Unconscious bias impacts the quality of our decision making, including how we respond to people and their ideas. We are all affected by Unconscious Bias.   As leaders, we need to increase awareness of Unconscious Bias and how it impacts our business and community.

At a recent CEDA event in Perth, Libby Lyons, Director Workplace Gender Equality shared the latest Federal Government statistics that shows that the average pay gap between men and women is $27,000 per annum!  Why? A recent Queensland University study showed blondes really do have more, they earn 7% more than other women!   Unconscious bias is one factor that contributes to women, as well as other minorities, not being fairly recognised and rewarded for their talents and ideas.

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All human beings are biased. It’s a natural state of the brain that evolved from the days when we needed to be able to calculate very quickly if something was like us and thus friendly, or unlike us and possibly dangerous. In fact, the brain has far more (three to four times as much!) real estate devoted to identifying threats, than to identifying opportunities and rewards.

Unconscious biases are the automatic, mental shortcuts used to process information and make decisions quickly. At any point in time our brains are processing some 11 million bits of information and we can only consciously process about 40 bits, which makes us 99.999996% unconscious!  Cognitive filters allow the mind to unconsciously prioritise, generalise, and dismiss large volumes of input. If we weren’t able to do this, we would probably go crazy.  These shortcuts can be useful when making decisions with limited information, focus, or time, but can sometimes lead individuals astray and have unintended consequences in the workplace.

Unconscious biases are our natural people preferences.  We are hard-wired to prefer people who look similar, sound similar and have similar interests.  These preferences bypass our normal, rational and logical thinking.

Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from making the most objective decisions.  They can cause people to overlook great ideas, undermine individual potential and create a less than ideal work experience for their colleagues.

Research suggests that men and women are assessed very differently at work. Specifically, managers are significantly more likely to critique female employees for coming on too strong, and their accomplishments are more likely than men’s to be seen as the result of team, rather than individual efforts, finds new research from Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Those trends appear to hold up whether the boss making the assessments is male or female.

The researchers say the differences are products of unconscious bias—hidden beliefs about women’s capabilities that can influence important workplace decisions. For instance, if bosses expect women to be more team-oriented and men to be more independent in their jobs, women may be more likely to be shunted into support roles rather than landing the core positions that lead to executive jobs, the researchers say. Many employees internalize these stereotypes over time, they add, sapping some women’s confidence that they or their female co-workers can handle more-demanding positions.

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Adopting behaviours that go against expected stereotypes are usually punished through diminished assessments of capability in general. However, adopting the traditional stereotypical view of female leadership, such as collaborative leadership, can be seen as acting too softly, causing a ‘double bind’.

 

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The topic of Unconscious Bias is one that Margo is passionate to share the most recent research and give practical ways to negate the impact using powerful influencing skills.    If you would like to book Margo for a Keynote Speaking Engagement for your next event,  then please get in touch with us at hello@margohalbert.com.au or call Margo on 0419 997 440.

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