Unconscious bias refers to blind spots we’re unaware of that impact our decisions—about people, ideas, events, and even products.
The eight statements below offer a way to evaluate how active unconscious bias might be inside your organization.
Rate your current team, department or company on a scale of 1 to 5.
1 = completely false
2 = somewhat false
3 = somewhat true/somewhat false
4 = somewhat true
5 = completely true
If your total score was:
Under 24 It is likely that unconscious bias is prevalent in your organization. Bias can
wreak havoc on recruiting and retention efforts and stymie diversity.
24 – 32 You’re typical of most organizations. Though you’re doing some good things,
you can make major improvements. Failing to address unconscious bias can have
33 – 37 That’s fantastic. It’s likely that your organization has implemented and
benefitted from a major company-wide effort to reduce unconscious bias.
38 – 40 Almost too good to be true.
Unfortunately, we can never get rid of unconscious bias completely. It effects virtually all organizations in a myriad of ways. In fact, if anyone rated their organization a 5 on all of these statements, I’d worry that they were totally and completely oblivious to bias and the role it plays!
We’re hardwired to be biased. It can be upsetting to learn that unconscious bias is rampant in our organization. But research has shown that everyone has biases. The good news is that we can learn to recognize biases and minimize them.
As an organization, there are several very practical measures you can undertake:
• Educate and train about unconscious bias. The Wall Street Journal reports that 20 percent of large companies in the US now provide unconscious bias training—and that 50 percent will offer it in the next five years.
• Develop decision-making tools like checklists, decision trees, and pro/con charts to standardize processes and make them fairer. Doctors at Johns Hopkins developed a checklist when they discovered that female trauma patients in their hospital were far more likely to die of blood clots than men. One of the surgeons put together a computerized tool that requires doctors to review blood clot prevention for every patient. After the checklist went into effect, appropriate treatment for everyone spiked—and the gender disparity disappeared.
• Create barriers that interfere with bias. The Clayman Institute of Gender Studies at Stanford University did just that in an experiment that involved orchestra auditions. Historically, male musicians have outnumbered female orchestra members. So during auditions, the institute erected a screen between judges and musicians. Thanks to the barrier, the number of women musicians hired increased from 5 percent to 25 percent.
As organizations, we need to focus on our power to reduce unconscious bias. A major step is to accept that unconscious bias exists. Once we recognize it, we can begin to reduce its impact and make better decisions that will help us become more successful by meeting our goals and objectives.