Unconscious Bias

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a fascinating workshop on unconscious bias, held by the Publishers Association and the Publishing Training Centre. Here’s what I learned:

You may have heard of it before but for the majority of us, this is something that is happening (you guessed it!) unconsciously. It is essentially snap judgements our brains make about people and situations, based on our own cultural backgrounds and experiences.

We all like to think of ourselves as enlightened and working hard to create an all-inclusive environment at work. It is built into the mission statement of most companies. So it’s scary to think that in spite of our determination to diversify, our brains are subtly leading us to assumptions about people that we may not realise but which have we have become conditioned to, due to our own experiences that happened to us in our formative years.

But don’t feel distressed that you may be guilty of unconscious bias, the experts say it’s perfectly natural. There is no way to reach adulthood without holding some unconscious bias. The important thing is to be aware of it as a phenomenon. Once we become aware of the associations our brains are making, we can resist falling into those patterns of thinking and treat everyone we encounter as the individuals they are.

Companies have been growing increasingly aware of the issue. For example, Interview panels are typically made up of several people to ensure one person’s unconscious bias doesn’t influence the final decision. Likewise, there are tests you can take which help you to recognise your own personal preferences and prejudices – like the Harvard Implicit Association Test, which was created to increase awareness about unconscious bias.

The good news is that more and more people are talking about it, and recognising a problem is always the first step towards resolving it. When we all take ownership for our unconscious biases, the sooner we can make efforts to resist them and to think clearly about people based on their merits and not our own cultural baggage.

For more info, check out the The Publishers Association website and their blog including Tackling Diversity: a PA workshop and lots more info on Diversity and Equality.

There’s also a guide to Creating a Representative Publishing Industry (click on the front cover of the guide).

Leave a Comment

Filed under Industry News & Events

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *