One common criticism as to why unconscious bias training courses don’t work, is that when participants are told their “biases” are “unconscious”, it encourages them to believe that there is nothing, they can do to change them. Well, we’re here to tell you this is not the case. If you’d really like to learn more once you’ve read this blog, check out our article on “4 Ways Unconscious Bias Training Providers Can Improve Your Business”
Why Unconscious Bias Training Courses are a Thing of the Future (if done differently)…
Most unconscious bias training courses focus on raising awareness of what unconscious bias is and what unconscious biases a participant may hold. They then go on to explain the effects unconscious bias can have on others and suggest techniques to reduce and/or mitigate its impact. How effective is this approach though? The standard approach may cause someone to think more carefully about their actions in the short-term but does little to address the connections in the brain that lead to unconscious bias in the first place.
Let’s talk about ‘The Limbic System’. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is involved in our behavioural and emotional responses and is made up of four parts: the Hypothalamus, Amygdala, Thalamus, and Hippocampus. Unconscious bias is a process that starts in the amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for fear, anger, and anxiety.
Throughout our lives the amygdala processes billions of stimuli that our conscious brains do not have time to interpret. To cope with the massive amount of data the amygdala must process, we end up dividing this information into categories and this is how unconscious bias develops. This means instinctively we categorise people and their characteristics in order to make quick assumptions about them. However, this does not mean that our assumptions are correct, and acting upon them can lead us to discriminate against a group of people with a shared characteristic.
Example: “A male manager in a finance company holds a staff meeting to discuss their next project. The majority of people in the room are white men and there are two women. An Asian female colleague puts forward a new idea but is not acknowledged by the manager. A male colleague then proposes the same idea later in the meeting and is acknowledged by the manager and praised for his contribution. The fact that the female colleague put forward the idea first, is never acknowledged by anyone.”
In this example of unconscious bias, we can see that the male manager in this white male dominated environment did not acknowledge his Asian female colleague. This could be due to gender bias or racial bias. The male manager’s unconscious bias in ignoring his female colleague but acknowledging his male colleague starts in the amygdala. The manager has subconsciously categorised his male colleagues as ‘like him’ and his female colleagues as ‘not like him’. This unconscious bias developed through the male managers previous socialisations through working in a male dominated industry. In this environment the manager has most likely worked for other male managers, had male mentors, and conversed mostly with male colleagues.
Consequently, he has developed a bias that favours the opinions and contributions of men and sees the contributions of women as less valuable. As this bias happens so quickly, the manager may, or may not, be aware that he holds a bias against his female colleague, due to the way the brain subconsciously categorises and interprets information.
When we talk about unconscious bias training we’re not just talking about your actions. We’re training you on the brain’s systems and processes and how to change its behaviour. The easy thing to do is assume that because your bias is unconscious, there is nothing you can do to change it. This is not true. It is possible to change your behaviour and rewire the connections in your brain that lead to unconscious bias.
Our Unconscious Bias Training course uses lived experience learning and safe space discussions to really help you understand the reasons behind your unconscious bias and how the behaviours that stem from it affect others. It’s also important to ensure you have a Diversity and Inclusion consultants to guide you and your organisation when it comes to creating a more inclusive workplace. Not sure what a diversity and inclusion consultant can do for you, click here to learn more.
Why You Need to Understand Your Cognitive Response Before Developing Your Awareness.
Before being able to address your awareness of unconscious bias, you first need to understand your cognitive response. So, what is cognitive response? Cognitive responses are the thoughts you have when being presented with information. There are two types of cognitive response, Direct and Indirect. A direct cognitive response occurs when you are engaged with the information being presented.
For example, if you are interested in the topic at hand, you might be thinking about arguments ‘for and against’ the information being presented. An indirect cognitive response is when you are not engaged with the information that is being presented to you. You may be thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner or what you’re going to be doing on the weekend.
Understanding your cognitive response before undergoing an unconscious bias training course is the key to whether or not it will work. If you do not engage with or are uninterested in the unconscious bias training you are receiving, then it is going to render it completely useless, as you don’t value the information that is being presented to you. However, if you do engage with the unconscious bias training course, you’ll be able to raise your awareness about unconscious bias, how these biases develop and the biases that you potentially have.
Unconscious Bias Training at Mission Diverse Enables You and Your Team To:
- Understand the nature of unconscious bias.
- Avoid any legal action that may arise from unconscious bias.
- Create less disruption.
- Reduce workplace conflict.
- Create a more inclusive workplace culture.
- Heighten personal and professional perception.
Click here and schedule a call to book our Unconscious Bias Training.