Unconscious Bias and Diversity

Discover the principles to create an inclusive work environment.

The landscape has changed a great deal and now we are concerned about creating workspaces where people can flourish.

CHALLENGE CONSULTANCY, Training director & founder, FEMI OTITOJU

Meet UB or Unconscious Bias. UB isn’t necessarily a villain – we all have one, and it influences us constantly. This series aims to explain how our UB affects us, how to slow down your decision-making and know what biases you are susceptible to. It also covers the principles to create an inclusive work environment where all individuals are valued and able to succeed. The collection includes 14 short videos, five micro learning courses and infographics.

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Allocating roles:

Send the girl out to brew some of that sweet caffeine.

Tasks that are not seen as prestigious are often allocated to people who belong to groups that are traditionally thought of as being in supportive or junior roles in society, regardless of whether it is actually their job to do it.  Allocate work and tasks according to job role rather than personal attributes.

Listen out for all voices:

I'm just not hearing you.

Some voices are often not “heard” as well as others.  Learn to “amplify” the voices of those whose contributions go unnoticed or are misattributed.

Maintaining harmony and dignity:

You may as well put up a sign saying 'no foreigners'!

Harassment is not necessarily inflicted on purpose; impact is what counts rather than intention. Don’t wait for a ‘cry for help’. People do their best work when then can bring their whole selves to work, so managers should challenge anything that undermines that.

One person’s banter is another person’s bullying:

But... it's just banter!

We may really value our office humour and informal banter and see it as a way to bond with colleagues. However, we can fall into the trap of thinking people know “we don’t mean any harm” whilst creating a hostile work environment for them.

Inclusion means celebrating diversity not ignoring it:

So shall I throw the cake away then?

Avoiding making people feel awkward about cultural difference sometimes means we do not mention things that are important parts of our own culture.  In most cases, people are rarely offended if they are invited to be part of something but not compelled.

Look for your customers unique needs:

Are you saying there's pork in these pants?

Many organisations have systems and procedures that are intended to speed up service fulfil administrative requirements as easily as possible. But you also need to look for your customers’ unique needs – find out before offering services or guidance.

Events and logistics:

The pub? Again?

While most of us understand the importance of diversity, good leaders also recognise that we need people to feel included if they are to be effective member of the team and do their best work. It’s no good inviting people to the party if you are not going to make an effort to make them feel welcome!

An introduction to Unconscious Bias:

If you have a brain, you have a bias.

We are bombarded by millions of pieces of information every day and we simply don’t have the mental capacity to deal with it all consciously. So we develop the habit of taking shortcuts based on what we have seen before and what we already know. That means we sometimes misjudge people and make mistakes.

Being busy or bothered beefs up the bias:

There's no time for detail, listen to your gut!

We are most likely to default to our bias when we are under stress, like when we are busy, tired, hungry or uncomfortable – either physically or emotionally.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias:

You think I'm good at maths because I look Chinese?

If we are unaware of our biases it is easy to convince ourselves that our judgments are rational or based on fact, but unconscious bias can be the unseen hand that tips the scale, particularly if a situation is ambiguous.

Find out about people – don’t even try to guess:

My gaydar just went PING!

Working well with diversity doesn’t mean treating everyone the same but avoid making assumptions based on appearance. People talk about things that you give them permission to talk about, so ask questions and listen.


Mental, isn't it!

The term neurodiversity means the different ways in which our minds and brains work. Create safe spaces where you can openly discuss people’s different communication styles and be willing to adapt your practices to accommodate members of this group.

Think beyond the binary:

Who's side are you on?! Just pick one!

Working well with Gender Identity means remembering that some people may express their gender in way with which you are unfamiliar, others may choose to change or reassign their gender and you may meet people who don’t identify with a particular gender at all.

Trans awareness:

It's been a big change... for all of us!

Creating inclusive environments means accepting the way trans people choose to identify.  Remember that gender identity is about how an individual feel about being a man or a woman or outside of both of those genders.

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Mark Helen Baxendale
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