May 18, 2015

Recent unrest in our cities has had me reading a lot lately on a phenomenon called “unconscious bias.” These biases are deeply rooted prejudices we may hold – caused by cultural norms and stereotypes that we are unaware of. Unconscious bias can be relevant to nearly anything – gender, race, or lifestyle, etc. It can present itself in seemingly minor ways, like repeatedly mispronouncing names or rolling eyes, or in more significant ways, such as social exclusion or not acknowledging earned success. Ultimately, this implicit bias can lead to a lack of diversity in hiring and promotion as well as low employee retention.

Some companies like Google and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are focusing on efforts to correct and overcome unconscious bias:

– Google hosts “bias-busting” workshops that coach employees how to address hidden prejudices and to improve upon a lack of diversity in technology. (Read more at

– RBC has held sessions with Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard University social ethics professor who co-authored Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People, for nearly 1,000 of its executives to help them see their biases. (Read more at

Other organizations are adding relevant employee training, revamped hiring and interviewing processes, mentoring, and improved employee benefits to help remove unconscious bias from their workforce.

The correlation between more candor and less bias is clear. It starts with being honest with ourselves about something that is uncomfortable to consider. And it continues to improve when we focus on direct and respectful conversations within our work environments. Ultimately, fostering more candor can help right the imbalance of bias.

If you are interested in learning more on unconscious bias (including uncovering your own unintended prejudices), take a Hidden Bias or Implicit Association Test (IAT). The tests were developed by Dr. Banaji of Harvard, and other psychologists and researchers from The University of Virginia and the University of Washington, who collectively created “Project Implicit” to measure unconscious bias. Click here to learn more about Project Implicit and to take the tests: