|Minorities and women don't have unconscious biases
My, oh my, have times changed. In the early eighties, I went on retreats with black women to have open discussions about our respective views on race and gender. It quickly became apparent that black women had as many biases about white men as white men had about them.
Now, as intimated by the following WSJ article, only white males have unconscious biases. At least that's the impression the article gives by spotlighting a white guy and using examples of unconscious biases towards a woman, an Asian, and blacks. No examples are given of unconscious biases towards white men.
The irony is that the journalist apparently has a huge unconscious bias of her own.
By the way, am I the only one who finds it incredulous that the spotlighted guy wrote a computer program to analyze his electronic address book, to discover that 80% of his contacts were male? He didn't know this without a computer program?
Why We Stereotype Strangers
No matter how open-minded we are, we all have unconscious biases, a social psychologist says. Here's how to deal with them.
The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2018 10:47 a.m. ET
When Rick Klau's boss at Google, Larry Page, encouraged all employees to go to training to uncover their unconscious biases a few years ago, Mr. Klau's first thought was: "This isn't meant for me. I'm not contributing to the problem."
He soon found out he was wrong.
As part of the seminar, Mr. Klau, who is now a partner in a venture-capital firm, took an online test to uncover some of his unconscious attitudes about gender. It showed that he strongly associated men with work and science and women with home and liberal arts.
Mr. Klau, who is 47 years old and lives in San Ramon, Calif., was shocked. He thought of himself as someone who collaborated with and supported women in the workplace, who was married to a woman he admired and was raising his daughter to be strong and independent.
He wanted to test the results, so he wrote a computer program analyzing his electronic address book. It showed that 80% of his contacts were male. When he ran the program on his social-media accounts, the results were the same: 80% of the people he was connected to on LinkedIn and followed on Twitter were men.
"I didn't want to believe it," Mr. Klau says. "Consciously or otherwise, I was seeking out people who looked like me."
Research shows that all of us—even the most well-meaning and open-minded—have some type of implicit, or unconscious, biases, says Dolly Chugh. She is an expert on implicit bias and unethical behavior and the author of "The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias." We hold attitudes or stereotypes about people subconsciously. These may be different from the ones we have intentionally. And, like it or not, they may influence our behavior, says Dr. Chugh, a social psychologist and an associate professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.
Unconscious biases run the gamut of experience. A person might feel a flicker of disappointment that his or her pilot is a woman. Or assume that the Asian waiter at a sushi restaurant won't speak fluent English. Or bristle when walking down a street at night and seeing a group of black teenage boys approaching. Or see a homeless person asking for money and think: "Get a job." These are unconscious biases at work, Dr. Chugh says.
One way to think about implicit bias is as a habit we developed from the moment we were born and started perceiving the world around us. "Everything we take in—everything our parents tell us, everything we see on TV or hear in music, that we learn in school or from friends or see on the streets—all of this adds up to associations in our brain," Dr. Chugh says. We may not consciously believe these influences, but they're there, idling in the background.
Unconscious bias is "sticky and malleable," Dr. Chugh says, meaning that it fluctuates according to what is happening in the world and in the mind of the bias holder. It can be higher or lower on different days and in different situations.
It can affect our behavior, especially when we are under significant time pressure or stress, Dr. Chugh says. Some actions may be subtle and subconscious: How far we sit from someone, whether we make eye contact, speak or smile, whether we perceive someone as friendly or angry. Other behaviors may be more direct: Whom we befriend, support or promote may all be affected by our implicit biases, Dr. Chugh says.
The online measure that Mr. Klau used to assess his implicit gender bias is the Implicit Association Test, which was created in 1998 and is hosted by Harvard. It is administered by Project Implicit, a nonprofit founded by researchers now at the University of Washington, Harvard and the University of Virginia. There are many versions, studying race, gender, sexual orientation, age and other areas where biases may arise. Although the test has sparked controversy—among other things, some critics say it doesn't prove that an implicit belief leads to an action—it has also been one of the most studied measures in psychology and is widely used in training to raise awareness of unconscious biases. Dr. Chugh recommends that everyone take the test—and more than once, on different days, because our unconscious biases can fluctuate. "It gives us a window into what we should be noticing," she says.
What can we do to fight unconscious stereotypes or perceptions we may not even realize we have? Research shows that no magic bullet will erase unconscious biases but there are steps to address and counter them.
Dr. Chugh says it's crucial to have a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed one. Our mindsets can differ at various times and in different aspects of our lives. But when we have a fixed mindset we see ourselves as fully formed, so we are likely to remain the same. And it can lead to blind spots. "A fixed mindset says: 'I am not racist or sexist.'" Dr. Chugh says. "A growth mindset, which is open to change, says: 'I know there is always room to grow in this area.'"
Mr. Klau wanted to change. "Once I saw the problem I couldn't unsee it," he says. "And my sense of who I was didn't feel right."
He started with his social-media network, working to add balance. This was personally and professionally important. "Study after study shows how diverse companies have better results," he says. "And if this is conclusively the case, then I want that." He reached out to more women and minorities on LinkedIn. He also looked for different voices on Twitter. He followed more journalists who weren't white men. And he looked at who his female and African-American contacts followed and followed some of those people, too. "I made sure I would repeatedly see different messages," he says.
He also started to look at the ratio of men to women at conferences and stopped attending ones that were mostly male. When he did attend conferences or meetings, he made sure he didn't "default to what felt most comfortable and hang out with all the other guys," he says. He chatted with more women. "I became very conscious that I just talked to four guys in a row—are there women in the room I can include in this conversation?" he says.
Mr. Klau also went public with the problem and his efforts to solve it, publishing an essay on Medium and LinkedIn and tweeting regular updates. He says he received feedback from men who analyzed their own networks and found them unbalanced. Many women said they were already aware of the imbalance. "It was difficult to find out that something friends knew was surprising to me," he says. "How many other things do they know that I don't but that I can learn when they are at the table?"
He doesn't feel that he's completely solved his unconscious-bias problem. As of a month ago, his network was still 65% men. But he is proud of his progress. "I know more now," Mr. Klau says. "And I am more conscious of opportunities and challenges that don't necessarily apply to me but are very much the reality of those around me."
Confronting Unconscious Bias
Here are tips from Dolly Chugh, a social psychologist and author of "The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias."
Take the Implicit Association Test. There are several versions, studying race, gender, sexual orientation, age and other areas of bias. Look for one that relates to a cause close to your heart, or an area that makes you anxious. Ideally, take it more than once. This will give you a good idea of what you may need to work on, Dr. Chugh says.
Perform a self-audit. Look at the last 10 tweets you read, songs you downloaded or people you connected with. How similar are they to you and to the others in that group of 10? This audit will tell you if you are sitting in an echo chamber or exposing yourself to different perspectives. Broaden your content consumption, including TV shows, movies, books, music, podcasts and social media. Look at what people with different backgrounds from you follow or like. Or search the web for random terms, such as "black female scientists" or "Chinese-American writers."
Harbor a growth mindset, as this means you can change. Watch out for the internal voice that says: "I am not sexist" or "I am not a racist." This fixed mindset can lead to blind spots. A growth mindset allows you to say: "I know there's always room to grow in this area."
Practice willful awareness. Recognize what you may not know about people who are not like you, and find ways to fill in the gaps. Start with your friends. Ask them if you can talk to them about their lives and how they may be different from yours. Read about different experiences.
Listen to people who aren't like you. Don't insist on presenting your point of view. And don't try to explain away their experiences or solve their problems. Ask questions. Be open to learning about what they feel, even when you're uncomfortable.
Talk to young people about their perspectives. Consider it reverse mentoring. "Young people are often more in tune than the rest of us," Dr. Chugh says. "They can help us understand a changing world." Ask them about their backgrounds, friends and the social issues on their minds. Don't interrupt or contradict.
Learn to pronounce at least three names you don't know how to say, preferably of people you know. Often, when we don't know how to pronounce someone's name we avoid or ignore that person. Ask the person to help you or use Google.
Expect this to be hard. "Think of yourself as a work in progress," Dr. Chugh says. That is a growth mindset voice. It acknowledges that you know you have room to get better. And expect the results to be gratifying.