Implicit Bias Education
What is implicit bias?
Implicit bias filters the information we get about the world. Bias can very easily cause employers to miss the profound opportunities presented by highly qualified persons of color, women, disabled, older employees, and other applicants.
Implicit bias - noun, Psychology
Definition: Bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs. (Also called: Implicit social cognition)
Many of our clients describe being treated unfairly or less favorably than their co-workers but are uncertain they have claims because there are no obvious signs of discrimination. Subtle discrimination is just as illegal as overt racism or sexism, and of course, the harm is the same. Often, subtle incidents of discrimination are motivated by implicit or hidden attitudes and perceptions that affect a manager’s view of an employee. It requires a clear understanding of implicit bias to represent these employees and to uncover this type of subtle discrimination.
Examples of implicit bias
One of the most common biases in the workplace is gender bias. Frequently, gender bias presents itself as seeing a certain set of traits as positive in one gender, and negative in another (ex: viewing assertiveness in men as leadership, versus assertiveness in women as being 'bossy'). A well-documented example of this is a phenomenon called, "bropropriating." This happens when a woman is brushed off or ignored after sharing an idea at work; only to have a male coworker share the same idea later, and receive a positive response.
This occurs when an employer or hiring manager has a subconscious negative reaction to applicants whose names they find difficult to pronounce or perceive to be foreign. Typically this occurs very early in the hiring process and can limit diversity in the workplace.
Most often, age bias affects employees and applicants at the ends of the age spectrum. Examples of implicit age bias could be assigning computer-based or technical projects to younger employees because the manager has an implicit assumption that older employees are less tech-savvy. Age bias can also affect young employees when an employer denies them reasonable responsibilities or privileges due to a lack of experience.
These are just three of many examples of implicit bias. One of the reasons that implicit bias can be so damaging is its covert integration into common business practices. Unlike blatant discrimination, implicit bias is difficult to identify and can be easily denied by those who hold the bias.
Addressing Implicit Bias
At Newkirk Zwagerman, we use both scholarly research and personal experiences to illustrate the hidden ways that race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics impact decision-making. We litigate bias-based discrimination cases and understand the value of these claims.
In addition to taking cases to court, our firm’s collective expertise in this field allows us to do more to help individuals who have been harmed by such biases. Newkirk Zwagerman works to educate employers about bias and empower them to mitigate its effect on their decision-making in the future. Our employer education efforts occur both informally through the litigation process and formally through direct training performed for employers. Employers choose to retain us for direct training not only to limit the potential for future discrimination liability, but also to avoid the very frequent practice of losing (or never hiring) highly qualified persons of color, women, or older employees.
At Newkirk Zwagerman, Thomas Newkirk has been at the forefront of researching and educating on this issue for more than fifteen years. Thomas Newkirk is a nationally recognized expert on the topic of implicit biases and has presented on this topic at events across the United States.
The first step in reducing the effects of implicit bias is to make people aware. Understanding how implicit attitudes impact a person’s decision-making empowers well-meaning decision-makers to place a check on the power that these implicit attitudes have over our decisions. Checking our implicit bias requires us to slow down our decision-making process and stopping to think about whether the decision is consistent with implicit attitudes about a protected group. Combatting implicit bias also requires a more deliberate and objective approach to decision-making. It is not something that can be quickly fixed by a single training session but understanding where bias comes from and the power it has to affect decisions is the essential first step to combatting it.