As I look cautiously around the group, I’m relieved to see I’m not the only one with her hand raised to answer “Yes” to the question, “Are you biased?”
Every member of the CDC has the opportunity to attend what may seem like less ‘conventional’ professional training, as well as the more traditional consulting skills sessions. I recently attended my first Unconscious Bias training (possibly falling into that first category). I’ve come across the concept of unconscious bias previously, first in my pre-Capgemini life in recruitment and more recently in discussions with some of the Women in Consulting team here within Capgemini as we look to encourage diversity and ensure equal opportunity.
As it happens, we all have unconscious biases, which manifest themselves by nearly always looking more favourably upon people who are the most similar to us. Our brain is bombarded by 11 million pieces of information at any given moment but only processes about 40 of them. This means we receive an influx of data we can only make snap judgements about – so we choose what we’re familiar with. Our upbringing and social environment also plays an important role in our unconscious judgments.
Because our unconscious biases are “natural,” the first step in mitigating their negative impacts is identifying them. It then takes conscious steps to reflect on why we think certain things or have made particular decisions. Perhaps in our individual daily lives the dangers of leaving unconscious biases unchecked seem minimal but as soon as we consider them on a group, company, societal basis, it can get pretty scary (think segregation, Hitler, gender pay gaps …).
However, I believe unconscious bias does matter, even in my individual daily working life.
I’m part of the Employee Transformation team at Capgemini, which means we often deal with issues of recruitment, progression, reward, career development and workplace culture with our clients. Projects I have worked on have, amongst other things, sought to maximise employee talents, drive organisational performance through good people management, ensure consistently high performance and improve employee engagement. Studies have shown that even before we’ve met people, a foreign name on a CV can count them out of getting an interview, or that male bosses will push a male colleague to go for a promotion but sit back to allow a female to ‘make her own mind up.’ Blind CV screening, quality development conversations and transparent promotion processes are practical steps to help mitigate our ‘natural’ biases.
I’ve recently started playing rugby. Despite feeling like I’ve been battered on a weekly basis, one of the reasons I love it is that I’m surrounded by a diverse range of women with completely different experiences to me. In fact I believe it’s these differences that enable us to be an effective team – and that’s what matters.
I’ve had a similar experience on my project; I’m surrounded by individuals who don’t come from the same background as I do. As with any team, we face challenges but my eyes are continually opened to the benefits of having a diverse team of individuals who aren’t all the same: A variety of skills, experiences and perspectives fosters innovation and creativity, things we as Capgemini seek to promote.