In our last post, we talked about just how insidious and harmful implicit bias is in the world of recruiting. Now that we know what the problem is, it’s time to figure out what to do about it.
Step 1: Humility
Before moving forward, give yourself fifteen minutes to take Harvard’s famous implicit attitude test. If you run through a few modules, you’ll probably find that you have at least one subtle bias lurking within you. There’s no need to feel ashamed if you don’t like your results; all of us are victims of implicit bias. Research shows that these biases develop at an early age, before we’re rational enough to defend against them. In other words, most of us don’t stand a chance of growing up bias-free!
Taking this test is an exercise in humility, and we need humility before we can start the process of uprooting bias. If we deny that we’re subject to implicit bias, then we aren’t being honest with ourselves, and we’re ignoring what research tells us. So to start off on the right foot, we have to admit that we’re all subject to bias.
Step 2: Self-Awareness
Fortunately, research also shows us that biases aren’t permanent. In fact, there are strategies you can take to counter it. According to the Office of Diversity and Outreach at the University of California, San Francisco, the first step is self awareness. Taking the implicit attitudes test is a great start. If you want to get even deeper, try asking yourself hard questions and being really honest. You don’t have to share your answers with anyone. Think about experiences you’ve had with people of other races, ethnicities, ages, classes, genders, etc. What has challenged you? What has made you feel uncomfortable? What attitudes or beliefs do you see arise in you, even though you know they aren’t accurate? The closer you can get to acknowledging deep discomfort, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to let it go and move on.
Step 3: Training
This kind of exercise can’t be done all at once; uncovering and replacing implicit biases is a lifelong project for all of us. Still, devoting time to it can have great effects. If you or others on your team manage recruiting and hiring, then it may be time to look for a training program that focuses on implicit bias. Not only will this help the individuals on your team work past their own biases, but it will build awareness of the problem at the institutional level by giving everyone on the team a shared language and goal.
There are lots of trainings out there, both in person and online, so take some time to find one that suits your team. If you’re looking for something free, try this course from Kirwan Institute For the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Online courses like this are a great tool, but nothing can beat the depth that’s achieved by in-person trainings with professionals who can answer questions, lead discussions, and strategize with your organization. Plus, you’re in good company if you go this route! Here’s a list of 41 companies in Colorado that offer implicit bias training; you’ll notice that some of the top businesses in Colorado grace the list.
Implicit bias is takes more than two blog posts to tackle, but now you have the tools you need to start the process. You’ll have plenty of company along the way; we’re all subject to implicit bias, and we’re all responsible for moving past it. Fortunately, our efforts will be of benefit to everyone we know, especially in the world of hiring.