55% of employees have experienced discrimination, due to implicit bias, at their current workplace. But, what is discrimination? It implies awareness and the intention to marginalise someone on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, and disability, among others.
In the case of disability discrimination, for instance, the data is worrying. Disability discrimination in Portugal stands at 65%, while the average for Europe is only 15%. A study from PubMed also showed that 82% of professionals in Portugal in the health sector have experienced ageism (age-based discrimination). This marginalisation stems from prejudice and implicit biases which can lead to the harmful treatment of certain groups, such as women, people of colour, or LGBTQIA+.
How Are Implicit Bias and Discrimination Connected?
Implicit bias can lead to discrimination when it results in actions that disadvantage certain individuals or groups.
To explain what implicit bias is, first we have to understand that our brains are wired in a particular way. Everyone with a brain is biassed. Humans naturally use categorisation as a mechanism to process the overload of information we are faced with. In prehistoric times, we used this categorisation to evaluate danger. We assessed people as either in-group or out-group. Those who are are similar to ourselves would be in-group, and therefore not considered undangerous and treat better. Those who looked different from us were considered out-group, assessed as a possible threat and treated worse or less empathetically.
Implicit bias can be defined as “Attitudes and stereotypes that influence judgement, decision-making, and behaviour in ways that are outside of conscious awareness and/or control”, According to Harvard Human Resources.
Bias is at the root of discrimination because it can influence people’s decision-making and behaviour. Implicit bias is based on a natural mechanism that is reinforced by socially perpetuated stereotypes, like women are bad drivers, and prejudices. These biases can lead us to treat people better or worse depending on characteristics, such as race or gender. So to fight discrimination, we should start at the root by addressing biases.
4 Ways to Curb Implicit Bias and Discrimination in Your Company:
1. Do a DEI Assessment
By doing a DEI you can understand how you are doing in terms of representation and equity. But, also use employee listening to understand how the company culture is perceived and impacts (positively or negatively) your employees. The assessment can include analysing HR data regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, launching employee DEI surveys, and comparing your strategy and current status to those from competitors. This helps you understand how implicit bias and discriminations are present. With this information, you can develop a more solid strategy to tackle the problem.
2. Train Your Employees on What Implicit Bias and Discrimination Are
By training your employees and company leaders, you make them aware of what implicit biases are and their impact on individuals and the company. That way, they can come into touch with their own biases and then work on overcoming them. It is very important for people to understand that, firstly, we all have a role to play in tackling implicit bias. Secondly, although biases are implicit, you can be made aware of them and minimise them. Otherwise, employees may feel that bias is inevitable. This leads to less motivation to work on it and ultimately more room for discrimination. To avoid this, implement effective training that not only raises awareness on bias, but also provides people with tools and frameworks to manage their biases, change their behaviour, and track their progress.
3. Develop Inclusive Policies and Practices
Implementing inclusive policies and practices helps your company tackle biases and discrimination in your workplace. This way, employees feel more comfortable to bring their full selves to work, share ideas and take risks. Research from McKinsey shows that inclusive companies are more likely to attract top talent from diverse backgrounds and retain them – as employees are more likely to stay in inclusive work environments where they feel valued and supported. Inclusive teams are also better equipped to problem-solve and make effective decisions since they include a range of perspectives and ideas.
To curb bias and discrimination, you can develop inclusive policies such as:
- Creating anonymous reporting channels, while promoting openness and fostering safe spaces. Companies can use anonymous reporting platforms to provide employees with a secure and confidential way to report bias or discrimination incidents. This empowers employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation, which helps to break down the culture of silence and fear that often surrounds issues of discrimination. This allows companies to address problems before they become systemic.
- Promoting equality of opportunities. Companies should prioritise fairness and transparency by creating a level playing field for advancement and opportunity. This can be accomplished with the support of analytics tools that ensure transparent and fair promotion and pay processes while addressing biases. In addition, companies should strive to meet diversity targets in their long-term workforce plans.
- Create a more inclusive workplace. Companies must promote openness and tackle microaggressions and bias. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory behaviour such as bullying and harassment is essential. It is also important to provide training for managers and staff to identify and address microaggressions. Establishing norms for open, welcoming behaviour, and encouraging leaders and employees to hold each other accountable to those standards can help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.
4. Work on Leadership Accountability
We are all responsible for creating inclusive environments and tackling bias inside our companies. However, leaders have an even more important role to play here. After all, they represent the company more directly and are often examples that all employees look to. Therefore, it is extremely important that you not only include DEI skill-building as a part of manager and leader training, but also, include DEI skills in their assessment. By providing training and support to the leaders, they can be prepared to address these challenges.
At the same time, including inclusive leadership, for instance, as a part of team leaders’ assessment is a way to guarantee their commitment and accountability regarding DEI in the workplace.
Now that we know bias can be a stepping stone to discrimination, you are a lot closer to fighting it in the workplace. By following the tips above, you can foster a more inclusive workplace where discrimination is minimised, if not eliminated, and there bias is challenged and less pervasive. That way you contribute to your employees’ well-being, by making them feel more valued and respected, and boost your teams potential for performance.
If you would like to learn more about bias training and DEI policies, book a meeting with us to know how we can support you in this journey