What entrepreneurs need to know about unconscious bias

women working in office

By Jewelle Saunders

Prioritizing an equitable workforce is one of the critical factors that grow an organization to be more successful. Businesses have a healthier workforce, higher productivity and greater profitability when focusing on equity, diversity and inclusion. Factors such as unconscious bias can be a prominent barrier to this growth.

Unconscious, or implicit, bias refers to the underlying attitudes or beliefs about other individuals or groups, based on identity traits, outside our own conscious awareness.

It is vital for entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders to understand unconscious biases that may be present in their journey to growing their business or organization. They are an integral part of eliminating and mitigating bias in their community. Here is what young leaders need to know about implicit bias.

Bias shows in many forms

There are many different types of bias, and given that many of them are unconscious, they are also invisible or difficult to see. Some common forms of bias include similarity bias, affinity bias, and conformity bias, but other forms of prejudice based on bias can include age bias, gender bias, ethnicity bias, racial bias, and name bias. Biases can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including education and career trajectory. These are particularly evident in hiring practices.

Biases can affect our behavior and treatment of others, hiring of qualified candidates, and respect for employees and partners in the work environment. Biases can lead to acts of discrimination and overall low morale. Access the YLAI Network’s workbooks on responsible leadership and partnerships and allyship to learn more about the forms of biases and their impact.

Education is key

By learning about these often unseen biases and educating yourself about these behaviors, you are taking the first step in mitigating the effects of these biases.

When workforces and entrepreneurs place greater emphasis on mitigating the effects of bias, they are more likely to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and stronger and more resilient businesses. In order to overcome the unconscious biases we have held in the past, we must reflect on where those biases have been learned and work to diminish them.

There are necessary steps to mitigating bias

When starting or reviewing your own business or organization, here are a few steps to keep in mind to make mitigating bias an important part of your strategic plan and your day-to-day workplace environment:

  1. Inc.com recommends that the first step to defeating implicit bias is to continue researching the impact that bias can have. The more you know about the different kinds of biases, conscious and unconscious, and how individuals enact those biased opinions, the more knowledgeable you will be about mitigating the impacts or stopping them before they start.
  2. Rethink the way things have been done in your previous workplaces. Note when discrimination or bias has played a part in your previous work culture, past leadership, or local news, and update your business’s code of conduct to identify biased behaviors that will not be condoned.
  3. Eliminate biases during the hiring process and hire the most-qualified and most-talented people for the role. Dr. Amanda Hinojosa at Howard University provided vital advice to the YLAI Network on recognizing bias and avoiding bias when hiring, such as determining the differences between unconscious and conscious bias and being specific on the essential elements of a job description.
  4. Empower your employees, business partners, and colleagues to interrogate their own biases, report bias when they see it, feel responsible to stand up for others when they see bias in action, and be an ally who takes action.
  5. Remember that completing one training session, reading one blog, or starting one discussion is not alone going to eliminate bias, and mitigating bias is an ongoing effort and commitment. But creating a supportive setting for open discussions on bias is an important start.

Make sure to stay tuned for resources in the YLAI4All initiative to continue your investment in prioritizing diversity, inclusion, and equity in your workplace, making for a stronger business.