Leaders Know Unconscious Bias Is Not Political (Unconscious Bias Series Part 1)

Whenever the phrases “unconscious bias,” “implicit bias,” or “diversity and equity” come up, it seems people make immediate assumptions. They think the topic is about to be related to stuff in the news or marginalized populations. Then, they shut down.

Smart leaders know bias exists in everyone.

No one is truly objective. Additionally, not all bias is related to hot-button issues. Consider this: have any of these parts of your identity ever affected your perception of how someone else looks at you?

  • Age
  • Education level
  • Expertise
  • Family status
  • Personality
  • Appearance
  • Clothing/make-up/hairstyle
  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic status

When I started teaching, I was unmarried and without children. Many times, it was clear that parents took me less seriously because I had no kids. They would tell me this out loud, often by using subtle, starting thoughts with “Well, when you have your own kids, you’ll understand…”

My appearance, personality, and education level can combine to make people take me more seriously than I deserve. After all, an educated, confident, well-spoken dude must know what he’s talking about.

Biases have affected me both positively and negatively.

The truth is that we all have biases. Smart leaders know connecting with others and choosing moments to address bias can aid in reducing it. More about that next week. In the meantime, look at that list above and see if you can find moments you’ve experienced bias in one of those areas, affecting your confidence, decision-making, opportunity, health, relationships, or willingness to take risks.

Next week, we’ll explore the double-whammy of empathy and curiosity.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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