The Essential Understanding of Unconscious Bias

When we think of someone in the scientific world or another person responsible for a million dollar budget, a male face appears more naturally to our minds. It is the same thing when looking for the right person to lead a team of 50 individuals.

As soon as a vacant position requires a significant load of responsibilities, a considerable budget, ambitious objectives, a female application will appear to be a riskier choice. You can deny it, but the numbers show it.

If you believe you are free from bias, take a few minutes to pass the implicit association tests developed by Harvard University. You may be disappointed with your results. In case of UNCONSCIOUS BIAS you need to have the smart choice with proper training.

How do unconscious prejudices manifest?

Unconscious biases manifest themselves at all stages of the career, and the examples we could give are endless. Here are a few.

  • At the time of hiring, we seem to assess the skills of all candidates according to the same standards. However, in a study at Princeton, two CVs were created, one where the candidate had a better educational background, the other with more professional experience. We always contrasted a male candidacy with a female candidacy, alternating the profile assigned to each. The successful candidate was still that of the man. This is a particularly pernicious prejudice, because we use apparently objective criteria to justify our unconscious biases.
  • In a recent article an expert summarizes another study. The results are staggering, even shocking. We learn that recruiters prefer to hire young women with poorer academic results, because it is assumed that those with better results are “too confident”, “haughty”. Without even having met them.
  • Another example: with the arrival of children, we will not perceive a new parent in the same way, whether it is a man or a woman. When a man becomes a parent, he is seen to have matured. Women are more likely to be seen as less available, less committed to the employer.
  • Finally, during promotions, we tend to assess a candidate as lacking experience, while we will see in a candidate’s potential. The two candidates are therefore not assessed according to the same criteria.

How can we avoid unconscious bias in our decision-making?

First and foremost, through awareness is our first reaction to this kind of information is to say that we do not have these prejudices. It is easy to believe that others think so, but not us.

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In a dossier on the subject, La Presse passed the test of implicit associations to several public figures (Alexandre Taillefer, Dominique Anglade, Amir Khadir, Françoise David). Conclusion: we all have prejudices.

Once this awareness is made, we are more likely to slow down our decision-making at times when the risk of making a biased choice is looming: hirings, evaluations, promotions, receptivity of everyone’s ideas in meetings. You should know that these are the main moments when unconscious biases manifest themselves.

Knowing how to question our spontaneous reaction to choosing one candidate over another. Question the real reasons for our doubts in promoting a candidacy because we believe that it does not have “all the skills”. Give more time to a more discreet colleague. These are all gestures to stop feeding our unconscious biases.