Overcoming unconscious bias

Strategies to assist

Teams and work groups

• Value the contributions diverse work groups and decision making teams bring to the group.

• Recognise collective goals and cooperative activities help break down stereotypes of diverse groups.

• Manage group participation to ensure equity of all members, e.g.; Use ‘brain writing’ (instead of verbal brainstorming) where group members write down their ideas first before sharing them – ensures all ideas get heard and prevents anchoring or a few people dominating.

• Consider bringing in an independent viewpoint for a fresh perspective, particularly if you want to avoid group think.

• Acknowledge and appreciate a team member who takes a risk, offers a new idea, asks questions etc., especially where the team member is different or where other members may not share similar assumptions or experiences.

• Provide cross gender/race mentoring and sponsorship programmes.

• Consider anonymised screening (removing names and identifying features) of applications for scholarships, disciplinary reports, auditions, etc.

• Develop and/or use evidence based criteria and organisational guidelines and policies.

• Use varied decision making tools; Six Thinking Hats, SWAT and PEST Analysis, ethical decision making tools, decision making mind map, etc.

• Provide events which are accessible.

• Ensure conferences and panels have appropriate speaker gender balance.

• Encourage appropriate team training; e.g., recruitment and selection techniques, inclusive teaching and learning practices etc.
 

Recruitment and Selection

• Explore how the staffing profile can match the student/community profiles.

• Explore auditing the department’s staffing profile for Māori and equity group representation at each stage of the recruitment process; application-shortlist-interview-appointment, etc.

• Discuss a recruitment strategy that will increase successful applications from under-represented groups.

• Reassess job descriptions to ensure they are appropriate.

• Consider a range of ways of sourcing applicants, e.g.; discuss appropriate avenues with the groups that you want to attract (e.g., senior women in STEMM); advertise to relevant women’s/Māori/Pacific/disability organisations, associations, and networks; use personal contacts and shoulder tapping; promote the faculty/division/university at conferences and external meetings; use social networks, etc.

• Examine language used in communications such as job advertisements to remove exclusive language; consider analysis for inclusivity.

• Have diverse selection panels; particularly including representatives of groups from which a range of applicants may apply.

• Use structured processes and objective pre-determined criteria in short-listing and assessing applicants; consider a data matrix to objectively measure evidence against criteria.

• Be aware of potential biases such as affinity, anchoring, confirmation and attribution biases.

• Avoid hearsay.

• Benchmark the job itself and not the people who have done the job previously.

• Ask questions and counter-factual questions particularly to generalised or qualitative statements and to avoid group think or dominating personalities, e.g. “how does Applicant A not fit?”

Teaching

 

• Consider a variety of approaches to structuring course content and design that best suits the student population.

• Search for and provide to students, research and information from diverse sources including gender diverse, Māori, Pacific and Asian perspectives to avoid curricula being male focussed or euro-centric.

• Consider if Māori and Pacific issues are presented as a deficit model and if so ways in which this can be addressed.

• Use inclusive teaching and learning practices recognising different thinking styles and learning needs.

• Use universal design principles in creating and delivering teaching and learning resources and environments e.g. use captioned videos, provide information in a variety of formats.

• Provide diverse role models and opportunities for student interaction; e.g., female lecturers in male dominated areas.

• Ensure effective classroom/group dynamics, e.g., allowing only one person at a time to speak, affirming contributions, promoting respectful communication and encouraging and acknowledging diverse opinions and world views.

• Consider marginalised students, making sure they are able to speak and ask questions – in a safe environment.

• Set clear objective criteria before setting and marking assignments or assessments, and stick to it.

• Explore removing identifiers from assignments when marking or using inter-rater ratings.

Personal

• Become aware of one’s own biases; reflect on personal associations and interactions; analyse decision making practices and outcomes; undertake the IAT; ask others to give feedback.

• Before making judgements or decisions about people – particularly those who are different from yourself – consider the situation from their perspective; how would they be experiencing the situation; what are their circumstances and situation.

• Be conscious of the words and physical reactions that surface in interactions with others.

• Actively seek out and engage with diverse people.

• Practice creating more positive behaviours such as micro-affirmations to interrupt bias.

• Be an ethical and active bystander; speak out if a colleague’s contribution may be ignored or misappropriated unfairly, call out sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism, discrimination, harassment, condescension and bias.

• Be curious of differing opinions and explore differences.

• 'Talk up' achievements of minority group members.

• Refer to evidence rather than hearsay.

• Look for ways to challenge what you think and see; consider other explanations.

• Become informed about minority group workplace issues.

• Use thought and change processes and habit breaking.

interventions to guide decisions towards more objectivity, e.g.:
 Thinking slow strategies
 Using decision making tools
 Stereotype replacement and counter stereotypic imaging
 Reframing and perspective taking
 Question first impressions
 Challenge un-reflected exclusion.
 

Further information

See Resources and References for more ideas