Unconscious Bias in the Workplace: Let’s Get Personal

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Attending the Implicit Bias Hearing in Sacramento: A Personal and Professional Journey

I recently attended a hearing in Sacramento hosted by The Legislative Women’s Caucus and the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, titled “Implicit Bias and Its Impact on Women in the Workforce.” This event, held on International Women’s Day, coincided with the “Day Without Women” protest. I chose to attend the hearing instead of participating in the protest, motivated by both personal and professional interests about unconscious bias in the workplace.

unconscious bias in the workplace

Professional and Personal Reasons for Attending

Representing Emtrain, I sought to deepen my understanding of unconscious bias as it pertains to our Managing Unconscious Bias Program. Personally, as a woman in the workforce, I was eager to hear firsthand accounts from other women and learn from their experiences.

Structure of the Panel Discussion

The three-hour panel was thoughtfully segmented into three parts:

  1. The science of unconscious bias.
  2. Personal testimonies from women who have experienced unconscious bias.
  3. Strategies to mitigate unconscious bias in the workplace.

Insightful Contributions from Experts and Witnesses

Having explored unconscious bias through Emtrain’s webinars and writing, I was particularly excited to learn from experts Jeffrey Sherman, Jessica Stender, and Linet Mera. While the scientific studies were fascinating, it was the personal testimonies that left the most profound impact on me.

Personal Testimonies That Resonated

The panel featured poignant stories from Amy Tong, Darci Burrell, and Nada Bassyoni. These accomplished women shared deeply personal experiences of being underestimated, criticized, and discriminated against. Simply due to their age, race, religion, and gender. Despite Bassyoni still being in high school, her story was as compelling as those of her older counterparts.

Amy Tong, for instance, recounted being discouraged from sharing her immigration story in professional settings. After being appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as the Director of the California Department of Technology, she faced open speculation about her qualifications, overshadowing her track record of success.

Darci Burrell, a law partner with two decades of experience, described how she is often mistaken for the client rather than the counsel. Simply due to her youthful appearance and being an African American woman. This assumption, though rarely malicious, highlights pervasive stereotypes and biases.

Reflecting on the Impact of Unconscious Bias

At Emtrain, we emphasize the business case for diversity and inclusion, but it is equally crucial to highlight the personal impact of unconscious bias in the workplace. Numbers and graphs can demonstrate the existence of implicit bias. However, personal stories bring to light the real human beings affected daily by these biases.

Sharing our experiences can foster understanding and drive change. Including helping others grasp why and how women and minorities often face systemic gender and racial bias.

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Emtrain

Allison Baker

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