Bias is the very human and perhaps unfair preference for or dislike of something. Its synonyms include prejudice, partiality and favoritism. At the heart of the original equal opportunity movement, laws and regulations were enacted to mitigate conscious bias in American education, employment and procurement opportunities. As SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, or Veteran Business Enterprise) businesses we’re expected to be free of bias. Unfortunately, we SDMWVBE businesses are equally subject to unconscious or unintentional biases. Chapter five of The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan discusses how we can reduce these unconscious and unintentional preferences that prevent our organizations from fully leveraging our own diversity. The authors present information about the latest research into unconscious bias at Harvard and the Universities of Washington and Virginia. These studies have found that:
- Bias is ever present, unavoidable and human.
- Bias translates into behavior.
- Bias affects performance.
Bias is a real issue for all organizations and the authors provide strategies that we can use, including the advice to:
- be willing to examine and adjust our assumptions;
- seek interactions and experiences with people who are different from ourselves;
- ask for honest feedback about our behavior;
- evaluate our processes to identify and eliminate biases.
SDMWVBE companies benefit from our culture’s determination to increase diversity and inclusion. As usual, we take the Golden Rule Position … while our client and government organizations make the efforts to increase opportunities for the SDMWVBE suppliers, we believe we should work to decrease our own potential biases increasing opportunities for diversity and inclusion in our own environments.
At the close of another year, we wish all a peaceful and prosperous 2014!