Shining a Light on Unconscious Bias at UNH

Shining a Light on Unconscious Bias

We make hundreds of decisions every day in favor of one group or individual and to the detriment of another, without even realizing we are doing it. This is happening to all of us, even when we are consciously committed to inclusion. Being biased is just the way our unconscious brains work.  Unfortunately, this plays out in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, conducting performance discussions, mentoring, making job assignments, offering promotions, deciding organizational policies, ways we treat customers, conducting marketing campaigns, deciding who gets growth opportunities, and even listening to other’s ideas.
Research is beginning to show that this unconscious bias is insidious and can negatively impact the organization’s culture and financial success without anyone realizing it.  So, for organizations to thrive, it is crucial to understand how and where this bias comes from, how it manifests itself, and how to increase awareness of it in order to mitigate it.

In this highly interactive and guilt-free workshop we’ll explore how we miss seeing our various biases.  To shine a light on them we’ll discuss inclusive policies to take our unconscious brains out of the equation.  We’ll also explore behavioral strategies that can affirm, welcome and connect us to those who are different than us.   In adopting these policies and behaviors, we’ll be treating our colleagues, hiring candidates, clients and others with honor, respect and dignity so they and our organization can realize their full potential.

What You Will Learn


Shining a Light on Unconscious Bias

Learning Objectives: 

Participants will be able to:

  1. Define unconscious bias, its natural scientific basis, its financial impact and the micro-inequities it can produce
  2. Delineate common forms of unconscious bias and their cultural impact in the workplace
  3. Identify policies that can mitigate the impact of unconscious bias in common work practices
  4. Explore and practice practical inclusion strategies and behaviors to help mitigate unconscious bias while producing more empathy, respect and greater valuing of people different than us

How This Program Differs from Traditional Diversity Training Workshops

Research is starting to reveal that traditional diversity programs are not always effective.  In fact, some participants leave those programs feeling defensive and with a greater degree of bias than before attending.  This workshop, on the other hand, focuses on the unconscious bias that every one of us has and is designed specifically to not produce a defensive response. 

Outline of workshop:

  1. Unconscious versus Conscious Brain.  Quick activity and description to demonstrate the efficiencies our unconscious brain uses
    1. How and why our unconscious brain selects the information to pay attention to
    2. How and why our unconscious brain quickly identifies who is in our in-group versus our out-group
    3. Explore efficiencies through using stereotypes
  2. Definitions and research
    1. Explicit (conscious) bias
    2. Implicit (unconscious) bias
    3. Negativity bias
    4. Review numerous studies on where unconscious bias impacts performance
  3. Assumptions
    1. Activity and description of how quickly we make assumptions of others
    2. Targets of unconscious bias
    3. Manifestations of how bias plays out in the workplace
  4. Why it matters
    1. Research on the financial costs and impact on individuals and the organization
  5. Types: Explanation of common types of unconscious biases and examples in the workplace
    1. Affinity bias
    2. Confirmation bias
    3. Halo and horn effect bias
    4. Fundamental attribution error
    5. Generational bias
  6. Mitigating solutions: What we can do about our unconscious biases—proactive behaviors and interactive activities
    1. Recognize that it exists for everyone
    2. Spend time with people different from you
    3. Set up systems which takes our brains out of the equation
    4. Use perspective-taking
    5. Individuate
    6. Provide micro-affirmations
    7. Speak out against biases you encounter
  7. Case studies
  8. How to take this information back to your workplace
  9. Wrap up and action planning

Instructor Bios


Shining a Light on Unconscious Bias

  • Janet Edmunson

    Janet Edmunson, M. Ed., is president of JME Insights and partner in sPeak Performance. She has over 30 years' experience in leadership in both large and small organizations. She was the Corporate Manager of Wellness Programs for Georgia-Pacific Corp., and has been a leader in, or consultant to, small and mid-size from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass. as Director of Prevention and Wellness, and has been a consultant and national motivational speaker, having spoken to over 300 groups.

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