November 27, 2018
Authored by: Christy Phanthavong and Patrick DePoy
Over the past half century, employers have made great strides in protecting employees and applicants from conscious bias on the basis of race, gender, age and other protected characteristics. But what about unconscious – or “implicit” – bias?
What is “Implicit Bias”?
Implicit bias refers to “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” See http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/ .
Each of us has implicit biases, formed based on our experiences and exposures from a variety of sources over time.
What are the Implications of Implicit Bias for the Workplace?
By their nature, implicit biases may cause decision-makers to unconsciously form opinions – and make employment decisions – about applicants and employees in a manner that has a negative effect based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, and age.
Some studies have shown, for example, that when reviewers were given copies of a memorandum with identical errors, but some reviewers were told the writer was African-American and others were told the writer was Caucasian, the average score on a scale from 1 to 5 was nearly a point higher for the Caucasian writer, and the Caucasian writer was described as having “potential” while the African American writer was called “sloppy.” See http://nextions.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/written-in-black-and-white-yellow-paper-series.pdf.
What can Employers do about Implicit Bias?
Unfortunately, implicit biases operate at a subconscious level. As a result, our implicit biases may run counter to what we consciously believe. This can make it difficult for decision-makers to realize that their decisions