An unconscious bias is an automatic response to a person or situation that is completely out of our control, but have you considered how your unconscious biases affect how you engage with internal and external stakeholders?
Consider these scenarios – have you ever walked into an engineering meeting and assumed the only female in the room is the minute taker? Are you a manager with a team of people who are a lot like yourself? Do you meet with stakeholders whose first language isn’t English and assume you need to speak louder or slower?
While unconscious biases vary greatly from person to person, one thing is certain – our personal and professional engagement is influenced by our biases. If unconscious biases are out of our control, how can we control them?
The first step is to become conscious of your biases. I had the opportunity to participate in training specifically about unconscious bias with Teagan Dowler from The BCW. If this isn’t happening at your workplace yet, suggest it or take matters into your own hands and visit the Diversity Australia website, which has a link to the Harvard Implicit Association Test.
The second step is to decide what you can do with this new knowledge. Remember, once you’re conscious of your unconscious bias, you can start to have more control over how you respond to a person or situation.
And finally, take action. When we consider the three scenarios mentioned earlier, actions could include:
For me personally, I realised how gender-specific my language could be and this year I’ve set myself the challenge to gender-neutralise my language, particularly with my three-year-old son. In our house, they’re firefighters, police and posties and the third little piggy, well, she built her house of bricks.
My recommendation is to become aware of your unconscious biases and take up the challenge to start addressing them one by one. While you may not be able to change your internal reaction, you can have more control over your external behaviour, which is ultimately good news for engaging with your stakeholders.
And remember, until your challenge is complete, Struber is always here to assist with your stakeholder engagement needs!