I will acknowledge that this is truly a conversation I did not want to have. I am not sure of the psychological, relative nature of bias and racism, but I am warning you we’d better make sure we uncover any traces of deep, embedded, subconscious bias and hatred that could overflow into the workplace.
Let’s be clear, I do not mean bias or racism towards an ethnic group; it can be toward anyone. I am talking about the basic disrespect of persons with disabilities, veterans, LGBT orientation as well as people of color and women.
Let’s establish some definitions: According to Webster’s dictionary, bias is defined as prejudice in favor or against a thing, individual or group, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Racism is defined as the belief that all members of a race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially in a way that the race is considered inferior or superior to other races. Based on those definitions, at the most rudimentary level, bias can be the lever that activates racism.
Unfortunately, we do not often consider the impact of social injustice that occurs every day in our communities spilling over into the workplace. As Maya Angelou stated, “Believe it the first time you see it, feel it, or engage it.” It’s not a new day; it is just time for companies to recognize that it’s a cultural imperative to ensure that your employees are well grounded in the company’s belief structure, and that leaders are demonstrating inclusive behaviors every day.
Diversity MBA’s 2015 Inclusive Leadership Survey posed several new questions on how inclusion and bias is measured in the workplace. A sampling of questions include: How do you engage white males in inclusion? How is bias measured in the workplace? Is cultural competency a part of the training for your recruiters? Does your engagement survey include bias questions?
The results of this segment will be shared in one of my July blogs. But I will share with you that I am a bit disturbed about the responses we received. The time is now for a paradigm shift in our society.