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  • Kirsten Blakemore

BIAS, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

In organizations, I have found not all D&I (diversity and inclusion) programs work. It is not always clear how individuals take and apply learnings to themselves.

We are all biased and therefore we have blind spots. Because we are blind to our bias, the challenge is to recognize those blind spots in order to correct them. This is one of the reasons D&I programs fail in organizations: people fail to see themselves in the solutions. This blog is focused on creating inclusive environments where difference is embraced and there is clearly equity for all.

As we battle to create inclusive and diverse work environments, let me present a case study of a business which is challenged in this area. What option would you choose if you were in this situation?

Case Study: This small, privately held company has a leadership team (Senior Partners) made up of same gender, color, thinking, and belief system (deeply rooted religion.) The men on the leadership team are very nice* (see my blog for a description of nice) and claim to find everyone equal. Human Resources (HR), comprised of females, promotes diversity and suggests they hire outside of their same profile (gender, color, thinking, schooling, religion). The Sr. Partners decide it’s reasonable and thus hire a few individuals who are different from them in any of the areas - gender, race, color, religion. Once these different individuals were onboarded, they discovered the Sr Partner’s present as nice. However, the newbies notice they are continuously excluded from projects regardless of their skill, industry expertise and talents which they would bring to the potential projects. Time and again, the newbies request feedback and an opportunity to develop with the Sr. Partners, to no avail.

The people who are of the same background as the Sr Partners are the ones continuously invited to the projects. Without the opportunity to work with the Sr. Partners, there is little chance for development, for an ability to “prove your worth” or career advancement.

You need this job and actually love what you do when you are working the projects. You have searched for other positions, but this job is aligned exactly with your skillset and experience. You have not found another position which is similar. You want to stay but on an equal footing. The Sr. Partners have said “we are not biased, we teach this stuff. We see women as equal to men.” Nonetheless, their actions do not reflect these statements. HR has been made aware of the bias and discrimination and brought Diversity and Inclusion online trainings in for the whole company to view and consider. However, there was no impact on the Sr. Partners. Those who are not like the Sr. Partners are frustrated, feel stuck and are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.

These discriminatory practices have impacted the company and its employees by lowering morale, loss of employee engagement, loss of trust in leadership and loss of revenue results.

So, what will you do? Here are options from which to choose but feel free to add your own.

A) Do nothing. Accumulate negative feelings over time: resentment, anger, loss of pay due to lack of opportunity, and lack of self-worth.

B) Speak to HR (HR’s purpose is clearly to protect the company, in this situation, ergo this move will lead to an eventual termination.)

C) Speak to the Sr. Partners – again.

D) Quit.

E) Other (what specifically would you do?)



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