‘Unconscious bias’ google search brings up 29mn hits. It is a concept that swept across the world, had instant universal appeal as a convenient explanation for inequity. We know however that, the outcome of unconscious bias, conscious bias, and discrimination is exactly the same; i.e., lower diversity, lower representation, lesser inclusion…
What is your Diversity Quotient?
So, here’s the real deal. We need to stop hiding behind unconscious bias. We are not shackled by our biases, we are shackled by our inaction. We are not victims, not sleepwalking through hiring decisions, promotion decisions, sponsorship and mentoring decisions. It boils down to our intent. A clear positive intent can propel us to act.
Thus, the only solution to Unconscious Bias is… Conscious Action
Where do we start? How do we translate positive intent into tangible outcome?
As an ally, I realized that, the journey to equality has to start with an honest look in the mirror.
“The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.”Ursula K. Le Guin
Here are the questions I am reflecting on, and why they are important. I hope it helps you, as you begin your soul search…
Diversity of exposure and experiences
How curious are you?
Curiosity reflects our intention to understand, and our openness to learn. It is the hallmark of a growth mindset.
How culture curious are you?
How do you consciously bring the diversity of society into your life?
Try this: Take a look at your Netflix or Amazon Prime watch list for the past year. Next, look at the recommended movies / tv shows. See any patterns? Their algorithm picks up our biases / preferences more than our conscious brain does!
How many diverse movies, tv shows, podcasts, TED talks, poets, authors, musicians, artists…do you follow? How many epic works of art of another culture are you familiar with? How many new and different experiences do you sign up for? Being culture curious helps us understand the beauty and depth of the fabric of society.
How expansive is your exposure?
Try this: Take a look around your room at all the souvenirs from travels over your lifetime, how many are not classic tourist souvenirs?! How extensive is your travel outside your city, state, country? When you travel, do you ensure that you get a glimpse of daily life, challenges and hopes, of the locals? How many accents are you able to recognize from across the globe?
How deep is your understanding of culture?
How many different cities, states, countries have you lived and worked out of?
Try this: Take any place you lived in, and draw a Culture map. for e.g. History of how the country was shaped, how their economy works and what are the key drivers, political landscape and the reasons for it, race, religion, socio economic imperatives, and critically, what is important to people and why. Play this back to someone who grew up there, and listen, really listen, to their perspective. This shines a light on our own unconscious biases, and helps us see people as individuals, rather than just demographics. The more diversity we see in all walks of life , and get inspired from, the more realistic our understanding, and the more we see and seek equality.
How many languages do you speak?
Speaking multiple languages teaches us different constructs of communication, different sentence structures and phrasing, how the same words can have different meaning, what could be trigger words and why. It helps us lean in to understand first.
How do you approach learning?
When we learn new things, we see it through the lens of our limited past experiences, as an anchor, to make sense. When we create new frameworks, infrastructure in our brain, we create a wider canvas for learning.
How many perspectives do you explore to understand issues?
How many sources of data do you explore to be objective in your understanding of issues? People and cultures are complex. We live in a paradoxical world of endless possibilities for learning, and equally narrow ways in which we consume it. Today, the worlds conspires and curates content, so we hear only what we want to hear, and learn only what we think we need to. Challenging ourselves to explore multiple sources of data, multiple perspectives is key to how we see the world.
Try this: In the current context of racial injustice, how many African Americans have you reached out to, to understand their perspective.
How many of your role models are diverse?
Having diverse role models, mentors, close advisors helps widen the aperture through which we see and interpret the world. It also creates a safe zone for us to ask questions and explore complex issues.
Do you know what stereotypes exist about you?
How do people of other nationalities, race look at you?
Try this: Jot down what it means to be your ethnicity, and what stereotypes you think there are about you. Do the research and talk to people to pressure test your theory. Every race, religion, country in the world has a very strong narrative about what it means to be American, British, Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Christian, white, black or brown. However, the world, perceives us differently. Understanding diverse perspectives about ourselves, helps us understand that we can’t possibly always be right! Just like the stereotypes about us are ridiculous, so are the ones we have about others.
How many close friends, close colleagues, dinner guests, family friends, people you lean in, people who lean on you, are diverse?
How diverse is your network?
Try this : Take a look at your phone contacts, LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends. How many cities, countries, industries, organizations, functions, roles, religions, genders, races, organization levels, socio economic classes would they represent? Cultivating a diverse network of connections brings richness and depth to our thought process.
Create a diversity map
Try this : Think of all the people across the globe you would reach out to for work related/ career related advice. Plot them on the globe. This will give you a good picture of areas you could prioritize to build connections
What is your network diversity quotient?
LinkedIn, Facebook – Could you create a feature that helps us measure the diversity quotient of our network? The Network Diversity Quotient would reflect how expansive our network is by plotting the number of connections in different cities, countries, industries, companies, functions, levels, etc in our network. Having metrics is a great start and will help us focus and prioritize our efforts in building a diverse network. Imagine this: We could post our network diversity score, and intentionally invite connections from areas where we want to broaden our networks further. It would certainly be a step towards a more connected world.
How diverse is your team?
How many diverse colleagues have you sponsored, advocated for, provided references for, gone out on a limb for?
How many diverse colleagues have you recommended for jobs?
How many diverse colleagues have you mentored?
How many diverse colleagues have you sought out as mentors?
How many sources of talent do you explore for hiring, or do you rely on typical go-to talent sources? We have to look, really look, outside our network, employee referrals and search partners for diverse talent. The question is not whether there is phenomenal diverse talent out there, the question is will they work for you, and do you know how to reach them?
How often do you consciously create diverse teams to work on strategic, high visibility projects?
How many truly different perspectives are at the table, from different lenses, before decisions are made?
How many diverse talent have you continued to hire or advance after you have hit your diversity goals? Did you continue to look for diverse talent, or did you pause?
You may wonder why my questions are worded as ‘how many’, instead of ‘do you have a…’, or ‘have you ever…’. The reason is that our diversity quotient is about integration of diversity in our life, not token diversity.
The starting point is immaterial, what matters is that we reflect and take action that shows progress the next time we look in the mirror.
As I ask myself these questions, I know I have work to do. Join me in soul searching and deciding the 3 areas we will prioritize, as a starting point.
“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”― Marianne Williamson
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
Please Note : The reflections in the post are my musings over the years, and do not represent my employers (current and former).