How implicit bias affects your relationships ?

Social Diversity : Implicit Bias Part 2

Created on: September 20, 2017

Updated on: September 20, 2017

Within the previous blog post we discussed how cultural bias reinforces stereotypes and how this affects diverse communities in the IT recruitment sphere.

Job seekers have to build relationships with the counterparts so that they can build credibility within their chosen field. This process stalls at the first hurdle due to the impact of implicit bias.

Today, we will look at an organisation that has very noble aims of achieving diversity in tech. Sadly, its actions may be diametrically opposed to these aims.

Let’s start our post with a shining example of diversity outside of the tech world.

Shining example of diversity

Every week, I do Les Mills Body Pump which is a fitness class at my local leisure centre. My instructor is over 60, white and she performs over 20 classes a week.

Our area is very multicultural now and most of our names are difficult to pronounce. She makes a concerted effort to remember all of our names because she is genuine and inclusive. This is a good example of someone who genuinely cares about her participants in the class.

She has developed an excellent relationship with her participants and I attended her 60th party and we enjoyed it because we felt valued.

However, there are organisations that exist in the tech space whose objective is to increase the numbers of diverse people. Two months ago, I attended a series of talks called Achieving diversity in tech.

There was a line-up of 3 speakers and they included 2 white women and 1 black woman. The 2 white women were speaking about publishing in tech and accessibility in tech.And the black woman was speaking about diversity and astrology within the world of tech.

Differential treatment

There were some issues to do with the organisation of the talk before the day. This included the fact that the organiser sent slack messages to all of the speakers involved. She sent the black woman a message that said: “Usually speakers are asked for the job title, title, bio and their picture before the talk is submitted.”   The black woman sent her the bio and title for the talks and she didn’t send her the picture or her job title. As you can see the word usually is not a request for information. However, it does indicate differential treatment and this was / is the basis for racial discrimination against black people in the southern US.

Incoherent Assumptions

An assumption was made and the event organiser published a library picture that was sourced from the internet and the full job title was partially published on the website. There were a number of issues to do with the marketing of the event.

Tweets featuring 2 white women

On July 17, the event organiser sent a tweet from her personal account stating:“Have you got your ticket for this month’s line up featuring” The two white women were featured on the tweet whilst the black woman was not featured.

Check it out here

Web development service company

The same tweet appeared on the official account for the Achieving Diversity in tech on the same day. The nuance with this tweet was the fact that the order of the names of the white women had been switched around.On the day, July 24 a new tweet was published from the Achieving Diversity in tech and it reads:

“Looking forward to seeing everyone tonight! Excited to hear” Yet again the 2 white women were featured and the black woman was nowhere to be seen.

Web development service company

Conscious and unconscious bias

The event organiser is someone heading diversity who is demonstrating conscious and unconscious bias. The black woman was the last speaker to deliver the talk.The event organiser introduced the black woman and she had missed out one of the job titles of the black woman.

One of the job titles missed out was related to the title of the talk and it was astrology. Thankfully, the black woman corrected the event organiser after she misspoke the black woman’s job title.After the talks had been completed it is common courtesy for the organiser to converse with the speakers to thank them.

Common courtesy

The first 2 white women were thanked in person by the organiser and the black woman was left to her own devices. The black woman had been an active participant and advocate at the codebar. This is an initiative that runs programming workshops for diverse and under-represented communities. The event organiser’s manager is a regular coach at the code bar and they had developed a good working relationship. He was present at the talks and seated in the second row.

Rejection

After the talks had finished he didn’t utter a word and he turned his back on the black woman as if she didn’t even exist. All of these actions have a negative, cumulative effect on black people.After the talks, we went to the bar as a group to have a drink.

Two feet away | beggar’s belief

On arrival after we bought drinks we sat down 2 feet away from each other.

For an hour and a half there was no interaction between us and no one came to speak to us. It was quite clear that there was a big divide between us.On departure, they then decided to come over to speak to us, I think that their actions beggar’s belief.Do you live up to your aims or is this window dressing in all its guises?

Diversity and inclusion policies

There are some organisations who don't have diversity policies this is fine. There is no point in having a diversity policy based on fantasy if you and your workers don’t believe in them. As black people, we are best placed to criticise the so-called diversity and inclusion policies that these companies claim to have.

In this case, the whole ethos of the talk has been called in to question and the organisations aims and beliefs do not match the behaviour of those on the ground. The organiser of this talk has shredded the reputation of her organisation through collective conscious and unconscious bias.

Unconscious and conscious bias subverts your judgement and it blinds you to the real consequences of your own decision making. On reflection, it is my view that the differential treatment that occurred during the organisation of the talk negatively influenced the fragile relationship with the black woman.

This was reinforced by the fact that the black woman was not included within the tweets that were sent during the marketing of the event. This lead to the subsequent correction that occurred at the start of her talk.

After the talk had concluded the body language of the event organiser's boss was a clear rejection of the talk and this was played out in the bar we attended where there was 2 feet between us.

It is these behaviours that lead to the marginalisation and despair experienced by people from diverse communities.

It is important to note that if these organisations had people from diverse backgrounds working within them and they were empowered to challenge the status quo. I am sure we would not be having this discussion today.

Diversity spawn’s innovation.

The next blog post will look at how we can reduce implicit bias in tech firms.

Within in it, we will look at a great example of how a national government as part of an affirmative action policy helped to set up tech businesses over 40 years ago.