Unconscious Bias Training Doesn’t Work!
Barbara Annis and host Paul Colligan kick off this episode with a story about Barbara’s husband, also named Paul, who had a negative experience during an Unconscious Bias training session.
Barbara explains that Unconscious Bias does not work, and companies need to stop delivering that kind of training. She says it has a reverse effect on people because:
- It’s a band-aid approach that has no correlation to learning;
- It lowers morale;
- It is a waste of money for companies because there’s no return on investment.
Barbara insists that even the term has negative connotations. The first word, unconscious, is about helplessness, while the second word, bias, evokes blame. She described the work she did with a company where they removed the term Unconscious Bias and replaced it with Blind Spots. It is non-blame and focuses on a-ha moments of discovery, and new insights.
Paul and Barbara discussed the experience that people have in a Gender Intelligence training session where the focus is on Blind Spots. Barbara says that once they realize it’s not about blame, but about building understanding, everything changes. There’s engagement from the start, and it’s relevant to their lives, both professionally and personally. Barbara says it takes the divisiveness out of the conversation.
Barbara described a situation where a large financial services firm faced the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the history of Wall Street. She says the legal action came on the heels of Unconscious Bias training in the firm, prompting the company to remove UB training from any mention in its culture.
Harvard business review article “Why Diversity Programs Fail”:
Paul reflected on the benefits of a Gender Intelligent conversation around hardwired differences between men and women, and the value each gender brings to the table. He says it’s about answering the questions, “what can we learn about each other, how can we perform better with each other, and what does each style bring to the game that gives us an advantage?
Barbara referred to a quote from Dr. Fernando Flores PhD, a linguistic professor at Berkeley. He said “You can stall or initiate anything through how you use language.” Barbara says it reflects the importance of using language that engages an authentic conversation. It can make it a transformational experience for men and women.
Find the Book “Be Gender Intelligent,” by Barbara Annis and Dr. Keith Merron:
Find Barbara’s first book, “Same Words Different Language” here:
Are you interested in becoming a Be Gender Intelligent Ambassador? Get in touch with Barbara’s team at firstname.lastname@example.org, to learn more about the advantages of becoming a Gender Intelligent leader within your organization through our digital learning programs for men and women.