Archive for the ‘discrimination’ Category

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain…

September 9, 2009 5 comments

One of the aspects of Diversity2.0 is the focus unconscious biases as a universal condition that all of us are prone.   The article in the Scientific American, “Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain” is a well written piece that describes in detail how the natural condition of human beings is to unconsciously discriminate against others who are not like us.  But, the really fascinating things in the piece suggest that our bias can be based on the most irrelevant characteristics that you can imagine.  From the color of one’s jersey to the random appointment to a group who you have nothing in common with except to belong to that particular group.  Even after just a brief time with being associated to a specific group researchers have demonstrated that we will discriminate in favor of our appointed group over members of other groups.  And get this…in this instance the race, gender, ethnicity, and other characterisitcs that we think really matter in the end don’t.


Another fascinating fact about bias is that most unconscious bias is “triggered” by the situation or environment that a person can find themselves in.  We are basically animals who are guided by patterns of behavior and thoughts.  When one of these neural circuits is triggered by relevant conditions then a pattern of thought coded by emotion, and behavior result in the actions we take and the emotions we feel.

What this means for the workplace:  3 Things.  First, think about your workplace.  What triggers or conditions exist that spark negative emotions in you?  What sparks apprehension?  What fires you up?  A minute of reflection about these questions will help you better understand the type of actions necessary for you to take to stay connected and motivated in your workplace. 

Second, reflect on how you perceive a situation with your fellow employees and customers.  What you perceive as a slight could just be the manifestation of your own mind interpeting a situation to better fit your preconceived mindset.  In other words, what we believe often becomes our reality.

Third, understand that the most powerful thing you can do to reduce you unconscious biases is to give everyone the “benefit of the doubt”.  In other words, tell yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can based on the circumstances.  And your role is to reflect on what positive value you can add to improve the situation.

read the great article here


How our segregated neighborhoods reflect our segregated workplaces

August 20, 2009 4 comments

PBS produced a documentary with a corresponding website titiled,”Race: The Power of an Illusion”.  This documentarywhere race lives details all the major issues surrounding race, it’s legacy, it’s origination, and the discrimination and predjudice that still exists today as a result of racial bigotry.

The current atmosphere in today’s business world is that the isms (racism, sexism, etc., ) are not the problem that they used to be.  Today, diversity practitioners (myself included) seem to moving toward unconscious biases as the basis for diversity discussions. ( In my opinion this is a good thing.)  However, it needs to be understood that the discussion of unconscious biases is a strategy to get to the much harder discussion of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender.

This is where the PBS website and documentary on Race can become a powerful tool.  Of particular interest is how the government through small  institutional discrimination set up a system which snowballed into significant advantages for the majority.  Unfortunately, because most don’t realize this history or dynamic they attribute minority poverty to a lack of group motivation and a disconnected culture.

This same dynamic can be applied to the workplace.  Historically company promotion, hiring, and development systems were set up to favor the majority group over minority groups.  In some instances these discriminatory processes were minor in their application but significant in their impact.  This relates back to my discussions of complexity science and it’s underlying architecture social network theory.  From the complexity science perspective simple rules originating from initial conditions can create long term and significant outcome differences.

In the case of the housing market most americans get a majority of their wealth from the ownership of their home.  This gives them an advantage against other groups who don’t have the same type of access to capital due to their lack of home ownership.  Subsequently, it is much more difficult to send their kids to college, pay for medical expenses, or live in neighborhods with a high level of social capital.

In addition,our organizations reflect this same “spiraling” dynamic as our neighborhoods .  Small initial advantages have mushroomed into deeply embedded systems that were built to give one group an advantage over another group.  These seemingly subtle advantages are hard to change because the continued repetition of the process has shaped the mental models and consequently the behaviors of those within the system.  As a result, a program like Affirmative Action that was devised to ensure every member was given a fair chance to succeed in the organization is alternatively viewed as an unfair advantage given to minority groups by those with little knowledge of the unfair advantage they enjoy by just being in the system. 

The ability of us to change society is I believe predicated on our ability to change the workplace.  Read the PBS link below and let me know what you think…

Where Race Lives

Beyond Diversity: Becoming a Culturally Competent Organization

August 11, 2009 1 comment


There is an interesting article in the 2007 IVEY Business Journal. It is called, “Diversity: Becomig a Culturally Competent Organization”.   The article details the diversity initiative of BMO, one of Canada’s largest financial firms.  What is interesting is how the firm utilized a focus on Equal Opportunity and then built it’s diversity initative around the four core diversity components that I have discussed in prior presentations.  Those four are mind-set, team, system, and leadership.  To have a successful diversity initiative each one of these areas have to be addressed in a specific and context-driven manner.

Of course, as I have stated numerous times unless a company first emphasizes the Equal Opportunity function first there is almost no chance of the respective company achieving diversity success.  EO is the foundation and driving force of a successful diversity initiative.  The EO perspective should be focused on instilling respect, opportunity, and fairness within the framework of the organization.  Once these perspectives are accomplished it is easier for employees to become engaged in the “higher level” motivational pushes that most companies apply to improve their diversity posture.

Take Away:

  • Successful diversity initiatives first emphasize the importance of Equal Opportunity.  They do this by focusing on respect, fairness, and opportunity
  • There are four core diversity components that must be addressed and involved to ensure success. They are leadership, mind-set, team-work, and systems
  • The three goals of diversity should be to combat bias, establish accountability, and create motivated networks that are energized to achieve organizational goals.

read article here

Bias, Not Only in America

May 14, 2009 Leave a comment

blackql4You know sometimes we forget that America with it’s election of the first American of African Descent has made significant strides to reduce bias and discrimination.  Some of us have a tendency to look at the glass as half empty rather than half full.  As such we don’t appreciate the miracle of this country.  A country that is one of the most diverse in the world and is generally the first destination of immigrants. 

India is in the midst of a strong front of discrimination againts it’s minority Muslim population.  Makes for very interesting reading…

read more