Addressing unconscious bias

Every day at work we are asked to make decisions. Who should I invite into this project? Who should I hire? Who deserves a promotion? Rationally we may feel that we are being fair and rationale, unconsciously we may be making assumptions that are affecting our decisions.

Unconscious bias is defined as a bias we are not aware of, which happens outside our control. This type of unknown bias is typically the result of your background, your culture and your experience. Basically, who you are affects how you judge others.

We wanted to talk to our employees about this, so we made a video and asked them to take a test to discover their unconscious bias. As expected, quite a few were surprised by their results.

Alondra Regueira, Key Account Manager in Telenor Sweden was one of many who took the test. Here is what she found out.

In her own words…

I took the skin tone test. Being an immigrant in Sweden, and having grown up in neighborhoods with a high percentage of immigrants from all over the world, and also regarding myself as a person with very few preconceptions about my fellow humans, I was a bit taken aback by my results.

I am aware that we all are biased to some extent, but I did expect my own results to be different. The result came back moderately biased, which was higher than I expected. This has given me reason to reflect on this issue, and in what way I can improve. I don’t have all the answers yet, but being aware is one step in the right direction.

Another reflection I made was early on during the test where I was asked about my own skin tone. The options ranged from very light to very dark, and the next question was whether I would prefer it to be another color.

My reflection was about perception, if other (Swedes) would answer the same about me as I did, and if I should answer according to my own beliefs, as I did, or if consideration should be taken into perspective. I suspect others might perceive me as “less white” than I consider myself to be. And then I went on to reflect on why I even reflected on that…

What results did you expect?

Being an open-minded, outgoing person with an international and multi ethnical flora of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, I expected very low results. I am aware we are all biased, so a 0 result was not to be expected, but I was sure to get as close to it as was possible. I think slightly biased was the lowest possible in this test.

What was the most surprising?

The most surprising was the gap between my own expectations to the test and the preconceptions I have about myself, and the result. It showed that I have a few more miles to go and things to learn and think about.

How does this make you feel?

Challenged! To me, this is an important subject, not just regarding skin tone but also gender bias and other categories we humans like to use to differentiate us from each other. Skin tone and gender might just be the most obvious. I strongly believe in equality, so to find out I might not always act accordingly was an unpleasant surprise.

How do you plan to address your biases?

Tricky one! I haven’t given it much active thought, and maybe I should. I know I will always remember this test, and that I will keep it in mind when making decisions. As I said before, it turned out to be a bigger issue than I had anticipated. There were a number of tests to be done, and I’m planning on doing the gender bias test shortly as well. I think that by making myself aware that I’m not as open minded as I thought I am goes a long way.

Photo by Doug Swinson on Unsplash