How Do We Eliminate Negative Biases From Employment?

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We’ve all seen the results from numerous studies finding that diversity – be it gender, ethnic, racial, and/or cultural diversity – has impressive business benefits.[1] We know from the McKinsey Study that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have returns above national industry medians.

At first glance, it seems that companies are recognizing and investing in the benefits of a diverse workplace. Now more than ever, I hear about companies hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, launching an internal diversity committee, assembling a women’s group, or making a resounding public commitment to diversity.

It’s enough to make you think we’ve come a long way, and maybe we can start patting ourselves on the back.

But then NPR reports Google might be systemically paying female employees less than their male counterparts. Even more disheartening, racial bias in hiring hasn’t improved at all since 1989. Despite all the efforts businesses make to tout their dedication to diversity, the efforts aren’t getting much traction in the areas it matters most for individuals: hiring and pay.

Women and minorities who’ve made it to the C-suite don’t often speak out about systemic employment biases. Occasionally, we hear about the challenges they’ve overcome, but not the challenges that continue to prevent their organizations from fulfilling promises of equitable diversity.

Perhaps it’s because these leaders are the supposed proof that we’ve moved beyond bias. Perhaps it’s because they value the career they’ve worked hard to obtain. Perhaps it’s because so many of us tell ourselves that WE’RE not the problem – WE don’t have negative biases impacting our decisions—it’s other people who perpetuate the problem.

When women and minorities have spoken out about bias in the workplace, they’ve often lost their cases, their jobs, and sometimes more.

I’m in an industry that benefits from these biases. More bias means more discrimination which means more lawsuits which means more work for our office. But I believe my business can thrive without pervasive discrimination. There will never be a shortage of misunderstandings or mistakes in the workplace; however, my business can do without this area of dispute.

So what can be done to eliminate negative biases from employment? I don’t have the answer, but I know we can do better.