Sunday, October 23, 2011

Identifying Your Own Bias is Key to D&I

Earlier tonight I was reminded of an incident that occurred just yesterday on my own front porch. This flashback came as a reflection-having just finished listening to author, Howard Ross (@HowardJRoss) and SHRMs VP of D&I (Diversity & Inclusion), Shirley Davis (@SDavisSHRM) have a conversation primarily surrounding his new book.

The book is titled ReInventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose, and Performance. The focus of his talk is based on the idea that we as a community of Diversity minded individuals have pushed the envelope over and over again to encourage people, business, authorities, etc. not to do or say things that is inappropriate, against the law (now that there are laws), and other related "dont's". He provides lists of statistics and metrics in the books to continue to foster diversity and inclusion in his book but the bottom line is we need to look at ourselves. We need to look in the mirror. We need to do the work to identify the bias we all have as individuals.

He said we need to take away the idea or belief that bias is either good or bad. Instead we need to recognize that bias is part of human nature. We are programmed to develop bias as a way to make decisions, keep ourself safe, and manage life in general. This is not to say what we have done thus far should be criticized. It was necessary but in order to move forward to a country even more diverse than it has been over the last 30 years of D&I efforts, it's time to reinvent it.

The reinvention is putting a flashlight on ourselves (those of us who do the D&I work day in and day out). Are our communities similar, different or diverse? Do we leave the job and go back to our own world of indifference? Do our friends look like us? If the answers are yes, then perhaps we are not living the life that we protest to others as the way to be. This affects our integrity and credibility on the job This work is again not to judge ourselves as good or bad. It is to identify what is reality (conscious or unconscious). Then we can help others identify their reality. When we can begin to have open and honest straight forward communications in organizations then we can see another breakthrough in our D&I work. The thing is we will never be done. This is something we have to continue to do for the rest of our life.

You see the reason this talk reminded me of my porch yesterday is because I wonder what is going on in my own mind with regard to unconscious bias. Consciously, I have worked to be inclusive of African Americans because I feel I was brought up in a home that was not tolerant of indifference. As an adult I did not agree and recently when I watched the movie "The Help" I cried almost the entire movie thinking i could not believe (although the history proves it) that any human could openly treat others the way they do just because of the color of their skin.

However, just as Howard Ross described himself instinctively locking the door as a young African American male passed in front of his car, I turned down a young boy yesterday who was selling candy on my front porch. Consciously, I remember looking at the candy choices (milk duds, thin mints & something else that I can't recall) thinking I don't need them and I really don't want to spend the money. I was also worried I would eat them as I have a serious sweet tooth and it shows. However, unconsciously, I wonder. His skin was dark.


  1. Donna, you are very kind...thank you!

  2. Look forward to reading the book. Thanks for your comment.


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