Understanding and challenging bias

I recently was fortunate enough to have the experience of completing an eighteen-month program in corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

The full program covered a vast array of CSR topics, but one subject that I reflected on a great deal is diversity and inclusion.  The theme came up in a variety of ways as we explored or were exposed to theoretical frameworks, best practice cases, and both literature and personal testimony.

A key takeaway for me came in learning how, even though we may not realize it, we as individuals carry our own biases about age, skin colour, nationality, ethnicity, cultural and religions origins and traditions, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political affiliation and many other dimensions of diversity.

Even the most enlightened individuals carry these biases.  Unknowingly in many cases, and perhaps because it is what is most comfortable, we often seek to align ourselves with people who think like us and look like us.

Part of an exercise we took part in during our course was to do a few of the Harvard Implicit Association Tests (bias tests) and reflect on our findings.  An important part of overcoming bias is to accept that it exists.  The next most important thing to do is to work on mitigating these biases by exposing yourself to experiences that challenge them .  In doing so you become more aware and familiar of your own biases, and more accepting of differences in people.

If you’re ready for the challenge, I encourage everyone to check out the resources available for businesses at Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion(CCDI).  CCDI is an international leader in developing and delivering diversity and inclusions programs and resources.

In Canada, I also encourage individuals and businesses to check the resources at Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and particularly their Progressive Aboriginal Relations program.

Together we can all do our part to ensure all humans have the same rights and freedoms.