Blocking Unconscious Bias Through Diversity and Inclusion

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Lori Mackenzie, executive director of Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research, shares how can we block unconscious bias and promote inclusion.
Lori Mackenzie, executive director of Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research, shares how can we block unconscious bias and promote inclusion.


Christine Clements: [00:18] For a number of years, many countries developed and put in place affirmative action policies. What are your thoughts about these policies, and how do they differ from diversity and inclusion initiatives today?

Lori Mackenzie: [00:24] The way I think about affirmative action is that it really focused on increasing representation, which is very critical to increase the number of diverse people we have in our workplaces and business schools, but what they didn't address is the culture. Once the diverse people entered the workplace, were they welcoming?

[00:43] Did they value the diversity of what they brought, or did they try to have those diverse people conform into the existing workplace structures? Today, I think of inclusion as not only having diverse people come into our workplaces, but creating cultures where their unique talents can thrive and contribute to our future success.

Christine: [01:03] Some of the research you've done at The Clayman Institute points to a stalled gender revolution. What do you think are some of the reasons why progress has stalled, and what kinds of consequences are we experiencing because of that?

Lori: [01:16] Progress has stalled in the United States really in the past 10 years, and one of the things we're looking at is what is the role of unconscious bias in acting as indivisible glue that keeps culture stuck despite all of the great programs and initiatives that we've launched?

[01:35] Many of the initiatives looked at empowering woman at the grassroots or having leaders implement policies at the top, but often where change gets stuck is in the frozen middle. A manager who might not be inclusive in his or her behaviors might be limiting the advancement of women that work for the manager.

[01:54] Our work is really looking at how can we block unconscious bias at that frozen middle level of management so that policies can be more effective, and grassroots efforts can really penetrate an organization.

Christine: [02:05] Can you talk about some of the results that you've found in the work at The Clayman Institute and maybe some of the implications for that work?

Lori: [02:18] We've done a lot of work at looking at performance evaluations because as it turns out, how we evaluate performance influences employees all through the life cycle. How they're hired, how they're promoted, and how they're given assignments.

[02:33] Some of the findings we have is that men and women have different standards that they have to pass. They're described very differently, and those different descriptions can advantage some people and disadvantage others. The thing I find most promising is that well intentioned managers are looking for specific tools.

[02:56] In Silicon Valley, they call it debugging the performance management system, so that they can go and take the bias out of the system by these specific tools, like the standards of performance or the kinds of language used to describe performance.


Filmed September 2016 on site at the Annual Accreditation Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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