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Google has a diversity issue, like most tech companies. Unconscious bias, which refers to the stereotypes that subconsciously exist in our minds, contributes to this problem. Here’s Google’s unconscious bias training presentation, which has been distributed to more than half of its staff.Click here for more BI Prime stories.Over the past couple of years, more tech giants have recognized the dramatic lack of diversity in their workforces as a problem.Google (largely white and male from top to bottom) is trying to set itself apart as a leader in this space.The potential benefits extend beyond a more representative workforce. Research published in August from Morgan Stanley asserts that firms that prioritize gender diversity, and have the reports to show for it, outperform less diverse firms. One of Google’s initiatives is its unconscious bias training. Unconscious bias refers to the stereotypes, both negative and positive, that exist in our subconscious and affect our behavior.Back in 2013, Google implemented Unconscious Bias @ Work to bring unconscious biases to the forefront. The training lasts 60 to 90 minutes and is run by a coordinator who has undergone at least 12 hours of training. It’s one of the largest voluntary learning programs at Google: over 35,000 employees signed up to participate in the program out of 55,000, according to Brian Welle, Google’s Director of People Analytics.  However, Welle acknowledged that creating the program didn’t mean solving the problem of unconscious bias altogether. “You can’t rest on a training program to change people’s minds, to change your culture,” he said. “You have to get them to practice the terms, to hold everyone accountable. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”  Google gave us permission to share its presentation on unconscious bias. For access to the slides and the company’s unbiasing guide, you can visit Google’s re:Work site.

The presentation begins with an explanation of why everyone is gathered in the first place: Becoming aware of biases can lead to changing behavior, which ultimately can make Google more collaborative, inclusive, and competitive.

Google re:Work

https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/unbiasing-raise-awareness/steps/give-your-own-unbiasing-workshop/

What we call unconscious biases are rooted in the recognition that the human brain evolved to help the species survive.

Google re:Work

Without the brain’s ability to subconsciously process thousands of pieces of information in an instant, our ancestors would have ended up as food.

Google re:Work

The same ability now gets us through the day without having to slowly process every decision we make.

Google re:Work

Everyone has biases; it’s part of being human. It’s important not to be ashamed of this basic fact.

Google re:Work

To test your biases, you can try some of Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests.

There are four things in the workplace that commonly trigger unconscious biases. Task: We associate certain jobs with a certain type of person. Numbers: When looking at a group, like job applicants, we’re more likely to use biases to analyze people in the outlying demographics. Clarity: When information is lacking, our brains fill in the gaps with what we’re expecting. Perceiver: A heightened emotional state can keep the conscious mind distracted.

Google re:Work

The impact of little decisions can accumulate over time.

Google re:Work

After 20 simulations, it was clear that the 1% edge given to men resulted in increasingly fewer women at higher levels in the company.

Google re:Work

The goal is to leave the presentation ready to make a change at Google.

Google re:Work

There may be plenty of research on how unconscious bias works, but there isn’t much on finding ways to counteract it for the benefit of a company. Google has developed a four-pronged approach.

Google re:Work

The first is using structure to gauge success.

Google re:Work

It’s necessary to set concrete criteria for certain jobs and team-wide goals if they’re going to be achieved.

Google re:Work

A 2004 study shows the importance of setting criteria. Researchers randomly assigned traditionally European and African American names to identical résumés and discovered that it took 50% more applications from the latter group to get a call back.

Google re:Work

Source: “Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”

In another study, 268 male managers across a variety of industries and departments were asked to use a list of 92 attributes to describe one of 7 categories: men and women in general, men and women as managers, and men and women as successful managers. The result was that 71% of the traits associated with successful managers were associated with men in general.

Google re:Work

Source: “Has anything changed? Current characterizations of men, women, and managers”

Data isn’t immune to unconscious bias, but it’s far less prone to it than our cognition.

Google re:Work

Collecting data is necessary to measuring progress, and can help with spotting patterns. And when you have data about individuals, you’re less likely to make assumptions.

Google re:Work

Unconscious bias is often manifested in non-malicious ways. For example, when YouTube launched its first app for Apple’s iOS, 5-10% of videos appeared upside-down because the engineers had unconsciously optimized the app for right-handed users.

Google re:Work

Google has long celebrated the birthdays of famous leaders and innovators on its homepage with signature Doodles, and in 2014 a blogger pointed out that 77% of the year’s previous ones were for men. The Doodle team, split in gender, was shocked by the breakdown and then began tracking the diversity of their commemorations.

Google re:Work

Researchers found that working on financial portfolios was gender-stereotyped as a male task. In a 2005 study, they presented subjects with information about a man and a woman working on such a task, the outcome of which was very successful. Half the subjects were given a report on what each member contributed and the other half were given a report on what they contributed as a pair.

Google re:Work

The subjects who received reports on separate contributions rated both the man and woman equally, on average.

Google re:Work

The subjects who were given a group report scored the man significantly higher.

Google re:Work

The term “microaggressions” is used to denote subtle comments or body language that can have a significant impact, whether intended or not.

Google re:Work

Consider how you present yourself to others at your company. And how does your company present itself, from images on its website to the people it chooses to speak at events?

Google re:Work

A researcher at Rice University in Texas gave 16 students one of two hats, without showing them which one was placed on their head, and sent them to a mall to verbally apply for jobs. The students were told to surreptitiously record the interaction and observe how it went.

Google re:Work

The network of people you’re connected with is critical to your personal and career success. When associating solely with similar individuals, you limit the information you have access to, as well as who has access to you.

Google re:Work

A Stanford study took a group of undeclared undergraduate students to rooms decorated either in a traditionally male, geeky way (think video games and “Star Trek”) or in a gender-neutral way (nature posters) and gave them questionnaires about different majors. The female students were much more likely to give a positive consideration of tech majors when not in the nerdy, masculine room. That doesn’t mean you need to bar your employees from expressing themselves, but consider the inclusiveness of the environment you’re creating.

Google re:Work

Source: “Ambient belonging: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science”

And finally, make sure changing the way your company operates is a group effort.

Google re:Work

Remove the stigma of unconscious bias. Diversity is meaningless if people are afraid to talk about it.

Google re:Work

Call out examples of unconscious bias that you perceive. Also acknowledge that you may be mistaken. What matters is that a culture of collaboration and transparency is established.

Google re:Work

You can’t change everything all at once. Begin with one of the four approaches, and adapt it to your work life.

Google re:Work

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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