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March 10th, 2021

Black History Month Is Over, but the Time to Start Real, Meaningful Discussions About Bias Never Ends




With another Black History Month behind us, perhaps it’s time to ask a few questions. Particularly, what made February 2021 different than other Black History Months? Should we be celebrating and discussing African American heritage every month—why set aside just one? And, perhaps most important, how can organizations be more inclusive for not only Black employees but all employees?

To be sure, 2020 and 2021 have been historic years for Black justice. With Black Lives Matter taking center stage, we saw protests over wrongful deaths, controversial judgments and perhaps more bias than ever. Indeed, according to the Center For Talent Innovation, up to nearly 68 percent of Black employees experience bias or racism in the workplace, but only 16 percent of their White colleagues recognize the bias.

Communication strategies

During a discussion about bias in the workplace during Black History Month, BiasSync consultant/expert Dr. Crystal Miller, executive coach, and organizational development expert specializing in inclusive leadership, group relations, dialogue and mindfulness, said, “Having multiple communication strategies is key.”

Dr. Miller added that the first step is self-education. To approach bias, she said, “it's crucial to have a group of individuals that are representative of the diversity in your organization.”

Dr. Bentley Gibson, an associate professor in psychology at Georgia Highlands College who works with BiasSync, agreed, saying bias must be tackled on a broad level. “It's important to realize that to be aware of our anti-Black unconscious biases and how they're filtering out into our behaviors and non-verbal communication and leading our Black employees to feel not included to shut down,” she said. “It impacts mental and physical health. You may get all the diversity and put all these resources into getting diversity, but you won't retain it right if there are these disparities in inclusion.”

A diverse workforce

Most people don’t want to work for a company that’s perceived to have a culture of bias. In fact, according to a survey by job search site Glassdoor, a majority of job seekers—67%—say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when they evaluate job offers. And once on the job, workers who detect bias are more likely to leave.

Dr. Gibson said, “I'm finding that if these unconscious biases or conscious biases are too anti-Black, folks won't even want to do the work that it's going to take to shut them down. We have to get folks to come to the table as individuals, particularly leadership, to realize they have these biases and how they're directly impacting their behaviors.” She added, “How do we motivate them to recognize that so they can shift how they're seeing Black people? And what they are doing to increase diversity and decrease inclusion disparities?”

Michele Ruiz, BiasSync’s founder and CEO, pointed out the importance of “modeling from the top.” For example, when organizational leaders prioritize inclusiveness over the course of time and even admit their own unconscious biases, it’s a huge step toward mitigating company-wide negative behaviors.

Beyond ‘markers’

Dr. Miller stressed the importance of carrying bias training and awareness beyond “markers” such as Black History Month. These days are opportunities “to reenergize and recommit to the long-term goals that we have as a society—as organizations—for their employees around equity and inclusion.” This is part of a “long journey,” she said. Beyond events such as Black History Month, it’s important to stay engaged and acknowledge there are many tangible ways to recognize Black employees and other underrepresented individuals through programs such as mentoring, for example. Such actions show a commitment to a long-term, proactive approach to equity and inclusion.

Given the often high-stakes risks, there are numerous steps you can take to help mitigate unconscious bias in your workplace: • Ensure your teams understand what unconscious bias is and how to recognize it and its potential consequences • Communicate that mitigating unconscious bias is important • Implement strong, consistent mitigation strategies • Offer regular unconscious bias training and assessments across the entire enterprise, including leadership

To learn more about unconscious bias in the workplace, follow the discussion with Michele Ruiz, Dr. Gibson and Dr. Miller.

Learn more about how BiasSync can help your company recognize—and mitigate—bias in the workplace.

Not just diversity. Inclusion.

Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s about people’s experiences in the workplace. If you’re ready to understand how bias impacts your company—with data to make effective changes, contact us now.