Unconscious Bias: From Awareness to Action

PERKS Editorial Team

PERKS Editorial Team


September 8, 2021

The Building Culture Podcast - Episode 3.1

Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, Director of DEI at Headspace, "Unconscious Bias: From Awareness to Action"

To launch our new podcast season on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Building Culture invited Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Headspace, to the show to establish the fundamentals of unconscious bias - and what to do about it. Also discussed are systemic barriers that prevent success in DEI initiatives, the impact of microaggressions or identity-related aggressions, and DEI readiness.

You can download the episode here.
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Show notes:
  • What is the definition of unconscious or implicit bias?
    • Sometimes known as implicit bias, it is the underlying stereotypes people associate to a certain person or groups. With this comes assumptions and the categorizing of specific individuals according to these stereotypes without even realizing it.
    • Unconscious bias can come in many forms and stereotypes ranging from gender, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, diet; the list goes on.
  • How does unconscious bias play out in an org? What are some examples?
    • Asian last name on a resume
    • Tech-heavy project given to younger person
    • She did a good job on that project - for a working mom
    • When we think about diversity, it’s not just skin and race - it’s also age, gender, religion, etc.
      • Makes people feel different, uncomfortable, like an outcast. 
      • This is not inclusive! Unconscious bias goes hand-in-hand with DEI.
  • “Unconscious bias is not enough to make a difference. It needs to be in conjunction with efforts and actions.” - Willie Jackson, Head of Learning & Development at ReadySet 
  • What are the organizational systemic barriers that prevent DEI success?
  • What role do DEI programs play in an organization with unconscious bias in mind? And what is the importance of having a DEI leader at an organization?
    • Inclusion can be thought of as cultivating relationships and being intentional (Myers)
  • Discuss: “It’s harmful to promote diversity without inclusivity.”
  • Identity-related aggressions (Harvard Med), or microaggressions. 
    • What impact do these actions have?
      • Creates a sense of exclusion, which in turn impacts productivity
      • Cumulative effect which creates a burden, sense of frustration for not being seen for who I am
  • What is the difference between caring about diversity or just having good intentions and DEI readiness?
  • Where should an organization who wants to look into effective DEI programs begin? What are some steps a company can take if they don’t necessarily have the budget to begin incorporating a DEI program?
  • What do you see as the benefits of that giving individuals the freedom to choose their perks? Do you think it plays a part in DEI efforts?
  • Closing thoughts
    • Respond with: “Why do you say that? What do you mean by that?”
    • What meaning am I making of this data?
    • If you say the wrong thing, apologize
    • If the person gives you information about your mistake, see that as a gift!
      • “What should I have said? What was my impact?” (Myers)
    • Do NOT withdraw! Keep learning, stay engaged, make your intent clear
    • Become humble - be willing to interrupt the bias when you see it taking place
    • Ask questions
    • This is about connection, not perfection (Verna Myers, VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix)