Managing Unconscious Bias


As an organisation whose sole purpose is to help other organisations overcome the results of years of unconscious bias that has led to an unequal playing field for women in business, we were particularly impressed with Facebooks move to release a fantastic, FREE training on managing unconscious bias in the work place.

The training demonstrates the impact of a 1% performance bias that favoured men over women changed an organisation from a 50/50 split of men vs women into one which only had 35% of women at the top and more women at the bottom of the organisation.

I honestly think every single person on the planet needs to watch this video training so we can all understand the extent of the challenges facing businesses and what we can all do to combat the negative effects of unconscious bias.

This video is exactly the type of training that we should have readily available to the masses and I applaud Facebook for taking the initiative to become part of the solution. Technology companies are notorious for not attracting or retaining enough women.

You can access the full training here

You can also access Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (which was mentioned in the training), which has been designed to determine how people update their beliefs after they have been given different types of new information.  It’s quite a revealing test. You can access the implicit association test here

Below are some tips from Facebook on what we can all do to help change our bias:


  • Name it – Take a mental note of your first impression of someone. Is it based on a stereo-type or an unconscious bias?
  • Point it out – Notice if the “likeability penalty” is showing up in the words used (yours or another’s) to describe someone
  • Empower everyone to call out unconscious bias by calling it out yourself
  • Actively solicit input from people, and say “thank you” when your bias is pointed out
  • If you get it wrong, apologise


Structured Decision Making with Clear Criteria

  • Set clear criteria that is directly related to the performance of the job for hiring before the selection process begins
  • Set objective standards in advance for evaluating performance and assigning projects; make these transparent with teammates
  • Stop & Think – Check yourself before making a people-decision when you’re in stressful situations or under tight deadlines
  • Encourage accountability by all team members to explain decision-making about people

Full participation and fair credit

  • Set ground rules and norms for how meetings will be conducted to ensure that all voices are heard
  • Develop a practice to interrupt those who interrupt others so that everyone can have their say
  • Rotate the responsibility for office “housework” such as taking meeting notes, organising agendas, and planning events

Create fair practices for recognising accomplishments or seeking other perspectives

  • Vouch for competence or accomplishments of others regardless of your position
  • Encourage team members to speak up when credit is not given to the right person
  • Everyone should keep track of their contributions on projects, and managers should formally review all contributions
  • Seek feedback from colleagues with whom you work but from whom you don’t usually receive feedback

Manage parental leave

  • Discuss with future parents (especially mothers) how to make transitions successful
  • Encourage men and women to take their parental leave

Although any training can only go so far, this video series is a great start and will rekindle the conversation about the prevalence of unconscious bias and its’ negative impact of women in business.

At Forward Ladies, initiatives like our awards aim to showcase the achievements of  women of all races and background because it goes along way in challenging some of the our unconscious beliefs about women and the businesses that we run.

We also have programmes to support women in developing the right skills, networks and the confidence to call out these bias when it rears it head.

by Griselda Togobo