We’re all biased and that’s…okay?

Yes, you read that correctly. We are all implicitly biased, but that’s okay. No really, I promise.

To have positive change, one needs to recognize that there is a problem and be willing to work towards betterment. However, when individuals are defensive, they refuse to admit to a problem, instead digging in their heels. Thus, I believe one important step to positive change is for society to understand that we’re all implicitly biased and that it is OKAY.

Implicit bias is “bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs.” (dictionary.com). Implicit bias involves unconscious cognition and how that affects an individual’s actions. In other words, everyone has implicit biases. There is really nothing you can do to change that – it’s involuntary and unconscious – and, thus, not “bad.” What can be “bad,” however, is not taking the time to recognize your unconscious biases and alter your actions accordingly.

One simple and benign way to see just how the brain works is the “Stroop effect.” Take the test and see for yourself. Time yourself reading the chart below and see how fast you can get through it.

Yellow Red Orange
Orange Black Black
Blue Blue Yellow
Green Red Blue

Easy right? Now time yourself reading this chart:

Blue Yellow Red
Yellow Orange Blue
Black Blue Black
Orange Green Red

I’m guessing, if you’re like me, you couldn’t get through the chart above nearly as quickly and accurately as the first one, right? This exercise shows how your brain unconsciously processes the information it sees and how, sometimes, you have to stop and course correct.

This helps to show that unconscious bias affects us all and, in sometimes benign or even helpful ways. What’s important is to recognize that this is not “bad.” It happens to all of us. And what really matters is taking the time to recognize, acknowledge it, and course correct our actions when necessary.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been the bedrock of our firm since we opened over 75 years ago. As we like to say, it is in our DNA. We believe that to foster diverse leadership and urge diversity of thought, we must do what we can to advance the conversation about diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging in the workplace and the communities in which our workplaces thrive. Through our blog, we share our insights from the perspective of both an employer and employee, regarding emerging issues that affect diverse leaders and workforces. We hope you enjoy our tidbits of legal and practical information, wisdom, and humor. Thanks for joining the conversation!


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