Do you challenge your unconscious bias?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fervent believer in equality. Whether it’s gender, race or anything else you can think of I don’t believe anyone should have their opportunities limited. Or should I say…..

that’s what my conscious mind thinks. My unconscious mind, however, has been shaped by decades in a society where people’s opportunities have been limited because of their race, gender or social standing. In a telephone conversation with my daughter recently, who is obviously well aware of my feelings on gender equality, she mentioned a consultant & before I knew it the words “is that because he…” were out of my mouth. Both of us realised what I’d said immediately & the phone literally went silent before my daughter came back with “oh mam!!!” So I got to wondering just how bad things were in my unconscious brain.

Harvard University are doing some research and as part of that any one of us can take a test to see what our unconscious mind thinks about things like gender and careers, race, religion etc. As I’m probably most vocal about gender bias in the workplace I decided to take the test that shows your unconscious bias for male/female career/family.

I anticipated I would have a slight bias towards male & career, female & family in my unconscious mind, let’s be honest in the times I’ve grown up in it would be surprising if I didn’t. Imagine my anger at my unconscious mind when I discovered it was harbouring a STRONG bias toward male & career, female & family.

This really doesn’t fit in with my image of myself as a strong career woman who supports younger women to make the most of their opportunities.

So what good does it do to know this? Well now I’m aware that my unconscious mind is being such a pain I can be aware of it & challenge it when it influences my actions. I can also encourage others to do the same (kind of the point of this blog I guess!)

Here’s a great TED talk (you all know how much I love TED talks!) about gender equality & unconscious bias which I watched this week, it’s worth 15 minutes of your time I promise:


You can test your own unconscious bias, if you do I’d love to hear about the results, whether they surprise you or they’re what you expected. Let me know in the comments below.