Implicit Bias

Posted by | September 07, 2013 | Online Exclusive | No Comments

What is Implicit Bias?

  • Gender stereotypes are understood to be culturally-shared, socially constructed heuristics about who men and women are, arguing that attributes associated with women are learned beliefs established from a young age.
  • This raises the conundrum that, despite the aforementioned encouraging findings of explicit attitudes, learned gender stereotypes and associated traits continue to affect the way in which we perceive the abilities of women in the workforce, with unconscious decisions causing split-second stereotyping.
  • For women in the workforce, employers “remember stereotype-consistent behaviour that did not actually occur” and, of greater consequence to women, “stereotype inconsistent behaviour that did occur is stored in a more diffuse manner and is thus less readily retrievable by the decision maker”
  • This is also known as Confirmation Bias, a theory which claims we are more likely to look for and remember information that validates our preconceived beliefs, and discard information and data that challenge them.

What are the implications for women in the workforce?

Studies have found:

  1. Women are held to sticter standards than men, as they regularly require higher employee evaluations to be promoted.
  2. Research has additionally found that women in the workplace consistently receive lower performance evaluation
  3. ns that men, especially when they occupy powerful positions. Furthermore, women are less likely than men to have managerial professional positions and are less likely to “have jobs that require policy decisions.”

Consequence of the aforementioned cognitive biases which shape and influence the way in which actions are remembered and interpreted. It’s effect is to lead employers to view women as less competent leaders, and well as recalling with greater ease the errors of women than those of a man. Furthermore, this distortion of memory as a result of engrained stereotypes has been found to lead managers to attribute the success of a mixed-gender group to the men but not the women involved in the effort, and to “judge what is assertive in a man as aggressive when coming from a woman”

Here in lies one of the main implications of implicit bias for women in the workforce: there remains strong learned associative networks which unconsciously undermine our perception of the place of women in the workforce which, by nature, go unrecognised and remain unaddressed, despite positive explicit associations. These associative networks perpetuate discrimination, with enduring associations of women as mothers, sexual objects and submissive participants as opposed to assertive leaders unconsciously overriding our explicit neutrality.

  • For example, 17 per cent of primary school teachers are men but yet they make up a mighty 49 per cent of principals. That means women are under-promoted by 32 per cent.”
  • The banking industry has an average pay wage gap of 31%., with a 17.6% wage gap on average in Australia doing the same job and same hours.

Is there any hope?

I don’t want this to be a bitch n moan session about the plight of women. However, I think it is too easy to dismiss the unconscious bias as something that cant be controlled, and there all it and the discrimination is causes to continue.

Can we override unconscious bias and reverse our learned associative networks? – Yes! Social psychology research suggests that individuals “are able to control their unconscious biases,” claiming that one does not have to “activate the stereotype” associated with that person’s group. Furthermore, there are ways in which to overcome stereotypes, notably, through exposure to counter-stereotypes, individual motivation to avoid stereotypical thinking, and utilising a more subjective evaluative process of work completed.