If you have a pulse, you are biased. It can be as innocent as assuming something about the driver who just cut you off on the freeway or maybe you ignored a stranger you passed walking on the street. Bias impacts everyone, every day. From a scientific perspective, bias is hardwired into the brain as a survival mechanism. But what was once a crucial survival mechanism has evolved into something much more with tangible impacts in our workplaces. Bias in the workplace has many real and negative effects on people and their careers. One of the main hurdles to addressing bias in the workplace is the ability to provide context for growth around the topic between ‘DEI Advocates’ and those who may not believe there are significant impacts from bias in the workplace.  

Being overweight helps men’s careers, but is harmful to women leaders.  

weight discrimination - lead inclusively

Not only does appearance adversely and unfairly affect women and their careers (shocker), being overweight is a positive thing for men. In a recent Cornell study, being overweight was often perceived as synonymous with ‘persuasiveness’ and ‘gravitas’. But this connection only applies to men. Weight discrimination exists across the board in the workplace but it is more prevalent and impactful with women. From hiring to promotion, to perception of leadership, weight negatively impacts the perception and success of women in the workplace. 

[DISCLAIMER: This image was among the first 3 when googling ‘boss’]

A ‘Racist’ Soap Dispenser 

The internet had a fun time when the story of a ‘racist soap dispenser’ made airwaves. It all started with a video of a bathroom soap dispenser that refused to work for black users. 130,000 retweets later and it became clear this was a result of a non-diverse product team. While I will never insinuate mal-intent by the product team or organization, this dilemma was a result of bias in the workplace. I think may be fair (albeit a little bias) to assume this product team most likely did not have any diverse individuals (a larger issue in itself). It is also fair to assume that minorities were never even directly considered as far as a target consumer of this product. The impact of bias here is clear and far-reaching. 

Hair Discrimination 

This is a disturbing trend that has thankfully received increasing attention. A school in Texas suspended a student and threatened to ban him from high school graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks. A high school basketball referee demanded a player cut her hair if she wanted to play, and a woman in Alabama saw her job offer rescinded when she showed up on her first day with dreadlocks. In her article, Chicago Tribune writer, Dahleen Glanton very fairly argues that workplaces must accept ‘black hair’ the way they would a blond perm or a man bun. Needless to say, I echo those sentiments whole-heartedly.  

Why This is Important 

Neuroscience tells us that bias has and will always exist. In many ways, it’s hard to imagine a world where bias doesn’t impact aspects of our daily lives. With that said, addressing ALL of our unconscious biases is a vital step that must be undertaken daily. Despite overwhelming facts, countless stories and infinite coverage of the issue of bias in the workplace, some continue to doubt the presence of bias and the merits of DEI practices in the workplace and beyond. Shedding light to real-life examples is important to constantly bring attention to the presence and impact of bias (however subtle). Finally, understanding the impacts of unconscious bias on company culture and business performance is a valuable first step. 

About Lead Inclusively

Lead Inclusively is a technology-enabled Diversity and Inclusion Consulting firm devoted to developing leaders, teams, and organizations to leverage Diversity and Inclusion as an accelerator for business performance. Our collective experience has been that diversity only assures that we have a mix of different people in the workplace. Diverse people in a non-inclusive workplace may be retained for some period of time, but without inclusion, they will not thrive, advance, or become strong team collaborators. Our Unique Diversity and Inclusion solutions ensure impactful and sustained transformation in your Leadership Development, Culture,  Team, and Performance.

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