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Hidden Glossary

What is Hidden Bias? 

Hidden bias is an unconscious mental attitude or stereotype that influences our behavior and decisions towards a person or group of people. It is unintentionally created and often goes unnoticed by the individual.  

The bias exists in our minds due to our environment, experiences, and upbringing, affecting our perceptions, thoughts, and actions. Since hidden bias is not visible, it is difficult for a person to know they have it. It is a hidden obstacle to creating an inclusive workplace. 

Hidden bias is a term that is becoming increasingly popular in discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These biases are often so deeply ingrained that we might not even be aware we hold them, but they can still influence our behaviors and decision-making. 


The Importance of Identifying Hidden Bias 

The first thing to understand about hidden bias is that it's not necessarily intentional or malicious.  

As humans, we naturally categorize the world around us into familiar and unfamiliar, safe and risky.  

This is a cognitive shortcut that helps us make sense of complex information quickly, but it can also lead us to make assumptions and judgments that are not based on facts or evidence. 

For example, you might assume that a woman who wears a hijab is more conservative or religious than a woman who wears Western-style clothing.  

Or you might assume that a Black employee is less qualified for a particular role than a white employee, even though they have identical qualifications.  

These assumptions might be based on stereotypes that you've absorbed from your environment, media, or upbringing, but they're not necessarily reflective of reality. 

These hidden biases can manifest in many ways in the workplace, from subtle language choices to more significant decisions such as hiring, promotion, and performance evaluation.  

For example, you might use gendered language in job advertisements that dissuade women from applying, or you might unconsciously favor candidates who resemble you or share your background.  

These biases can create a workplace culture that is unwelcoming or hostile to people who are different from the majority. 


How to Detect and Prevent Hidden Bias 

There are a variety of techniques that can be used to detect hidden biases.  


Start with Self-Reflection 

The first step in detecting hidden bias is to acknowledge that we all have biases, conscious or unconscious.  

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) specialists recommend starting with self-reflection and examining our own biases and assumptions. This can be challenging, as biases are often deeply ingrained in our experiences and socialization.  

However, taking inventory of our own biases can help us recognize when they may be impacting our decisions or behaviors in the workplace.  

Many experts suggest taking a Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures implicit biases. This can provide a starting point for identifying where our blind spots may lie. 


Examine Organizational Processes and Procedures 

Hidden bias can also be embedded in organizational structures and policies, such as hiring and promotion processes, performance evaluations, and compensation packages.  

For example, studies have shown that job postings using gender-neutral language attract a more diverse pool of candidates.  

Similarly, blind resume review processes can help mitigate bias in hiring decisions. By examining these processes and procedures, we can identify areas for improvement and implement solutions that promote fairness and equity. 


Foster Inclusive Communication 

Hidden biases can also manifest in workplace communication, such as microaggressions or exclusionary language.  

Experts recommend fostering inclusive communication by being mindful of our language and behaviors, and by creating a safe space for employees to voice their concerns.  

This can include providing training on how to identify and address bias in communication, as well as encouraging open communication channels and active listening.  

By promoting inclusive communication, we can create a workplace culture that values diversity and promotes collaboration and productivity. 


Encourage Diverse Perspectives 

Another way to detect and eliminate hidden bias is by promoting diverse perspectives and voices in decision-making processes. DEI experts recommend building diverse teams and encouraging diverse perspectives in problem-solving and decision-making.  

This can help mitigate biases and uphold diversity and inclusion values. Additionally, by creating an environment where different perspectives are valued and respected, we can foster communication, creativity, and innovation. 


Monitor and Evaluate Progress 

Finally, it’s highly recommended that you monitor and evaluate progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts regularly. This can include collecting data on hiring and promotion rates, retention rates, and employee satisfaction surveys.  

By analyzing this data, we can identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. Additionally, it’s also important to utilize metrics and benchmarks to hold ourselves accountable and ensure that we are making meaningful progress towards creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 


Use inclusio to Spread Awareness about Hidden Biases 

The inclusio platform is designed to help companies provide a safe platform that employees can engage with. It offers companies meaningful insights and information that they can use to provide personalized content, glean metrics associated with the company’s culture, and better track diversity and inclusion through meaningful KPIs.