What is unconscious bias?
Our unconscious mind is a powerful and super fast processor of information. The subconscious mind can process something like 500,000 bits of info per second, vastly more than the conscious mind, and it does so without us realising it.
For example, when you meet someone for the first time, within a 30th of a second, and without having to consciously think about it, your brain will tell you whether you are speaking with a male or female, as well as their likely race and age. The brain will make further associations by the way they are dressed, their haircut and accent, etc.
From the moment we are born we build models and pictures of the world. We categorise everything around us to a model we already hold. These patterns are influenced by our upbringing, education and social environment.
So where does gender play its part?
Gender generalisations form at a very young age and help us explain our complex world.
These generalisations do not reflect personal values or life experience, but they are very powerful.
You only need to observe children playing or have a conversation with them to understand how their young minds are already categorising information and forming biases.
So what is being done about Gender Equality?
In 2013 the Gender Equality Index was launched by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). The Index monitors progress of gender equality across EU member states. It measures gender gaps and levels of achievement across the member states relating to work, money, knowledge, time, power, health, and violence against women. More information and a copy of the Report can be accessed here.
How can we help?
Our aim is to raise awareness of unconscious gender bias. We do this by working with women and men at the individual, team and organisation levels. If you’re interested in finding out more about the work we do in this area, please contact us.
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Our unconscious brains also routinely delete, distort and generalise information to deliver to our conscious brains something manageable, which means our unconscious mind has limitations. This video from McKinsey explains how our mind works perfectly …
As part of its 17 goals to Transform the World, the United Nations has Gender Equality. The UN, in association with the EU, has launched a multi-year initiative – the Spotlight Inititiative – which will focus on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls – the Spotlight Initiative.
How can you help yourself?
Make a conscious effort:
- slow down your thought process and notice your reactions and judgements;
- be aware of language you use;
- challenge your assumptions; and
- Talk to others about the subject area.