“Discrimination is not done by villains, it’s done by us” says Vivienne Ming, an inspiring scientist who uses AI and big data to help fight against discriminations in the workplace. This phrase sums up well a truth too often ignored: fighting against discrimination is not just about laws, we all have a role to play.
Through Zero Discrimination Day, an annual day celebrated each year on 1 March, organisations like the United Nations encourage us to reflect on injustice and to promote equality – before the law, and in practice.
What is Zero Discrimination?
Zero discrimination means considering everyone in the same way, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they sound like or what they look like.
Most discriminations come from a prejudiced assumption about the impact a difference in background might make. Like not giving the job to someone from a different community on the assumption they won’t settle well in the team. Not inviting a colleague to a dinner because, as a mother, she’s assumed to have other priorities. Denying someone the potential to work on client engagement because they don’t drink alcohol; assuming someone would fail at a specific task because they have dyslexia; assuming someone won’t learn a new skill because of their age… the list goes on.
The role of Unconscious Bias Awareness to counter discrimination
I have seen all sorts of discrimination occur in my lifetime; most of those I’ve observed in the workplace actually originate from people with very good intentions, who unknowingly act from their unconscious bias.
That’s why I believe the start point to Zero Discrimination is Unconscious Bias Awareness.
Unconscious (or implicit) bias affect everyone: it’s the unconscious beliefs and associations we have about various social and identity groups, which are often triggered by our brains automatically to make quick judgments and assessments.
Being aware of these unconscious biases is the first step to being able to control them, and prevent them from influencing our judgments and behaviours.
How to promote Unconscious Bias Awareness?
The key to unconscious bias awareness is to recognise that no one is perfect, and that we shouldn’t take things for granted.
- Through self-reflection and personal awareness, one can become aware of our biases. Asking for feedback is a great way to find out more.
- Dialogue is key; for example, asking questions directly to the people involved is the best remedy to making assumptions on their behalf.
- Take a step back and ask yourself why you think about people in a certain way. Even in highly inclusive workplaces, discrimination often takes place in the form of affinity bias: colleagues giving more opportunities to team members they personally get along better with, which is often a reflection of a common background or personality.
- And of course, remaining curious about all forms of diversity is a great way to fight unconscious bias, as we’re less likely to discriminate against what feels familiar than against what doesn’t.
A word about Unconscious Bias Awareness at TVE
At The Value Engineers, we have a commitment to provide unconscious bias training to everyone who joins our team; this is a legal requirement in the US and something we volunteer to do in the UK.
And it’s not something we just do when new colleagues join; we communicate the message internally and regularly, actively encouraging our team to participate in external training sessions and talks by external speakers on the topic of Diversity & Inclusivity.
Emeline Mettavant, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at TVE