Quick question…Greg, Angel or Wenqiang, which one do you think is best at math?
Of course you need more information to make that determination, but I bet that many of you gravitated towards Wenqiang, even if it was somewhat in jest, because people of Asian decent tend to be associated with being good at math. That little tug in your mind, that is an example of implicit or unconscious bias. The generalizations that we all make about others based on stereo types, upbringing or experience.
I have a unique view of this topic given that the second two names are the given names of my two boys (the first is mine, and I am the worst at math of the three of us.) I have 5 kids, 2 Latino children (from Guatemala), 2 Asian children (from China) and one biological daughter. I am fascinated and terrified about the fact that my kids, who were all raised in the same family, went to the same schools, etc. will be treated very differently once they leave the safe confines of our home.
While we talk about it with them and they kind of get it, its hard for them to really grasp what its going to mean for them. Take my two boys, both straight A students, active in sports and all-around great kids. However, their college applications will be looked at very differently. Once they move into their own homes their neighbors will treat them differently and if they get pulled over they have to handle themselves differently.
Dr. Funke Abimbola experienced this firsthand. She went to the best schools, had the right activities on her resume and was a top tier candidate on paper. The only problem was that her name was also on that paper. She sent out over a hundred resumes and got no response at all, largely because her name is clearly African. Dr. Abimbola was not deterred though and she started picking up the phone and calling CEOs directly. After many days of calling, she finally found someone willing to give her a shot. She blew that opportunity away and hasn’t stopped doing amazing things since then. She has also made it her mission to level the playing field for minorities and improving diversity in our society.
Check out our interview on the Art of Communication Podcast. We talk in depth about the challenges that she faced and how she overcame them. But, we also dive into the value of diversity in business, and clear strategies to reduce the impact that implicit bias has on hiring. One interesting concept that we discussed was around “blinding” resumes. So that the name, address and email address are hidden from the hiring managers during the initial screening process, giving everyone a fair chance.
Another recommendation is to travel as much as possible. Nothing opened my eyes to how similar we all are more than the process of adopting my children. We had to spend a significant amount of time in each country. While both cultures are very different from our own, they are both filled with amazing people who are just trying to take care of their families and make the world a better place. There is no better way to remove a bias than to seek out examples that are the antithesis of it. If we all tried to do a little more of that we could start to make an impact and begin to level out the playing field for minorities like my own children and Dr. Abimbola’s son.