A sunday Op-Ed in The New York Times by Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg discusses the alarming possibility that just raising awareness about negative bias in the workplace can actually make it worse.
Well, that would be bad and would counteract the main efforts of these workshops. To solve this problem, it is also important to communicate that these biases are undesirable and unacceptable.
Professors Duguid and Thomas-Hunt used a similar approach to prevent bias awareness from backfiring.
Rather than merely informing managers that stereotypes persisted, they added that a “vast majority of people (should) try to overcome their stereotypic preconceptions.” With this adjustment, discrimination vanished in their studies. After reading this message, managers were 28 percent more interested in working with the female candidate who negotiated assertively and judged her as 25 percent more likable.
How it could not be obvious that biases discriminating against women in the workplace are undesirable and unacceptable is surprising to me.
Nevertheless, a new study cited by The New York Times article finds just this. The reason given that bias awareness can backfire has to do with the possibility that such discussions could legitimize prejudices.