Be Conscious of Your Bias

Author: Avis Yates Rivers (Follow on Twitter: @SitWithAvis)

lalaLast month I shared what some leading companies are doing to combat unconscious bias in the workplace. This month, I will do a deeper dive into why that’s important and why it matters.

Quite simply, unconscious bias negatively impacts an organization’s financial results. According to several studies, diversity benefits innovation and the bottom line in the following ways:

  • Increased sales revenue, more customers, bigger market share
  • Higher-than-average profitability
  • Greater return on equity and return to shareholders
  • Greater potential for creativity, sharing of knowledge, task fulfillment

In addition, groups with greater diversity solve complex problems better and faster than homogenous groups.

Several researchers set out to measure the collective intelligence of a group; they wanted to know if it could be explained by the intelligence levels of group members or not. They were surprised to find that one of the key predictors of a group’s intelligence level was the number of women on the team; the more women on the team, the more the team’s collective intelligence rose, up to a certain point. Individual intelligence of group members was not a predictor of collective intelligence.

This is an interesting finding because it absolutely counters the “rock star” approach to hiring. We all love the stories of a brilliant loner or a couple of guys dreaming up a tech company in somebody’s garage, but the fact remains that the vast majority of technology is developed by multiple people as part of a team. So whether you’re hoping to be acquired or doing the acquiring, it’s smarter to build good teams than look for the one brilliant standout.

In fact, according to Dow Jones Venture Source, analysis of more than 20,000 venture-backed companies showed that successful startups have twice as many women in senior positions as unsuccessful companies.

Diversity also helps companies to grow. Tech companies led by women delivered higher revenues using less capital (30-50% less), and were more likely to survive the transition from startup to established business. It has also been found that women led companies deliver higher revenues using less capital.

So, when we cut to the chase, we know that:

  • Minority Groups Aren’t Broken
  • Majority Groups Aren’t The Enemy
  • The Culprit = Societal Biases We All Share

Society is biased about gender and technology. Period. There are things we can do, and lots of things we shouldn’t do.

Things we should do include:

  • Become a male advocate and inspire other men to do likewise
  • Audit your physical office space for implicit biases
  • Assure inclusive team meetings and social events
  • Examine performance reviews for unconscious bias
  • Remove biased language from job descriptions and job postings
  • Evaluate interview questions and include diversity in the interview process
  • Engage in unconscious bias training for all managers and supervisors

Some things Not to do include:

  • Don’t lower your hiring standards, just make sure you are hiring for the things that matter
  • Don’t slap a boilerplate diversity statement on your job ads
  • Don’t form development teams with just one diverse engineer
  • Don’t keep looking for diverse candidates in the same places you’ve always recruited
  • Don’t depend on underrepresented employeesto advance your diversity goals

And most importantly: Don’t give up; this is a long distance race, not a sprint!