Tackling Unconscious Bias

Diversity isn’t just about doing the right thing for people, it’s also about doing the right thing for your organization’s bottom line. Unconscious bias is the enemy of both people and profits. In this highly interactive session, Lenora Billings-Harris explained how to leverage diversity, reduce unconscious bias and improve organizational performance.

  • Lenora Billings-Harris, Consultant, Cook Ross

Session Photos



“Diversity is being on the team. Inclusion is who gets to play.” – Billings-Harris

Billings-Harris explained how many decisions are made unconsciously, reverting to biases that individuals may not even be aware of.

Bias is defined as: The inclination to judge without question, and without awareness, intention, or control.


Billings-Harris cited several common unconscious biases that come up in the workplace:
  • Accent: If I am the speaker, you will trust me less the more my accent is different to yours.
  • Names: The more your name is like the dominant culture, the more likely your resume will be called for a job interview.
  • Handshake: Two-thirds of people in the world deliberately use weak handshakes. We look for reasons that support our decisions rather than looking to disprove the theory.


Billings-Harris offers six ways to mitigate bias:
  • Recognize and accept that you have bias.
  • Develop a capacity to shine a flashlight on yourself.
  • Practice “constructive uncertainty.” Lean into that discomfort and be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Explore awkwardness and discomfort.
  • Engage with those who are different than you.
  • Get feedback. Have someone serve as your “accountability partner.”


Press “PAUSE”:

P – Pay attention

A – Acknowledge your assumptions

U – Understand your perspective

S – Seek different perspectives

E – Examine your perspectives



In her own words:

“I can be the best that I am when you value who I am. You can be the best that you are when I value who you are.”

“Stolen ideas happen more often to women because some women state a fact or idea that comes out as a question. Other people listening then don’t take it seriously.”

“As thinking adults, we want to use our deliberate brain – the slow brain – intentionally become aware of our bias and say, ‘Hmm, does this apply here?’”

– Billings-Harris

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