Taking Diversity Initiatives to the Next Level?
Year on year diversity professionals work relentlessly spending many hours and dollars but not always do they achieve what they set out to. Why is this happening? Are your employees, entry level to senior management, anti-diversity? Or is it that you are trying to fix Part A of the machinery when it is Part B that is causing trouble?
Most diversity and inclusion initiatives either operate at the level of policy change or sensitization interventions. Both are equally important and critical, but it’s only half the job done. Policies and guidelines give you a boundary to ensure better practices, but within that boundary, there is ample scope for not doing what is required. Sensitization programs focus on appealing to the heart. An impactful sensitization intervention can make people understand how grave the issue of diversity and inclusion is and it can move people emotionally, making them want to do the right thing. And that is great, awareness and sensitization are indispensable. But the everyday decisions your managers (men and women) take, decisions which impact diversity and inclusion at the workplace are rarely affected by emotions.
Let me quote Daniel Kahneman here:
“The systematic errors that people make in everyday decisions are not impacted by their emotional state but are a result of the fault in the working of the cognitive machinery.”
What Kahneman is saying is that the decisions managers take are not impacted much by how strongly they feel for diversity, but are hugely impacted by the systematic errors resulting from cognitive biases. For example, consider Arunima who is the Recruitment Manager in an organization. Arunima is a feminist at heart and feels strongly for inclusion and diversity at the workplace. But when screening candidates for the role of Sales Executive position, Arunima looks for a young and energetic guy who is a go-getter.
Arunima’s decision is affected by her cognitive bias which makes her believe that young men are more energetic and result-oriented than, say, for example, middle-aged women. Affected by this bias Arunima is prone to making systematic errors while taking decisions during the selection of candidates and Arunima’s decisions can significantly impact diversity. By the way, this specific cognitive bias, called Descriptive Stereotype, plays a big role in our perception of gender roles and capabilities. You can learn more about Descriptive Stereotypes here.
Making Arunima aware of biases that impact her decision and helping her develop techniques to manage these biases can go a long way in impacting diversity. Awareness of cognitive biases that affect diversity and the ability to manage them is as critical, if not more, for improving diversity as are policies and sensitization programs.
What do we do at Skills Café?
At Skills Café, we have created highly intensive and experiential interventions – Online Games and face-to-face Micro Workshops that will impact the cognitive machinery, of your managers, which is responsible for decision-making.
- become aware of the cognitive biases that impact gender diversity at workplace
- practice identifying these biases in everyday workplace situations, and
- develop techniques to neutralize these biases and thereby take better decisions.
Cognitive Biases don’t have to be unconscious: We at Skills Café refuse to call these cognitive biases unconscious because the moment we label them as unconscious your mind tells you that they exist in a realm you do not have access to, which is not necessarily correct. It is very possible, not easy though, to become aware of cognitive biases and with practise and persistence to manage them.