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Unconscious Bias Awareness
Page Updated: 29th September 2023
This webpage is intended to provide you with an overview of what we mean by Unconscious Bias and how it can impact decision-making and actions. Below you will find some definitions and links to useful resources such as slides, video clip and articles.
UCD EDI are currently offering Unconscious Bias Awareness Training to all employees "Being Aware of Our Biases" as well as for members of interview panels who attended the UCD Interview Skills Training, "Inclusive Recruitment - Managing Bias". Find out more and register for a session this Academic Year:
UCD held a national conference in Spring 2019 to explore the impact and effectiveness of Unconscious Bias training on the elimination of discrimination. Outputs from the conference informed a holistic approach to address conscious and unconscious biases, including embedding awareness raising as part of training courses and a pilot session delivered to senior leaders in UCD. UCD have committed to delivering Unconscious Bias awareness-raising sessions for all assessment panels.
"Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications." (Advance HE)
Further definitions can be found on a website about The Nature of Unconscious Bias by Shire professional Chartered Psychologists.
We need to recognise and acknowledge our biases and find ways to mitigate their impact on our behaviour and decisions
Unconscious bias can become problematic when deep-seated prejudices absorbed due to living in an unequal society affect our actions, for instance leading to assumptions about competence and aptitude based on gender. In interview settings, unconscious bias manifests itself in the tendency of hiring managers to select candidates who are similar to them, which is why diversity on assessment panels is essential. People who are committed to equality also experience unconscious bias. Research has found that unconscious bias can heavily influence recruitment and selection decisions. Several experiments using CV shortlisting exercises have highlighted bias by gender and ethnicity.
A study of science faculties in HEIs (Moss-Racusin et al, 2012) asked staff to review a number of applications, which were identical apart from the gender. Science faculties were more likely to:
- rate male candidates as better qualified than female candidates
- want to hire the male candidates rather than the female candidates
- give the male candidate a higher starting salary than the female candidate
- be willing to invest more in the development of the male candidate than the female candidate
An ESRI Irish study (McGinnity et al, 2009) investigated discrimination in recruitment on the basis of ethnic and national origin:
- The experiment used three minority groups: Africans, Asians and Europeans (Germans)
- In the study, two individuals, identical on all relevant characteristics except names that signalled ethnic or national origins, applied for the same jobs
- It was found that candidates with Irish names were over twice as likely to be invited to interview as candidates with identifiably non-Irish names, even though both submitted equivalent CVs
The following five slides provide further insight into Unconscious Bias. These slides are a snapshot of the Unconscious Bias awareness raising programme developed by Dr Pete Jones, Shire Consulting. Dr Jones was contracted by Trinity College Dublin under funding provided by the HEA National Athena SWAN Committee to deliver a programme to representatives from the Higher Education Institutions. Please click here to access: Slides on Unconscious Bias
The Royal Society provides a 3-minute video clip that introduces the key concepts of unconscious bias.
Google also developed a short video clip about making Unconscious Bias at Work conscious.
Inspiring the Future - Redraw the Balance - This is a film from Mullen Lowe London and provocatively captures how, early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female. When asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female.
Dr Pete Jones outlines the science behind unconscious bias in this 23-minute video clip.
Equality Challenge Unit (2013) “Understanding Unconscious Bias”
Alexandra Kallv, Erin Kelly, and Frank Dobbin, Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Programs, American Sociological Review 71 (2006) 589-617.
Atewologun, Doyin, Cornish, Tinu, Tres, Fatima, Unconscious Bias Training: An assessment of the evidence for effectiveness
League of European Research Universities: Implicit Bias in Academia.
If you wish to organise a face-to-face Unconscious Bias Awareness Raising sessions in your School or Unit, the following consultants are recommended:
- SEVEN psychology http://www.seven.ie/what-seven-offers/what-seven-offers-individuals
- Pearn Kandola https://www.pearnkandola.com/
- Melrona Kirrane https://business.dcu.ie/dcubs/people/melrona-kirrane.shtml
- Performance Matters https://performancematters.ie/