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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Monday, October 22, 2018  
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Thank you to everyone who attended our September membership meeting! We were joined by Nancy Droesch and Karen Miller, co-founders of WILLO LLC, who led an eye-opening discussion surrounding gendered unconscious bias in the workplace.

This issue is something we have all experienced firsthand. Most commonly, we see bias in perceptions of our leaders, disproportionate access to mentors and sponsors, being overlooked for informal networking opportunities, talent management practices, and in our communication.

The WILLO co-founders recommended the following action plan in combating unconscious bias in the workplace:

1.      Recognize it!

It’s important to realize in the moment when someone has slighted you, intentionally or unintentionally, because of your identity.

2.      Develop strategies to respond

Here, there are a few options in responding right away:

-           Interrupt the interrupter. If you were interrupted by a co-worker in a meeting, push back and interrupt them! For instance, one might say, “excuse me Joe, but I still have some important points I would like to make. Do you mind?” Assert your opinions and make them heard.

-           Learn the art of redirection. If you are continuously asked to perform menial tasks that aren’t relevant to your job, recommend someone else who stands to learn or gain from the work instead.

There are also a few ways to prepare for the next meeting should implicit bias impact your workplace again:

-           Establish your expertise first. If you completed all the analysis behind a technical report or have studied and researched extensively in the relevant field, make that known. Prove your merit in the beginning, and it will amplify your contributions.

-           Recruit allies in advance. Ask someone else in the meeting beforehand to support your voice.

3.      Pick your battles

Some meetings are more important than others. You determine which ones are worth it.

4.      Help others when you see it

We should uplift those around us; if we can recognize it, we should actively address it to educate those around us.


This year, St. Louis Forum’s focused issue of exploration is: implicit bias in the workplace and its impact on women, people of color, and the LGBTQ committee. If you are interested in planning programming relevant to this topic, consider joining the Issue Exploration Committee! 

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