10 Ways to Mitigate Bias in Your Company’s Decision Making by Elizabeth C. Tippett

If your company is like most, you’re likely struggling with workplace discrimination, even if you don’t know it. Equity gaps remain a pernicious problem in the U.S., particularly for women and people of color, who, on average, earn less and are under-promoted compared to their white or male counterparts. And though federal law has prohibited workplace discrimination for more than fifty years, those gaps don’t appear to be closing anytime soon. The problem, as I explain in recent research, is that the law incentivizes managers and other leaders in the company to address disparities too late in the game.

Compliance measures focus on the biggest personnel decisions a manager makes — who gets the promotion, who gets the biggest bonus — while overlooking all the smaller decisions that affect employee performance towards those metrics over time. Gender-based disparities in sales performance might be traced back to managerial distribution of leads, access to coaching and feedback, or opportunities to get in front of existing clients. Likewise, differences in experience and skill level at the time a promotion is made may have resulted from informal managerial decisions early on about who gets a high-profile assignment, or another chance after a big mistake.

The key to addressing these disparities may be from an unlikely source: social science research on racial bias in school discipline. My colleagues at the University of Oregon, who have spent years studying the small, everyday decisions that produce disparities over time — what they call vulnerable decision points — in schools, found that school leaders tend to discipline black students more than white students for subjective infractions (e.g. disrespect) than objective ones (e.g. fighting). Thus, while fighting may be the more serious event, it is actually the accumulation of disparities in the more frequent, and lower-level incidents that lead to major racial disparities in school discipline.

The key to breaking this disparity, then, both in the classroom and in the workplace, is to eliminate the earliest opportunities for discrimination. Here are some approaches to try:

Read the full article @ The Harvard Business Review

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