Mar 16, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
According to Mahzarin R. Banaji, professor and chair of Harvard University’s Department of Psychology, “Even the most well-intentioned person unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence apparently objective decisions.”
Implicit biases affect almost every aspect of daily life, and are quickly becoming the focus of programs within academia and industry. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 50 percent of large U.S. companies are expected to offer unconscious bias training for their employees in the next five years.
Georgia Tech’s Institute Diversity, in collaboration with the ADVANCE Program, began offering Implicit Bias Workshops — designed for faculty who serve on reappointment, promotion, and tenure and faculty search committees — in fall 2015.
The goals of the workshops are to increase awareness of the impact of implicit bias and to facilitate equitable decision-making across myriad processes related to faculty evaluations.
Since then, nearly 300 faculty members, or nearly one-third of all tenured and tenure-track faculty at Tech, have attended a workshop. Among those surveyed, 97 percent of participants would recommend the Implicit Bias Workshops to a colleague.
“It was eye-opening to learn about the influence of unconscious perceptions and biases on my everyday evaluations of personnel,” said Mark Mitchell, director of GTRI’s Advanced Concepts Laboratory. “Following the workshop, I have taken steps to ensure that interview and hiring procedures are based on set criteria, and decisions are made in a deliberate and careful fashion.”
Institute Diversity Associate Vice President Julie Ancis, who co-facilitated the workshops with Biomedical Engineering Professor and Senior Associate Chair Paul Benkeser, said participants have found the research on hiring processes, including letters of recommendation, collaborative work, and tenure evaluations, to be particularly useful.
“I use what I learned in the workshop more often than I imagined I would. The workshop reinforced to me that we all have some form of bias. I am more aware of the language used in writing and reading letters of recommendation for students – consciously questioning words or phrases that might disadvantage students when applying to graduate schools,” said Michelle Rinehart, associate dean for academic affairs and outreach in the College of Design.
Additional workshops will be offered in the fall. More information about these workshops will be released in the coming months, and all tenured and tenure-track faculty will receive an invitation to register for one.
The Implicit Bias Workshops are part of the 11 Gender Equity Initiatives being implemented at the Institute. These initiatives emerged from President Peterson’s listening sessions in 2015 where he heard, in part, concerns from the campus community about promoting equity in policies and processes related to the recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, professional development, and leadership appointments of women faculty members.
For more information on the Implicit Bias Workshops, visit www.advance.gatech.edu/implicit-bias-workshops.