Inspire Inclusion – Overcome Unconscious Bias

Women at thyssenkrupp nucera

Imagine a world where everyone belongs and everyone can participate – regardless of what they look like, what language they speak, whether they have a disability or whether they are male or female. If everyone can be part of everything, this is inclusion.¹

 

Unfortunately, many women (and not only women) experience on a daily basis that there is still a long way to go until inclusion is achieved. This is why International Women’s Day’s theme in 2024 is “Inspire Inclusion”. One of the many reasons for the lack of inclusion is unconscious bias. Learn more about unconscious bias and how to overcome it.

Inclusion: The act of allowing many different types of people to do something and treating them fairly and equally.²

What is unconscious bias?

According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnemann, unconscious biases are a biological process.3 As our brain is working efficiently, it is an excellent instrument to detect patterns: it prefers categorizing what we see and hear based on past experiences and learnings – saving energy and resources. Put simply, it filters out what is important, while the rest is not processed.4, 6 The associations we have with the categories in our head can for example be “good or bad; right or wrong; safe or unsafe”.6 This is how our thoughts and actions are influenced by the efficiency of our brain.3,4 Although this is very efficient and often helpful, this process can sometimes be error-prone and even against our beliefs and values, e.g. if we unconsciously prefer people who are similar to us or our culture.5

Unconscious bias is thus a mental attitude – positive or negative – towards a person or a group of persons one is unaware of.6 Believe it or not, we all – including you – have them, independent of gender, education or other parameters, and only very rarely do we manage to act without prejudices.4,5 It’s a natural part of human behavior. Nonetheless, if allowed to persist unchecked, bias has the capacity to undermine even the noblest of intentions, obscuring clear judgment, stifling creativity, and tainting conclusions.6 Particularly, fixed role expectations of men and women determine the lack of inclusion of women in the workplace (Gender Bias). But there are ways out of this supposed dead end.

How can we overcome unconscious biases and inspire inclusion?

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are five tips on how to address personal bias.6 And they fit our thyssenkrupp nucera employees’ opinions.

1. Acknowledge your bias 

Accept the fact that every human being suffers from unconscious bias – including you.

Natsuko Robert

“I believe the very first step is to acknowledge that we all have unconscious biases regardless of the gender.”

Natsuko Robert, Process Engineer, thyssenkrupp nucera Japan

2. Learn more about you 

Identify situations that make it hard for you to keep control of your reaction on biases (e.g. time pressure, stress). If it is hard for you, ask a colleague for feedback.

Martina Angeli

“Women alone are not enough. Everyone has to be equally involved and invested. Some strategies might be creating discussion groups, hosting trainings on gender issues and helping people realize all the biases that they carry with them and how they can process and eliminate them in a way that is safe for everyone and that doesn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Martina Angeli, HR Generalist, thyssenkrupp nucera Italy

3. Extend your comfort zone 

To beat stereotypes and generalizations and to be able to fall back on other experiences in the future, it is helpful to get to know people individually. Prove your pigeonhole thinking wrong!

Maria Rillo

“Mentorship and sponsorship programs are designed to pair women with leaders eager to guide their career trajectories. Sponsors, unlike mentors, actively advocate for their protégés' advancement, enabling women to break through the 'glass ceiling'.”

Maria Rillo, PMO Manager, thyssenkrupp nucera Italy

4. Take responsibility for mitigating bias

Constantly practice self-monitoring and self-regulation. What do you perceive? How do you evaluate this perception? How do you judge and decide in the end?

Bilguun Chuluunbaatar

“We need to foster a culture of respect, inclusion and support. Everyone should feel valued for their unique contributions regardless of ethnicity, experience or educational background.”

Bilguun Chuluunbaatar, thyssenkrupp nucera Japan

5. Admit mistakes

Acknowledge your mistakes and apologize for them – use them as an opportunity to improve yourself and your reaction to unconscious bias.

“Fostering a culture of open dialogue helps us eradicate unconscious bias. Relentlessly pushing this kind of culture will create an equitable workplace which everyone enjoys being part of.”

Tilak Somanna, Business Development, thyssenkrupp nucera India

Let’s be conscious about unconscious bias. Let’s inspire inclusion to encourage and strengthen women and give them the voice they deserve. Sounds good? It starts with you.