When You Ignore Unconscious Bias, You Ignore Diversity and Inclusion


Hassina Obaidy



Unconscious bias creates barriers for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Such biases can have a significant impact on recruitment, promotions, and retention. So, when you ignore unconscious bias, you’re also ignoring diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

Companies that are working towards building an inclusive company culture across cultural differences could significantly strengthen the effectiveness of the organization. If your company is developing strategies to help solve diversity, inclusion, and belonging, you must also make unconscious bias a priority to recognize and tackle.

Defining the terms

  • Unconscious Bias: In The Drama-Free Workplace book, unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, means that “all humans are wired to function on auto-pilot when necessary and as a result, we sometimes have to make assumptions.” While these assumptions are usually harmless, they can also be damaging or dangerous to an individual.
  • Diversity: A range of human differences, but not limited to, race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, age, physical ability, social class, veteran status, religion, political beliefs, and more.
  • Inclusion: The act or state of being included in a group setting or structure.
  • Belonging: The feeling of comfort within a place or situation.

While these culture dynamics relate to each other, they’re not the same. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging always seemed to be lumped together, and companies tend to view it as one issue.
Separating each culture issue makes it easier to strategize and solve. So, if you neglect one of these issues, you’re ignoring all of them.

Diversity is important, but it’s just a stepping stone

Diversity is a numbers game for many companies because it’s easy to measure; it’s simply a headcount. Once companies get more women and people of color in the door, for example, they’re considered a truly diverse company. Diversity is just a stepping stone that won’t necessarily move the needle until employees feel welcome and included. You can’t retain your top talent if they don’t feel a sense of belonging.

After companies hit their goals to hire diverse talent, inclusion and belonging seem to be forgotten. Companies today can’t afford to ignore it. According to a McKinsey report, “Gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide,” yet inclusion is still neglected. So, how does this happen? Unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias is normal and unintentional

As humans, we naturally connect with and are more open to people with similar backgrounds and cultures. We spend most of our careers in companies that include people with a similar culture to share with. Unknowingly, we tend to be biased against people with a different background and sometimes even make unnecessary assumptions about them. Unconscious Bias doesn’t provide an opportunity to accept “others” because it isolates diversity and inclusion. The first step is to recognize and accept that unconscious bias is actually happening in a diverse workplace. Then, build strategies to ensure the company is hiring and retaining diverse talent, without any bias. Check out The Drama-Free Workplace book to learn how companies tackled unconscious bias with practical strategies to recruit and retain talent.

Inclusion and belonging makes a company truly diverse

When employees are not biased against individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives, or other cultural differences, those individuals feel included and valued for who they are. According to research, “Employees who are able to bring their whole selves to work are 42% less likely to say they intend to leave their job within a year.”

Additionally, employees who feel included and a sense of belonging will increase their productivity and motivation to help the business thrive. For example, voicing their opinions, an invitation to after-work events, or accepting new ideas are just a few ways that individuals can feel like they belong in the workplace. Research states that “highly diverse teams were twice as more likely to both make better choices and also deliver results that met or exceeded expectations.”

A genuine sense of belonging is built on mutual trust, respect, and collaboration within your teams. You can’t have a diverse company if you don’t trust your unique employees and what they can bring to the table. How is your company creating a sense of inclusion and belonging? Connect with us on Twitter and Linkedin and share your story with your peers.


diversityinclusionunconscious bias

Hassina Obaidy

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