UK Markets closed

A leading social psychologist explains how companies can help employees reduce their bias

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

One of the best ways to prevent people from acting upon their unconscious bias in the workplace is to slow them down, according to Professor Jennifer Eberhardt, a renowned Stanford University social psychologist and leading expert on race and inequality.

Speaking on Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show, Eberhardt said while many companies have rolled out implicit bias training, often those programmes are not rigorously evaluated on their effectiveness.

“You want to combine that training with other things, like changes in practices and policies,” she said. “The training on its own is probably not going to do much, but if it’s combined with a change in practice, you have a much greater shot at making real change.”

People are more likely to have their decisions impacted by bias when they are acting quickly. Hiring managers, for example, only take around six seconds on average to review each CV submitted for a new role, Eberhardt said.

Watch the full Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt Global Change Agents interview here

“You don’t have a lot of time to really carefully evaluate, so you’re looking for patterns, you’re looking for certain things, where you’re using heuristics to figure out this applicant goes in the reject pile, or this is somebody you should take a look at,” she added.

On the subject of CVs, earlier in the show, Eberhardt cited a 2003 study by US labour market economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan looking at the effects of racial bias on the job application process. The pair answered more than 1,000 job ads in local Chicago and Boston newspapers with 5,000 fictitious CVs, using names that were stereotypically black or white. The CVs had the same credentials and experience.

The paper, titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal,” found the applicants viewed to be “black” were half as likely to receive callbacks from recruiters than those with white-sounding names.

“Now we’re talking about ways that companies can slow people down who are working within their system,” Eberhardt said. Companies are also looking further into the interview process to analyse the speech and non-verbal behaviours for the effects of bias, she added.

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.