October 15, 2018 / Member News

Reducing Bias in the Workplace

Baltimore, MD (October 15, 2018) – On September 12, the AIA Baltimore Equity Committee held their third Implicit Bias in the Workplace Series event focusing on strategies for reducing bias in the workplace. Hosted at the BCT Architects office in downtown Baltimore, the workshop was well-attended and included a diverse representation from architecture, engineering, and construction professions, and gender, age and race.
Modeled from an AIA Minnesota event, the program began with a viewing of the Google Ventures video “Unconscious Bias at Work.” Attendees then broke into small groups for discussion. Attendees were asked to commit to one of the four actions to reduce bias in their workplace, write it on an index card, and seal it in an envelope addressed to themselves. In six months, the Equity Committee will mail the envelopes back to remind attendees of their commitment.
Google’s four methods to overcome Implicit Bias were:

  1. Structure for success: Specifically define criteria for positions/roles. For example, developing structured and standardized interview questions that speak directly to the desired traits for a position.
  2. Collect data: Without data, we can’t properly evaluate performance or identify/correct biases. For example, collecting specific rather than generalized performance data.
  3. Evaluate subtle messages: Recognize micro-aggressions and overcome differences by making connections with people in the workplace that you wouldn’t normally interact with. For example, try having lunch with someone in your office that you don’t typically communicate with.
  4. Hold everyone accountable: Avoid making rushed decisions solely based on instinct. Question your first impressions, justify your decisions, and ask for feedback. For example, take the time to write down the reasons why you are making a decision to avoid acting on impulse.

The workshop provided a constructive and safe forum for discussion. It was energizing to see participants respond to the topics and recognize the work that still needs to be done within the industry. As the session was winding down, attendees expressed a desire to hold similar workshops at their own firms and continue the conversation.
Committee members had conversations with colleagues who didn’t make it to the workshops. They questioned whether they really needed the training. “Don’t I already treat everyone equally? Isn’t talking about equity making it more of an issue than it really is?” But we all have unconscious biases, and it’s because they’re “unconscious” that they’re hard to recognize. Implicit bias is a difficult concept to convey, but it’s incredibly important to recognize as it not only impacts our interactions with coworkers, but also influences our decision making.
Missed the sessions? Here are some great resources for understanding implicit bias and addressing it in the workplace:

It will open your eyes!