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Hilary Devey's Women at the Top - Ethnic minorities

Updated Thursday 23rd August 2012

In this video, diversity consultant Binna Kandola and Dr Judith Baxter, senior lecturer in applied linguistics at Aston University, talk about unconscious bias and ethnicity

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Dr Judith Baxter, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at AstonUniversity

I think potentially the kinds of constraints that we see on women trying to make their way up the corporate ladder may well be true of ethnic minorities too.  And that’s simply because, like women, they are very visible by their minority status and therefore they do come under greater scrutiny.  And as soon as people come under greater scrutiny they become much more self-conscious, more deliberate in their behaviour and therefore less relaxed, and so that’s going to be reflected in the way they speak and interact, and in the way they perform.  So I think certainly it’s a transitional thing, both for women and for ethnic minorities, but it is something that we could probably see with anybody who’s in that kind of position.

Binna Kandola, Diversity Consultant at Pearn Kandola

An unconscious bias is a bias that we’re not aware that we have.  And a definition of unconscious bias is that it is an unconscious, misleading cognitive tendency.  It’s a way of thinking which leads you to the wrong conclusion, which we’re not aware of.  The bias is, I mean the research on unconscious bias shows that it comes from a number of areas.  One is actually a neuropsychological research, it shows that we just notice people who are different, and noticing the difference actually does mean that we start to exaggerate the way that people behave.  So we kind of say that the men are more like this and women are more like that; in reality though they may be far more similar.

Another way that bias occurs is through the way we perceive and interpret what’s in front of us.  We perceive things and interpret them in line with our own beliefs.  So if we think that women are emotional we will pick up on all of the information that tells us that women are more emotional.  If we think that men are more rational, we actually attend to that information more, so it confirms the beliefs that we have.  And the third area is actually the way we socialise with one another.  We tend to socialise with people who are like us, but that then means that for example that women are more likely to be excluded from senior level networks and organisations.

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