Objectively it would make sense for a company to be widely diverse in areas such as gender, race, sexual proclivity and religion. In a world where customers form a multitude of various identities, would it not be economical of a company to mirror its environment?

First and foremost the pool in which a company can choose from is quite limited in regards to LGBT and ethnically diverse individuals. One can argue that to choose someone because of their minority status would thus be tokenism- so how can workplaces garner a more diverse network without passing up potentially more deserving yet less varied prospective employees?

Firstly, how is diversity beneficial to the workplace?

Perhaps akin to the old adage of ‘Men come from Mars, Women come from Venus’, studies show that men and women do in fact process thoughts quite differently. Put generally, women are shown to exhibit superior skills when it came to language and emotional intelligence, whereas men proved, on the whole, to have greater spatial and numerical skills. [1]

A study conducted by Harvard University conduced that parts of the frontal lobe, which are responsible for decision making and problem solving are larger in women whereas, conversely, men had larger parietal cortex’s which are responsible for spatial thinking and space perception. Plaintively put the male brain is structured to perceive and coordinate action whereas the female brain is attuned to analyse, intuit and then process. [2]

It is by having this wealth of perspectives on matters that a company can truly benefit from employing both men and women. A report conducted by McKinsey & Co (2015) found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have greater financial returns than that of their less diverse counterparts. [3] It is stipulated that companies with a balanced gender scale out perform more homogenous groups as different ideas, viewpoints and market insights garnered from diversity offered more effective problem solving.

Additionally the same can be said for hiring people from diverse cultures with a major incentive being that, in today’s global marketplace there is a crucial need to interact with different cultures and clients. Ultimately cultural diversity would benefit the workplace greatly as it increases the pool of resources from which a company can gather from- that of having varied perspectives on social networks, skills and insight. With the added complexities of generational turnovers, advancing technology and emerging markets, recruiting diverse talent would thus be beneficial in establishing and promoting a more productive corporate eco system. According to McKinsey & Co racially diverse teams were said to outperform their counterparts by a staggering 35%, with bi-lingual employees bringing in 10% more revenue. [4]

What is inherent bias and how prolific is it?

Inherent bias is a prejudice against particular groups that not only disfavours but detriments them in comparison to other groups. Factors such as gender, race, sexuality, height and even hair colour come into play when it comes to unconsciously favouring certain employees. For example, American studies [5] have shown that despite less than 15% of American men being six foot tall, almost 60% of corporate CEO’s were of that height or over. Ultimately taller people are innately seen to be ‘more intelligent and powerful’ compared to their shorter counterparts, averaging in approximately $789 more per inch a year. [6]

In a study cultivated by ‘Freakonomics’ a survey showed those who had typically ‘African American names’ were more often dismissed than their white counterparts despite having similar or even better qualifications. When researchers handed out ‘faux’ resumes (even to companies that seemed to be aggressively pursuing diversity) those who had predominately white names were 50% more likely to get a call back. Dividing the resumes by ‘average / highly skilled Caucasian’ and ‘average/highly skilled African American’ the average white person still received more call backs than the highly skilled black person. [7]

A favoured theory as to why unconscious bias exists is that the human brain evolved to systematically group things together. Ultimately what is intrinsic in human’s animalistic nature is to be wary of others that are ‘different’, stemming from a hard wired survival mechanism to ward out outsiders and ‘protect the herd.’ The need to feel a sense of belonging or easily categorize can often be synonymous with the need to establish an identity and thus, denigrate those who do not fit that demographic. [8]

Forming a strategy: Focussing on targeting the issue in a way that is both subtle and absolvent 

Approaching the issue of inherent bias is one that is both uncomfortable and likely to elicit a defensive response. To target the ‘elephant in the room’, so to speak, is to do so subtly and with tact. A conditioned thought is different to that of a slowly cultivated one, meaning that an initial bias can be changed if logically reasoned with.

Recently BBC hit the headlines for creating ‘minority only’ internships- that of a work placement program available only to people who were ethnically diverse. The two opposing points argued made clear sense. Argument one stipulated that, because the world seems to primarily favour Caucasian people it would thus be fair to create a program provided only for ethnically diverse persons, almost as a means to right past wrongs. The other point argued that by alienating another race (even a more ‘privileged’ one) the problem was only more exacerbated and that exclusion of any kind was a sorely misguided attempt.at fixing a problem. [9] Ideally having a diverse workplace should not be seen as being socially progressive or morally imperative but instead a business advantage. Implementing an efficient plan is best done by authoritarian figures and orchestrated in a way that is both subtle and exculpatory. It is difficult to ascertain what strategies work best when targeting this issue as there are varied leagues of people to navigate. Ultimately it must be up to those in position of a power to prepare the way in regards to this social and cultural movement.

One strategy a manager could use is to actively encourage the assimilation of all members of the work force. In groups it is much common for members of the same sex and race to naturally unify as a source of comfort and familiarity. It is important for the manager to notice and assess this problem as it can cause tension in the long run. Ironically enough when left to their own devices humans can often segregate themselves which can often prove detrimental to those who are of the minority but advantageous for males who are more likely to form a fraternity like grouping.

A difficult aspect of promoting workplace assimilation is that to do so must be done in a way that could not be conjectured as militant. One way an employer can do this is to encourage amiability and provide opportunities for all members of the workforce to get to know each other.

Another way an employer can target this problem is to survey their team members on topics regarding workplace equality and implicit bias. This can be used as a subtle way to make people aware that the problem exists without aggressively implicating them or instilling a natural defensive reaction.

Training seminars that acknowledge and encourage appreciation of group differences, and promote an egalitarian like attitude can also be used to help reduce inherent bias. This strategy can be seen as a more positive approach in raising awareness rather than using aggressive and invective techniques. However it can be argued that to make these events mandatory could also elicit resistance and hostility. [10]

In conclusion inherent bias is a prolific problem in the workplace and one that is disadvantageous. By employing diverse individuals a company will garner a series of different attitudes, perspectives and skills that would otherwise not be amassed. To combat this problem, those who are in a position of influence must recognize that implicit bias exists and is something that is both innate and cultivated. Strategies that are inconspicuous and pertinent should be enacted and cast without shame, thus ensuring new attitudes are propagated through unconscious awareness. Training seminars and encouraged assimilation are useful tactics as are regular audits of employees’ attitudes and beliefs. Additionally the benefits of having a cohesive work space should be consistently made known.

  1. Carey, Bjorn. “Men and Women Really Do Think Differently.” LiveScience.Jan. 20, 2005. (Sept. 16, 2008) http://www.livescience.com/health/050120_brain_sex.html
  2. Hotz, Robert Lee. “Deep, Dark Secrets of His and Her Brains.”Los Angeles Times. June 16, 2005. (Sept. 16, 2008) http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-brainsex16jun16,0,5806592,full.story
  3. & 4  VivianHunt, Dennis Layton, Sara Prince , Jan. 2015 http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
  4. Jan. 2008, http://www.cookross.com/docs/UnconsciousBias.pdf
  5. Judge, Timothy A., and Cable, Daniel M., “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income,” Journal of Applied Psychology, June 2004, p. 435
  6. Bertrand, Marianne and Mullainathan, Sendhil, Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on LaborMarket Discrimination, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, NBER and CEPR; MIT and NBER,
  7. 8 Jan. 2008 http://www.cookross.com/docs/UnconsciousBias.pdf
  8. VirginaHale, May 2016 http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/05/07/whites-need-not-apply-bbc-advertises-black-asian-minority-positions/
  9. National Centre for State Courts http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Files/PDF/Topics/Gender%20and%20Racial%20Fairness/IB_Strategies_033012.ashx