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Addressing Bias for Members of the Emerging Professionals Membership Resource Group

The Emerging Professionals Member Resource Group organized a training on Addressing Bias. Inge Woudstra, Infrastructure Masons’ Inclusion Program Manager led the group in exercises which showed which common biases cause harm at work and how to speak out when you hear them. The group then practised with real-life examples of identifying bias and how to address them in an iMasons context. 

Example Scenario #1:
“You notice that a senior leader in your company shares an idea that was originally suggested by a younger, new employee, who is less eloquent and persuasive than the leader. The idea is now well received, unlike before. “

The group identified that the underlying bias may be that we assume younger and/or less eloquent people are less capable, and therefore we are less likely to hear their ideas, more likely to interrupt them when they are speaking, and less likely to value their ideas. 

The group then discussed how – as a bystander – we might be able to interrupt that. A simple sentence such as, ‘I would like to hear more about that. Person A just mentioned it too, perhaps they would like to elaborate what they were thinking.’ – brings back the conversation to the person whose idea it was initially and is still inclusive of the person who repeated the idea. 

The group agreed it’s important to speak up, rather than let it go as – especially if it happens more often – the younger person may be seen as adding less value, which may impact the projects they are given and ultimately their career prospects. 


Scenario #2
“A leader says, ‘We have an all-male, all-White committee, but that just reflects where the talent is in this industry.”


The group identified that the underlying bias is that someone who says this seems to be assuming that only White men are talented, or only White men work in this industry. However, we know there are many women, Black and Brown people in the industry, and we also know it is possible to bring in more diversity in committees. It may take some more effort, but the benefits of having more diversity and bringing in diversity of thought are worth putting in that effort. 

First, it was discussed that confronting the person outright, may start an – often unhelpful – debate, so other options were explored. One option that came up included saying, ‘all talent?’ whilst raising eyebrows or asking, ‘Could you say a bit more about that?’. Asking more questions rather than making accusations might  help the other person to become aware of what they are implying. Body language and intonation can make a real difference in how this is received.  

The group also discussed the implications of not speaking up during moments of bias.  Not saying anything may signal agreement which will be noticed by others who could then feel licensed to do or say the same. It will also be noticed by those of underrepresented groups who may feel unseen, unheard or marginalised. Addressing bias and speaking out makes a real difference to how people feel, developing a culture where all feel welcome and valued.

Overall, the training was highly valued by all. A participant commented, ‘Often when you are younger or in a more junior position it can feel difficult to comment, but I love how we practised using humour and asking subtle questions to make others aware of bias.’

Follow iMasons on Linkedin and check the Events page for latest Inclusion event opportunities.

About the Trainer:

Inge Woudstra is the Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager for iMasons. She brings 10+ years of experience working as an independent consultant and trainer in Diversity and Inclusion.
Inge often work with leadership teams to create a strategy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), fostering comprehension and commitment to EDI.

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