On Tuesday, March 26, I got to see plenty of examples of unconscious bias. In one meeting a man sat around impatiently while women cleaned up around him. There was the woman who didn’t invite some people to another meeting because she made judgments that they wouldn’t come because of personal issues in their lives. And there was the clerk who kept reminding a Hispanic woman how much a purse costs and asked the customer if she had ever been in this type of store before.
It would have been uncomfortable, except for one thing: This was all part of a program called Check Your Blind Spots, a tour made possible by CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to improve diversity and inclusion within the workplace in the country. According to the group, research shows that diversity increases creativity and innovation, promotes higher quality decisions, and enhances economic growth.
I caught up with the bus at Texas Christian University, part of a two-day stop in the area. Speaking of diversity, the TCU stop included a reward at the end – a visit to a local food truck, The Beignet Bus, and a free gift of coffee and beignets, the tasty Louisiana concoction.
The exhibit uses virtual reality and interactive stations that allow participants to learn a bit about what it’s like to be impacted by biases and also to see examples of unconscious bias in everyday life. One exhibit, called Look Through a Different Lens, used gamification and a digital viewfinder and allowed participants to watch an interaction between co-workers setting up a work-related event and then identify moments when unconscious biases are demonstrated. I scored pretty well, missing only one of the moments when unconscious bias was taking place. It was pretty effective.
Launching in the fall of 2018, CEO Action will make 100 stops across the country delivering interactive sessions, educational materials and creating space for participants to reflect on real-world experiences and how unconscious biases can impact business.
During the TCU stop on March 26, I talked for a bit with Aisha Torrey Sawyer, the TCU Diversity and Inclusion Program Director, a new position at the university aimed at increasing diversity among the faculty and student populations. The program is included in the curriculum.
The tour bus, Sawyer said, is a tool to teach students about biases. “We all have bias and this tour helps us understand and acknowledge those,” she said. .”
One of the companies that is part of the CEO Action group is professional services giant PwC.
“We’re seeing unconscious bias education become an increasingly critical tool for diversity and inclusion strategies, but not all companies are equally equipped to roll out the training,” said Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC and chair of the steering committee for CEO Action. “As a lead signatory, PwC is investing $10 million over the next twelve months to create the Check Your Blind Spots mobile tour and help organizations build the inclusive environment employees are not only asking for but deserve.”
Scott Moore, PwC's managing partner for the Texas market said the tour is a great opportunity to start a conversation about diversity and inclusion. “We’re a big believer that if we sit down and have a conversation, in the end it will make things better. The tour helps you start that conversation.”
They should include The Beignet Bus with every tour stop. I can say this without bias: Contemplating diversity, unconscious bias and inclusion while downing those sugary concoctions was a very pleasant experience.
Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.
CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion
The Beignet Bus