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Assessing Unconscious Workplace Bias

Women in Breakbulk Leaders Offer Sound Advice on Recognizing Bias

By Isabelle Begier

Unconscious bias was the headline theme of the Breakbulk Americas 2023 Women in Breakbulk sessions. Unconscious bias refers to the attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes, and prejudices that people hold at a subconscious level, without being consciously aware of them. These biases can affect our perceptions, decisions, and behaviors in various ways, often leading to unintended discrimination or unfair treatment. Recognizing and addressing unconscious bias is crucial in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in various aspects of society, including in the breakbulk workplace. Breakbulk asked its Women in Breakbulk Advisory Council what advice they would give to someone who wants to assess their own unconscious bias.

Dea Chincuanco, president Americas, dship Carriers:
“Everyone has biases. It’s not recognizing biases that can lead to bad decisions at work, in life, and in relationships,” – an excerpt from the American Bar Business Law Section. Embracing self-discovery can be a rewarding journey, sometimes humorous, occasionally embarrassing, yet growth inspiring. Consider taking the Harvard Implicit-Association Test to uncover hidden biases and recognize your own baseline.

Isabella Canham, Project Chartering Specialist, Bechtel:
I would recommend using caution when making assumptions about situations or people. Engaging in self-reflection can help uncover the roots of these assumptions and whether they might be a product of implicit biases. Other factors that influence assumptions are culture and past experiences, so when working with teams globally, it is important to be open minded.

Tania Smith, Project Logistics Manager, S&B Engineers and Constructors:
Embark on a journey of soul-searching to identify your own biases and bring them into conscious awareness. By doing so, you can effectively manage and address these biases.

Sandra Guadarrama, Senior Project Logistics Manager, Linde Engineering Americas:
I always remind myself to maintain objectivity in the situation, avoiding the trap of letting unconscious biases interfere with my decisions. This ensures that my choices are based solely on the facts at hand and what truly matters.

Silvina Mendez, Manager of Project Logistics at Linde:
I’d start by having that someone identify their natural tendencies, both positive and negative, towards certain groups or cultures. Following this honest self-assessment, the next step is to develop a corrective path to overcome any unhealthy tendencies. The goal is to foster conscious decision-making aimed at creating an inclusive workplace that promotes a healthy environment, diversity, and various cultures.

Joyce Alexander, Logistics Specialist, Air Products:
Take a moment to reflect on your impact. What have you done for others to improve their lives, careers or even relationships? Are these others a diverse group of people from various backgrounds, or do they primarily look and think like you?

Audrey Murillo, Senior Estimator, Bechtel’s Manufacturing and Technology business unit:
I recommend “flipping the script” in order to find out if a decision is influenced by any level of unconscious bias. What I mean by it is simple: ask yourself if your decision would remain unchanged if it involved someone from a different gender, age, race… if that decision becomes weird when you operate the flip, then you might want to ask yourself why. What I like most about this strategy is that it is quick and can easily become second nature. There is also absolutely nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Joye Runfola, Logistics Principal for the Americas, Air Liquide:
Focus on the task at hand and not on which gender is doing the task. Do this not only in your professional life but also in your personal life. Stop asking your spouse or significant other for “help” around the house. It’s not “help”; it’s a shared responsibility.

Valerie Moulin, Major, Logistics Director, APR Energy:
Start by directing your attention inward to explore your thoughts, feelings, actions, and motivations. Gain self-awareness through tools like the 4-color personality test, shedding light on distinct personality types and brain chemistry. Additionally, be mindful of your reactions to individuals, news, and social media content, as they can offer valuable clues about your biases.

Wendy Rentschler, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship, DEI And ESG, BMC Software:
To uncover and address unconscious bias, a good starting point might be my curated YouTube playlist for inclusive leadership. Enroll in Coursera’s diversity and inclusion course. After engaging with these resources, contemplate crucial questions regarding inclusive leadership traits, personal courage in confronting biases, and the commitment to fostering respect and inclusivity.

Watch highlights from the Women in Breakbulk Breakfast at Breakbulk Americas 2023: