It was great to get together with members on 16 July 2018 for the fourth event on our ACT Diversity and Inclusion Calendar, hosted by Mark Tweedie and Citi. Calendar is a series of events developed with the aim to provide an inclusive platform for all treasury professionals to share their experience on engaging and empowering underrepresented groups in corporate treasury.
Gender matters, LGBT allies and mental health and wellbeing were our first three events in the calendar, and we felt the overarching theme of unconscious bias was a great topic for July. Unconscious bias impacts everyone’s decision making, and this isn’t necessarily a negative, however within the workplace it can have an adverse impact if left unchecked.
Becoming aware of your own unconscious bias and understanding how to mitigate its influence is crucial to making the best decisions for your organisation and team, while being an essential 21st century leadership skill.
Mark gave an excellent introduction and reflected on a number of personal insights, including the pressures put on (in particular young) men to confirm to societal pressures and bias, sometimes with tragic outcomes.
Dr Pete Jones, who runs his own business – Shire Professional, then gave a presentation on unconscious bias; to which he now dedicates all his work time. The presentation concluded with some great tips to mitigate Unconscious Bias:
- get tested – Insight into our biases can help us choose the times when we employ mitigation techniques.
- have contact – Positive contact with groups for whom we may have a bias makes it more difficult for the brain to pigeonhole people.
- use role models – Remembering positive people helps us mitigate bias.
- counter stereotypes – Suppress a stereotype about a group makes it more likely you will use it.
- perspective taking – Try to see things from another point of view.
- avoid reinforcement – Avoid pejorative jokes, removing media that promotes negative stereotypes.
- avoid triggers – We do not make sound decisions when stressed, tired or anxious.
- slow down – Slowing down key decisions with a short gap often enables our impulsive decisions to become more considered.
- challenge – We have the power to impact biases of wider groups by politely challenging when we hear biases at play.
One intriguing insight was around how the brain works and how unconscious bias does not ‘understand’ humour. This is triggered when a joke is made, the brain deep down will not ‘get’ the humour but register the content as a fact, e.g. ‘all people of x nationality are stupid.’
I then had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Robert Annibale, Global Director, Citi Inclusive Finance & Community Development, Citi, Jonathan Taylor, Senior Psychologist, Pearn Kandola, and Pete Jones. Panellists talked from their own experience and we reflected on how organisations can help address unconscious bias. Some interesting discussions ensued, helped by a very active audience. An attendee asked how organisations can encourage staff to be open in surveys, and examples were given – for instance, a government department whose transgender statistics increased dramatically in terms of reporting once they started to take action to be more inclusive of transgender people. Once people start to feel included, then they will be more open about who they are.
The shocking statistic we learnt at our January event, hosted by James Allen at Barclays, 60% of ‘out’ people go back in the closet when they join the workforce. This demonstrates the fear people have of being discriminated against whether via conscious or unconscious bias.
The evening was rounded off by some networking time accompanied by a delicious buffet with a South Pacific theme. Citi were perfect hosts for another successful event in the ACT Diversity & Inclusion Calendar.
Some event feedback:
Paul Drew, Motability Operations:
A great panel with fantastic insights into an important topic.”
Shyam Gupta, Lloyds Banking Group:
The numbers are only one aspect to Treasury. Understanding the human side to business is extremely important. Events like this place focus on this, highlighting unconscious bias we all have but need to overcome in order to lead a successful function.”
Gary Williams, MCIE (Mitsubishi Corporation International – Europe):
It brought home a good level of awareness about this sometimes-uncomfortable subject.”
Kevin Buck, BBVA:
Pete Jones was excellent – I’d love to see him at another event!”
What topics you would like to see covered next as part of the ACT Diversity and Inclusion Calendar? Email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org