Facebook wants to help companies be better at diversity, even as it’s trying to do the same internally. The company today announced that it will be sharing the training it provides to its employees to the outside world to help others manage unconscious bias.
Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote, “One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have … and organizations which consider themselves highly meritocratic can actually show more bias.”
What exactly is unconscious bias? Although the term has been around for a while, it recently came to the forefront on the heels of the sexual harassment lawsuit brought forth by former Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao against her previous employer, venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. It can also be referred to as “second-generation discrimination” and may often be associated in evaluating the performance of men and women in the workplace.
For Sandberg, managing unconscious bias aligns with her philosophy of “Lean In,” which aims to encourage women to move forward with their careers and press ahead against opinions or obstacles that stand in their way.
But some might think that Facebook is putting the cart before the horse: Its own statistics show that it hasn’t made that much progress in the diversity front. The company is made up of 68 percent men, with 55 percent being white. However, it did see a bump in the number of Asian people that have joined, as well as women in non-tech jobs, but those in tech positions rose just one percent.
Facebook isn’t the first to try to open up diversity in the tech industry. In September, Google experimented with a workshop called Unconscious Bias at Work. In a promotional video about the workshop, then-chief technology officer Megan Smith said, “We fill in the blanks because our brains are wired to do that.”
On the “Managing Unconscious Bias” website, viewers will find several videos, including a welcome from Facebook’s vice president of people, Lori Goler. Other videos will focus on the four common types of biases Facebook sees, including performance, performance attribution, competence/likability trade-off, and maternal bias. The last video on this site takes a look at what people can do to counteract unconscious bias.
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