Tackling Unconcious Bias for Real Change








Blog by Rachael Saunders - Head of Communications- Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity

The Eliminating Bias symposium on the 6th June, generously hosted by HSBC, saw members of Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity come together to work through how to tackle unconscious bias in people, and how to tackle bias at an organisation wide level.  We convened a broad range of expertise, with  speakers from PwC, HSBC, Pearn Kandola, State Street and the Home Office, and sessions facilitated by Gillian Shapiro of Shapiro Consulting and Jean Balfour of Bailey Balfour Consulting. 

The event was opened by Kathryn Nawrockyi, acting Director of Opportunity Now, who set out the reality of bias as it exists every day.  Nicole Sucha-Basra of HSBC then described their award winning Inclusive Leadership programme. 

Dr Gillian Shapiro ably facilitated a discussion with Sarah Churchman of PwC and Nic Hammarling of Pearn Kandola about the award winning work they have done together to make real change at PwC through work on  unconscious bias.  Nic spoke about the importance of the psychological robustness behind the work.  Sarah described ways in which people were pushed to make change and do something different, as a way of driving organisational culture change. 

The afternoon session was opened by Sandra Kerr OBE, Director of Race for Opportunity, who set out the work of Race for Opportunity on tackling bias, specifically in the recruitment process.  Pauline Mill of State Street then set out their outstanding piece of work on inclusion.  Listening to Pauline, it was very clear that engaging middle managers is not easy, but vital to create real culture change.  Johanna Keech-Jowers of the Home Office then set out the process they went through to achieve change, including their very clear business case.

The open conversation sessions were there for those who were at the beginning of their work on tackling bias, and those who had made some progress and used the opportunity of being with peers to work through challenges they were facing, and think through their next steps. 

Tackling bias is a key part of achieving the shift in organisational culture which is so vital to creating diverse workforces.   One clear message from the day is that making individuals aware of the own biases, although important, will never be enough.  Organisations like HSBC, State, Street, PwC and the Home Office are taking action that means individuals make real change, and organisations achieve a shift in how they operate.