Last month I presented an unconscious bias workshop to an organisation where the employees are required to wear hi-visibility attire as part of their company dress policy. One of the workshop participants relayed a story to me, which I found compelling in a subtle way.
One of the new female employees of the company had had to wait three months for a female version of the company hi-visibility attire. In those initial three months, the employee wore a male version of the attire to make do. When the employee described how frustrating it had been to wait so long, one of her female colleagues mentioned she didn’t know what the ‘big deal’ was. To this response, the employee explicated how uncomfortable she had been during the entire waiting period. The male version was a different cut; hence it did not fit her properly at all and was difficult to get on and off, let alone wear all day everyday.
This story highlighted for me the importance of the ‘lived’ experience. Many times we may have an opinion about something, and when we come across someone with a differing opinion we can often be dismissive of them. This is exactly what occurred in the above scenario. As diverse individuals, we each only have our own lived experience, and thus it is vital that we are consistently checking our own assumptions and opinions.
Perspective taking is a great practical tool to help with this process of checking our assumptions. I use the below tool which was created by Professor Binna Kandola (The Value of Difference: Eliminating Bias in Organisations, 2009) in many of my unconscious bias workshops. The key to getting the most out of this activity is to ensure you suspend your own views, opinions and judgements as the initial step. The other steps can be completed in a non-linear method. I highly recommend you test it out with a couple of colleagues over the next week and see how you go. Please do reach out to me directly if you want to discuss the tool in further detail.