Howard Ross: “Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments” | Talks at Google


ELIZABETH CURTIS:
I’m Elizabeth Curtis. And I’m really excited to
welcome all of you here today. We’re going to be
hearing from Howard Ross. Howard is a business
consultant who’s been woodworking
for over 25 years in the area of
leadership, diversity, inclusion, organizational
transformation. And we’re really lucky to
have him here today at Google. You may have seen his recent
article in “The New York Times” or perhaps heard him on NPR
where he’s a regular guest. He’s the author of
two books, and I’m really excited that he’s
going to be giving us a deep dive today into his most
recent book, “Everyday Bias.” How the session
is going to run is Howard is going to come up,
share a few words with us, and then we’ll open things up to
Q&A. So with that, over to you. HOWARD ROSS: Great. Thanks, Elizabeth. Hi, everybody. I’m really happy to be here. I want to start with a story. I was in Jackson,
Mississippi about a year ago. I was working with some folks at
Jackson State University, which is an historically
black college. And we were working with
the faculty and the deans down there, and I had to
fly from Jackson to New York City through Memphis that night
to work with another client. And I got to the Memphis airport
in time for the last flight out, and I got to the gate, and
as soon as I got to the gate, a woman gate attendant
comes on and she says, ladies and
gentlemen, there will be a 45-minute delay. As soon as the words
came out of her mouth, I hear this voice boom
out from behind me, you talking to us, lady? And I turn around, and there’s
this guy sitting behind me who I would best describe as
Santa Claus with an attitude, older white guy, white beard,
white hair, well fed, wearing overalls and a flannel
shirt, carrying a car magazine in his hand. So I had the guy pegged, and
I kind of chuckled to myself and went about my business
working on my computer, preparing a talk that I
was giving the next week. And it comes time to get on
the airplane 45 minutes later, and I get to my seat,
and sure enough, who’s sitting next to me
but Angry Santa Claus. So we did the nod. Those of you who travel a lot
know what I’m talking about, this sort of thing. And we went about our
business, took off. And I’m working on my computer. He’s reading his magazine. And that’s the way it went
until we got to New York, and it was time for
our initial descent. And then we closed computers,
and as travelers know, this is the time when
airplane chat starts. Because it’s now safe to
get into a conversation. You’re not going to get
roped into two hours now. And I turn to him and I say,
what’s taking you to New York? And he says, oh, I have
a professional meeting. I said, really? What do you do? He says, I’m a radiologist. So, boom, there
goes that picture. And I say, well, what
are you working on? He says, well, actually,
he gets very animated. He says, we’re doing this very
cool stuff with functional magnetic resonating
imagery where we’re looking at the
brain, and we’re actually able to watch the
brain and figure out how different parts of the brain
respond when people interact with different kinds of people. In other words, he’s
studying exactly what I’m the most interested in,
and had I not pegged him as Angry Santa the Car
Mechanic, I probably could have learned more in a
two-hour conversation with him in preparation for my book
than in three months of study. So I start with that as
part of this conversation, because I’m not here
to talk about you. I’m here to talk about us. This is what we do as
human beings, isn’t it? We all do this. We come into circumstances. We quickly evaluate
what’s going on. And then we determine
something about those people. And usually we don’t
even have the time to follow up and find out
whether that determination is true. We just simply start
interacting from there. And I know we’ve got a very
short time for this talk, and this is a topic
that we could easily take 45 days to talk about
rather than 45 minutes, but I want to– and
I’m also really aware and I want to knowledge
that the folks at Google have done some of the most
forward-thinking work on this that I know of companies doing. So I know some of
this is stuff that you may have heard in
one form or another, but my own experience
has been that you can’t hear it enough to continue
to be focused on this. So i want to just
start by sharing just a handful of very
quick studies of what we’re learning about
how this shows up. For example, we know
because research at University of
Pennsylvania and Cornell has found that basketball
referees tend to give fouls to players of the opposite
race more than players of their same race. And this is true for
both white referees and for African
American referees. It’s different degrees, but
nonetheless still the same. We know that people
make determinations of people’s credibility
based on accent. Researchers at Tel
Aviv University at the University
of Chicago found that we tend to
believe people more if they have an accent
that’s more similar to us and less if they have an
accent that’s more different, with one exception. Anybody want to
guess what it is? AUDIENCE: British? HOWARD ROSS: British. British, yeah. We tend to think people with
British accents are smarter. They not only make
great villains, they are also smarter. One of my clients
in New York has a guy who grew up in
Liverpool, which of course they speak cockney there. He called it gutter English. And he said when he goes
home to visit his family and then comes back
to New York, he says I feel myself getting
smarter every mile I fly. We also know that hand
dominance is a factor. Researchers at Max Planck
Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands
have found that we tend to make decisions
based on hand dominance. In other words, if
you’re right handed, you may be more likely
to hire somebody who’s sitting on your
right side than who happens to interview
on your left side. Makes no sense at all,
just tends to happen. And this is the study I did. I’ve got an artificial
knee, and whenever I go through the TSA process,
I have to be screened. So I began to notice that
when I was dressed in business clothing, I seemed to
be going through faster than when I was
dressed more casually, turns out about 47% faster. Now, I could go on and on,
because there are literally over 1,000 studies in the
last 10 years alone of this. We know that this dynamic
happens almost everywhere we are. So the question is, when we look
at it relative to height, name, race, gender, hand
dominance, religion, accent, in almost every kind of
human identity factor that you can imagine,
the question is not do we have bias? The question is
really, which are ours? And that’s hard for us
to get as human beings, because for the most
part, we’ve seen bias as a fundamentally bad thing. For the most part,
we’ve created this sort of bias-equals-badness paradigm. And that’s challenging for us. The very notion
that we have bias challenges us to be able to
look at ourselves in ways that are very practical. So what I want to talk
about is how that happens, why it happens, and what are
some of the things that we’re learning, we can do about
this, both individually and collectively, to create
organizations, especially where we can make
better decisions, not just so that we can
be nice to each other or sing “Kumbaya,” but
so that we can actually make good organizational
decisions and good talent management decisions. And that shows up in
virtually everything we do. Now we know that bias is a
function, a natural function of the human brain. And it happens for
a clear reason. What function does bias serve? Anybody? Why do we have bias? AUDIENCE: It keeps us safe. HOWARD ROSS: Yeah, it keeps
us safe, exactly right. It’s a human danger detector. We have to quickly determine
whether this person is somebody we want to go
towards or away from. It triggers fight,
flight, or freeze in us. And bias is as natural to
human beings as breathing. The challenge is
when we demonize it, and we start to recognize
bias as something that if we have
we’re bad people, it actually puts us
into hiding more. It causes us to not
look at our biases as much but actually
deflect from, find reasons for our belief systems. Now, this is
challenging as somebody who’s worked in the diversity
space for about 30 years. This is really challenging,
because for so long, the diversity space
has lived inside of this good person-bad
person paradigm, if you will. And we’re sort of
looking for the bad one and trying to fix them. This is what a lot of
diversity training has been, is find-them-and-fix-them
training, which is why a lot of times,
people come into diversity training like this. And even the
discourse that we have reinforces that in lots
of ways, that we advocate rather than trying to
build something together. It’s inherently problematic. And then we build biases into
our institutions as well. So what do we call
bias, for example, when we all agree to them
and even write them down? AUDIENCE: Qualifications. HOWARD ROSS: Yeah,
qualifications. That’s all qualifications are. Qualifications are simply
biases that we’ve all agreed to and written down. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s
anything wrong with them. They can be very
helpful sometimes. If you’re evaluating hundreds
and hundreds of resumes, it’s valuable to
have qualifications so that you can sort
those resumes quickly. But it’s not necessarily
particularly helpful in terms of choosing the best
person, and it intentionally and problematically
can sometimes exclude people who
are, we might call, the creative eccentrics,
the people who are outside of the
norm of what we do. So we’re going to look at,
basically, how this works and how it plays itself out. Now we know that all human
beings have built within us through our life
experience we might an internal book of rules. It happens all the time. We pick up throughout
our life certain ways that we’re supposed to be. And it’s consistent
with the things that we’ve been taught
throughout our whole life, various different kinds of
things that we’ve learned are the right way to be
or the wrong way to be. So for example– AUDIENCE: I’m Will. HOWARD ROSS: How did you
know to do that, Will? AUDIENCE: You
extended your hand. HOWARD ROSS: Right, and in our
culture, that’s what we do. And how did that handshake feel? AUDIENCE: Not so strong. HOWARD ROSS: Not
so strong, right. See, I didn’t shake
Will’s hand in the way that we usually do it
in our culture, which is kind of like a
wrestling match, you know, glad to meet you, a
little bit softer. But for the most part when that
happens– how many people here have heard somebody say
if somebody shakes hands like that with you at the
beginning of an interview, forget it, it’s over? How crazy is that? Think about it. It’s kind of insane,
isn’t it?– that we would take one thing like that. I could have a disability. I could have an
injury to my hand. I could come from
one of the one third of the cultures on the planet
where shaking hands softer is the norm. But that’s the kind
of reaction we have. By the way, your reaction,
Will, was pretty calm compared to some I’ve had. I did that with
a leadership team of a major governmental
institution, and the guy who I
shook hands with was this kind of
football linebacker guy, and he practically
fell off his chair reacting to the handshake. So we have literally thousands
of rules in our internal rule book. They’re unquestioned
for the most part. They’re not rules we
even see as rules. We just see them as
the way things are. And that rule structure
creates in our mind what we call schema. Schema are frameworks
for looking at the world, that I know you work
with in different ways, that shape the things that
we see and the things that we don’t. So for example, look at
this picture for a moment. And tell me if you can
see any discernible image in this picture. What do you see? A AUDIENCE: Bunny rabbit. HOWARD ROSS: A bunny rabbit, OK. Anybody else? AUDIENCE: I’d say it
was an aerial shot. HOWARD ROSS: An aerial shot, OK. Anybody else? a Google Map? AUDIENCE: I kind of see a bird. HOWARD ROSS: A bird. Let me make it easier for you. I’m going to superimpose
a picture over it now so you can see
the actual image. Now what do you see? AUDIENCE: Cow. HOWARD ROSS: Cow. Does everybody see the cow? Anybody who doesn’t see it yet? We could always do
a remedial session. But let me point it out to you. So here are the two ears,
the two eyes and a nose, and this is the forehead, OK? Everybody sees the cow now. Now I’m going to remove
the superimposed picture. And tell me now if you
can avoid seeing the cow. [LAUGHTER] Something that wasn’t there a
minute ago, invisible a minute ago, is now impenetrably
in our line of vision. This is the way schema works. In this case, I actually
consciously shifted the schema to one
in which you can now see something that
wasn’t there before. Now we all know this happens. We know that it happens from
the standpoint of our jobs. Everybody here has
certain schema in your job that have you see things
that other people don’t see. There are people
who shine shoes, for example, who, when
somebody walks by, are not looking at the people. They’re looking at the shoes. You or I would see
the people walking by. They would see the shoes. This is the nature of
the way schema works. It shapes what we see
and what we don’t. And if this can be true for
something as silly as a picture or as seemingly superficial
to us as a particular job that we happen to
be in at the moment, how can it not be true for
us based on these identities with live our whole lives in? Our gender, our race, our
sexual orientation, our age, the generation we come from–
all of these things are fundamentally
affecting the schema, affecting the things that we see
and the things that we don’t. And this is why sometimes
we’re in circumstances where one person
or group of people see certain things that other
people just don’t notice. So schema leads to the
formation of background. And I background in the
sense that I shape the world by my experience,
that I actually see the world
through a filter that is governed by the background
experience that I’ve had. It’s like a lens through
which we filter the world. And background
creates a phenomenon of a coloration of our
world, if you will. It’s like a contact lens
that gets put over our eyes before we even realize
that it’s there. And the world actually looks
blue to us or green to us or orange to us, depending
upon what that lens is. And we sit there and
talk to each other through different
lenses and often accuse each other of not seeing things. But the reality is,
we can’t see them, or we’re not oriented
towards seeing them unless we stop and notice
that we have this lens on. Now, somebody stops and says,
oh, you have a blue lens on. All of a sudden, I look
at that white wall color blue in a different way. It still looks blue to me, but
my awareness that it’s blue is different. So our work in trying to
understand this relative to bias is can we understand
how our life experiences have filtered the people and the
things we’re doing it in a way that when we see
that difference, it actually gives us the
opportunity to make that little mental switch, to understand
what we’re putting into the conversation
and others aren’t. John Searle, the brilliant
philosopher from the University of California says,
background enables linguistic interpretation
to take place, enables perceptual
interpretation to take place, and it actually structures
our consciousness. It actually gives us the world
that we see in a profound way. And so we’re not
talking about something that happens to some people. And we’re not talking
about something that happens to bad people. Were talking about
something that happens to people, that
this is the fundamental way the human mind works,
and it impacts us on an everyday basis, because
background creates context, and context is everything in
terms of how we see the world. And we know context
shifts things quite dramatically
and in funny ways. For example, if it’s in the
middle of winter in Washington, DC, where I live, 60 degrees
means take off your shirt and lay out and get some sun. If it’s the middle of the
summer when it’s 100 degrees, 60 degrees means let’s
get a sweatshirt. It’s cold. So context is constantly
shifting the way we see things. So let me switch for a moment. This is my granddaughter Sloane. She has nothing do
with the presentation. I just love showing pictures
of my grandchildren. No, but all kidding aside,
my second-oldest son and this family
moved to Washington, where we live, a
couple years ago. And they lived with
us for a few months while they were waiting for
their house to be ready. And Sloane came in one
night just before dinner, and she asked for a cookie,
and I said to her, of course, it wasn’t a good time to have
a cookie just before dinner. She made me promise that I
would tell you she’s nine now. And being five at the time,
she still wanted a cookie. So I put her in my lap, and in
my wisest grandfatherly voice explained to her that
it wasn’t a good idea, explained to her all the
reasons why, a little bit, in five-year-old
terms, the physiology of why it wasn’t good for
your tummy and all this stuff. And she listened
very thoughtfully and asked questions
and the like. And then I finished, and I said,
you do understand, sweetie, and she said, yeah. Now can I have a cookie? [LAUGHTER] Everybody here knows what
I’m talking about, right? We wake up in the morning. Today I’m going to eat better. And by lunch,
seemingly by itself, our hand is going like
this with something we’re not supposed to be eating. There’s something
about a dissonance between what we know
we should be doing and what we actually do, what
we know we should be thinking and what we actually think, what
we know we should be feeling and what we actually feel. And we’re understanding this
more and more in the mind. So I’m going to talk about five
basic functions and patterns of the mind that impact these
things relative to bias. One is selective attention
or inattentional blindness, projection, power and
empathy– and this is something I’m really
excited about, because some of the newest
research we’re doing is around power and empathy–
social primacy, and finally, the subliminal. Because we know that a lot of
stuff is affected subliminally. Now let’s start with this
guy, 2,500 years ago to Plato. Because how Western
thought is oriented relative to emotion and
reason comes from Plato. And there are probably
lots of other people who were thinking that,
but Plato was certainly the one who we remember. Plato, as some of you know
who remember Philosophy 101, in his dialogues of
“Phaedrus” talked about how reason was
like the charioteer who held the raging emotions
of the horses in place. And we’ve built a
culture, particularly in Western culture,
that worships at the altar of the rational. If you think about
it, it’s like, are you sure you’re being
rational about that? You sure you’re not
being too emotional? It’s really built into
our way of thinking that one is better
than the other. It’s kind of normal for
us to think that way. The only problem
is, it’s counter to what we’re learning
about the brain. In fact, over 30
years of studying emotional intelligence–
and I’m not talking about
studying it at Esalen. I’m talking about some
of the major universities in the world. We’ve learned that
virtually all of the things we do, whether making
decisions, strategy, behavior, performance, relationships,
all of these things are fundamentally
governed by emotion. In fact, human beings
are far less rational than we are rationalizing. In other words, we have an
emotional or visceral reaction to something, and
we quickly gather the data to support
that feeling. So if I meet somebody, and I
have this moment where I say, there’s something about
that person I like. Now, even that
thought that we have after five seconds
of meeting somebody is folly if you give
it any thought of all. I mean, how could it
possibly be about them? I’ve only known them
for five seconds. So obviously I’m projecting
something on to them. They probably remind me
of somebody from my past. But nonetheless,
that’s our response, and then we act accordingly. And this shows up in interviews. So let’s say Ana comes in in
the morning, and I meet you, and I have that feeling,
something about you that I like, so I ask
you the first question of the interview, and you
hem and haw a little bit. Without even
thinking about it, I say, look, I know
it’s an interview. Take a breath. Let me ask the question again. You get a second chance. Now the interview goes great. I’m making eye contact. I’m laughing at your
jokes, whatever. Will comes in in the afternoon. Let’s say it’s not even
one of those times when my sleaze alarm goes off,
although that sometimes happens, not with
you, of course. But it sometimes happens. You meet somebody,
and they turn you off. But let’s say it’s more
that I’m distracted. I just got off a
meeting with a client. And it’s still on my mind,
so I’m only half with you. And I ask you the first
question of the interview, and this time, as you hem
and haw, I just sit there, or even worse, I make one of
those quick glances at my watch that you’re not supposed to see. And now you’re sweating bullets. And based on nothing
more than that, the interview goes
two completely different directions. Elizabeth asks me the
next day, how did it go? And I say, bright,
easy to talk to. I think she’d work
out fine here. He’s OK. I have no idea,
no conscious idea, that I had anything to
do with those interviews. Is there anybody
here who doesn’t know that you do this to
people 25 times a day? Or you pass one person in
a hallway, you say hello, somebody else you don’t. Subtleties, things that
are influencing us– you interview one person
in the morning when you’re fresh at your desk. You interview a
second person, even using a structured
interviewing process, you interview a second
person over lunch, and you interview a third person
at the end of the day when you’re tired, and
you’ve actually conducted three
different interviews. Even though the
structured questions are the same questions. So we’re influenced by things
that we don’t even realize. Now, we know, and people like
Danny Kahneman and other people have taken us way ahead of this. I know that you’ve
studied this work, so I’m not going to spend a
lot of time talking about it. But we know that a
lot of this happens in the fast brain in
the limbic system. We see some circumstance
or some person. It catalyzes a
particular reaction as we filter through the
background what we see. The faster, the emotional
brain, takes over. The amygdala sends a signal
to the hippocampus and says, what is this? And then to the
hypothalamus, the sort of air traffic
controller of the brain, which sends the signal to
someplace else and then maybe to the anterior cingulate
cortex or the cingulate gyrus and says, get that
foot or leg in action. If I were to take this clicker
and throw it to somebody, your hand would
come up to catch it before you even had a thought. And this is all very important. Fast brain is very
helpful to us. It’s where stereotyping happens. We see that person. We make that assessment,
smile– friendly. Fist– dangerous. Knife above the
head– watch out. We know somebody comes up
with a knife above our head, we don’t look up and
say, oh, what is that? I wonder what he’s
going to do with it. It’s not a very
practical way to operate. And similarly, when we
see certain behaviors, we associate with that
Now, tremendously helpful, tremendously valuable,
and tremendously necessary for our survival, also
tremendously problematic in terms of making assumptions
about people at times. And this is the challenge
that we have that’s coming up. In those circumstances, do we
really know what we’re seeing, or are we reacting
to what we’re seeing? And we know times when
the mind and our eyes can even be deceiving. So for example, if you
look at this checkerboard– this is Ted Edelson,
who is at MIT. When you look at Block
A and Block B up here, which one is darker? AUDIENCE: A. HOWARD ROSS: Now, A
clearly looks darker, and as some of you were
saying, what’s the trick? But A clearly looks
darker, right? In actuality, they’re
exactly the same color. Now the reason it
looks darker is because the eyes align around
a particular expectation. The cones and rods
actually align around, and we have an expectation. Pattern recognition is one of
the most familiar functions of the human mind. And most of us are very familiar
with the light-dark-light-dark pattern of a checkerboard. It’s actually the same color,
because the shadowing area created by the pillar darkens
B and makes it the same color. This is not a computer
trick, by the way. You can test it out yourself. Dr. Edelson has this
available online. So you can look at it. So we’re making this
assumption that they’re different when actually
they’re the same. Now the fascinating thing
about this one to me is even though we now
know they’re the same, they still look different. Isn’t that extraordinary? You would think that if our
rational mind was actually leading the way,
that now that we know they’re the same that we
would see them as the same. But it’s an indication
of how we’re rooted into these very kinds
of things that trigger us in ways that we don’t know. And the same thing can
happen with people. Now even know I
know that I should treat that person the
same as I treat somebody else, my visceral
feeling about that person can still in very subtle ways–
so I know you’ve been dealing with micro behaviors, micro
advantages, micro inequities that play out through the
various ways this happens. Who do I invite to lunch? Who do I pay more attention to? We know, for example,
from the research we’re doing with power that
people in power situations tend to make less eye contact
when they’re listening and more eye contact
when they’re speaking. It shows up a lot in
male-female relationships, particularly, that men have a
tendency, because societally– it’s not a personal power, but
societally it plays itself out that men will pay
more attention, give more eye contact when we’re
speaking and less eye contact when we’re listening to women. And I’m talking now
archetypically, of course, not about every man and every woman. So these are subtleties
that can play out in ways. And then, of course, we then
associate certain things, so projection becomes
another piece of this. Projection is simply
the dynamic that has us look out
there in the world and determine what that is
based on a prior experience or prior knowledge of what
that thing is we’re looking at. To some degree, we project
in every circumstance with everything we’re doing. If I look at that form in
front of me, I know it’s a man, because in my mind, I say,
oh, that’s what men look like. Otherwise everything that we
see would be newly experienced. And we know this occurs in
the brain in the hippocampus. And how it might show up,
for example, when diversity is concerned– I’ll
use an example. I grew up in the “Leave
it to Beaver” generation. I know a lot of
you probably don’t know what “Leave
it to Beaver” was, but it was one of those
sitcoms of the ’60s and ’70s. They were all the same. Dad went off to
work in the morning with his briefcase
and a suit on. Mom stayed home and did
all the domestic chores in her pearls and
high heels I thought that was bizarre even
when I was a kid. Nonetheless, the kids would
do something mischievous, and dad would come home and
solve the family’s problems. This was the sitcom
MO of the 1960s and early ’70s, all
virtually the same. So if one grew up
in that generation, then probably on an
unconscious level, you have some association
between the role of women and domestic
responsibility. Now, you’re sitting
in a meeting, and the vice president of
production, Jane Smith, walks in. And without even thinking
about it, you turn to Jane and say, Jane, can you go check
and see if we have any coffee? Because at that moment Jane
Smith becomes June Cleaver. Now, another dynamic of this,
which is really important, is to recognize
that Jane may also herself say, let me go see if
there’s any coffee, because she may also have internalized the
responsibility of being June Cleaver. And this is really
important for us to get, that we internalize
these same dynamics about ourselves,
expectations about ourselves, as other people have about us. We’re constantly
projecting on each other. It’s one of the most
foundational pieces of the way we look at each other
as human beings. And so that’s all happening
on a fast brain level. And now we know we
also have this capacity for slow brain thinking, the
prefrontal cortex, of course, this remarkable part of the
human brain, which allows us to have thoughts like, hm,
what made me think about that? Any of us who have had dogs
and put them out the backyard know when they see the squirrel,
it doesn’t seem like they say, should I chase that squirrel? Human beings do
have that capacity. Now, we don’t always use
that capacity, of course, but we do have the capacity
to have those thoughts. And this remarkable
capacity of the human brain to have this kind of thinking
makes us extraordinary. However, when we know that
when something triggers us, triggers that limbic
fast brain reaction, that part of the brain
tends to lose its power. In fact, we can look
at that brain scans and see the blood actually
flows back to the limbic system and leaves the
prefrontal cortex. Daniel Goleman called
this amygdala hijacking. The amygdala takes
over the system. And this is where are kind
of fear reactions come from. Amygdala hijacking puts us back
into fight, flight, or freeze, sort of more basic,
instinctive reactions. Freud said that the conscious,
or the more thoughtful, part of our brain
was the iceberg, and the unconscious, the
largest part, underneath. But current research shows
that the conscious is more like a snowball on the
tip of the iceberg, that virtually everything we
do is governed by unconscious. In fact, the fast
brain probably operates a couple hundred thousand times
more than the slow brain does. So we’re constantly making
these determinations, which we’re then rationalizing. The net of all this is
that as Bucky Fuller said, 99% of who you are is
invisible and untouchable. Or as my friend
Sukhvinder Obhi, who is a brain scientist
in Canada, says, “Our brains seem to have
evolved to be good enough most of the time.” Now, this is a bit
threatening to smart people. This is why here
at Google, you have to be particularly careful
about this, because when we’ve been rewarded our whole
life for being smart, we begin to believe
and have confidence that our opinion, what we
see, makes more sense than it actually does. And I’m going to
talk a little more about that in just a little bit. So this creates diagnosis
bias, the tendency to spot things and
determine it really quickly. Diagnosis bias, we might
say, is the propensity to label people,
ideas, or things based on our initial opinions. So I want you to
imagine, for example, that you’ve got a grown son. And your son says, I’m going
to bring my love interest home, my new love interest home,
or son or daughter will say. And they say, we’re going to
bring our new love interest home. And these are the two
people whose pictures you see about possibly
being the love interest. Who would you be more
inclined to hope it is? Well, this on the left
is John Fetterman. He’s the mayor of
Braddock, Pennsylvania. That’s his zip code on his arm. He has a Master’s
degree in public policy from Harvard, served
in AmeriCorps, and he’s done amazing
things about transforming his community financially,
goes around the country now, apparently training
other communities to do this. This is Ted Bundy,
the serial killer. [LAUGHING] We make these
determinations having nothing to do with rationality. This is just who we
are and what we do. And this leads to
particular reaction. Those reactions come from
a couple different places. Amy Cuddy and Susan
Fisk and Peter Glick have identified
this in two ways. One is how warmly, how
likable that person is, and the other is how
competent we hold them. And this can show
up in lots of ways. We can feel very
warmly towards somebody and not respect them
and their competence. This happens, of course,
sometimes with people who are elderly people or
people with disabilities, that sort of thing, also
with certain other groups where we like them,
it’s just we don’t even realize because we like
them so much how much we’re diminishing them. This is where patronizing
liberalism can come from also. Or we see them as competent, we
just don’t like them so much. This is a lot what
LGBT folks face. It’s not that people don’t
think that they’re competent, it’s just that they
may be competent, but I’m just not comfortable
with them, somebody might say. So it’s important for us to
be able to distinguish that, because it gives us a
better handle on how this might play out
in different places. Another of these phenomenas
is selective attention. And selective attention
is one that we all know. In fact, [INAUDIBLE] and
I were talking recently. He said, you know, I
noticed when I found out my wife was pregnant, all
of a sudden the next day I was out and began to
notice baby strollers in a different way. And I began to go up to
people and say, tell me how come that baby stroller
has this versus that. He said, my whole
life, I’ve never had any interest
in baby strollers, but one thing happens, and boom. All of a sudden I see the
world in a different way. We know that we see that. Now, we’ve had some really
fascinating research about this. We’re doing some work with the
American Association of Medical Colleges training people
in medical schools to be more sensitive to how
unconscious bias plays out in things like
health disparities. And this study came from there. This guy [INAUDIBLE] at
Harvard Medical School sent out to radiologists a
lung scan, asked them to check for cancer
nodes, which are tiny, tiny, microscopic things. But there’s something
interesting about this lung scan. Do you see it up here? This grill is a
little highlighted so you can see it a
little bit more than it was in the original picture. You want to get really scared? 83% of the radiologists
didn’t see it. Cancer nodes are about
1/50 of that size. They were looking for this. They didn’t see this. It’s remarkable
how this happens. And it happens in
lots of other ways. Now one particular
case, a legal case that this happened in, Kenneth
Conley was a police officer who was convicted in 1997 of
perjury because he was chasing a perpetrator of a crime,
ran right past somebody who was being beaten up,
and denied seeing them. And the court didn’t
believe him, basically. He was convicted of the crime. Now, he was
eventually exonerated. Two researchers, Daniel
Simons and Chris Chabris, who some of you are familiar
with because of their gorilla, the invisible gorilla exercise
that they were very well known for, and they’ve been
really brilliantly out front of this whole
inattentional blindness conversation, re-created
the experiment. They had students
run around a campus. One student was following
another students as they were running. And the student
in front was told to touch his cap routinely. And the student behind
was told to count the number of times
they touched the cap. While this was
happening, they actually ran past a simulated fight. And then they checked how many
people actually saw the fight. They found only 1/3 people
noticed the fight at night, which was the conditions
the actual crime occurred, and only 40% noticed
it in broad daylight. In other words, when we’re
attentive to one thing, we always miss other things. We can’t see
everything, so we see the things we’re focused on. This is why so often
when we’re in meetings, one person will see
a certain something, and somebody else will say,
well, I didn’t see that. And we have a tendency, because
of that good person-bad person paradigm where
diversity is concerned, to assume that that means
that people didn’t care about it, when in fact they
just may not have seen it. So this is the nature
of how it plays out. Now we also know we’re
influenced subliminally. So for example, University
of Leicester researchers recently went into a
wine shop, actually a grocery store, the wine
department, cleared it out, put only French
and German wine on. On alternative days, they played
French muzak, German muzak, or put a French glad
and a German flag up. And then tracked
buying patterns. On days that the French flag
was up, 77% bought French wine. On days when German fly was
up, 73% bought German wines. Only 14% said they
even heard the music, and only one person
in the entire study said that they actually
thought it influenced them. Another one from medical school. At University of
Toronto medical school, they tracked the results of
medical school interviews against the weather
reports from the day that people were
interviewed, put it in parallel, found that the
people who were interviewed on rainy days received
scores in the interview as roughly equivalent
to as if they’d had 10% lower scores
on their MCATs. Nobody thinks a medical school
interviewer says, it’s rainy, I’m going to cut 10 points
off, but nonetheless. So these things are
influencing us all the time. The question is, of course,
what’s influencing us today? What’s impacting us today? And then, as I said before, lot
of the new research we’re doing is around power and
empathy, because we’re learning some
fascinating things. I’m sure that many of you know
about the findings on mirror neurons, that back in the late
’90s in Parma, Italy, in a lab, they determined mirror
neurons in macaque monkeys. They realized that these monkeys
tended to have the same brain experience when they watched
a researcher eating peanuts as when they were eating
peanuts themselves, remarkable. Marco Iacoboni at UCLA later
identified this in human beings as well. So we have this
remarkable capacity to mirror people who are
around us and to sense what’s going on around us. It creates a phenomenon we
call homophily, the tendency to love the same, to love
people who are like us. But we also know that
we have a tendency for in group/out group bias. And we’ve known this
for over 100 years. William Graham Sumner,
the first director of the department of
sociology at Yale University, determined this
way back in 1906. And we’re constantly pulled
between this tendency to want to resonate
with people and this in group/out group bias. And it shows up in non-dominant
and dominant groups. So people in
dominant groups will tend to have less
mirroring than people who are in non-dominant groups. Those in power will
tend to mirror less than those who are out of power. And that’s true
both individually, when we’re power holders
in organizations, that is, managers versus
non management, for example, and it’s also true when
we’re in power groups. So the dominant
groups in society, for example in American
society, white male Christian heterosexual, that we’ll have
a tendency to mirror less, to sense what’s going
on with people less. We also know that where
empathy is concerned, that what the research
shows, and this is research from China, from
the US, from Italy, from all over the
world, that shows us that we tend to have
less empathy as soon as we spot people who
are different from us, and the first classification
for that is race, that we’ll tend to have less empathy. Now, let’s put
this in the context of traditional
diversity training. A lot of the training that
we did over the years, and I go back way back to the
time of the early diversity training where we used to
do it with a two-by-four. A lot of it was advocacy work
or letting people understand what it’s like to be a member
of this group or that group. Ironically, what the
brain science is now teaching us is that may make us
less empathetic for the people we’re dealing with. It doesn’t mean that you
can’t control people that way. You can get people to be
careful about what they say. But to get people
fully engaged, it may be actually
counter-indicated to what we’re trying to
accomplish, maybe well intentioned, but
counter-indicated to what we’re trying to accomplish. AUDIENCE: What’s
the reason for that? HOWARD ROSS: Is because
as soon as I identify you as somebody different
from me, my empathy center begins to slow down. I can now be careful around you,
be careful not to upset you, but I’m less likely
to resonate with you. I’m less likely to actually
be fully engaged with you. And so it may be good for
controlling diversity, but may be not so good
for creating inclusion in that regard. It’s ironic, because–
at some level, it was what we needed
to do in the early days, because it’s like the sculptor
with the big block of stone. You take the big chisel
to start to do the work. But from the standpoint
of organizations who really want to create full
inclusion– and we were just talking about this
relative, for example, to when you’re working, for
example on gender dynamics, if you only work with
women in gender dynamics, you likely are not going to
get the same kind of inclusion as if you work with men and
women around gender dynamics, as an example. Sukhvinder and
his research found that it turned out
that when people were in a powerless
mindset, their mirroring system was increased. They became more sensitive
to external stimulus. Whereas people who
are feeling powerful, the mirror-neuron
activation was lower. Power, it turns out,
decreases empathy. Is there anything we
can do about this? I want to talk about this on an
individual level real quickly, and then I also want to talk
with you about systemically what are some things we’re
learning we can do about this, because we’re now working with
companies all over the world to try to have them develop
cultures that are more inclusive understanding
these issues. So the first is to understand
that the unconscious is remarkably malleable,
that we’ve got this remarkable capacity
for neuroplasticity. The notion that you can’t
teach an old dog new tricks isn’t even true for dogs. We’re constantly
learning new things. The first and by far the most
important thing of these three six ways that we’re finding
for individuals to work is to recognize and
accept that you have bias, to remove guilt
from the equation and start taking responsibility. Now this is hard, because a lot
of the diversity conversation is lived in guilt. And that’s challenging,
this notion if I have bias, oh, my God, I’m a bad person. I thought I was a better
person, but I’m a bad person. But in actuality, if
we can’t choose that, if 90 plus percent
of the things that happen every day
in organizations that differentially impact
one person versus another occur more like what I talked
about in this interview than they do because
somebody’s out to get somebody, it’s challenging for us to
accept that in ourselves and work with it. The metaphor I like
to use is it’s kind of like the clutch in a standard
transmission automobile. When the standard
transmission automobile, you step on the clutch, the
engine doesn’t stop running. It just stops motoring the car. So this is where mindfulness
work can really come in, learning self-observation work
can really come in to help us. We can begin to notice
the bias in ourselves. But by noticing it with
nonjudgmental awareness, we can say, OK,
I have that bias. I need to watch how that
impacts my interaction with this person. But that is fundamentally
built on the notion that we can create
environments in which we can talk about those biases. And we know that we live
in a cultural environment where that’s not
welcomed right now. It’s dangerous. It has legal implications,
particularly. So that can be
really problematic. And that’s why the second is
most important, to develop the capacity to– well, we
call it using a flashlight on ourselves. My friend Michael
[? Sheeser ?] coined that term, to watch ourselves in action. Are there certain people
who trigger us more? Are there certain
circumstances in which we feel a little antsy? Are there certain ways
of being that cause us to make quick
reactions more easily? And by the way, this
piece is really important, especially for
Googlers, because you’ve got so many smart people here. How much does intelligence,
confidence, and success matter to this? Well, actually what
the research now shows is that people who are
intelligent, successful, and highly confident are
more likely rather than less likely to have blind spots. The more you feel like
you’ve got this handled, the more dangerous it becomes. It requires an enormous
sense of humility, and I say this all the time to
my colleagues in the diversity space, that we
have to be careful that we don’t come in like
our stuff don’t smell, like we don’t have this issue. The reason I started
with the story about myself and the
angry Santa Claus was because even though I’ve
been doing this for 30 years, I’m still just as susceptible
to bias as anybody else is. Now hopefully we
can get to the place where we can notice it
more and embrace it more. But as you take this
work out, you’re going to have to be careful that
all the great work you’ve done doesn’t reaffirm, OK, now
that we’ve got this handled, we don’t have to
keep looking at it. And this is particularly
challenging in environments like yours. It requires us practicing
constructive uncertainty, to really take a pause. Rollo May, the
great psychologist, said, “Freedom is
the capacity to pause between stimulus and response.” So we’ve created
this little mnemonic. The P is to Pay attention
to what’s actually happening beneath our
judgments and assessments. And then the second is to
Acknowledge your own reactions, interpretations, and judgments. The third is to Understand
other potential reactions that might be there. And then to Select
the one that’s the most empowering
in the environment. And finally to Execute that. So I go back to Will
and my handshake. He shakes my hand,
and its softer. He says, OK, I noticed
his handshake is softer. I notice that I have
a tendency, let’s say, to interpret that as weakness. I’ve got to be
careful about that. He could have an injury. At that moment, he’s now
thinking from here rather than from over there. That’s a moment of freedom. That’s when we have the moment
to make a determination, potentially, about what’s
going on with that person. To explore awkwardness and
discomfort– those times when something’s off, rather
than to back away from it and search to comfort, say,
what’s triggering me here? What’s making me uncomfortable? The fifth is to
engage with people you consider to be others and
expose yourself to exemplars. So this is really interesting. Brian [INAUDIBLE] and
Calvin [INAUDIBLE] at the University of
Virginia just last year issued a paper
where they studied a whole host of
attempts that people had to soften the
impact of bias and found that this was by far the most
valuable one, the things you have on the wall, the
images that you see, the various kinds of things
that reinforce what’s good, what’s not good. This is why things like
Black History Month are so valuable still, even
though they would be a lot more valuable if the 11 months
weren’t White History Month, and if we didn’t choose
the shortest month of year to be Black History
Month, which has always been kind of interesting. But those kinds of things
do reinforce a softening or a shifting of those biases. And then finally, giving
and getting feedback– and I know that you’re working
a lot on that in your culture right now, that being
able to give feedback. But it’s important
that that feedback be given in a compassionate
way, and that is with an understanding that
that person’s behavior may not have been intentional,
especially where diversity issues are concerned, because
if that feedback reinforces the finger-pointing
aspect of it, then it just drives it
back underground again. People begin to go into hiding
rather than simply engage in that behavior. And the last piece as
we look at the group is understanding social primacy. I mean, we’re all familiar with
Maslow’s hierarchy, I’m sure. Abraham Maslow 70
years ago said you had to get basic needs met
before you get other needs met. He said physiological
needs met first then safety and onward,
brilliant model, tremendously helpful to science. It appears that he
may have been wrong, that in fact our need
for belongingness may be a key human need. And it makes sense if you think
about a newborn baby can’t get their
physiological needs met unless they belong to somebody. The first imprint that
we have as human beings is, I only exist because
he or she exists. And this is core
to us, this sense. And in fact, what
science is now showing is that being
excluded from group triggers activity in the same
regions of the brain associated with physical pain,
which is why every time one of these horrible instances
happen, whether it’s Columbine or Sandy Hook or this terrible
thing that happened in Southern California a couple months
ago, what’s the first word you almost always hear to
describe the perpetrator? AUDIENCE: Loner. HOWARD ROSS: Loner, exactly. It also probably
contributes to the fact that four times as many gay
teenagers commit suicide, because it gets internalized. And so we have to
recognize that how we operate as a group
has a huge impact on us. And this is why what
you’re taking on, training the entire
organization, could have a huge impact. We have to change
systems so that we’re thinking from a
systems perspective. Now, just to give you an
example of that, a lot of you know that in 1970,
5% of musicians in the major orchestras
in the world were women, and even after 1980, after 10
years of the women’s movement, it was still only 12%. But now it’s getting
close to 40%. And why is that? Because orchestras
around the world put in a whole host
of activities designed to change the way they did that. They opened up
auditions to people. They changed the way
auditions were calibrated in terms of the
numbers of people who are on the listening team. And they also did
something structurally, which is to have musicians
begin to audition behind screens and on rugs so
that people could only evaluate the music rather
than the musician. Well, you can begin to
do things like that. On the other hand, we have
to be careful to understand, to track things over time–
how many people here have heard if the Scared Straight program? Anybody? Scared Straight was
initiated in the late 1970s in Rahway, New
Jersey, in a prison. They started bringing in young,
what they called in those days juvenile delinquents– we now
call them youth offenders– bring them in with
tough prisoners. And the tough prisoners would
scare the hell out of them and tell them, we’ll do
this to you and that to you if you come into prison. And they’d leave and you
could see them on film. “60 Minutes” did a piece on it. You’d see them and
they said, I don’t want to go to prison.
[MOCK CRYING] So great, everybody started copying
it. “Orange is the New Black” even had an episode about it. 25 years later, they
evaluated these programs. Do you know what they found? 13% more likely to go to jail. [LAUGHING] Now, my hypothesis
about this, because I’ve worked with a lot of
young people like that, is that most of
them feel powerless. And their bravado is on top of
that feeling of powerlessness. You put somebody who feels
powerless in with somebody who’s the toughest
SOB they’ve ever seen before, their
internal mechanism says, if I act like that,
then I’ll be safe. So we have to be
really careful as we put these things in place. So what we’re
starting to look at is three basic ways of
doing organizational change around this. The first is priming. What kinds of things
do you have people look at before they come
into a circumstance? So for example, before
people look at resumes, take a few minutes
and say, I want you to answer these
eight questions. Does this resume
remind you of anybody? Is that a positive
or a negative memory? Is there something
about his resume that jumps out at you
particularly strongly? Is that really
relevant to the job? Does this person remind
you of yourself in any way? Is that relevant to the job? So questions that
begin to orient. Now there’s two things. First of all, it
actually gets you to look at the resume
in a particular way. And by the way, all of this
follows some basic education work around this issue. But secondly, and
more importantly, it reminds me, wait a second. I’ve got to pay more
attention to the evaluator than I do to the resume. And just that recognition, that
awareness, is really important. So there are dozens of ways
that we can look at priming and have started to
work with our clients around priming so that they
come into these questions, into these various structures,
in particular ways. The second way is to look
at systems and structures. So we just saw a
good example of that. When you have people
do their audition behind a screen, that’s a
different system or structure. Where interviewing is
concerned, for example, do you use structured
interviewing but also conduct interviews in the same place
or at the same time of day? Before you do the interviews,
do you give people, potentially, the questions that they’re going
to be asked so that people who are introverted versus
extroverted, or people who come from different
cultures, or for whom English is their
second language, aren’t at a disadvantage in
terms of quickly responding to those questions. So we can look at all
kinds of ways to do that. The third is, of
course, accountability. And that is, what
are we tracking? What are the numbers
we’re tracking? Kohneman said, “The
odds of limiting the constraints of
biases in a group setting rise when discussion
of them is widespread.” So that you’re talking
about it a lot actually will encourage people to
take it more seriously. Now, if that becomes
yeah, yeah, yeah in the background,
that’s the problem. The problem is, how
do we keep talking about it in new
and different ways? How do we keep keeping
it fresh for people? Because at some point, it
becomes like the wallpaper. You look at the
mountains out here, these beautiful
mountains, and most of you probably don’t even
notice them anymore if you’ve been coming
here every day, because they become like the
wallpaper in the background. And even though they were
extraordinary and beautiful the first time you saw them, at
some point they’re just there. So we have to keep this
conversation fresh. So we’re looking at a
whole range of things. We look in talent
management, how do we recruit, outsource,
interview, hire, onboard, mentor, and sponsor,
performance review, calibration, recognizing talent, developing,
promoting that talent? What are the things
that contribute to all of those kinds of things? We’re looking at
the various ways that people operate internally,
interpersonal interactions, collaboration, leadership,
team functionality, creativity, and innovation. How does it contribute to
all those kinds of things, and finally to the external
relationship that we have? And in each of
these areas, you can begin to put in
place little tweaks. One of my colleagues in Europe
calls them inclusion nudges, a little nudge that
has people looking in this direction
or that direction so that we can begin to
say, OK, let’s stop and look at this process. Now, in order to do that,
we’ve got to slow down. We’ve got to build pauses
into our processes. We’ve got to be able to ask,
is this process actually doing what we think it’s doing? Are there factors here
that are influencing us that we don’t know that
are influencing us? And this is, of course,
anathemous sometimes to most American
business cultures. You see, even if we do all
of this, we’re in danger. Even if we put all the
right systems in place, we can be in danger of
not being very effective. I’ve struggled with my
weight my whole life up until the last few years. I’ve been 30 or 40 pounds
heavier than I am now. And if you look at the weight
chart for most of my life up until about three years
ago when I became vegan, it’s been like this. And during all that
time when I was heavy, I knew everything there
was to know about dieting. I promise you, I read
every diet book there was. I tried every fad diet
there was, and not like it’s that hard anyway. You eat less and you
exercise more, right? I’m sure everybody
here has something like that in your
life, something you know you should be
doing but you don’t do. There’s something beyond
developing strategies. And that is developing new
awarenesses for the way we think. This is what you
have the capacity to do here in what
you’re trying to do with your unconscious
bias process, and that is to really
shift our way of thinking. It’s scary to us
as human beings. Because if we really understand
what this stuff is teaching us, it’s that we can’t
trust the way we think. And that’s a scary feeling
for us as human beings. We want to go towards certainty. We want to go to thinking
that we know what we’re doing. So I’d like to end
with this picture. This is a picture of an
Aspen forest in Colorado. Because for me it’s
a perfect metaphor for who we are as human beings. I’m sure many of you have
seen these Aspen trees. They’re remarkable. They’re 80 to 100 feet tall and
there are thousands of them. They stay ramrod straight on
these beautiful mountainsides. And there’s something really
remarkable about Aspen trees. And that is they’re not
individual trees at all. The Aspen forests are the
largest intact organisms of the world. The largest one in northern
Utah is 80,000 trees, one plant connected by
a common root system. For me, it’s a perfect metaphor
for who we are as human beings. We can look at these identities
as if we’re different, and we do have different
content on our identities. We do have different experiences
in our life and different ways our identities shape our world. But at an underneath
level, at the root level, we basically relate to
the world very similarly. And if we can remember that as
we’re dealing with each other and bring compassion to
each other in that way, our opportunity to
really understand how we see the world
becomes very real for us, and the ability to work
together, create organizations where everybody can be
effective, becomes possible. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: So I was
just wondering, did you stay in
touch with Dr. Santa? HOWARD ROSS: No, unfortunately. I was so stunned
that I didn’t even think to do– I was just
sort of– in fact, instantly what I did is I
started judging myself. I can’t believe you
did this after 25 or 30 years of doing diversity
work.You’re still doing this. And then by that
time, he was gone. But it was one of those sort
of moments, if you will. AUDIENCE: So you had
a slide up there about how different races
affect empathy. HOWARD ROSS: Yes. AUDIENCE: Have there
ever been studies done on does the type of like
the differences in races, like different
types of races, how that affects the
amount of empathy? Or is it just– HOWARD ROSS: How it affects
that what of empathy? I’m sorry? AUDIENCE: How much, like
the differences in empathy, like how much you empathize
with someone else. Is there any studies on
the different types of– HOWARD ROSS: Oh, you
mean in other words does one race trigger
empathy less than others? AUDIENCE: Yeah, exactly. HOWARD ROSS: I
don’t know of that. But my suspicion would
be, based on my experience of working with
this in other areas, is that it probably relates
more to your own background and how those racial
dynamics showed up in your particular
community or the structure around you when you grew up. So if you grow up
in an environment, let’s say in the United States,
where the race conversation has most dramatically
been defined between black and white, it
probably is stronger there, which is one of the
reasons why Latinos and Asians and Native
Americans, for example, often feel left out of
that conversation. Because we tend to
look at the extremes. But we do know that race is the
first thing that the human mind responds to when we look at each
other, which really makes sense if you think about it, because
gender, for example, almost everybody has had some intimate
relationship with somebody of the opposite
gender, but many of us do not necessarily have any
kind of intimate relationship with somebody of
the opposite race. So it’s the first
identifier that we see, and therefore the first
protective reaction we tend to come up with. The other thing is
that, of course, because of
internalized bias– we used to call it
internalized oppression. It’s now often called
stereotyped threat. We internalize the messages
about people like us. For example, when they do the
implicit association test, they find that if you do
the implicit association test between whites and
blacks, that something like 75% of whites will
more positively associate with whites than blacks,
but a majority of blacks will also associate with
whites more than blacks, because they’ve internalized
the same negative stereotypes about people like them. So the key here is to
recognize that even when we’re good people and we
think we’re being fair, we may have a tendency to
have less identification. And if we put this in the
context of the Fisk and Cuddy work warmth and competence,
the way that cam show up is, I may have warmth for you,
but my empathetic response may not be in being sensitive
to the competence you bring to the conversation. And this is hard
for us, those of us who are progressives
and see ourselves as really progressive
on this issue. I tell you, my
experience has been that working with organizations
that see themselves as progressive is sometimes more
challenging rather than less challenging around these issues,
because we identify as seeing ourselves as the good people,
the ones who have this handled, and are
less likely to be able to look at
things in ourselves. Whereas when we go into really
conservative organizations, they say, I don’t know
anything about this. Teach me what to do. They are very clear
that they haven’t paid any attention to this. And so that’s why organizations
in progressive-thinking organizations like
Google have to especially keep your nose to the
grindstone, so to speak, in terms of
continuing to develop that mindfulness
around this topic. Because our success,
our competence can blind us to the places
we still have work to do. And this is not a
place we get to. It’s a like exercise. You never get there. If you build it into your
life on a regular basis, you know that it will
maintain your health, but if you think
you’re just going to exercise until you
get yourself into shape and then stop, you know
how that works out. Seems like at my age, two
minutes later I’m out of shape. AUDIENCE: One of the largest
concerns with diversity training is the
potential for backlash, especially among individuals
who feel like they are not benefiting from the training. HOWARD ROSS: Yes. AUDIENCE: So given this concern,
what are some recommendations that you would recommend
when giving diversity trainings to ensure that
it is something that is inclusive for all employees? HOWARD ROSS: Yeah. It’s a great question. And it goes back
to the point I made before about sort of the
traditional diversity training, which has largely
been aimed at people, certain groups of
people, particularly people who look
like this, frankly. Diversity training is
to teach white guys to be more inclusive,
more whatever. I’m Jewish, and I
know Jewish people who rail against
anti-Semitism and make a questionable racial comment. I know African Americans who
rail against racism and then make a homophobic or
heterosexist comment. I know LGBT folks who
rail against that and then make a questionable
comment about immigrants. We’ve all got something
going on with somebody. And I think one of the
things we need to do is to speak to the
universality of that. That doesn’t mean that all
biases are the same, because we know that there’s certain biases
that are systemically supported by society or by an
organizational system. And so even though
an individual may have prejudice
against somebody else, it’s different to
have a prejudice than it is to have a bias
or an -ism, as we might say, which is systemically supported. But this is why it’s
so important for us to remove this sort of good
person/bad person fixing mindset. One of the reasons
that people are hesitant to get involved
in diversity work– there’s a powerful sense of
diversity fatigue out there– is
because so much of it feels like people are having
their finger waved at you. And you’re being told
to be a better person, and I’m here to fix you. And so things like inviting
people from dominant groups into these conversations,
building a strong business case, getting people to see. It’s much easier– when I
started doing the work close to 30 years ago now,
we didn’t have data. Now we have data to
show that research shows that you get more
diverse people, you get better innovation, you
get better problem solving. Research shows that the
market shares are shifting, and we know these
demographics are changing. You need to reach
that market share. So it’s pretty easy to
build a business case now and to get people to realize
this is not for those people. It’s for all of us. And that’s got to be a
constant conversation. And then the second piece
of that is, for those of us who are practitioners, when we
get that resistance, when we’re sensing that resistance,
rather than point fingers at the resistors and
say, why are they resisting? To start asking
ourselves the question, what are we doing to
contribute to that resistance? What can we do
differently to invite them into the conversation? Because it’s very easy–
and I’ve been there before. You feel sometimes like
you’re beating your head against a brick wall
when you’re trying to get people into
the conversation. But it’s very easy to
make them the problem. But the reality is, we must be
contributing something for them not to be welcomed
into the conversation. And so to find ways
where we can get more folks into the
conversation so that it’s not one group talking
to another group but rather a collective group
sharing it with everybody in the organization
or the system. ELIZABETH CURTIS: All right. Well, thank you so much for
being here with us today. HOWARD ROSS: Great. Thank you. ELIZABETH CURTIS:
Howard is going to stick around
for a little bit. He’ll be signing books right
out here if you’re interested. And thanks for joining us. HOWARD ROSS: Great. Thank you, everybody. [APPLAUSE]

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