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Unconscious bias – is the corporate playing field as level as you thought?

By James Larter

Posted 13/12/2018

Unconscious bias is nothing new but the drive to improve awareness is certainly on the up.

We’ve been working with a wide variety of clients to help shift unconscious bias into conscious thought, promoting more balanced decision making, and the impact has been very positive.

Using forum theatre techniques, our skills coaches, who are all professional actors, play out scenes involving unconscious bias in the workplace, some exaggerated for clear demonstration and others more subtle to test wider levels of awareness.

The scenes are carefully scripted to accurately reflect the workplace, making sure that participants can easily relate to the simulated scenario and quickly engage with the need for change.

By working closely with participants to challenge and adjust the demonstrated behaviours, our skills coaches help to identify how comments and decisions might be perceived by others, exposing unconscious bias which is so often overlooked.

In so doing, they move the audience to consciously think about the consequences of their decisions, their choice of language and their actions; shifting from unconscious exclusion towards conscious inclusion.

Unconscious bias and associated leadership behaviours

One client specifically wanted to explore the imbalance of women in leadership roles within their organisation; particularly why on a board of 12 was there only one female?

Is it an unconscious bias on behalf of their female employees, that they didn’t think it was worth applying for certain roles? Or are the decision makers, responsible for promoting staff, unaware of an unconscious bias, which means that half the talent pool is being overlooked?

Although it’s very hard to reach definitive conclusions the process of raising awareness was extremely thought provoking with over 90% of attendees rating the course as good or excellent. There was also notable recognition for the need to support and highlight emotional intelligence when working with others.

We believe that forum theatre is a particularly powerful technique to clearly demonstrate what unconscious bias looks and feels like, and therefore a very effective means of raising awareness and understanding in any organisation.

If you’d like to explore how it could help your organisation present a level playing field and make sure the best people, with the best skills sets are in the right roles to take your business forward, please get in touch  – we’d love to work with you.


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