Identifying and Managing Unconscious Bias reflection

M. Suzanne Clinton, DBA, SPHR, UCO College of Business — 

Overview and Reflection

On April 28, 2020, from 1-2:30, I attended “Identifying and Managing Unconscious Bias” with Lt. Wayland Cubit.  Since I teach Principles of Management and Organization Behavior, I was quite familiar with the terms Lt. Cubit used, their definitions, and their role in the workplace.  What I thoroughly enjoyed the most were the examples, statistics, and personal stories he provided.

In several of my classes (Principles of Management, Human Resource Management Organization Behavior), I teach a lot about cultural differences, but generally, our discussions revolve around Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions (individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (social hierarchy) and masculinity-femininity (task-orientation vs. person-orientation, long-term orientation, indulgence versus self-restraint).  I loved Lt. Cubit’s example of serving as a police officer and stopping the folks for TPing the neighborhood, thinking that they were committing a crime of importance.  His concern was short-lived once a fellow officer explained to him the existence of TPing as part of the culture, sense of community, and even social status in the area.  What a fun story to relate to students!  However, given our current situation of COVID-19 and the national run on toilet paper, it was almost painful to see the picture of the TPed trees and yard!  Interestingly enough, COVID-19 will now always be a part of our history and culture.  Anyway, back to Hofstede, I will use this story as an introduction of students to culture before moving into the study of the differences in cultures that we conduct at the following website: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/

In Principles of Management, I teach that we consciously try to manage others’ perceptions so that they will have a good first impression of us.  Lt. Cubit talked about this very phenomenon and called it “covering.”  He cited statistics of those who admit covering:  83% of LGBTQ, 79% of African Americans and Hispanics, 66% of Women, and 45% of White Males (Pew Research, April 2019).  The white male statistic was what I found most interesting.  Colleagues and I have discussed the almost inappropriateness of white males to express their opinions on so many things, given the elevation of the importance of diversity in the workplace.

My class also discusses conscious and unconscious biases. Implicit bias gained the forefront of attention due to the rise in the number of deaths of African Americans by the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, and many other American cities.  This situation was another thing that Lt. Cubit discussed, with the example of his granddaughter wanting her Frozen cup rather than her brother’s Spider-Man cup.  He could have completed changed the course of events in his kitchen if he had just known what his granddaughter’s problem was!  I thought his story of being asked how we could prevent such occurrences in cities such as Oklahoma City was quite interesting and showed the forethought of our metropolitan leaders.

One of my most favorite Lt. Cubit quotes was about the young African American female on an international exchange who said that once overseas, she finally became unaware of her race.  How enlightening, yet heartbreaking.  I could say that I had a similar but opposite experience when I was traveling in India to recruit students for UCO.  I traveled with Dr. Epstein.  No matter where we went, he and I were the center of attention because of our (compared to them) extreme whiteness and the fact that we both have gray/white hair!  Indian children wanted their pictures taken with us.  They wanted to feel our skin to see if our skin felt like their skin.  They wanted to touch our hair.  While touring through a beautiful palace, more than one group of Indian tourists asked to have their picture taken with us.  I also had a little Indian toddler walk up and hold my hand.  She was so young and beautiful.  I could only guess that I was the whitest white person that she had probably ever seen!  As if we had not already displayed our whiteness, our hosts took us to ride an elephant.  You do this without your shoes on, so our neon white/pink feet drew even more attention.  It was only as a result of these experiences as a stranger in a strange land in India that I was able to possibly gain a small bit of understanding of what those of other races might experience when not the majority.

One of the methods I use in class to teach cultural differences and its impact on business is a group/team role play for a cultural simulation. I use this role play to provide students with an active learning experience since many have not been outside the United States.  In this simulation, the class is divided into four groups, which, in the end, HAVE to strike deals to provide land, labor, infrastructure, and hospitality to prepare a country for hosting the Olympics. Each group is given a set of rules based on Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions (that they must follow and by which they must behave, but no one can share any of their information with any of the other groups, no matter what. To make things fun, at least one (and in most cases many) of group A’s rules (e.g., must serve everyone food) are in direct opposition to Group’s B (e.g., can’t take food from males), C (e.g., can’t take food from females) and D (e.g., at all costs, take NO food from anyone). As I am sure, you can guess, hilarity ensues. At the end of the exercise, when everyone has given up because all groups are at a stalemate because they can’t make one centimeter of progress with the other groups, the group exercise ends.

Artifact:

Having heard Lt. Cubit’s lecture, I think that I will incorporate additional assessment measures.  In addition to assessing student learning with exams, I think I will include a reflection paper on the Cultural Simulation.  For this reflection, I will use the Sentence Stems that Dr. Christy Vincent taught us about during her Service Learning Workshops. Specifically, I will provide the students with these stems to respond to:  I learned…; I was surprised…; I’m beginning to wonder…; I rediscovered…; I now better appreciate…; I feel…; I promise to…; I have become skillful at…; I uncovered a question about…; I changed my mind about…; I was proud of the way I…; and I think I will…

I researched some possibilities for assessment, and I have included them in this reflection.

Implicit Bias https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

Anti-Bias Behavior https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Personal-Self-Assessment-of-Anti-Bias-Behavior.pdf

Cultural Pursuit Assessment

https://www.uh.edu/cdi/diversity_education/resources/activities/pdf/diversity%20activities-resource-guide.pdf

Conclusion:

I thoroughly enjoyed Lt. Cubit’s lecture.  It made me think, so I got a lot out of it.  I want to make sure my students understand the importance of managing unconscious bias, and I think the reflection activity and the assessment activities I included as part of the artifacts will be able to show that students learned.

 

Note: This reflection and artifact satisfies the 2nd Faculty Learning Outcome on active learning strategies in the UCO 21st Century Pedagogy Institute.

Leave a Reply