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Understanding and unpicking unconscious bias

Understanding and unpicking unconscious bias

15 July 2019

OUP recently welcomed writer, broadcaster, and award-winning social advocate, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, to hold a talk on unconscious bias for employees. The talk was run by OUP’s Women’s Network, which aims to facilitate the career progression of women in the organization by holding events, workshops, and networking opportunities.

Yassmin is a Sudanese-born author, broadcaster, social advocate, and digital influencer with a background in mechanical engineering. After working in traditionally male-dominated environments at the start of her career, she became an advocate for the empowerment of women, young people, and people of colour.

During the talk, Yassmin shared her experiences of working on an oil rig, and how she came to realize that women were marginalized in both engineering and other industries too. She also shared her insights on how unconscious bias can be tackled by individuals and organizations alike: ‘All of us, whether we like it or not, hold biases and shortcuts in our mind. We can’t necessarily undo them, but we can acknowledge they’re not all true and real, and we can rewire them and pause them in their tracks. What’s required is humility to say "I am prone to bias," but I am willing to choose the way that I think about the people around me. The opportunity is there for us as individuals to challenge those biases, and as a society to build systems and processes that take out those biases.’

Yassmin’s talk took place on the same day that OUP launched the US pilot of its Global Inclusion programme as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion. The programme—which aims to help employees understand and unpick unconscious bias to promote a culture of inclusivity and diversity—is due to be rolled out to other markets later this year.

Yassmin shared some final words of advice: ‘We need to think about culture add, rather than culture fit. You also need to take chances on people who are from different communities. I got to where I am because people took a chance on me. Everyone has the capacity to completely change the life of someone by doing that.’

Cassie Buckley, founder of the OUP Women’s Network, added: ‘Yassmin was both an inspiration and an absolute pleasure to host at OUP. Many of our colleagues have already taking her insights back to their teams, bringing us all closer to achieving our diversity and inclusion ambitions.’