Everyone suffers from "unconscious bias," favoring certain kinds of people based on their upbringing, experience, and values.
You may prefer to hire people who were graduates of your alma mater, for example, or date someone with a similar family background as you.
Although hidden bias is common, it can affect hiring, promotions, evaluations, and dismissals, which is extremely harmful for companies trying to grow and diversify.
In an interview with Joann S. Lublin at The Wall Street Journal, Denise Russell Fleming, a vice president at defense contractor BAE Systems Inc., says that she tends to overlook introverts during meetings because she favors more talkative personalities. She admits that she hasn't always made the best decision because of this bias.
Fleming's example is exactly why BAE now requires all of its 1,600 middle managers and executives to take a two-hour class about unconscious bias to identify where and how the bias started.
"You don't go to a class and next week, everything changes," says Linda Hudson, chief executive of BAE's U.S. division.
Diversity experts say that training paired with other tactics, such as joint interviews of applicants, can push for faster results in bringing more women and minorities into management roles.
Since BAE began including women and ethnic minorities on interview panels for managers in 2011, the number of women and minorities in senior management positions increased by 10%, says Bridgette A. Weitzel, BAE's chief talent officer.
Several major companies are beginning to focus more on unconscious bias training, including Google and Pfizer, according to the article. Margaret Regan, head of FutureWork Institute, a global diversity consultancy, predicts many more employers and their workers will attend such training sessions in the next five years.