There is conscious bias and unconscious bias, also sometimes called implicit bias. Implicit bias is bias that of which we are not consciously aware. Implicit bias leads changes in our thoughts, feeling and beliefs about the world we live in and leads to cognitive bias – or mistakes in a cognitive process, such as remembering, reasoning, evaluating or decision-making. These mistakes happen because people tend to hold their own preferences and beliefs as true, despite evidence or other information that disproves the individual’s viewpoint.
While biases can be helpful, we more often talk about them in relation to the unfair or harmful impact they have on people, such as stereotypes based on another person’s race, gender, ethnicity or religion. The world of work has been plagued with societal biases to the point of having to legislate the behavior that is expected and permissible in reaction and in relation to both racial and gender biases in the workplace. As we fast approach the lowest unemployment rate in our recent US history and painfully look to the current and future deficit in adequate talent in the STEM field, we must take pause to reflect on our current state of bias. We are all familiar with the “boys will be boys” mentality that seems to be accepted in male dominated fields. However, often these fields are stereotypically assumed to be fields that rely heavily on manual labor – trucking, construction. However, when we look closer, we must come to terms with the fact that the level of education required to enter into the STEM fields is one barrier for all people (Graf, Fry, Funk, 2018), but when layered with the bias embedded within the educational process (Herbert, 2013), and within the workplace particularly in information technology (Beasley, 2017), we must take pause to address the situation, bringing it out of its dark quiet corner and into the light.