Speaker spotlight

Tina Varughese
Diversity and Inclusion Expert

A culture of diversity and inclusion brings positivity, profits and purpose to an organization. In achieving that, business leaders and industry professionals need to understand what is unconscious bias and how it impacts on their work. Tina Varughese, Diversity and Inclusion Expert, closing keynote speaker at Private Markets Virtual Forum, answers questions on unconscious bias:

1. What is unconscious bias and how does it impact the professional environment?

Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is when we form assumptions, attitudes and stereotypes about other people without being conscious of our own behaviours. Having unconscious bias does not mean we are racist nor discriminatory, however, can have impact and implication in professional environments when it comes to recruitment, retention, employee advancement and even inclusion.

2.Can you give examples of unconscious bias that people may not realize these actions are?

Many of our unconscious biases are shaped and influenced over time. Without our own knowledge we may have an unconscious bias against someone with a strong accent assuming that they won’t be able to connect with potential clients. Due to this bias and without understanding and awareness we may ‘screen out’ a potential employee without giving them opportunity to be ‘screened in’. This may lead to missed opportunities at the workplace that may impact organizations’ productivity and profitability.

3.How will a diverse and inclusive workplace contribute to increased productivity and bottom line?

Diverse and inclusive workplaces is much more than race and gender diversity. It has more to do with diversity of thought and perspective. When we can bring our authentic selves to the workplace and offer our thoughts openly and honestly without judgement, workplaces become more productive, creative, innovative and inclusive. Statistically speaking, they also become more profitable. According to the McKinsey Institute, one of the leading authorities in diversity statistics, by increasing ethnic diversity within organizations, organizations may experience an increase in outperformance by 35%. By increasing women in leadership positions, firms will notice an increase in performance by 15%. By embracing a diverse and inclusive environment it’s not just the right thing to do- it’s also the more profitable as well.

4.For industry professionals who may not realize they have certain unconscious bias, what’s your advice for them to minimize the impact on their work?

Awareness, education, understanding and empathy are key to understanding if you have unconscious biases. To be frank, we are not born with biases. Biases are shaped over time. In order to minimize the substantial impact unconscious biases can have at the workplace we need to understand the lens that we see the world through. We need to become conscious to what we’ve been unconscious to for a very long time. (John- note- I edited this question as most people are not aware they even have unconscious biases soI reflected this in the question)

5.How do organizations create an inclusive environment in which everyone from diverse backgrounds feels comfortable and motivated?

Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are much more than implementing multicultural potlucks where someone brings samosas and another brings perogies. Organizations need to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion is part of their organizational purpose as a company. Diversity, equity and inclusion needs to tie into every goal/mandate a company has. If organizations can manage this then employees will tie their own talents and contributions to the organizational purpose of the company where everyone is seen, heard and acknowledged.

Tina Varughese will deliver closing keynote address on “Mitigating unconscious bias for optimal business performance” at Private Markets Virtual Forum