STRONGER TOGETHER: Make the conscious decisions to question unconscious bias

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Last updated: 07/03/2022

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on unconscious bias in the lead up to International Women's Day which has a theme of Break the Bias this year.

By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director

Asking yourself why is one of the easiest hard questions to reflect upon.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya OShea IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Particularly when it comes to how you think and your beliefs: Why do you think the way that you do?

Is it because it’s truly what you believe, or is it habit – thoughts that you believe because that’s what you have always done?

Being able to answer this question authentically is a matter of self-awareness and education on unconscious bias.

With the theme of International Women’s Day on March 8, Break the Bias, the time to reflect, educate and grow is now.

This type of bias can take many forms, from gender, ageism, name bias, conformation bias and more, it’s often not logical and can lead to hijacked decision-making and discrimination.

Reflecting on your thoughts, language and actions can have an immense flow-on effect for a more inclusive home, community, sporting club and social group and life.  

So where do you start? Education is key to identifying these prejudices, find reliable sources which highlight various unconscious and systemic bias.

Talk to a friend or someone about what you’ve read, do you agree with it, or not? Why?

Reflection and communication are essential to change.

When it comes to gender bias, understanding the appropriate language, fluidity and scope of gender beyond the binary of male and female is crucial.

It’s why respecting someone’s pronouns is important and not assuming you know someone’s gender identity based on unrelated factors or expressions which society has unnecessarily gendered – like colours, professions, and clothes.

Unfortunately unconscious bias is often entrenched throughout our lives, when curiosity is a trait that we should hold on to from our childhood.

Be curious about why you think the way that you do and act – educate, communicate and change your language to be more inclusive, understanding and open.

IMPACT Community Services’ mission is building a caring and inclusive community through opportunities which empower people, increase individual choice, improve resilience and increase social and economic participation.

IMPACT is a member of the Diversity Council of Australia and promotes inclusivity throughout the organisation.

Creating non-bias workplaces and communities, whereby people can bring their whole-selves and be respected for their work, experiences and knowledge is paramount with benefits for individuals, business, community and society as a whole.

The reality is however that removing bias starts with creating awareness within individuals.

So I challenge you, to be curious and ask yourself ‘When did I start believing that?’ and, ‘What did I believe before that?’ When you have the answer, you have a choice.

Some may choose to remain aligned to those beliefs.

Others may decide that change is necessary.

Which category do you fall into, and if it is the latter, what are you going to do about it?

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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