Training to tackle “unconscious bias” against disabled job applicants by recruitment staff at IT firms has been launched by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
The institute is to receive £18,000 of funding from Royal Academy of Engineering to support bias training after signing up to the academy’s Engineering Diversity Concordat. The training is aimed at tackling unconscious bias affecting disability, race, sexual orientation, age, obesity and gender.
About 300 BCS specialist group and branch committee members will be trained initially by the end of 2015, with the intention of ensuring those key individuals spread the learning more widely throughout the institute’s membership.
“We are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests”, Rebecca George, chair of the BCS policy and public affairs board, told E-Access Bulletin this week.
“Unconscious biases are simply our natural people preferences but this can lead to us making poor decisions, particularly around recruitment. It means that we are less likely to recruit people who do not look or sound like us, and this can lead to a workforce which doesn’t fully represent the demographics of society.”
Examples of action to tackle bias include removing names and photos from CVs and training interviewers in guarding against unconscious bias, George said.
“The first step is to help individuals become aware of their own unconscious bias which can be done through self-assessment”, she said. “Our aim is to raise awareness of unconscious bias through research, case studies and explanations of what it is, as well explaining the gap between explicit and implicit bias.”
To illustrate the urgency of the IT profession’s need for such traning, George quoted diversity analyst Tinu Cornish, a psychologist at consultancy Different With Difference, who has said: “At the current rate of change it will be 2080 before we elect a representative government, 2085 before we close the gender pay gap, and probably never before we close the disability employment gap”.