Seminar on Unconscious Bias Addresses Department Efforts to Increase Diversity

Graphic illustrating diversity

All people hold unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups that can affect the lens through which they view other people, data, and more. Erica Monasterio, co-chair of the Diversity in Action Committee (DIVA) in the UCSF School of Nursing, led a seminar on unconscious bias for members of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB) on Sept. 9.

Unconscious bias is often incompatible with one’s conscious values, Monasterio said, and can arise when people are busy, distracted, tired or under time pressure.

Monasterio encouraged DEB faculty and staff to be aware of the potential impact of unconscious bias on daily interactions and professional decisions.  The Implicit Association Test (IAT) are often used to help recognize such biases. Knowledge of one’s unconscious biases is the first step in changing one’s thinking and behavior, she said.

Using the example of admissions committee decisions, Monasterio recommended committee members take IATs prior to evaluating applications and hold decision makers accountable: “What did the applicant pool look like and who was admitted? If the ethnic mix of admitted students is not the same percentage as the pool, why not?” she asked.

The seminar, one piece of a larger commitment to make the department a welcoming place where people from diverse backgrounds can thrive, was sponsored by the DEB Diversity Committee.

The DEB Diversity Committee was created in January 2016 out of a desire to increase understanding and effective collegiality within the department.  More information about the Diversity Committee is available here.