Sessions Focus on Breaking the Unconscious Bias Habit

Panelists at the “Real Stories of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace” session. From left: Kevin J. Edwards, (Bechtel Infrastructure), Cynthia Murphy-Ortega (Chevron), LaRuth McAfee (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Bill Byers (CH2M Hill), and Sindia Rivera-Jiménez (University of Florida).
Panelists at the “Real Stories of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace” session. From left: Kevin J. Edwards, (Bechtel Infrastructure), Cynthia Murphy-Ortega (Chevron), LaRuth McAfee (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Bill Byers (CH2M Hill), and Sindia Rivera-Jiménez (University of Florida).

On Tuesday, April 24, attendees at the 2018 Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety in Orlando, Florida, gained insight into the belief systems and learned stereotypes that influence their actions and decisions when interacting with other people, at two sessions devoted to identifying — and challenging — unconscious (or implicit) bias in the workplace.

“You don’t fit the box I want to put you in, so I don’t know how to think about you.”

The opening workshop — led by Cynthia Murphy-Ortega (Chevron) and Sindia Rivera-Jiménez (University of Florida) — reviewed basic concepts related to these biases, examined strategies for identify one’s own biases, and raised awareness of how unconscious biases manifest themselves, and how those biases influence interactions with our work colleagues, as well as the way we interact with people in the world around us.

Murphy-Ortega introduced the workshop speaking about unconscious bias awareness as a tool for improving diversity and inclusion in work settings, noting that diversity and inclusion is not simply about having everybody in the room, but rather about engaging everybody in the room.

Rivera-Jiménez introduced concepts related to the bias habit, along with strategies to “detect, reflect on, and reject” those attitudes and prejudices.

Following the workshop, an invited panel joined session attendees in sharing their stories of unconscious bias in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Panelists included Bill Byers (CH2M Hill and AIChE’s 2004 President), Kevin J. Edwards, (Bechtel Infrastructure), LaRuth McAfee (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Cynthia Murphy-Ortega. The panel was moderated by Sindia Rivera-Jiménez.

The Understanding Unconscious Bias in the Workplace sessions were organized with assistance from AIChE’s Women’s Initiatives Committee, Minority Affairs Committee, Young Professional Committee, and the Management Division.