Diversity and Inclusion Session, Breaking the Unconscious Bias Habit

Thanks to the generous donors of the Doing a World of Good campaign, the AIChE Foundation funded the Understanding Unconscious Bias in the Workplace sessions at the 2018 Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety in Orlando, Florida. The dynamic panel was organized by AIChE’s Women’s Initiatives Committee, Minority Affairs Committee, Young Professional Committee, and the Management Division.

On Tuesday, April 24, attendees were educated on the belief systems, principles and learned stereotypes that influence their actions and or decisions when interacting with other peers. Two of the sessions focused on identifying and challenging unconscious (or implicit) bias in the workplace. The opening workshop was led by Cynthia Murphy-Ortega (Chevron) and Sindia Rivera-Jiménez (University of Florida). Rivera-Jiménez reviewed the basic concepts related to these biases, examined strategies to identify one’s own biases, and raised awareness of how unconscious biases manifest themselves, influence interactions with our work colleagues, as well as with people in the world.

Murphy-Ortega introduced the workshop by defining 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 or reject” those attitudes and prejudices.

Following the workshop, an invited panel joined session attendees in sharing stories of unconscious bias in the workplace and in their everyday lives. The 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.

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