Jenny Stanley (MD Appetite Creative and Founder Femme Niche) on lifting the lid on subconscious bias

Events, People

Subconscious bias is part of our make-up and it is simply the way our brains are wired. Humans have the ingrained ability to compartmentalize things based on past experience and we make decisions subconsciously without realizing that we have not questioned why we made that decision.

When subconscious bias is left unquestioned, we will continue to struggle as an industry to be truly diverse.

So let’s look at what part Subconscious bias plays in recruiting for our businesses, for example. We’ve all done the read through of CVs and allowed other factors beyond the actual content to sway our decision.  It doesn’t make us good or bad people. It is just something we all do without questioning why we are making a decision.

What we need to do is to work on how we override our subconscious bias and make decisions based on fact and how by doing this, we can work towards achieving higher levels of diversity within the digital ad industry.

Subconscious Bias compartmentalize things based on past experiences. We all do it. What we need to do is question our decision and ask ourselves: ‘Is the decision made based on facts?’ Generally, our first thought is based on what we are taught to think. Our second thought, if we let it, is based on fact.

It is the same for Artificial Intelligence. AI learns from what is input into their system. Take Microsoft AI Bot Tay for example. This showed how within 24 hours, Tay had learnt from users responses with disastrous effects.

A recent Femme Niche event held at Unruly offices provided an exciting, uplifting, and heartening tour of all that is good about what we can do, if we do it together.

Jenny Stanley, founder, told us of the importance of being honest and accepting that we all have our own prejudices that we need to deal with. The understanding and openness to that will then lead to better decisions. Empowering people, and allowing ourselves to understand bias and control it will be what really makes a difference.

Baiba Braže, ambassador of Latvia to the United Kingdom, talked about the fact that Latvia was one of the few countries really scoring highly on the equal opportunities scale. She told us about current trends in recruitment and how women over fifty are now becoming one of the most sought after demographics. Her attitude when having to deal with the achingly familiar question of: “what’s it like to be a female ambassador?” was both refreshing and brought to mind the spartan queen Gorgo who, when asked “Why is it that only Spartan women are allowed to rule”, responded with the laconic “Because we are the only ones who birth men.”

Heba Bevan OBE, CEO and founder of UtterBerry Ltd talked about the hardships she has faced throughout her career. She explained how she was one of only five female engineering electronics students in Cambridge, that she only had eight weeks maternity leave when working in Silicon Valley, and how she was the lowest paid yet longest-serving employee on her team. A true story of battling through corporate adversity.

Each one of these eminent speakers has experienced subconscious bias and yet has overcome any negativity and obstacles to achieve what was not necessarily expected of them. As an industry, we simply need to know that subconscious bias exists as awareness is the first step. The second and most important next step is to make decisions based on fact and re-learn that unknown is not necessarily bad.