My sister shared the following riddle based on implicit bias with me last week.  If you are free from bias, good luck 🙂

The Riddle

A man and his son are in a terrible car accident and the father dies.  The boy is rushed to the hospital and in need of surgery.  Once in the operating room the doctor comes in, looks at the boy, and says “I can’t operate on him; he is my son!”.

How can that be?  Who is the surgeon?

Was the answer quick and natural?  (The surgeon is the boy’s mother).  I wish this was not a riddle, but since it is let me explain why.

Characteristics of Implicit Bias

We subconsciously create feelings and stereotypes based on broad-based characteristics such as skin color, facial shapes, apparel, beauty, cleanliness, body type, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, and more.  Each of these characteristics can lead to a subconscious prejudice.  Most of us do not knowingly act on stereotypes or consciously think about them, but subconsciously they influence our decisions and actions.

Financial Independence

Let’s move past the riddle and relate implicit bias to our financial independence journey. Even more specifically, let’s look at the role of landing a great job.  A critical step in finding a new position is submitting your resume.  And what you may see as insignificant, is important; I’m talking about your name in big bold letters at the top of the resume.

The Proof

Your name triggers a subconscious action; it leads to assumptions on ethnicity, skin color, facial shapes, gender, and religion.  No big deal, right?  Most, if not all companies are supposed to be equal opportunity employers.

There have been multiple studies performed on equivalent resumes with different names.  The names containing minority racial cues, such as a distinctively Asian or African American, led to 30-50% fewer responses*.  This is not something the hiring company is trying to do; these are equal opportunity employers.  The hiring managers and those reviewing the resumes are not aware of their implicit biases or that they subconsciously filtered the resumes.

The Test

A healthy first step is to strengthen your personalized implicit bias awareness through the Implicit Association Test.  The test is free and associates specific characteristics with traits that you may or may not have a bias towards.  The test does not care about our honorable intentions, only our actions. (I know this firsthand; you can see one of my test’s results at the end of this post).

10 Actions to Help You with Implicit Bias at Work

Learning about your own implicit bias is great, as it allows you to begin seeing it in others.  Here are 10 quick actions you can combine with your knowledge of implicit bias that can help you get a job/promotion, or help combat your bias at work:

Combat their implicit bias

  • Dress to impress, specifically when you are making a first and subconscious impression.
  • Order second at dinner and replicate the dish of the person with whom you want to connect.
  • When submitting a job application in a white dominated culture “whiten” your resume to increase the odds of a call-back.
  • Ask questions and listen to the answers. Explore areas of mutual interest and force them past your superficial characteristics.
  • Exercise and work to stay fit. Thin and healthy people are perceived to be smarter than fat people (Beauty Bias).

Combat your implicit bias

  • When hiring or looking for a teammate, gain an edge by calling qualified candidates with unique names. (They are overlooked by competitors).
  • Understand the perspective of others, expedite the process of moving past surface characteristics.
  • Utilize data analytics, machine learning, and facts in your processes and decision making.
  • Find safe and diverse environments to spend your time, get to know people who break stereotypes. This will naturally break your own implicit biases.
  • Discuss your own implicit biases with others so everyone can learn to identify, overcome, and combat together.

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Implicit Bias Research

US Government Accountability Office – 1% of 70 Trillion

women or minority owned –

Implicit Association Test – Harvard

Implicit Association Test – Wikipedia

Why Do Skilled Immigrants Struggle in the Labor Market? A Field Experiment with Thirteen Thousand Resumes. – Resume Field Test Study

Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination – Resume Field Test Study

Discrimination in the Credential Society: An Audit Study of Race and College Selectivity in the Labor Market – Resume Field Study

* Whitened Résumés: Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market Sonia Kanga , Katy DeCellesa , András Tilcsika , Sora Junb – Implicit Bias Study

20 Facts about Inequality – Stanford

Understanding Implicit Bias – Ohio State University

Understanding Implicit Bias – Thought Co

Implicit Bias Overview – Very Well Mind


Implicit Association Test Results

Stephen’s Euro vs African IAT results:

Everyone’s results: