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Introduction to Micro-Aggressions and Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is where you make assumptions about who should do a particular activity because of their gender. For example, if you assume that a receptionist will need to be female. Unconscious bias develops from stereotypes (overly simplified ideas about a particular type of person or group of people). Everyone has stereotypes that they have grown up with.

Microaggressions have been defined by Derald Wing Sue Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University as:

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership.”

An example of a microaggression would be asking a colleague: “When are you going to have children? You know you’re not getting any younger.” This sends the message that there is something wrong with people who don’t have children or even put someone on the spot if they are dealing with infertility issues.

Unconscious bias, stereotypes and microaggressions can turn into discrimination. To prevent this, it is essential for workplaces to change company culture, implement new corporate policies and use training to upskill employees. When implementing change, ensure your policy and training covers the law, is easy to use, is engaging, offers flexibility and is regularly updated.


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