We’d all like to think we judge people based purely on their actions and experience, but it’s no surprise that hidden biases influence our actions.
Now a UK survey has confirmed this claim, showing many HR professionals are unaware of their own prejudices.
The surveys, designed by specialist Hogrefe Implicity for UK publication People Management, showed that more than half of HR pros are biased against overweight women and two fifths are biased against men.
The tests assess unwitting associations of gender and competence, found that men were the losers with 37% of respondents revealing a bias against them, and just 1% showed a prejudice against women.
However, overweight women were the most affected group with 51% showing a bias that was “likely or very likely” to affect their behaviour. Comparatively, just 4% showed a similar bias toward slimmer women.
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Other significant results included:
A surprising 15% of men showed a prejudice against male candidates, compared to just 0.5% of women with an anti-female bias
Nearly a quarter showed strong or very strong bias against people with a disability, and 7% of respondents showed a bias against people without disabilities
Almost three-quarters showed no bias about an applicant’s age, but those who were biased general disfavoured older workers with 5% having strong feelings against those over 55.
Unconscious bias is part of the human condition, influenced by experience, media and society. Human brains are hardwired to categorise and subconsciously make judgements about the people in these categories, even if this is in complete contradiction to consciously held beliefs.
Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the CIPD, explained: “We all carry around baggage. Getting people to understand that, and what their particular biases might be, is really helpful. It can be quite challenging at a personal level – but it’s absolutely pivotal that HR professionals get this.”
Think you're not biased? Then take PM’s quick self- test and find out – and report your results in the comments to compare with other HR pros.