Unconscious Bias Training Doesn’t Change Employee Behavior

Google, Airbnb, and Pinterest have all adopted employee training to combat unconscious bias in an effort to eliminate hidden prejudices in the workplace against women and minorities. But it doesn’t mean that the programs are successful, said Laura Mather, the CEO and founder of Unitive, a company that sells software for making recruitment, hiring, and promotions more efficient and blind to bias.

“Studies have shown that unconscious bias training doesn’t change behaviors,” she said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “It’s surprising considering how data driven Silicon Valley is.”

The technology industry has come under fire for hiring practices that leave many minority groups significantly underrepresented. White and Asian men dominate while African-Americans, Hispanics, and women are in relatively short supply, according to demographic data published by a number of companies.

Furthermore, in the past year, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have all been hit with gender discrimination suits. Executives at virtually all major tech companies have pledged to do better, but progress has been slow.

Vivienne Ming, the co-founder of a education technology company, Socos, said the solution is “a blend of data, training, and practice.” For women, “The tax on being different is massive,” she said.

The total cost of bias to women over their careers in lost wages and missed business opportunities for companies is $300,000, Ming said. The impact is huge.

“The difference is that the taxes we pay [as U.S. residents] pays for building bridges and roads,” Ming said. “The bias tax is actually a loss in economy.”

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