Does Unconscious Bias Training Alter the Perception of Managers in an Engineering Company when Recruiting Women?

Published: 2021-07-07 18:26:08
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Dissertation chapter
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Chapter 1: Introduction

Background to the problem

Rockwell Automation is a company in the industrial automation sector and operates in two segments (Rockwellautomation.com, 2017):

Architecture & Software

This segment includes control and information platforms, software applications and automation components (Rockwellautomation.com, 2017).

Control Products & Solutions

This segment consists of motor control products, solutions and services (Rockwellautomation.com, 2017).

The current scenario at Rockwell Automation globally is that the ratio of female to male employees in management roles is less than 25%.

Figure 1: Ratio of Males and Females in management roles

Recruitment decisions could be attributed to unconscious biases, hence leading to skewed decisions. At Rockwell Automation it has been proven through surveys of the population of female employees against male employees in addition to the percentage of females in management that there could potentially be an unconscious bias. The biases allow employees to think and act quickly, but they can also result in less inclusive and equitable organizations (Rockwellautomation.sharepoint.com, 2017).

The consensus is that women working in tech-intensive industries face significant barriers to advancement, including the absence of female role models and vague evaluation criteria (Beninger and Rineer, 2016).

In order to help combat this, employee resource groups were formed at Rockwell Automation called Professional Womens Councils (PWC) in several regions. This report will focus mainly on Europe, Middle East & Africa region (EMEA) which was formed with an objective to enhance the professional development of women, and engage men (Mackey Jones and Baker, 2016).

Furthermore, a half-day course for global people managers to potentially help managers recognize biases when making talent decisions, identify their impact, and intervene when necessary will be devised. Actions will be developed to practice conscious inclusion to mitigate the impact of bias in interactions and decision-making (Rockwellautomation.sharepoint.com, 2017).

This brings the report to the definition of unconscious bias, which is an implicit association and/or an attitude that operates beyond the control or awareness of a person, triggers informed perceptions of people or a social group and can influence the decision making and behaviours towards the particular target of the bias a person may have (Greenwald and Banaji, 1995). These individual behaviours can create barriers in making changes, especially within senior leadership who are seen to influence the workplace culture (Ministry of Womens Affairs, 2013). The research shows that peoples perception of gender is a powerful determinant of workplace attitudes (Ministry of Womens Affairs, 2013).

Problem StatementRockwell Automation must try to battle the biases to deliver inclusion (Grey, 2016). Historically, companies have expressed reluctance to accept the biases associated with their recruitment process. Contrarily, diversity statistics derived from the law firms clearly shows that the senior levels of the industries are slowly becoming homogenous (Steinpreis, Anders and Ritzke, 1999). The unconscious biases have proven to be the cognitive blind spot for most individuals. This is although the management may not desire to consider making a biased decision when recruiting. However, the failure to fully recognize the fact that organisations can carry biases signifies the harsh reality that they inevitably will fail (Steinpreis, Anders and Ritzke, 1999).

Therefore, the bigger problem derived from this research and illustration of the current scenario at Rockwell Automation is to identity the barriers to having more women in the workforce. The main region where women are low is in the EMEA region. Subsequently, through the formation of the PWC, a spotlight has been shone on senior management to support the initiative and report on whether conduction of unconscious bias training would cause employees to reflect on their recruitment choices and be more conscious of their decisions prior to making a decision.

This proposal will be further funnelled to focus on the hypothesis of whether unconscious bias training at Rockwell Automation will help senior leadership to understand the biases and in turn consider ways of eliminating distinctive features from written applications to improve the chances that candidates are given full and proper consideration without prejudice (Grey, 2016).

Research ObjectivesThis deliverable will be centered on doing a research and a qualitative study with the senior leadership members who have undergone the unconscious bias training and whether there is an effect on their engagement in the recruitment of a diverse workforce in the EMEA region. The major focus will be on how unconscious bias can cause unmatched effects on the process of hiring and the best ways of minimizing any of the resulting consequences (Giang, 2015).

Research DesignNumerous strategies can be used in counteracting bias within the organisation. The major way of eradicating bias within the organisation is to carry out training programs aimed at sensitizing it. Through it, one will not just know what is meant by unconscious bias, but also the impact it has on the process of recruitment and the best ways of building strategies to help with counteracting it (Gilmore, and Williams, 2009). The following are also some of the significant results associated with the training process:

Developing an understanding of what diversity means and the best ways of applying, it's within the organisation that is under your management (Arnold et al., 2016).

Initiate proper ways of assessing the company for elements of cultural and organisational diversity (Arnold et al., 2016).

It helps managers to develop clearer knowledge of the most appropriate practice to use when recruiting diverse candidates (Sheridan et al., 2010).

Makes the manager know the best real inclusion to consider in the organisation. It does this through the building of a platform to help with supporting the recruitment efforts by the organisation regarding diversity (Castilla and Benard, 2010).

It helps the managers to learn some given skills relating to sourcing; this includes searching for ethnic, genders and diversity with age (Sivabalan, Yazdanifard and Ismail, 2014).

Nature of the data to be collectedAt Rockwell Automation, a feedback sheet is provided at the end of each training for the participants to evaluate the training. The data for this research will be collected via asking the participants of the study to resolve a recruitment case study.

Enquiry MethodsIn a bid to settle on the best ways of reducing unconsciousness within the organisation, the following methods of research will be preferred:

Interviews

Surveys

Qualitative assessment

Limitations and Ethical ImplicationsUnconscious bias has been known for its role in limiting diversity within the workplace. Just like any other organisation that conducts its operations virtually, the corporations today have their set of problems to deal with to ensure that they continue to operate as smooth as possible (Henneman, 2014). This case highlights the following sets of problems that the worlds corporations must deal with in their attempt to make their presence known across the globe. It does not matter if an organisation is located in the United States, and has various locations in other parts of the world including North America, Europe, Latin America, and even Asia; it will always showcase struggles with regards to unconscious biases, which negatively affect the recruitment process by the organisational management (Sivabalan, Yazdanifard and Ismail, 2014).

However, since the organisation goal is the same, all the employees in the numerous local and international corporations in the world today need to work together in a set up that limits unconscious bias in the workplace (Henneman, 2014). These are different individuals with differing cultural orientations and backgrounds working on the same course, hence working in a setup such as a virtual setting needs a stronger mental setup that will help with overcoming issues relating to unconscious bias (Heilman, 1980). The most obvious challenge in this scenario will be that of fostering trusts within the virtual teams (Jacobs, 2015). What an organisation will inevitably struggle in its attempt to ensure that trust is built among the virtual teams and companies is a key challenge that will determine either its success or failure (Thompson and McHugh, 2002). It will be very tough for the employees in various continents to trust their colleagues, given the fact that they are not even located on the same site and the evident belief that one may develop that these unseen people may not be sharing a common goal (Gilmore and Williams, 2009).

The second challenge will be ensuring that the organisation can maximize its process gains as it minimizes the process losses of the teams that are virtually connected. The difficulty in fostering an active cooperation among the associated teams because of the absence of a face to work working environment, which makes some individuals to develop unconscious bias (Thompson and McHugh, 2002).

Finally, the other challenge will be in overcoming the emotional state of feeling segregated and objective. For instance, most of the employees, who are located in Western countries; with the majority being in the United States, and a good portion in Europe, will tend to develop unconscious bias towards their counterparts whose origins are in the developing countries(Hutchinson, Whittle and Rouncefield, 2014).

The issue of unconscious biases during recruitment needs a prompt addressing to aid in improving organisational performance (Dolan, 2015). There are practical ways on how effective organisational structure can be of great help to a company. The first case is leadership, which can be of importance in advocating for change in an organisation. Managers are the key subjects, and the ways they implement changes in an organisation that was going through challenges tend to be given enhanced scrutiny (Baba et al., 2004). Leadership is a s...

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