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Hidden Biases – Uncovering Barriers to Workplace Diversity

Several research studies now highlight the importance of workplace diversity. In addition to promoting creativity and innovation, primary benefits of diversity in the workplace involve productivity and performance. But wanting workplace diversity and realizing it can be a challenge. Why? Mainly because hidden biases abound and interfere with efforts to promote workplace diversity. Despite firms’ best efforts, bias in the workplace continues to undermine creation of inclusive cultures. Unless businesses can identify the sources of these hidden biases, workplace diversity will continue to remain elusive.

Current Efforts Toward Workplace Diversity Aren’t Working

Hidden Biases - Uncovering Barriers to Workplace Diversity

Hidden Biases in Workplace Diversity Infographic

For several decades now, businesses have employed workplace diversity programs to promote inclusive environments. Unfortunately, the returns on these programs are consistently poor. In a Harvard Business Review report, the three most common workplace diversity programs have results in lower rates of minority and women managers, not higher. While other reasons exist, managers cite hidden biases managers as being the most common cause. While diversity training seeks to eliminate bias in the workplace, the effects are short-lived. These types of training programs teach participants to answer questions correctly. But they don’t reduce hidden biases undermining workplace diversity.

Why Are Hidden Biases So Difficult to Alter?

What is meant when biases are described as hidden biases? In essence, this means they exist in our unconscious. In other words, we are not typically aware of hidden biases. According to Google’s estimations, the human brain process over 11 million pieces of information at a given time. However, our conscious mind is only aware of 40 pieces of this information. In an effort to unconsciously process all this data, our brain creates assumptions, predictions and patterns, and this is the source of hidden biases. Without these, our brains would likely “lock up” from sensory processing overload.

The reason these hidden biases are difficult to change is because they are natural parts of our survival mechanisms. In prehistoric times, these biased instincts allowed for rapid decisions to be made during times of danger. These basic instincts still exist, and bias in the workplace reflects these instincts in part. But unlike prehistoric times, hidden biases are no longer associate with effective decision making. One of the most important benefits of diversity in the workplace is enhanced capacities to make decisions. Ridding hidden biases in the workplace is thus important for businesses that want to excel.

Types of Hidden Biases

In efforts to pursue true workplace diversity, knowing the types of hidden biases that may exist is important. In essence, there are five types of bias in the workplace.

Usual Diversity Programs Returns Infographics

  • The False Consensus Bias – This bias in the workplace assumes that everyone else shares the individual’s beliefs, opinions and ideas. High levels of self-esteem and confidence can promote such false perceptions that undermine workplace diversity. False consensus views can similarly cause insensitive workplace cultures that lack respect and tolerance. Such cultures tend to suppress diverse views because of these hidden biases.
  • The Status Quo Bias – Naturally resistant to change, this bias in the workplace sees any deviation from the norm as a setback. The assumption here is that the status quo represents the best possible situation. This often-hidden bias hinders change, innovation and creativity that should result from workplace diversity.
  • In-Group Favoritism Bias – Unknowingly, many individuals make decisions that favor their “in-group.” Because they naturally favor others similar to themselves, a bias in the workplace against those not like them develops. This can lead to situations where inequity occurs in promotions and advancement. Likewise, in-group favoritism can cause managers to blame individuals themselves in the out-group for mistakes. But, they then blame extrinsic circumstances for the mistakes for in-group members. These hidden biases can be difficult to “see,” but they are almost always felt.
  • Stereotyping Bias – Stereotypes may or may not be accurate, but their presence often leads to misunderstandings and inflexibility. False stereotypes persist because of a lack of understanding and knowledge. Likewise, negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling in nature as well. Negative perceptions and expectations of others can lead them to perform less well. This bias in the workplace can be source of poor workplace diversity and inclusion if it remains unconscious.
  • Denial Bias – This bias in the workplace can be a notable barrier in realizing the benefits of diversity in the workplace. Organizational members do not truly believe there is a workplace diversity problem. Therefore, they see little need to examine hidden biases. They will comply with workplace diversity training programs, but afterword, biases in the workplace persist.
Graphic showing the benefits of diversity in the workplace
Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Uncovering Hidden Biases and Benefits of Diversity in the Workforce

Rather than pursuing diversity training and education alone, businesses must seek to identify hidden biases and expose them. This requires a commitment among business leaders to promote the benefits of diversity in the workplace and to act accordingly. Open mind training is one option that seeks to expose hidden biases. Other strategies that reduce bias in the workplace include mentoring, cross training, and diversity recruitment efforts. Finally, diversity managers and diversity task forces have also been effective in enhancing workplace diversity. In order to enjoy the benefits of diversity in the workplace, businesses need more than a required diversity training program. They will need to identify, expose and address hidden biases through several workplace diversity strategies.

The New Age of Maternal Fetal Medicine – From Simulations to Precision Medicine

The U.S. is often believed to have the best healthcare in the world. But when it comes to maternal fetal medicine care, this is not necessarily the case. Among high risk deliveries today, mothers in the U.S. are three times more likely to die than mothers in Canada. This figure jumps to six times as high when compared to mothers in Scandinavia. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between nearly 900 maternal deaths occur annually in the U.S., and 60 percent could be prevented.  Fortunately, advances in maternal fetal medicine are helping change the current landscape for the better.

What Exactly is Maternal Fetal Medicine?

By definition, maternal fetal medicine is an advanced specialty of obstetrics and gynecology. For a physician to become a maternal fetal medicine specialist, he or she must complete 3 years of additional training. The added experience and training enable these specialists to accommodate the needs of high-risk pregnancy patients. Of course, pregnancies involve two patients…the mother and the fetus. And either patient could demand the services of a maternal fetal medicine specialist if a high risk for complications existed.

With this in mind, knowing what represents a high-risk pregnancy is important. Most pregnancies are low-risk in nature, meaning that routine prenatal care can be administered without problems likely occurring. High-risk pregnancies are just the opposite. In these instances, the mother may have a preexisting condition that increases the chance of problems. Common conditions might include unexpected bleeding, hypertension, and diabetes. Likewise, the fetus may be the one with problems, like a birth defect or poor growth. In these instances, a maternal fetal medicine specialist is typically involved in their care.

Improving Maternal Fetal Medicine Through Simulation Training

Maternal Fetal Medicine Doctor providing a prescription to Pregnant Woman Maternal Fetal Medicine
Maternal Fetal Medicine Doctor providing a prescription to Pregnant Woman Maternal Fetal Medicine

Of all states, California suffers the most from poor maternal fetal medicine outcomes. Why? Because 12 percent of all children are born in California. However, since 2006, the state has reduced maternal mortality rates by 55 percent. By investing in training simulations and pre-arranged toolkits in hospitals, the chance of poor maternal outcomes has fallen significantly. These simulation training program typically use highly sophisticated mannequins to teach health providers about proper care of high-risk pregnancy patients. These programs may also be combined with computer simulations to provide further guidance and education. Toolkits that contain IV lines, oxygen masks, and special balloons to stop bleeding have also helped. These toolkits alone have reduced maternal morbidity by 21 percent. With nearly 90 percent of hospitals adopting similar strategies in California, marked improvements in maternal fetal medicine outcomes have resulted.

Telehealth Impact on Maternal and Fetal Medicine  

Telehealth is also offering new strategies for maternal fetal medicine to enhance pregnancy-related outcomes. For low-risk pregnancies, telehealth offers a way to remotely perform prenatal monitoring. With proper guidance, pregnant mothers can monitor fetal heart rates, their own blood pressure, and fundal height with telehealth oversight. For high-risk pregnancies, telehealth provides rural providers with access to maternal fetal medicine specialists. In states like South Carolina and Arkansas, where over a third of the state is rural, telehealth is making a big impact. Results show significant reductions in premature births and neonatal and maternal mortality with the use of telehealth in these instances. Some facilities, like the Medical University of South Carolina, perform 50 to 60 telehealth maternal fetal medicine consults each week.

Maternal Fetal “Precision” Medicine

Current trends also show that maternal fetal precision medicine is moving toward a precision medicine model of care. Precision medicine, or personalized medicine, aligns care based on an individual’s genetics, medical history, environment and lifestyle. With this in mind, some businesses are working with maternal fetal medicine providers to facilitate care during pregnancy. For example, Babyscipts, a company based in Washington D.C., provides pregnant mothers with a smartphone app. The application then coordinates recording, documentation and communication of important data during the pregnancy. The company is currently raising capital for the development of wearable monitors worn during pregnancy. These devices would communicate to smartphone apps through Bluetooth technologies. Such precision medicine strategies can provide maternal fetal medicine specialists with real-time data to enhance better decision-making throughout the pregnancy.

The Future of Maternal Fetal Medicine Outcomes

Certainly, technological advances are already making an impact on maternal and fetal medicine care. In all probability, continued use of artificial intelligence, big data systems, and mobile data devices will encourage further progress in these areas. Likewise, increased accessibility to the proper care at the right time will hopefully reduce mortality rates and improve outcomes. And further advances in non-invasive prenatal testing will help even more. Based on current trends, the future for maternal fetal medicine certainly looks very exciting.

Hidden Biases – Uncovering Barriers to Workplace Diversity Infographic

Hidden Biases in Workplace Diversity Infographic