Symantec employees were invited by CEO Greg Clark to stop, reflect, and check their blind spots. What does it mean to check to your blind spots? Hint: It has nothing to do with driving.
It has everything to do with unconscious bias.
Greg, a signatory of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge, invited employees to immerse themselves in the “Check Your Blind Spots” mobile tour. For three hours last Wednesday, Symantec employees from a wide range of business units, teams, levels in the organization and diverse backgrounds stood in line to check out a fully customized 55-foot mobile tour bus – chock-full of interactive unconscious bias training modules.
When I sat down to experience – in virtual reality – what it felt like to be the recipient of discrimination solely based on the color of "my" skin, it felt very personal, and I was left feeling shocked and infuriated. The absurdity of the situation was very visceral, and it made me realize more than ever how people experience discrimination for no reason other than what they look like. To say it was frustrating is an understatement.
Which is all the more reason to host an event like this. The way unconscious bias was presented on the tour bus was more personal, and therefore more impactful. By virtually living in someone else's reality, people got a much deeper understanding of the concepts of bias and prejudice, which then aroused feelings of empathy and compassion for the lived experiences of other people. The live experience on the bus reinforced the importance of diversity and inclusion that we consume via trainings, readings, and conversations – and elevates it to a whole other level.
When I sat down to experience – in virtual reality – what it felt like to be the recipient of discrimination solely based on the color of "my" skin, it felt very personal, and I was left feeling shocked and infuriated.
I saw other employees take the tour and have "aha!" moments too. The overriding sentiment was appreciation that we were bringing this up in the first place. One employee pointed out that "everyone thinks about this stuff subconsciously, but rarely talks about it. So, it’s great that you’re making people more aware and making them more comfortable talking about it.”
Another employee said, "It made me think and ask questions of myself. It would be good to have takeaway discussion questions to keep the conversation going.”
Unconscious bias is usually very subtle, and we don’t realize it’s even happening until we are put in an incredibly frustrating situation. One employee told me, “I get it now," after experiencing in virtual reality discrimination based on "her" race. The hypothetical situation was in a retail store where a white woman was handed an expensive item with no questions asked while the Latinx woman next to her was immediately told “it’s very expensive” even though she hadn't even brought up the price at all.
Unconscious bias is usually very subtle, and we don’t realize it’s even happening until we are put in an incredibly frustrating situation.
These are just a few examples of how blind spots lead to discrimination. We all have blind spots – and we all need to stop, reflect, and check them. We asked employees to continue doing just that with a commitment to start on their very own allyship journey by taking on the “I Act On” Pledge at the end of the tour.
To be clear, this mobile tour is by no means a one-and-done solution to solving unconscious bias. There is still a lot of work to do – individually and collectively. We are all responsible for our actions, and sometimes the intentions of our actions don't quite align with the impact those actions have on other people.
The mobile tour was a great conversation starter though. I saw many new faces and witnessed many “aha!” moments. I also saw people go through the bus and say, “this doesn’t apply to me”, or, “I don’t belong to this group, so what do I do?” My response? Anybody who thinks this work doesn’t apply to them needs to take the first step in their allyship journey by shifting their mindset. This work decidedly does apply to you. It applies to everyone. You can learn to check your biases, speak up for others, and show up for those who need your support. You can take meaningful action in your next meeting by stepping in to ask the youngest employee what their opinion is, or by initiating a difficult conversation about what’s happening in the world with your employees. There are so many small ways to help each other feel more included.
Anybody who thinks this work doesn’t apply to them needs to take the first step in their allyship journey by shifting their mindset. This work decidedly does apply to you. It applies to everyone.
It's important that we understand that what’s happening in the world doesn’t stop as soon as you get to the office. People bring those lived experiences to work with them – how can they not? We are dynamic, complex, multifaceted human beings. That doesn't suddenly disappear when we come to work.
Each one of us needs to be mindful that our actions – whether consciously or unconsciously – can and do impact others. The opportunity, then, is to keep our eyes wide open and do a better job of checking our blind spots.
If you’d like to see where the 'Check Your Blind Spots' Unconscious Bias Mobile Tour will be next, check CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion's Mobile Tour Page for more information. I highly encourage you to get involved and see if you can host this interactive tour at your campus.
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