Incubeta held its Day of Understanding on May 6th as part of our pledge to CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, kicking off our involvement with all of our team members in the US.
The sessions started with introductions to the initiative and set up the agenda for the day. Next up was a workshop that provided a brief look at unconscious bias and microaggression, followed by breakout sessions led by members of Incubeta’s DEI committee. Participants were encouraged to have a candid conversation around the topics and to share their own views and experiences. The day culminated with featured speaker, Kerri Jacobs, who led a workshop on “leading with empathy” — empathy being the theme for the day which provided a lens to explore questions about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Here’s a quick recap from the day’s sessions:
What is Unconscious Bias and why do we all have it?
Unconscious bias is really a survival mechanism and a way of filtering information quickly. The workshop demonstrated how bias can be extremely functional (and even life-saving). Our biases help us get through the day and make thousands of quick decisions without us having to think about them.
Our brain can filter huge amounts of information, prioritizing and summarizing our surroundings for us unconsciously. Much of what we’re feeling and deciding is driven by unconscious processing. We’re constantly bombarded by millions of things each day which can have implications if we were to consciously think about each of them. But sometimes it can lead us astray, so we want to focus on how this can happen, and how it plays out in our work environment.
There’s a study that shows that we can only consciously process about 40 bits of information. This means 99.99996% of our mental processing is ruled by our unconscious. We need to acknowledge that we, as humans, have unconscious bias. But hopefully knowing why can help us be more conscious about some of them. Because we can’t always rely on our unconscious decision making — we need to try to be more conscious of the decisions we’re making.
Even the smallest expression of bias can have an impact over time. For instance, a computer simulation that programmed a 1% bias in performance score against one group of people compared with another resulted in a 35 – 55% skew over twenty simulations (i.e. 20 rounds of progression reviews). There was also a study that showed how just by changing the name on the same resume resulted in the favoring of candidates for certain STEM roles.
But diversity is an advantage. When we work in groups similar to us, we overemphasize the things we have in common. When we work in diverse groups we feel freer to express something that is different. Research shows that diverse teams can outperform homogenous groups in complex problem-solving.
Speaking up about Micro-aggression
What is a micro-aggression? The dictionary definition says that it’s “A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as racial or ethnic minority.”
But really it could be towards any group or community.
So what do you do when you experience a micro-aggression? There really isn’t any one right way to react, how you react is personal to you.
One way of responding is from an organization called Seed The Way using a model called Calling Out vs. Calling In. Calling Out provides example responses for what to say when you want to put a stop to a micro-aggression while Calling In is used for when there is an opportunity to explore deeper mutual understanding. It helps to call out the behavior, while calling in the person. Equally important is how to respond if you are the recipient of this communication. Understand that it was not the intent, take responsibility and apologize.
We also have the opportunity to become an ally when we are witness to micro-aggressions. It can be very powerful for someone to have an ally in these situations, but it’s important to understand how to act in this role. Keep in mind things like speaking up, but not over the person. Also to make sure you do your homework and listen.
Leading With Empathy
We were honored to have Kerri Jacobs join us as our guest speaker for the Day of Understanding. Kerri (she/her) has been leading high performing teams at Google (in London, NYC and now the Bay Area) for over 12 years . Her obsession with empathy in leadership and inclusion in every aspect of life led her to create the program and roll it out to leaders at Google and now other tech companies. Kerri is a member of the 2021 Class of Stanford University’s CCARE in collaboration with ACA’s™ Applied Compassion Training™ for Architects and Ambassadors of Applied Compassion.
Incubeta US CEO, John Cawdery, introduced Kerri as a longtime colleague having worked together at Google and recounted some of her successes in unifying teams through her work.
Kerri’s presentation took our team through an engaging discussion about leading with empathy which can be particularly challenging while working virtually in a pandemic. So much of our communication is non-verbal, and without those cues, we need to work harder to provide additional context. Kerri explained the different types of empathy and discussed behaviors that are inclusive (or not inclusive) in the workplace. Her program gave everyone practical applications for building a system of empathy for themselves, reminding us that the smallest behaviors can have the greatest impact toward team member job satisfaction.
“Kerri’s presentation really hit home for so many people,” said Melissa Fassetta, Incubeta US DEI committee lead, “she reminded us what’s important in how we communicate with each other at work. Focusing on what matters is an important core value at Incubeta, especially as we grow our teams.”
You can learn more about Kerri Jacobs and Leading with Empathy at leadingwithempathy.com and CEO Action’s Day of Understanding at ceoaction.com. Learn more about Unconscious Bias at rework.withgoogle.com.