With racial injustices flooding headlines worldwide, identifying conscious and unconscious biases within ourselves is more important than ever. CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion aims to do just that with the Check Your Blind Spots tour, an interactive, digitally enhanced experience that teaches business professionals about biases in the workplace.
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“CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion–a PwC-led coalition–now has over a thousand different signatories,” said Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s US chief purpose and inclusion officer and co-lead of CEO Action.
The CEO signatories commit to three key pledges, all focused on diversity and eliminating unconscious bias. The Check Your Blind Spots bus tour aims to spread that mission, visiting organizations and institutions around the world, many of which have signed the pledge.
Since its start in the fall of 2018, the tour has visited corporate campuses and high profile events such as South by Southwest and NBA All-Stars Weekend, making 180 stops and reaching approximately 370,000 people, Schuyler said.
“The [purpose] is to really start waking people up to [unconscious bias]. It doesn’t have to be a two-hour session that you sit in,” Schuyler said. “If you can leverage technology and go through some different experiences, you can really begin to see when your bias does creep in, and make sure that you’re elevating everyone and focusing on equity.”
The Check Your Blind Spots experience
Schuyler outlined some of the key experiences on the Check Your Blind spots tour, emphasizing technology’s role in the process.
- Outside the bus
The first experience on the tour begins outside the bus, said Richard Lopez, director of diversity and inclusion at Dell. Lopez explained that Dell is a signatory of CEO Action and that he was able to visit the tour when it stopped at the Dell campus in Round Rock, Texas.
“You first walk up to the bus, and there’s a phone bank where you pick up different phones and listen to some really like cringe-worthy bias conversations,” Lopez.
By listening to the various conversations, visitors are forced to consider how the conversations might contain bias and recognize the portions that reflect such.
“They’re all different conversations,” Schuyler said. “One’s a conversation between a landlord and a tenant talking about whether or not they want to actually have this person in the building. Maybe the blind spot is that the person doesn’t speak very good English, and so they don’t want them there.”
- Mirror experience
Upon entering the bus, visitors are greeted by a mirror in an experience called “Face yourself, face reality.” The mirror uses virtual reality (VR) to superimpose another person in your reflection, and that reflection appears as an individual in an underrepresented minority group, Schuyler said.
“You go into a closet-like room with a curtain behind you and you are facing a mirror. Your reflection fades away in the mirror, and then somebody stands in the mirror who is different than you. It could be someone with a disability. It could be someone who’s a different race. It could be somebody who is older,” Schuyler said.
“They start to tell you what has happened to them, and the ways in which people discriminate against them. It’s really interesting because the shape matches your height, so you really feel that you’re talking right to this person who’s talking at you and you’re reflecting and looking at yourself in the mirror, but they’re superimposed in front of it.
It’s supposed to help you to embrace an uncomfortable feeling, but one that you really start to feel connected to this individual. You start to realize the hurt that they’ve experienced, and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror as you have conversations, so that doesn’t happen [in real life],” Schuyler said.
Lopez noted how powerful that portion of the tour was. Equipped with a computer, microcontroller, LED strips, LED drivers, proximity sensors, and a camera, the mirror display completely immerses the individual in the situation.
Looking through a digital viewfinder, visitors view various situations and indicate when they see a form of bias occurring.
“You watch people interact, and you have to click on a little handheld remote how many times you see a microaggression happen, then you get scored,” Schuyler said.
The game is played through a custom-built Android app that prompts users to confirm when they see moments of unconscious bias. Via tablets and custom DMV-style eye examination stations, users are able to make selections and view video.
- More VR
The experience is called “Perspective Matters” and features a custom-built app for the Oculus Go platform, which displays custom-produced VR content.
“You watch a scenario of a day in the life, one of them is of a black man, for example, and what that looks like: All the different microaggressions, all the things that he has to go through during a normal course of the day, how that, at the end, he has to start it all over again,” Schuyler said.
“The goal is trying to put you in the perspective of someone else, and to be able to really watch it as it happens so that you can be more focused on what it looks like if you’re doing it, or what it looks like if you see it happening, and make sure that you stop it,” Schuyler added.
Why tech is key for unconscious bias training
“There’s something about having the ability to experience it in different ways,” Schuyler said. “A lot of companies, ours included, have multiple-hour unconscious bias training, whether online or in-person, and you’re doing it alongside other people, so it’s hard to really focus on yourself.”
Unconscious bias is a practiced skill, and through this technology, people are placed in real scenarios where they can see tangible examples of bias. Through gamification and VR, users aren’t just being spoken to about unconscious bias, but given interactive practice sessions to practice healthy skills, Lopez noted.
Lopez said that Dell, as an organization, is looking into “foundational learning experiences and incorporating new technologies like virtual reality, gamification, even augmented reality, to allow technology to play a role in how we experience empathy. [A] study showed that that’s actually what will produce real change, not just a ‘check the box’ unconscious bias.”
“With the racial injustices that we’re witnessing right now, it’s reinforced the criticality of this conversation. As an organization, I think all companies should be thinking about, ‘What is the impact on the individuals in the organization?'” Lopez said.
“In particular, if you think about some of the underrepresented minorities, if you think about our black employee population, it’s imperative that we listen and hear their perspectives and bring that into the conversation about how we can make this company better for everyone,” Lopez added. “We’re in a critical window of time where we have an opportunity to listen and act.”
Companies that prioritize inclusion and digitally transform to have these optimized training sessions will be more profitable and unleash innovation, according to Lopez.
“They build a company culture that’s high performing and very collaborative,” Lopez said. “I often will tell business leaders that, ‘It’s not just about the individual here. It’s about making an organization where everybody can thrive.’ And that’s what I think these conversations on unconscious bias are so critically important.”
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