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I confess to conscious bias – training works

David Bannister
Negotiation Bias Cakes [Converted]

I was recently required, as part of my responsibilities as a director of Scotwork International, to undertake an online training programme to teach me about “unconscious bias”.  I am proud of my lack of bias, having studied issues of race as part of my university options and also having tried to champion diversity in my work teams which in latter times had gender and orientation diversity. Consequently, I engaged with the online programme with a bit of a sense of duty but quite quickly started to feel that I was learning things and questioning attitudes which I had never really explored previously – life does not always present you with the opportunity to do so.  I was pleased to pass the final test of my knowledge and promised myself that I would try to remember what the course had taught me.

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, my wife is a skilled and creative baker and makes “occasion” cakes of a wide variety.  Recently she was asked by her daughter (my step-daughter) who is a lead mammographer scanning people for breast cancer, to bake some small cakes to support Breast Cancer Week that the people attending scanning clinics could buy to support the charity.  Jane set about her task and, as I was passing through our kitchen when she was baking I saw her efforts (see the photograph) which I thought were wonderful and amusing as well as appropriate to the topic.  But…..the skin colour of the “boobs” was universally white and I commented on this (constructively, I hope).  I am sure that, without the course, I had done, I would not have done so – something in my head was saying that Jane’s great work was not yet quite complete.  She agreed and added different colours to her efforts.  The cakes were duly sent to the hospital where the mammographers are based and there was much acclaim about them on social media.  This included a Tweet from a consultant in oncology who added the hashtag #diversity among others and sent the photographs to the hospital’s chief executive.  They sold well and quickly and raised money for this worthy cause.

I realise, of course, that what I relate here is only at the edge of the issue of the bias we all seem innately or unconsciously to have.  My point, however, is that without experiencing the online training, I would probably not have made the comment I did.  The course had put somewhere in my head the trigger that caused the reaction from me that prompted me to speak. 

I have frequently experienced, after 20 years of teaching the Scotwork negotiating skills message, people saying to me “I would not have said that or done that if I had not experienced a Scotwork course”.  Our training, like the course I experienced, can make lasting changes and improvements to the way people do things. This feedback makes our work worthwhile. One of the important objectives of training is to give people new, different and more effective ways of thinking about their options and taking actions.

I just thought that I would share this experience with you. I also want to share with you the fact that my step-daughter (of whom I am very proud) also scans male patients for breast cancer so we should all be vigilant. And if asked to bake for this cause again, I shall be reminding Jane of this fact, too!

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