Implicit Bias: Tips and Resources to Navigate in the Professional World

Greetings Young Professionals!

My name is Dr. Markisha Webster and I serve as the Director of DEIB, Learning, and Sustainable Communities at SMUD. It is a joy and privilege each day to do work that is meaningful to me and gives me the opportunity to share my experiences, both personal and professional, to provide guidance to young professionals as they begin their career journey.

When I was asked to share some insights on implicit bias and how it connects to our personal and professional lives, a few thoughts immediately popped into my head. I want to share those with you momentarily, but first this story.

I remember walking into the auditorium at the conference to prepare for my keynote address to an audience of about 300 people.  I felt prepared as I had spent time with the conference planning committee to understand the nature of my talking points, the audience, and the overall goal of the conference.  I felt confident and prepared. As I was seated in front waiting to be called up to the podium, a staff member whispered to me that I was sitting in a spot reserved for the keynote speaker.  When I politely told her I was the keynote speaker, she registered a look of shock on her face and quickly glanced down at the program to confirm that I was correct. The program did not feature my picture nor my first name, so my identity was not clear. While I could have made a big fuss, first about the lack of information provided to the participants relative to the keynote speaker—me, and second about the lack of coordination of individuals at the conference in identifying me once I was seated, I instead reflected on how this was another example of how implicit bias was front and center. The “Dr.” in front of my name and the color of my skin was an automatic disconnect for this woman. It was clear, I was not the keynote speaker she envisioned, and my presence challenged her assumptions.

It is a harsh reality that many folks—Black, Brown, people of color, women, individuals with disabilities, etc., navigate this planet ducking and dodging the impacts of implicit bias each day. This means that what they look like, how they speak, their choices in partners, their zip codes, their cultural traditions, basically all the ways in which they are who they are, is treated as “other,” as different, as an anomaly. And while implicit bias is not intentional, it doesn’t change the fact that there is often a lasting negative impression made on the person at the receiving end. The challenge for us to understand that we all carry bias and our assignment is to swallow the assumptions, the judgements, the “made up in our head narratives” about people and their lives to, instead, truly learn about and embrace them.

Defining Implicit Bias

Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases are typically ingrained through societal norms, cultural messages, and personal experiences. Unlike explicit biases which are consciously held and easily recognized, implicit biases operate automatically and can influence behavior without our awareness.

Examples of implicit biases include assumptions about people based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, appearance, or socioeconomic status. These biases can impact various aspects of life, including interactions in the workplace, hiring decisions, performance evaluations, and even personal relationships.

Implicit bias can impact decision-making and interactions in professional settings without us even realizing it. Below are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. **Acknowledge its existence**: Understand that everyone has biases, and they can be unconscious. Being aware is the first step in managing them.
  2. **Educate yourself**: Learn about different types of biases (gender, racial, age-related, etc.) and how they can manifest in the workplace.
  3. **Question assumptions**: Challenge your own assumptions and judgments about others. Ask yourself why you might be perceiving someone or something in a certain way. And then work to seek true and authentic ways of engaging with others who might be different from you.
  4. **Seek diverse perspectives**: Actively seek out diverse viewpoints and experiences. This can help broaden your understanding and mitigate biases. Do so with humility and genuine curiosity.
  5. **Listen actively**: When interacting with others, listen attentively and without preconceptions. Practice empathy and try to understand their perspectives.
  6. **Evaluate decisions objectively**: When making decisions, particularly about hiring, promotions, or assignments, consciously evaluate based on merit and objective criteria rather than assumptions or stereotypes.
  7. **Encourage feedback**: Create an environment where colleagues feel comfortable providing feedback on potential biases they observe in your behavior. And, where you can do the same for your colleagues.
  8. **Training and workshops**: Participate in training sessions or workshops on diversity, equity, inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) to deepen your understanding and develop strategies for addressing biases.
  9. **Use data and metrics**: Use data-driven approaches to decision-making where possible. Objective metrics can help mitigate subjective biases.
  10. **Be patient and persistent**: Unlearning biases is a continuous process. It takes time and effort to recognize and change ingrained thought patterns.

By keeping these tips in mind as a young professional, you can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable workplace environment.


If you are seeking additional resources to explore implicit bias and its impact, please see the information below:


  1. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People  by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald - This book delves into the science of implicit bias and explores how it impacts our behavior.
  2. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do  by Jennifer L. Eberhardt - A book that examines how implicit bias operates in various contexts and offers insights into how to combat it.


Websites and Articles:

  1. Project Implicit: Offers online tests and resources developed by researchers to measure implicit biases. Website: Project Implicit
  2. Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity: Provides research and resources on implicit bias and its impact on various aspects of society. Website: Kirwan Institute
  3. Harvard University's Implicit Bias Module: Offers an online module that educates users about implicit bias, its effects, and strategies for reducing it. Website: Harvard Implicit Bias Module


Videos and TED Talks:

  1. "How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them" - Verna Myers' TED Talk explores how we can confront biases and work towards greater inclusion. Watch on TED
  2. "The science of implicit bias" - A TED-Ed video that explains the concept of implicit bias and its implications. Watch on TED-Ed