CSE 190a Autumn 2016 - Women in Computing Seminar

Week 3 - Unconscoius Bias


This week, we covered the topic of unconscoius bias. The class was asked to chose one of three videos to watch on this topic and share their reflections during Tuesday's class. The three videos were the following: Here were some of the class' thoughts:

Facebook Video

"The first thing that struck me is the speaker mentioned that we all have bias, but the first step in doing something about our bias is recognizing it. I think that this is a really important point, because when it comes to gender bias in engineering and technology fields, much of the bias we have is unconscious and it is important to realize that. It was suggested through the video to take an implicit bias test, and my result was that I have a slight automatic bias towards associating males with careers, and females with family. I wasn't surprised by this result, and I think that it is fairly common in society."

Microsoft Video

"In Microsoft's eLesson on unconsious bias, there was a lot of information regarding unconscious bias and what it is as well as videos showing what unconscious bias looks like. I found it helpful to watch the different scenarios unfold, especially in how it addressed women in leadership positions. There was an emphasis on ensuring everyone felt their voice mattered, which I think is reflected more in the traditional leadership styles of women than men. That said, I was a bit perplexed by and not entirely sure how to handle the discussion of affirmation bias. I know that in settings where women are underrepresented, I likely gravitate towards and work to lift up other women, and I don't know if Microsoft was saying that's a good thing or not."

Google Video

"[The Google video] offered some perspectives that I really agreed with. The presenter drew a distinction between what people perceive their biases to be (blatant biases), and their unconscious biases. He explained to the audience how, regardless of how not-sexist they may believe themselves to be, they still are products of a sexist culture and cannot completely live without biases. This really resonated with me; often times I notice people just deciding that they are not biased against women/groups of people (because they morally do not want to be biased), while these people still harbor biases and act upon these biases, because they refuse to acknowledge them. This includes myself, I am biased too, and I liked how the presenter emphasized accountability (of each other, and ourselves)."

"I watched the Google Ventures video and found myself excited to hear about how much effort Google is putting into breaking down and removing unconscious bias from their hiring and promoting processes. In this day and age, if a company says it will try to improve their culture, it is pretty meaningless unless the company actually takes some steps forward. However, Google is one of those companies that is willing to improve in order to provide a better environment for their employees.

When the speaker had the crowd take an implicit association test, I took it along with them, and admittedly, I found myself falling into the unconscious bias trap. Even though I am a strong advocate for women in STEM, unconsciously, I was associating science-related fields with males and liberal art-related fields with females. It's surprising to see how much society has influenced our perception on certain fields and what each gender is capable of doing. It's also a bit frightening to think about how 11 million bits of information are happening in my brain in any given second, but I only consciously think about 40 of them. This bit of information definitely opened my eyes to the possibility that I might act a certain way because I am influenced by unconscious bias."