Here’s how discrimination (aka “unconscious bias”) works

WomenAdvance.comDo white men get the benefit of the doubt in our culture and in our workplaces? Are they privileged because of their race and gender? If you’re a woman or African-American, you can point to innumerable examples from your own experience. But how can we *prove* systematic discrimination (now popularly called “unconscious bias”)? I found this terrific study that shows how racial discrimination operates, conducted by Dr. Arin N. Reeves of Nextions, recently reported in a special section of USAToday:

1.  Researchers drafted a legal memo from a hypothetical associate named “Thomas Meyer.”

2.  The memo purposefully contained 22 different spelling/grammar, technical writing, and analysis errors.

3.  The exact same memo was sent to 60 partners at different law firms. Half were informed the litigation association was African-American while the other half were informed the associate was Caucasian.

Here’s how the partners responded:

“Caucasian” Thomas Meyer

Average rating (out of 5/excellent)


Average # of errors found


Representative comments

“has potential”

“good analytical skills”

“generally good writer but needs to work on …”

“African-American” Thos. Meyer

Average rating (out of 5/excellent)


Average # of errors found


Representative comments

“needs a lot of work”

“can’t believe he went to NYU”

“average at best”


2 Responses to Here’s how discrimination (aka “unconscious bias”) works

  1. M.S. Cruse April 8, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Eye-opening! First impressions are very important for women and people of color. Thanks for this reminder.

    • Ann Daly April 8, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      We each need to be vigilant about how our unconscious biases affect our judgements of other people.

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