Knocking Down Myths: Challenging Unconscious Bias in Chile

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Knocking Down Myths: Challenging Unconscious Bias in Chile

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.@ScotiabankViews Chile’s #CSR Manager, Ana Paula Aleixo, explains why confronting unconscious bias is important
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: Scotiabank 2016 CSR Report

CONTENT: Article

Read Scotiabank’s 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report

Because the human brain has to process an incredibly large amount of information, we rely on previous experiences, patterns, and assumptions to efficiently make decisions. Typically, this works to our benefit — such as when we automatically swerve to avoid an obstacle while driving.

However, our unconscious minds can sometimes backfire on us. All humans fall prey to an occasional phenomenon called unconscious bias — automatic preferences and assumptions that can affect our decisions without us even realizing it. Unconscious bias can sometimes lead us to unwittingly make judgments that are unfair, incorrect or even at odds with consciously held beliefs.

Pushing boundaries

Scotiabank Chile’s CSR Manager, Ana Paula Aleixo, explains why confronting unconscious bias is important for the Bank: “Understanding our bias is an important step for us in how we serve customers at Scotiabank. We recognize the customer’s right to be better off, so we have to be prepared to serve them without letting bias get in the way.”

Knocking Down Myths

In the latter part of 2016, the local Inclusion Committee inScotiabank Chile launched a diversity and inclusion campaign called Knocking Down Myths that sought to address unconscious bias at the Bank. Scotiabank’s Chilean leadership adheres to the same diversity and inclusion principles as the rest of the organization, but according to Ana “We hadn’t communicated yet to all employees what diversity and inclusion means for Scotiabank here in Chile — and why it matters to us. So this was a first step, the first time we’d done something like this.”

The campaign addressed three main issues: gender equality, cultural diversity, and inclusion of people with disabilities. Ana explains why Knocking Down Myths addressed these particular issues. “We focused on these three topics because the things we talked about had to be relevant for both Scotiabank and also to our society here in Chile. Right now these three issues are very important for our country, for the government, and for our company.”

The campaign

Rather than a cheery, happy campaign explaining the benefits of diversity and inclusion, Ana’s team opted to broach the subject in a more “provocative” way — openly challenging employees to question their own unconscious biases.

Once a week, messages with different unconscious biases were published on the screensavers of all employees’ computers. After one week, each message was complemented with an argument that “knocked it down.”

Ana laughs as she recounts the creation of the campaign’s messages: “Since this was the first time we did something about diversity and inclusion with our employees, we wanted to make sure we got their attention. If we chose beautiful messages, maybe we wouldn't have got the attention that we wanted.”

Results of program

Just as Knocking Down Myths addressed topics that were culturally relevant, the objectives of the campaign were also appropriate to its Chilean audience. The campaign sought to “promote discussion” and “bring awareness” to the issues says Ana. “Here in Chile, we have some difficulties talking about issues that often are considered taboo. Sometimes we prefer to not talk about it with our families, with colleagues, or with our friends. That’s why the main objective of the campaign was to promote discussion — because encouraging people to talk is very important in Chile. We have to know how to listen to what people say.” This is an important step to take in order to create an inclusive environment.

During the campaign, each time a message changed, Scotiabank’s management guided discussion within their teams about unconscious bias. This quote from one participant suggests that the approach worked: “The general feedback was that the topic of inclusion had to be put into practice. With this, we decided as a team to incorporate more people with disabilities. We started the process of hiring with Human Resources, and we are working on a job description for tasks that will allow us to incorporate beneficiaries of the Fundación Tacal [institution that trains people with cognitive disabilities for their inclusion in the workplace].”

Serving customers better

As for the role that diversity and inclusion plays at Scotiabank, Ana believes that it can be traced back to serving the customer: “We have to understand that our customers are diverse, and we have to make the effort to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. That’s the way that we can understand their individual needs.

“And that has to start at the workplace. Employees need to understand themselves, where they work.”

Read Scotiabank’s 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report