On Wednesday 11th October we held two unconscious bias workshops at CeMM – a morning session for administrative team leaders and LIBRA project managers, and an afternoon session for our Principal Investigators. Based on the excellent recommendation of the Babraham Institute, we engaged Femi Otitoju, Training Director from Challenge Consultancy in the UK to carry out the workshops. In selling the opportunity to attend the workshop to our Principal Investigators, we informed them that Challenge Consultancy also provides similar training for clients such as The Wellcome Trust, Sanger Institute, UCL, and Oxford and Cambridge Universities – emphasizing that they are experienced at working together with scientific researchers.
In preparation for the workshops all attendees were invited to complete two of the online Harvard Implicit Association tests, specifically the ones for the association between gender and science and between gender and career. Although the workshop participants were not required to discuss or share their results, it was apparent from the conversation that many were surprised by their result – and one Principal Investigator even repeated the tests because they questioned their initial result (and subsequently scored the same second time round). This was a great starting point because it made us realise that nearly everyone has some unconscious bias, and Femi pointed out that this is normal, and is not the same as consciously identifying as being a sexist person.
The course included 10 ways of addressing an individual’s unconscious bias and the practical steps were illustrated with many relevant examples. Femi is clearly an expert in this area, and she is quick to support her statements with evidence and research-based knowledge – which was something which was especially appreciated by our scientists. At the same time the workshop was lively and we were encouraged to actively participate and talk about the different topics.
Even though some of our Principal Investigators were initially a bit skeptical about the topic, and were questioning why they needed a two-hour workshop, afterwards their feedback was very positive. Femi managed the course so that the two hours passed by very quickly, and if anything our scientists would have liked some more time to discuss the issues raised amongst themselves. Hopefully their conversations on this topic will continue as now their level of awareness has been raised!