How to Fight Bias at Work

Coworkers discuss bias in the workplace

After studying the state of women in corporate America for eight years, the findings from Lean In and McKinsey & Company are stark: Women are less likely to be hired and promoted, and they’re more likely to face everyday discrimination and microaggressions in their workplaces. For women of color, LGBTQ women, and women with disabilities, these inequities are even more pronounced.

The effects are profound: Women are less happy at work, and they’re more likely to think about leaving their jobs. 

To counteract these effects, Lean In partnered with UKG to bring Lean In’s “50 Ways to Fight Bias” program to attendees at the inaugural UKG Aspire customer conference. Here’s a snapshot of the top takeaways.

How to fight bias at work

  1. Speak up for someone in the moment: For example, remind people of a colleague’s talents or ask to hear from someone who was interrupted. Or when someone says something incorrect (e.g., assumes a woman is more junior than she is), matter-of-factly correct them—either in the moment or in private later.
  2. Ask a probing question: Ask a question that makes your colleague examine their thinking—“What makes you say that?” “What are some examples of that?” This can help people discover the bias in their own thinking.
  3. Stick to the facts: When you can, shift the conversation toward concrete, neutral information to minimize bias. For example, if someone makes a subjective or biased comment in a hiring or promotions meeting, refocus attention back to the list of criteria for the role.
  4. Explain how bias is in play: Surface hidden patterns you’ve observed and explain what they mean. Research shows that a matter-of-fact explanation can be an effective way to combat bias. For example, mention to a hiring committee that you’ve noticed they tend to select men over women with similar abilities, or point out to your manager that women are doing more of the “office housework.”
  5. Advocate for policy or process change: Talk to HR or leadership at your company and recommend best practices that reduce bias.

Learn more with Lean In

Education is crucial in understanding the role that unconscious bias plays and how it affects women in the workplace. Lean In’s 50 Ways to Fight Bias program teaches participants how unconscious bias influences our assumptions and behaviors, and how to show up more thoughtfully with practical skills to disrupt biases and foster more inclusive work environments. Participants complete the session feeling equipped and empowered to counteract bias in the workplace with the following results:

  • 95% of program participants are more committed to challenging bias
  • 96% of managers feel better equipped to talk about bias with their teams
  • 90% of program participants say they know what to do when they see women face bias at work

You can find this program, as well as all of Lean In’s programmatic offerings for free at LeanIn.Org.

If you’re looking for actionable ideas on how to counteract bias at your workplace, check out this culture playbook for a clear plan on how to build a people-centric culture of trust and belonging.