Facebook Trains Employees on How to Manage Unconscious Bias
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Maxine Williams, Facebook's global head of diversity

In an effort to combat the social network’s reputation towards exclusion of minorities and women, Facebook released a series of videos to help employees recognize the subtleties of bias and discrimination in the workplace.

[RELATED: Google to Spend $150 Million on Diversity Initiatives in 2015]

“Research shows that individuals and organizations that believe they are meritocratic often have the poorest outcomes. That’s because when biases aren’t acknowledged, we can’t deal with them,” reads a statement on the site managingbias.fb.com. “Our goal in publishing this portion of our managing bias training is to achieve broader recognition of the hidden biases we all hold, and to highlight ways to counteract bias in the workplace.”

Maxine Williams, a Trinidad and Tobago native and global head of diversity at Facebook, is overseeing the training. She told USAToday.com that 90% of Facebook’s senior leadership and a “high” rate of managers have taken the course. The training is rolling out more slowly to the rest of the work force.

The videos discuss four common types of bias that prevent employees from cultivating an inclusive and innovative workplace: performance bias, performance attribution bias, competence/likeability trade-off bias, and maternal bias.

Here are a few of the lessons taught in the video:

On performance attribution bias
When it comes to decision-making, unconscious biases cause some people to be perceived as “naturally talented” whereas others are presumed to have “gotten lucky.” People on the receiving end of this bias are less likely to receive credit for their ideas, are interrupted more often during team interactions, and have less influence on teams.

On competence/likeability trade-off bias
Research shows that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Women are expected to be nurturing and care-taking while men are expected to be assertive and action-oriented. Having to produce results and be liked makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted, negotiate on their own behalf, and exhibit leadership.

On maternal bias
Research shows that women who are mothers experience an unconscious bias in the workplace that fathers and women without children do not. Mothers are disliked when not seen as nurturing mothers and given fewer opportunities.

Facebook’s managing bias site recommends that other tech companies should consider using the videos as a “framework for action” by adding to or amending the content based on challenges relevant to their organizations. “A lot of companies don’t have the resources to build this kind of training and we are happy to give it to them,” says Williams.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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