Taking action against unconscious bias

Leading the Way

Taking action against unconscious bias

We all have them: blind spots — also known as unconscious biases — that can influence our behavior at workplace and in community. And not always in a good way.

That’s why Unum and several local partners recently brought the CEO Action Mobile Diversity Bus featuring the Check Your Blind Spots unconscious bias tour to Chattanooga. The bus uses virtual reality, gaming technology and other interactive activities to teach visitors about unconscious biases.

The tour is part of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ initiative, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The bus has visited popular events like SXSW and the NBA All-Star Weekend as well as corporate and university campuses. Chattanooga was the 67th stop out of the more than 100 locations the tour will visit across the country.

CJ Pitts, a lead disability specialist at Unum, was one of the nearly 300 Chattanooga residents who were exposed to the nuances of unconscious bias on the educational tour.

“I have experienced bias at times as a black man, but what was really interesting was the use of virtual reality simulation to step out of my own shoes and step into the shoes of someone who’s experienced bias from a different perspective,” Pitts said. “There were times in the simulation where I was being stopped by the cops and it felt like it could be any other day to me, but then there were other situations that I never thought I’d find myself.

“It was powerful to hear stories and see things from the perspective of other people who aren’t normally included. With virtual reality, you have this personal connection with them, which really makes what they’re saying even more impactful because it forces you to remember that this is a living, breathing, human soul.”

Unum CEO Rick McKenney joined more than 700 CEOs who signed the CEO Action pledge to create safe spaces for complex discussions about diversity and inclusion, implement and expand unconscious bias education, and share best practices for inclusion.

“Unum and our partners share a focus on inclusion so we can make our communities great places to live and work for everyone,” McKenney said. “Our goal is to foster communities that embrace differences, so people of every background have the opportunities to grow and reach their full potential.”

Unum hosted the event, while several local partners and their leaders who support activities that build understanding and help cultivate more inclusive workplaces and communities also invited their employees to learn more about the initiative and to tour the bus: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Chattanooga and EPB.

Kelly King, a partner in the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which helped start the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, was on hand for the event and talked about the importance of not letting unconscious biases influence our behaviors.

“We may not even realize we’re making judgments or assumptions about people’s character, abilities and potential,” King said. “That’s our unconscious biases or blind spots at play. Left unchecked, these unconscious biases can hinder progress and influence the way we treat each other, especially in the workplace.”

Visit CEOaction.com to learn more about what organizations are doing to act on diversity and inclusion. To find out more about Unum’s dedication to inclusion, visit Unum’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility site.

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