Google memo completely misses how implicit biases harm women

By E. Anne York, The Conversation

Workplace biases are back in the national conversation, thanks to the recent memo by a Google employee. The memo’s author challenges the company’s diversity policies, arguing that psychological differences between men and women explain why fewer women work in tech.

He also minimizes the effect that unconscious biases have on women in the workplace. Even though most of us believe that we value others equally and don’t discriminate, research shows that our unconscious beliefs show up in our actions.

I am a professor of economics at a women’s college, focusing on issues that women face in the labor market. To me, the evidence is clear that implicit bias is still prevalent in today’s workplace, even after years of federal and state laws that make discrimination illegal – and that bias often leads to actual economic harm.

One recent analysis by the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development states that gender based discrimination has decreased global income by 16 percent, or US$12 trillion. Since research documents that women will devote more of their financial resources to spending on the needs of children than do men, it is especially important to families that women have economic empowerment and their own earnings.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.