Elizabeth Ozer, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine on institutional strategies to address unconscious bias.

As Dr. Youmans highlighted, strategies exist that individuals may utilize to minimize unconscious bias. However, institutions must also commit to taking steps to mitigate the impact of unconscious bias.

The National Academy of Science, NIH, National Science Foundation, & the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all focused on the need for institutional transformation requiring bias literacy and making explicit, what might be implicit or unconscious to address the bias process.

There is increased attention on developing and evaluating institutional interventions. For example, a recent brief intervention to reduce gender-bias at the University of Wisconsin (Carnes et al, 2014) was found to be effective in changing department climate to support the career advancement of women in academic medicine, science, and engineering.

Examples of institutional strategies to reduce the impact of unconscious bias include:

Developing ground rules to ensure equity in the hiring and promotion process. For example, search committees should develop and utilize concrete, objective indicators and outcomes to reduce standard stereotypes. This includes structured interviews and objective evaluation criteria.

Search committees should allocate sufficient time to review and discuss candidates in a structured manner as unconscious bias may be more pervasive when under time pressure and making quick decisions.

In addition, institutions should provide unconscious bias training workshops. Although trainings should include all members of the community (faculty, staff, students, trainees), training leaders and members of search and promotion committees should be emphasized.

Finally, decision makers, such as department chairs and deans, need to be held accountable. Institutions should provide leaders with support and guidance to address unconscious bias but also require that efforts and outcomes be documented through an annual summary.

I encourage you to explore this section of the website to learn more about institutional strategies to address unconscious bias.