PARTICIPANT PRAISE FOR "ILLUMINATION OF BIAS"
"Loved the concept that you can’t really eliminate your biases, but that illuminating and acknowledging them can go a long way towards healing the problem. It takes a lot of pressure off and allows us to be human, with our weaknesses, while encouraging us to be mindful of our biases and actions."
"I specifically liked the helpful tools outline and suggestions in dealing with identifying bias and how to cope with improving the overall situation. The [movie] clips… were a good prelude to the discussion that followed and helped get the points across."
Our foray into the tricky territory of bias, diversity, and inclusion began when the Oregon State Bar asked us to present a program to fulfill that state's "elimination of bias" CLE credit requirement. At the time, one of us wasn't sure anyone would understand what the concept of "implicit bias" was, let alone want to sit around and discuss the topic for three hours. But we were intrigued by the oppportunity, and captivated by the challenge of putting a different kind of spin on yet another frequently maligned and underappreciated topic.
And so the program "Accidental Racists... and Other Elephants in the Room" was born. Little did we know the impact that program would grow to have, both on us, as well as the hundreds of participants who have attended this workshop in different parts of North America. We were grateful to find that the ReelTime format and approach to tackling difficult but important issues was a good fit for this one as well.
Over the last few years, we have partnered with several other sponsoring organizations to create a full suite of programs of varying length, depth, and focus on this topic, as it is far too intractable and complex an issue for a one-size-fits-all approach to suffice. And once again, folks who attend one of our programs on these topics find the experience to be quite different from what they may have expected or attended before.
For starters, we don't come in with a bunch of statistics, or platitudes, or exhortations to remember the high calling of lawyers or organizations to be diverse. Those kinds of presentations may certainly have their place, but our backgrounds in law, higher education, and counseling leave us more intrigued by the human emotional and relational dynamics involved in cross-cultural interactions. And we have remained committed to getting folks talking on a deeper level about the complexities of the choices and situations they face on a regular basis, and brainstorming together about what the real obstacles to meaningful and sustainable change might be. So we'lll try our best to stir up authentic conversations, often using one of the 3 original short films we wrote and co-produced for that very purpose.
Also key to our approach is that we don't come in with an agenda to make anyone feel bad about themsleves. To the contrary, we do our utmost to make folks feel more at ease wading into these tricky waters, beginning with the acknowledgment that we all have a great deal to learn from one another--and from people unlike ourselves--when it comes to navigating cultural differences. There seems to be something powerful about knowing that one is not completely alone in feeling quite uncertain about how to productively guard against the impact of implicit biases in the workplace. So we are committed to leveraging the power of courageous conversations to cultivate genuine alliances and accountability relationships that increase the odds of producing some kind of lasting change for the better.
And we don't for a moment pretend to have all the answers about how to devlop genuine inclusion in an organization of any size. But what we do know is how to ask the right questions, so as to catalyze these uncomfortable but nevertheless productive conversations. And from asking those questions, we have learned a tremendous amount from our participants, which we then subsequently are delighted to pass on to other future participants, in an effort to multiply and replicate the "bright spots" of meaningful change and things that actually worked.
With the completion of our three original films, and the development and roll out of our suite of programs on these topics, we have only just begun to experience how authentic conversations can bring about real change--on both an individual and an institutional level. And we cannot wait to see what comes next as we expand these efforts beyond the legal realm, in the hopes that we will learn more and gain opportunities to facilitate the exchange of effective solutions between the learned professions and the general business world.