The Unconscious Bias Toolkit

Caitlin McMillan

Caitlin McMillan is a teaching and learning consultant at London Connected Learning Centre and creative digital leader with the GEC EdTech Collective. She is also the project manager for TechPathways London, a new programme of free training for educators and careers professionals funded by the Mayor of London's Digital talent Programme.

Website: www.thegec.org Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Earlier this year, London CLC, in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London, launched TechPathways London, a new programme of free training for educators working with young people aged 11-24 in London.

Funded as part of the Mayor of London's Digital Talent programme, its aim is to bridge the digital skills gap between education and the 21st century creative and digital markets. Working closely with industry partners across London's digital and cultural sectors, the programme provides those working with young people with the tools to support the development of skills required to succeed in the modern workforce. A core component of the programme, and it’s first fully online course, is the Unconscious Bias Toolkit.

What is Unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is an unintended consequence of the way your brain simplifies the information you receive to make it quicker and easier to interpret and act upon. This involves using your past experiences and impressions to look for patterns and make judgments about people, things and situations.

These seemingly instinctive responses are not wholly un-useful - if we weren’t able to form judgements in this way, we’d have to process so much information every second that the world would become a pretty overwhelming place. The problem is, because this happens unconsciously, we don’t get to decide what our brains think is a ‘relevant’ detail; our unconscious reactions, responses and biases are in great part a result of the patterns that we are exposed to, often without even noticing.

Exposure to patterns - women in tech

Currently:

  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of boards in the top tech firms have no female directors. (Inclusive Boards, Inclusive Tech, 2018)
  • 78% of students cannot name a famous female working in technology (PWC, Women in Tech, 2017)
  • Only 16% of females have had a career in technology suggested to them, compared with 33% of males (PWC, Women in Tech, 2017)

When these are the patterns that we are continually exposed to, and where our culture and media presents men as keener tech users than women and girls, ignoring the rich history of women in computing, is it any wonder that studies show that most of us see computing as more of a masculine subject than an feminine one? (see the toolkit for the shocking results of typing ‘computers for girls’ into Google images)

Unconscious bias also seeps into the language that we use with young people. A 2016 study from the Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry found that, after a trip to the emergency department of a hospital, parents were four times more likely to tell their daughters to be ‘careful’ than their sons. Whether we intend it or not, the evidence shows that we speak to male and female children differently.

As educators, we know how important confidence is to pupil’s engagement and attainment - by encouraging girls to ‘be careful’, are we making them more risk averse? More afraid to try in case they fail? 

How can the toolkit help?

The TechPathways London unconscious bias toolkit provides educators with a framework to identify, challenge and mitigate bias within their settings. 

The course contains an overview of the issues at hand, alongside practical advice and activities designed to help you to explore your own personal and institutional unconscious biases and take steps to address them. Once you have completed the course, you will gain access to the full course materials - the idea is that you can then present the toolkit in your own setting, enabling you to share and disseminate the knowledge gained.

To sign up to take the FREE Unconscious Bias Toolkit online course, visit: https://techpathways.london/courses/using-the-unconscious-bias-toolkit/

For more information on TechPathways London and our full range of free courses, visit: https://techpathways.london/

For further reading and practical advice to close gender gaps in your school, visit The Gender Equality Collective website.

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