U.S. Bus Tour Promotes Unconscious-Bias Discussion

By Kathy Gurchiek Jul 6, 2018
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​Top photo courtesy of Brandon Parigo, UMKC Strategic Marketing and Communications. Other photo courtesy of Cone Communications. 

Don't look now, but the Check Your Blind Spots bus may be rolling into your town.

The tour bus, now in its second year, provides a multimedia experience on unconscious bias: four videos, interactive stations and a quiz, all designed to help people recognize and minimize their biases.

The bus is an initiative from organizations that have signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge. The idea is to start conversations about bias within organizations and "the things we need to do to help us, as employees … and as a company, to identify what this issue is and best solve it on our own terms," said Shannon Schuyler, PwC's chief purpose officer and corporate responsibility leader. PwC was one of the early signatories of the pledge.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative]

Nearly 450 companies, universities and colleges have signed the pledge, making it one of the largest CEO-driven business commitments for creating more inclusive workplaces. The bus will visit the signatory companies and schools, and HR professionals and other company leaders—including CEOs—are encouraged to be available as their employees tour the bus and to use the opportunity to talk with them about diversity and inclusion (D&I) at their companies, Schuyler said. School and company leaders who have not signed the pledge are welcome to stop by when the bus is in their area to learn more about how they can become involved, she said.

"Check Your Blind Spots" alludes to unconscious bias. Although implicit—or unconscious—bias has been debunked in some quarters and considered a faulty concept, Schuyler views it as "one of those ways to start the [D&I] conversation." PwC has worked almost 10 years with Mahzarin Banaji, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Harvard, to develop and execute unconscious bias training, which PwC requires of all it hires and promotes.

"This is a good first step," Schuyler said of the bus tour, which marked its first anniversary June 12. "It allows people to open their eyes and … allows for a safe [place for] conversation."

Tim Wentworth, CEO and president of Express Scripts, a pharmacy-benefits management company in St. Louis, is among the original signers of the CEO pledge. The bus came to his company in 2017.

"This [bus] was a natural place for us to convene, challenge the ideas [about bias], challenge the status quo and find ways to move forward," he said in a YouTube video.

PwC is investing $10 million in the bus tour over the next 12 months to help organizations build inclusive work environments, according to Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC and chairman of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion steering committee.

"We're seeing unconscious bias education become an increasingly critical tool for diversity and inclusion strategies, but not all companies are equally equipped to roll out the training," he said in a news release.

The program piloted last year with stops at Villanova University in Philadelphia; Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.; Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; the State University of New York at Binghamton; and Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa.  

Since then, the bus has stopped at Booz Allen Hamilton, Express Scripts, UMB Financial Corp., UPS, AT&T, Advance Auto Parts and Air Products, as well as at 12 colleges and universities. It has reached more than 4,000 people during 22 stops across the country. 

A second bus has been added for fall 2018. It will kick off its tour in Chicago and will make stops in Ohio, Texas and Georgia; PwC will release the tour stops in July. The aim, according to PwC, is to reach 1 million people by the end of 2019. Signatories may request the bus by contacting info@ceoaction.com.

CEO Action is planning to release a free suite of educational materials later this year on its website to help all organizations create and maintain a diverse and inclusive culture. Tools to measure diversity and inclusion within companies, self-assessments to gauge progress and toolkits on a range of topics will be included.

"We really want to start a momentum with this," Schuyler said of the tour. "[Bias] is a societal issue, and as leaders we have to figure out how we can solve it."

 




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