Every board member, like every other person, has hidden biases. They might include weighing older director voices more than those of younger members, or vice versa.
Board leaders, such as holding a board or committee chair position, have an important role. They must identify whether unconscious bias has crept into their thought processes and the board’s deliberations.
Everyone has blind spots and can unwittingly favor certain types of people. Giving preference is a fact of life. To be more effective, board leadership can take a participant-observer stance by periodically pausing and taking note of the context. Here are a few tips to reduce implicit bias:
“Does anyone feel that their points have not been presented comprehensively?”
Ask this question to summarize the perspectives heard so far and ask for perspectives that have not been heard yet.
“Is there consensus on a balanced perspective before we move on?”
Ask this question to make sure that there is not an under- or overstated issue.
“Are there other groups who should be involved in this discussion that we haven’t engaged yet?”
Ask this question on discussions that have stakeholders.
T. S. Eliot writes, “Between the idea and the reality—between the motion and the act—falls the Shadow.” Being aware of hidden biases is an excellent way for board leaders to cast light into the shadow.