Uncovering unconscious bias

Gwen Houston, general Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Microsoft.
Gwen Houston, general Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Microsoft.

There’s a simple but revealing quote that says, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” This quote crossed my mind as I was among 12,000 people — including more than 800 Microsoft employees — who recently attended the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston. From humble origins just a few years ago, the Grace Hopper Conference has quickly become one of the benchmark moments each year for the rising tide of empowerment and advocacy for women in technology.

With the number of women in tech positions of leadership still too small, there is a clear need for more role models, especially for women of color. Without visible roles models, many women feel limited in what they can achieve and what’s possible for their careers. So it was truly inspiring to witness the growth and support this conference has generated from across all business sectors, and the community of women role models in technology that was showcased.

One of the predominant themes coming out of this year’s celebration was the over-arching need for all companies to come together in the spirit of learning, growing and sharing best practices. The issue of greater representation and inclusion in the work force is not germane to a single company; it’s something that presents both challenges and opportunity for all of us.

In addition to addressing the talent pipeline issue and encouraging more young women to pursue careers in computer science and technology, there is more the industry can and should do to help both women and men take steps to break down barriers and empower women who are already in the workforce.

With that in mind and in the spirit of sharing, I’m delighted to announce that today, we are making our internal Unconscious Bias Training publicly available via our Global Diversity & Inclusion training website. More than 70,000 Microsoft employees have already taken this training, and we expect all employees will complete it by the end of this calendar year. Now people in other parts of the world, whether employed by Microsoft or not, can take the training to enhance their own inclusion efforts.

This training, which is fully interactive and includes thought-provoking scenarios, video and knowledge checks, is now available in seven different languages: English, Spanish, German, French, simplified Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Those who take this training will learn new ways of understanding and identifying unconscious bias, how to recognize it in others, and how to take action to correct bias where it exists.

About 12,000 people attended the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
About 12,000 people attended the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

And in the interest of continually learning and improving ourselves, anyone who takes the training will be encouraged to offer their feedback to us so we can refine and improve subsequent versions of training.

By working to counter unconscious bias, we can help create a world where people are empowered to make a positive difference — where they can see differences as not a hindrance to innovation, but as an accelerant. Coming out of the Grace Hopper Celebration, I can think of no better way of championing the role of women in technology than by amending the quote I referenced at the beginning of this blog to “If I can see it, I can be it.”