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Unconscious Bias Can Hinder Business Success


SBM April LogoUnconscious biases impact decision making far more often than we realize. This month in the Small Business Monthly “Financial Fitness” column, Karen Stern, Partner in Charge of the Brown Smith Wallace Entrepreneurial Services Group, discusses how unconscious bias can negatively impact a business’s future and ability to compete.

Dozens of unconscious biases exist in our workplaces. Bias can reduce trust between team members, stifle performance and limit profitable opportunities. However, businesses can take feasible steps to combat it and its effects.

People often rely on assumptions or preferences when faced with a lack of information, time or memory. Consider the following example of status-quo bias. An employee presents a new project-tracking software to a manager. The software has the potential to make the business 10 percent more efficient. Even so, the manager decides against it, feeling the stress of another round of client meetings beginning soon and reasoning that the business has been profitable so far. The preference for what has already worked might initially save valuable time and money. However, it could also give competing companies a chance to get ahead. When we revert to our worldview or past experiences—including assumptions about gender, age or race—to make decisions, it can hurt our chances of success.

Fortunately, current research offers proven solutions that allow us to design our environments, processes and systems for greater equality. On Tuesday, May 21, at 7:30 a.m., as part of The Bridge, the Brown Smith Wallace women’s initiative event series, Siri Chilazi will present “What Works: Practical Tools to Combat Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.” Siri will discuss the latest insights from behavioral research and show how it can help us close inequality gaps through improved talent management and inclusive culture. The event is free to attend, but registration is required. Sign up at

To learn more about The Bridge, contact Karen Stern, Partner in Charge of the Brown Smith Wallace Entrepreneurial Services Group, at


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