Sexist, Racist? Me? Couldn’t be!

Last week I walked into my local pharmacy and was greeted by a young Asian man and I immediately started asking him very specific questions and he interrupted Young-smiling-asian-man-745813me and politely said ‘Sorry I’m not the pharmacist, I’m a pharmacy assistant but I’m sure the pharmacist would be able to help you‘.  I was so embarrassed and apologized but he very politely said ‘No worries, it happens all the time, everyone thinks I am the pharmacist‘.

What he didn’t say but was implied was ‘…because I’m male & Asian’.  Sexist, racist, me? Couldn’t be! Classic case of unconscious bias on my part and for a lot of their customers.  Unconscious bias is where we are not even aware of the biases we have.  Everyone has their unconscious biases, and in leadership unconscious bias can seriously impact communication, decisions, judgment, performance and results.

But there is hope. As  journalist Fiona Smith in a recent BRW article states ‘The point is we are all biased, but as intelligent, thinking people it is incumbent on us to question our responses and decisions to ensure we do the right thing’.




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  • Reply

    This story struck a cord with me … recently we bought a new piece of software and as part of the cost, the co. installed it onsite.

    When the tech. arrived he was in his late 40’s – so I immediately assumed it would be a smooth process because he was knowledgeable and experienced.
    Not at all – he needed three calls to his ‘help desk’ to solve some issues.

    The positive message is that he was ‘confidently competent’ and not afraid to ask for help.

    The negative was that I had assumed he knew what he was doing just based on his ‘package’. The same experience from a younger tech would have pandered to my unconscious bias – I would have been rolling my eyes and shifting from foot to foot with impatience.

    Lesson learnt.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Carol many thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. This is a good example of positive unconscious bias!
      Great to hear about your learning and insight.

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