The British government will no longer require civil servants to go through “unconscious bias training,” claiming there’s no evidence to suggest such training works and may even have harmful effects.
The BBC reported Tuesday that Cabinet Officer minister Julia Lopez wrote a ministerial statement that said “unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims. It will therefore be phased out in the civil service.”
“We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise,” she added.
The government, according to BBC, said there was no proof unconscious bias training changed attitudes or behavior and suggested it could even “backfire.”
From the BBC:
The government says it is “determined to eliminate discrimination in the workplace”, but unconscious bias training is the wrong approach.
The Government Equalities Office says there has been “no evidence” that the training improved workplace equality.
Among the researchers cited is psychologist Patrick Forscher, who examined more than 400 studies on unconscious bias.
He said that few studies measured changes over time, and among “the most robust of those that did”, the findings suggested “changes in implicit bias don’t last”.
Dr Forscher said such training had too often been used by employers as a “catch all”, which failed to really tackle the specific barriers for different groups.
Psychologist Dr. Stuart Ritchie told the outlet that there was “nowhere near robust evidence” to suggest unconscious bias training changed behavior, adding that it was usually used to “placate worries” instead of actually reducing racial bias.
Those who profit from such “race equity” training were appalled by the decision, insisting the government needed to replace the training with something else.
Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust race equality think tank, told the BBC that the government “mustn’t backtrack on anti-racism training,” even though the chief concern with the unconscious bias training is that it doesn’t work. Begum also acknowledged that the training may not be effective and suggested a corporate “diversity industry” simply pushing “off the shelf” training.
Begum then insisted that the government had to replace the training with something that addressed “ingrained views” but also “fair pay, progression and work practices,” BBC reported.
Lucille Thirlby, assistant general secretary of the FDA civil servants’ union, asked what would replace the unconscious bias training, saying: “How will they ensure people are not discriminated against? It’s easier to attack something than do something positive about it.”
And Jane Farrell, chief executive of the diversity and inclusion consulting firm EW Group, defended unconscious bias training.
“There is a misconception that unconscious bias training is guilt inducing and tells people off for who or what they are, which is simply not true,” she said. “Great unconscious bias training provides a positive and supportive environment to think through how to ensure we recruit the best staff rather than inadvertently clone ourselves.”
In America, similar training tends to lean toward telling white people they are racist and demanding they accept that, an approach that has offended many.