When the jury selection began for Harvey Weinstein’s sex crime trial more than 2,000 summonses were issued, 600 jurors were called in, and 146 jurors were openly questioned.
The process took two weeks. It was arduous. Painful. Politically saturated through and through.
Each side jockeyed for a jury most likely to advocate their agenda. It seems obvious that their goal was not about truth or justice; it was about winning and doing whatever it took to ensure they ended up on top.
Each side wanted to be right., and justice became the casualty of the process.
Both sides were supposedly seeking a fair and impartial jury; a jury of their peers. There’s only one thing wrong with that, not exclusive to this case.
Human beings are neither fair nor impartial.
Quite the contrary, actually. We are deep wired for opinions, decisions, agendas, and the like, all of which are based on the pre-existing mental conditions germane to both our nature and nurture. Our values, beliefs, family of origin, education, and other similar factors influence our thinking, both conscious and unconscious.
These influences become the lens with which we experience the world. Every one of us has our own unique set of biases constructed from these influences and built upon throughout our lives.
The bottom line is that we’re wired to unconsciously eliminate distracting data and incoming bits of information that are inconsistent with our values and beliefs. (Not incidentally, this is a great reason to listen to people whose beliefs and values are different than our own, providing us with a perspective we hadn’t previously entertained.)
For example, if we were raised in a traditionally sexist family where men were given privilege and women were treated as second-hand citizens, then it is almost certain that we will embody those beliefs. Unconsciously all of our thoughts, choices, and values will be colored by those beliefs, unless and until we become curious about what’s driving us, intervene on our own behalf, and make a conscious choice to transform our thinking.
We’re not aware that our choices are biased because every second 99.9% of the data we receive from the world is relegated to our unconscious mind where it’s stored.
That, my friends, is Unconscious Bias 101; those pesky ideas that color all of our thoughts and trick us into believing that we’re impartial.
Whether we want to own up to it or not, we bring our belief baggage to every (yes, every) situation we encounter.
Sure, by the time we’re whatever age we are right now, we’ve sorted through some of it but, for the most part, these unconscious beliefs guide our days, untended.
Let’s stop pretending that it’s possible to be impartial because it’s not.
There is no workaround for this. There are no exemptions. It is not necessarily good or bad news. It just is: We are biased human beings. Period.
No, a fair and impartial jury does not exist any more than does a selection committee, hiring manager, applicant, boss, human resource professional, event planner and just about anyone doing anything.
If we’re leaders developing other leaders then we need to keep that front of mind when we hear ourselves say, “We hire the right person”.