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Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion

A multi-unit committee supporting Cornell University's institutional diversity planning initiative.

2014-2015 Training

Diversity training for fiscal year 2015 centered on unconscious bias and micro-inequities, two components of the broader subjects of diversity and inclusiveness, as well as the concept of micro-affirmations. Below is a summary of the training presentation.

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias occurs when we hold assumptions or biases that are:

  • Reinforced daily
  • Created by or learned from our environments and experiences

All people have unconscious biases.

Unconscious biases are reinforced throughout our media and culture, for example:

  • Age biases in greeting cards
  • Gender and lifestyle stereotypes in television programs and movies
  • Body-type biases in advertisements on billboards and other visual media

These biases show up constantly in our decision making, our communication, and our behavior. Our goal through diversity training is to teach ourselves how unconscious bias can affect our perceptions and interactions. Through awareness and conversation, we can create a more inclusive working environment.

Micro-Inequities

Micro-inequities occur when individuals are overlooked, singled out, or otherwise discounted based on an unchangeable characteristic, such as age, race, sexual orientation, or a disability. These inequities are repeated behaviors that devalue, discourage, and impair performance in the workplace.

Micro-inequities are:

  • Subtle verbal and non-verbal slights
  • Often unconscious, with no offense intended
  • Often committed by well-intentioned people who are unaware they are causing harm

Endless examples of micro-inequities exist, but a few include:

  • Dismissing one person’s idea, only to embrace it when paraphrased by someone else
  • Repeatedly mispronouncing or misspelling someone’s name, despite being corrected previously
  • Continually interrupting or completing someone’s sentences
  • Interrupting females who are speaking, but not males, or vice versa

Micro-Affirmations

Micro-affirmations are the antidote to micro-inequities. They encourage compassion and fairness and can reinforce and reward positive behavior, thereby helping people in the workplace feel valued and accepted. Use them as positive forms of feedback.

Examples of nonverbal micro-affirmations might include:

  • Small acts of kindness
  • Tangible and intangible rewards
  • Recognition
  • Smiling
  • Simply listening

Examples of verbal micro-affirmations might include statements such as:

  • Our entire team is doing work that is appreciated by the campus.
  • Our entire team is simply amazing.
  • We can choose to extend kindness to every colleague that we work with.
  • We choose to see obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn.
  • This entire team responds to colleagues with calm, thoughtful feedback.

Every quarter, the Diversity team will update this space with new micro-affirmations that will serve as thought-starters for you and your team to create your own.

Contact

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If you have feedback or questions about this initiative, email us at adi@cornell.edu.
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