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The reviews

‘Electrifying! Rigorously researched and densely argued, this book will challenge all of us. Essential reading for anyone who leads a company or public body’
Trevor Phillips
Chair, Equality & Human Rights Commission

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Engineering and consultancy services firm, Arup is improving career opportunities for women through a development initiative designed and run b y Pearn Kandola. Linked in to Arup’s inclusive leadership development programme, it enco urages senior staff to recognise their own unconscious biases and teaches techniques to co unteract them.

Arup introduced the unconscious bias and one-to-one inclusive leadership coaching after re- evaluating its approach to gender diversity. Statis tics showed that women’s potential for senior roles was often overlooked. The firm, theref ore, was keen to increase the number of females from 25 per cent to 35 per cent of the work force, and ensure that 15 per cent of its leaders are women.

These clear goals reinforce Arup’s strong ethos of fairness and equality which come from its trust ownership status, collaborative culture and t he original vision and values of its founder, Ove Arup. The firm aims to create an environment ‘w here each man or woman is respected for the job they do, and is doing his or her best b ecause the atmosphere is right...’

‘Rather than being about legislation, this was an o pportunity to move the business forward,’ explains Paul Sharp, Head of Resourcing, Learning a nd Development. ‘We recognised that we could become a more effective organisation by bette r understanding how we make everyday, split-second decisions. We looked to Pearn Kandola to engage our people in this process and to give them the personal insight to be more succes sful leaders.’

The programme uses Implicit Association Tests (IAT) where participants are asked to sort words and images into categories under time pressur e. This seeks to uncover subconscious links, for example, between ‘family’ and ‘females’ and ‘careers’ and ‘men’.

Initially the IATs were used with Arup’s top team t o help them explore their personal biases. They then received one-to-one coaching to enable th em to make sense of their own biases and to identify when they are most likely to have a n impact at work and what they can do to eliminate this. Board members discussed the key the mes with around sixty senior leaders, before they took part in the workshops. As a result , everyone had thought about the implications of a more diverse workforce, both from a business and personal perspective.

The approach has definitely changed attitudes and b ehaviour, according to Paul: ‘From talking to individual leaders, we know that they ar e making different decisions and are more sensitive to bias as a consequence of this learning .

‘For instance, some people now recognise that we ne ed a way to tap into the potential of the many women who return to work part time after havin g a family. A few years ago they wouldn’t have considered them for promotion because of their work patterns. Others are involving senior team members when allocating work, so that decisions can be challenged and cast the net wider than the usual suspects.

The development initiative, as part of a wider prog ramme of activity, has helped to address some of the challenges Arup was facing. As a result of this progress, the company has set a new goal of 40% of women in the business and 20% at leadership level.

Commenting on the programme’s success, Paul adds, ‘ Pearn Kandola has a unique understanding of what makes an innovative and produ ctive learning experience. Their research-led approach also fits in well with our pe ople, who have their own deep specialisms.’

Ranked in The Times’ Top 50 Employers for Women, in ternational law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is working hard to build a more inclusive and open culture. A key step is ensuring all its partners recognise their unconscio us bias that could affect how they recruit, employ and promote people. The firm chose Pearn Kan dola to design and run the awareness training because of our in-depth knowledge in this area

While acting as Freshfields' Global HR Partner, Car oline Stroud gained top-level backing for a diversity plan aimed at creating an environment whe re everyone can thrive and feel their work is valued. Besides reaching consensus that thi s was simply the right thing to do, it was also driven by greater diversity within the firm's client base and evidence that mixed groups make better decisions. The plan's main goal was to address the under-representation of women at senior level. Failing to develop their pot ential was effectively wasting investment and resources.

‘We recruit equal numbers of male and female traine es, but this isn’t reflected in the number of women who go on to become partners. From our int ernal engagement survey and our own experience, we know that women tend to feel less mo tivated and confident, and often miss out in areas like work allocation, business develop ment and client entertainment,’ says Caroline, who received an Opportunity Now award for her commitment to inclusive talent management.

To tackle the situation, alongside a focus on uncon scious bias, initiatives such as coaching and skills development; mentoring; and women's networks are now in place.

Unconscious bias is a key firm-wide focus as the fi rm encourages partners to think more carefully about the reasons for their decisions and whether their motivations are the right ones. The Pearn Kandola workshops, piloted by Fresh fields' corporate partners, covered all London-based partners, including members of the par tner recommendation committee and those involved in recruitment interviews. To reflec t real life, people who normally work together attend the same workshops.

The picture across the firm is now beginning to cha nge, says Caroline: ‘The subject of unconscious bias is much more transparent to the ex tent that it's now on the agenda at the partner conference. There's also some evidence that our culture is becoming more supportive generally and that people are being shown greater c onsideration in terms of discussion and advice.’

Kate Laffar, Freshfields’ Head of Diversity and Inc lusion, adds: ‘Like many other professional services firms, we acknowledge the importance of el iminating unconscious bias in achieving greater balance and diversity of people. Pearn Kand ola’s programme was a valuable first step in creating a broader awareness of the issue. We no w want to build on this to develop a robust approach that will make a positive differenc e in the longer term.’

NERC - the Natural Environment Research Council - is the UK's largest funder of independent research, training and innovation in environmental science, funding over £150 million pounds of research grants annually. To retain and build on their position of funding research excellence, NERC is working in partnership with Pearn Kandola to further increase the quality of funding decisions made and to limit the potential harmful impact of unconscious bias.

Pearn Kandola were asked to produce bespoke training interventions for NERC funding decision makers, designed to introduce the science of unconscious bias to senior academics in order to help them understand their own biases and to take steps to manage bias in their decision making environments.

The concept of unconscious bias was introduced by Pearn Kandola at an NERC Peer Review College induction event attended by 100 participants. Following an interactive session which raised awareness of unconscious bias, attendees were split into their sub-groups and asked to identify bias in a simulation of a research grant decision-making session.Panel chairs received additional input with the latest research and thinking on group decision-making, challenging bias in groups and specific mechanisms to limit bias in group decision-making environments.

The feedback from the event has been very good, with participants even recommending the training to their own institutions after the event. More than three quarters of the people found it useful and most felt that they could use it as part of their NERC role. Post event comments included:

"Thought provoking session around the unconscious bias training."

"Despite my initial skepticism, Rob Barkworth was absolutely excellent. It should be compulsory for NERC reviewers to sit through this (UB) material."

"I was surprised how useful it (UB) was."

"The issue of unconscious bias extends way beyond grant panels, so was very interesting to look at."

The event generated considerable interest from the other Research Councils looking into this topic and has also provoked international interest in what NERC has done. The unconscious bias training underlines NERC’s commitment to making fair decisions and ensures the best research and researchers get funded. It also supports NERC's commitment to equality & diversity and their taking an active approach in providing training and tools for this, not only for their own staff but for their wider science community as well.


In 2013 WorleyParsons, a leading provider of engineering, procurement and construction management services to the resources and energy sectors, asked Pearn Kandola to deliver a leadership and unconscious bias programme for their most senior leaders. The result was a one day bias awareness and inclusive leadership training workshop delivered by Binna Kandola between March 2013 and January 2014 to over 250 senior managers in Australia, Canada, the USA, UK and South Africa. The workshops all used the same materials, but with appropriate local adjustments to accommodate the relevant environment. Binna also trained 35 of WorleyParsons' in-house Learning and Development team in the delivery of the materials so that as accredited internal trainers theywere able to run their own workshops to train more junior managers.

Binna Kandola presented his material on the nature of bias to the WorleyParsons' Board in Sydney at the October 2013 Board meeting, where his message was very well received and favourably commented upon. The fact that the material was rooted in research, academia and science played particularly well to an organisation made up of data led engineers. This aspect was crucial in allowing the course content to resonate with the delegates – almost giving them "permission" to believe in the material and then to progress to considering how it applied to themselves.

Cleo Thompson, Group Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at WorleyParsons commented that, "the feedback we received at the end of each workshop has been consistently and overwhelmingly positive. We asked the delegates to score each aspect of the training on a one to five ratings scale and Binna's workshops averaged a score of around 4.5 each time. This is an exceptionally high score for any type of "HR related" training at WorleyParsons and substantially exceeds that given to other trainers or other topics." She added, "Binna's style and delivery was extremely well received. After the workshops we received nothing but praise and thoughtful comments from the delegates as to how the messages have been taken on board and then used in day to day work with their teams. I am absolutely sure that this training is the best of its kind available on the market today and that Binna Kandola is a true global subject matter expert, able to deliver and work with teams at all levels."

Cleo continued, "I also commend Binna and the team at Pearn Kandola for their behind the scenes work in preparing the course materials and adapting them to deploy local content on headcount, business sectors and other aspects of local data which helped to make the course material relevant to each local training group. Pearn Kandola were very responsive to delegate feedback so that the course was constantly evolving and improving as we continued to roll it out to other countries."

Book details

Title: The Value of Difference: Eliminating bias
in organisations
Author: Binna Kandola
ISBN: 978-0-9562318-0-2
Language: English
First Published: 2009
Publisher: Pearn Kandola Publishing
Format: Print and eBook

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