Next she upped the ante: They had to raise their right hand if the word pertained to a male or to science, and their left hand if it was female- or liberal-arts-related. The audience accomplished this without much trouble. But then came the revelatory moment. Emerson explained that regardless of what order the tasks are presented in, about three-quarters of the people who take the test are slower to respond when asked to link women with science and men with liberal arts.
She talked about her own first time taking a version of the test, but with the categories of family and work. Unconscious bias, revealed. The idea that everyone holds biases and that there is nothing wrong with having them is a core tenet of the training. Our brains today take in more than 11 million pieces of information at any given moment; because we can process only about 40 of those consciously, our nonconscious mind takes over, using biases and stereotypes and patterns to filter out the noise.
The message of these sessions is that snap judgments are usually biased. This is a problem in a field like tech, where hiring managers may have to fill hundreds of positions. People listen respectfully to that person, while others—women, people of color—are interrupted and scrutinized. Shelley Correll, the faculty director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford, gave her first unconscious-bias talk, at Cornell University, in , when, she says, the topic was mostly of interest to academic departments.
Now, she says, demand has spiked as tech companies have adopted the training. Unconscious-bias training may not work. Some think it could even backfire. People feel more accepting of their own bias, or throw their hands up, figuring that nothing can be done. They may even become more biased. A study by Michelle M. Duguid of Cornell University and Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt of the University of Virginia demonstrates the peril of normalizing bad behavior. Stigmatizing certain behaviors, such as littering and alcohol abuse, makes people realize they are acting outside the norm and has proved to be a powerful way of changing these behaviors.
So what happens when you say that bias is natural and dwells within all of us? Duguid and Thomas-Hunt found that telling participants that many people hold stereotypes made them more likely to exhibit bias—in the case of the study, against women, overweight people, or the elderly.
Williams is originally from Trinidad and Tobago; in the module, she mentions a study that found that dark-skinned people of color are seen by white job interviewers as less smart than light-skinned people of color. She told me she finds such studies hard to talk about, and had to force herself to do so.
She believes that talking about the pervasiveness of bias serves to disabuse people of the meritocracy fallacy. She also told me that if you are going to be serious about bias training, you have to create a workplace where people feel safe giving voice to their own biases—where they can admit to thinking that men are better at math, for instance, or that new moms are less committed to their work—a perilous task, she acknowledges. It means you have to be forgiving as well. One of the unspoken advantages of unconscious-bias training is that in an environment where companies are competing for talent, it promises to help attract talented women without scaring away talented men.
Ren said the atmosphere at Facebook was tranquil and feel-good on the surface, but—as in all workplaces—there were power dynamics underneath. Of late, the problems with unconscious-bias training have become more widely known. None other than Anthony Greenwald, the inventor of the implicit-association test, has expressed his doubts.
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In , Google reported incremental improvements: 31 percent of its overall workforce is now female, up one percentage point over the previous year. Nineteen percent of technical roles are held by women, also up a percentage point. If they want to truly transform, they may need to take more-drastic measures. A wealth of apps and software platforms now exists to circumvent unconscious bias. Here are a few of the offerings:. Textio uses data and machine learning to scan job postings and flag phrases that are likely to repel women.
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Some are obvious: rock star , Ping-Pong , Nerf gun. The software suggests gender-neutral alternatives. They demonstrated that when people are assessed on pure ability, women are much more likely to make the cut. It guides managers through the hiring process, finding ways to prevent them from acting on bias.
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Lately, a new fix has emerged. Joelle Emerson talks about this a lot in her presentations, and works with companies to embed the insights of anti-bias training into hiring and promotion processes. Google has been a proponent of such changes. In his book, Work Rules! The problem, he wrote, is that such quick impressions are meaningless. He added that Google strongly encourages interviewers to use a combination of skill assessments and standard questions rather than relying on subjective impressions. Other experts say that what companies need is an anti-bias checklist.
Even when they work, however, these bias interventions get you only so far. It is, for example, a hallowed tradition that in job interviews, engineers are expected to stand up and code on whiteboards, a high-pressure situation that works to the disadvantage of those who feel out of place. Indeed, whiteboard sessions are rife with opportunities for biased judgment. When you watch these teams work, they literally scream at each other and call each other names. They believe this dynamic is essential to scientific discovery—absolutely essential. That would be Intel, maker of the silicon chip.
Intel came into existence in a postwar America in which corporate offices were male as far as the eye could see. Now, of course, the talk is of inclusion, not confrontation. And I was surprised to hear Intel—old-fashioned Intel—mentioned as one of the companies successfully innovating around gender. It had been releasing diversity numbers since , though not with as much fanfare as some of its peers, and without much improvement. But in the past couple of years, Intel decided to try a few other approaches, including hiring quotas.
Well, not quotas. At least not in the United States. However, in the U. Rather, Intel set extremely firm hiring goals. For , it wanted 40 percent of hires to be female or underrepresented minorities. But to make its goals a little more, well, quota-like, Intel introduced money into the equation. The amounts vary widely but can be substantial. If diversity efforts succeed, everybody at the company gets a little bit richer. Granted, Intel has further to go than some other companies, in part because most of its workforce is technical, unlike newer social-media companies.
But since it began linking bonuses to diversity hiring, Intel has met or exceeded its goals. In , 43 percent of new hires were women and underrepresented minorities, three percentage points above its target. Last year, it upped its goal to 45 percent of new hires, and met it. By the middle of last year, the percentage had risen two points, to A new initiative will take data from the warm line and from employee exit interviews to give managers customized playbooks.
Elizabeth Land, who worked at Intel for 18 years before leaving in , says the hiring goals did foster some resentment among men. Still, she wishes more companies would adopt a similar approach, to force hiring managers to look beyond their immediate networks. Shelley Correll agrees. From to , the representation of women and minorities among executives increased from 34 percent to 45 percent.
There are other reasons for hope: Venture-capital firms have formed specifically to invest in start-ups run by women, and certain colleges—notably Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Harvey Mudd—have dramatically increased the number of female students in their computer-science programs. Perhaps most encouraging is that as new companies come along, some of them are preemptively adopting the lessons that places like Intel and Google have already learned.
Among these is Slack, the group-messaging company, which is widely praised for having made diversity a priority from early on, rather than having to go back and try to reengineer it in. From September to February , as Slack grew, its technical workforce went from 18 percent to 24 percent female. However slowly, the industry seems to be changing its mind about innate talent and where genius comes from. For the first time, Deniss Metsavas tells his story of espionage and blackmail.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say. At a. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified.
His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development.
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He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D. The plane was dark and quiet. To hear more feature stories, see our full list or get the Audm iPhone app. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked.
I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started. They hit it off and spent the night flirting and dancing before retiring to a sauna in the early hours of the morning. Though saunas in much of Russia are bathhouses where men drink vodka and are flagellated with oak leaves, this one was a sex motel. He and the woman slept together there, but feeling awkward about what was inevitably going to be a one-night stand, Metsavas went out to buy her flowers.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. O ne day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes. Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned.
Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other.
Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people. The Baby Boomers ruined America. American society is going through a strange set of shifts: Even as cultural values are in rapid flux, political institutions seem frozen in time. The average U. We are in the third-longest period without a constitutional amendment in American history: The longest such period ended in the Civil War.
One possibility is simply that Americans got older. The average American was 32 years old in , and 37 in The retiree share of the population is booming, while birth rates are plummeting.
See a Problem?
When a society gets older, its politics change. Venture capital is largely an exercise in intuition and pattern matching. Female-founded startups outperformed all-male teams. Gender in entrepreneurship has recently garnered more and well-deserved attention. Globally, twice as many men become entrepreneurs, but the number of women becoming entrepreneurs is increasing rapidly.
For this analysis, performance refers to the change in market valuation between the initial First Round investment and the end of Simply stated, women are great technology entrepreneurs, and more of them need to be funded. Younger founding teams outperformed older ones. The research also looked at founder age, education, and experience. The average age of an entrepreneur is approximately 40 , and there is reason to think that entrepreneurs improve with age.
But what about Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft? A good argument can be made that technology favors the young. And while the average age of all First Round—backed founders is In the realm of technology, younger entrepreneurs do seem to be a key factor for success. Founders from top schools performed better. First Round looked at the impact of alma mater on company performance.
While costly and difficult to enter, a top education can be an ingredient for startup success. The challenge is convincing all those talented individuals seeking finance and consulting positions to take the leap into starting a new venture. Before jumping into the startup fray, newly minted graduates should consider a stint at a marquee technology company.
Interestingly, while going to an elite school correlated with higher financial returns, it did not correlate with a higher pre-money valuation, perhaps suggesting that investors do not view education as quite so effective a pre-screening measure.
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