A Google engineer was fired on Monday after writing a 10-page anti-diversity manifesto titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” that criticized the company’s diversity initiatives.
The controversy has ignited a discussion about diversity and bias in the workplace.
These four TED talks, some given at official conferences for the organization and others given at independent events and posted to the TED website, encourage people to take themselves out of their ideological comfort zones and rethink their assumptions about race, looks, religion, and prejudice.
Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?
The president of Ariel Investments and advocate for financial literacy and investor education debunks the idea that we need to be color blind and advocates for being “color brave” instead in this TED2014 talk .
After discussing how her swim coach gave her a lesson in being “comfortable being uncomfortable” during a drill, Hobson says:
So I think it’s time for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, all of us, if we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, I think we have to have real conversations about this issue. We cannot afford to be color blind. We have to be color brave. We have to be willing, as teachers and parents and entrepreneurs and scientists, we have to be willing to have proactive conversations about race with honesty and understanding and courage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do, because our businesses and our products and our science, our research, all of that will be better with greater diversity.
Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model
The model gave this TEDxMidAtlantic talk in 2012, highlighting the benefits of her appearance, but demonstrating that it’s also a double-edged sword.
She walks onstage in heels and a dress, then covers up her look with a long skirt, changes into flats and a sweater to illustrate that “image is powerful, but also, image is superficial.”
Russell talks about how society favors her looks, how others are not able to benefit in the same ways— and admits something she says she’s never said on camera: that she’s insecure.
I’m insecure because I have to think about what I look like every day. And if you ever are wondering, “If I have thinner thighs and shinier hair, will I be happier?” you just need to meet a group of models, because they have the thinnest thighs, the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they’re the most physically insecure women probably on the planet.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied: What does my headscarf mean to you?
The mechanical engineer and social advocate speaks about “looking beyond your bias” in this TEDxSouthBank talk in 2014. She defines the term “unconscious bias” as “implicit prejudice.”
Over the course of the talk, she removes her outer clothing and headscarf and reveals her rig uniform underneath as she talks about her job, then removes the uniform, showing other clothes underneath.
She talks about the power of mentoring people who aren’t like you.
We have to look past our unconscious bias, find someone to mentor who’s at the opposite end of your spectrum because structural change takes time, and I don’t have that level of patience. So if we’re going to create a change, if we’re going to create a world where we all have those kinds of opportunities, then choose to open doors for people. Because you might think that diversity has nothing to do with you, but we are all part of this system and we can all be part of that solution.
Paul Bloom: Can prejudice ever be a good thing?
The psychologist cites research, philosophers and other figures in this talk in this TEDSalon NY2014 talk.
He tries persuading viewers that “prejudice” and “bias” aren’t always bad, but that knowing this can help us take action when they are.
After talking about instances in which bias can be negative, he recommends not just working “harder,” but instead creating circumstances “where these other sources of information can’t bias us, which is why many orchestras audition musicians behind screens, so the only information they have is the information they believe should matter.”
I think prejudice and bias illustrate a fundamental duality of human nature. We have gut feelings, instincts, emotions, and they affect our judgments and our actions for good and for evil, but we are also capable of rational deliberation and intelligent planning, and we can use these to, in some cases, accelerate and nourish our emotions, and in other cases staunch them. And it’s in this way that reason helps us create a better world.
Read more: Here’s how companies can make strides toward different types of diversity.