Give Me the Data: Getting Engineers Talking about Unconscious Bias

Erin McConahey
SWE Advance
57 Minutes
CEU : 0.1
PDH : 1

Understanding why unconscious bias exists and how it affects our decision-making processes is a key element of many successful contemporary Diversity and Inclusion programs. Recent research in brain science, social identity studies, and neurological research has allowed us to see how unconscious bias is "wired" into our brains.  Each of us has some personal collection of unconscious biases gathered over time from our families, from our culture, from our socialization, from our training, from our experiences, from the media, and from our friends.   As professionals and leaders responsible for the lives or livelihoods of others, it is important that we become aware of our own biases so that we can acknowledge their automatic influence and then choose to make a well-considered decision. This lecture will introduce a method of helping engineers to engage in conversation around diversity and inclusion issues in a non-confrontational manner using the Diversity and Knowledge cards recently published by Arup and SWE.  These cards summarize the key research available regarding some of the most common biases present in technical fields in the culture of North America.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify how unconscious bias affects our decisions
  2. Evaluate the importance of engineers engaging in diversity conversations in the workplace


Erin McConahey, PE is a Principal in mechanical engineering for Arup, a global employee-owned engineering and planning firm. Her Bachelor's in Mechanical and Masters' in Structural Engineering are from UC Berkeley. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).  In addition to her project roles, she is the Americas Region Diversity and Inclusion Advocate for Arup and is a Certified Diversity Professional.

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Average Rating 5


Rachel Seidner - 06/25/2018

This was a great engineering approach to breaking the ice around diversity and inclusion.

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