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Counseling Psychology News

Large turnout for WISCAPE implicit bias panel

February 12, 2016

Over 100 people attended a recent panel discussion on implicit bias in postsecondary education, hosted by the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE). Video from the discussion is now available for viewing on the WISCAPE YouTube channel.

The panel examined the underpinnings of implicit bias and introduced practical attempts to address it. The diverse panelists, drawn from the UW-Madison campus and beyond, included: 

  • Photo of WISCAPE implicit bias panelAngela Byars-Winston, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
  • Belinda Gutierrez, Advanced Women's Health Fellow, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
  • Steve Quintana, Professor, Department of Counseling Psychology
  • Jennifer Sheridan, Executive and Research Director, Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI)

The discussion was moderated by Jen Schoepke, the director of strategic diversity planning, research, and communication in the L&S Center for Academic Excellence and a WISCAPE affiliate.

To explain the prevalence of implicit bias, panelist Jennifer Sheridan said, “We tend to only input the data that confirms our stereotypes, and ignore data that disconfirms it." However, she added that "knowing we all do this doesn’t absolve [us] of the responsibility of taking action to stop it.”

Panelist Angela Byars-Winston ​noted three major challenges in addressing implicit bias. ​One is that people "believe they are immune" to implicit bias. Another challenge is that people are hesitant to acknowledge their own biases because of "the fear of being perceived as prejudiced." ​Last is what she called "the expert blind spot," which she described as "the erroneous generalization of one’s expertness in one domain to be an expert in another domain.”

Despite these challenges, Byars-Winston said ​"personal self-awareness" was key to ​​overcoming the biases we all have.

Following the panel discussion, participants broke into small groups to discuss first-hand experiences of implicit bias in higher education or the workplace​ and brainstorm ways to reduce its influence.

The discussion was part of WISCAPE’s Furthering College Access and Opportunity spring speaker series, which is cosponsored by the Center for Academic Excellence, the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network, and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. Additional events will take place throughout the spring semester. For a full schedule, visit the WISCAPE events page.

WISCAPE is housed within UW-Madison's School of Education.

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