Getting ready for XX in Health, Assessing my own biases

Ted Eytan Implicit Association Test Result 52734 - Version 2

And the result is….

XXinHealth (@XXinHealth) is happening soon (see: I AM excited to be part of XXinHealth’s sixth annual women’s retreat) and my co-host / guest star, Vivienne Ming (@NeuralTheory) has set up an impressive discussion for us:

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little anxious, as much as I am eager. Great development opportunity!

I am also human, which means I have implicit/unconscious biases that shape my behavior, as do all human beings. I’ve written about this previously, multiple times on this blog (see the full list of posts here, there are many).

One of my favorite quotes from the experts is:

“own the fact the fact that you’re not exceptional. you are in this sweet spot of judges, lawyers, police, all of whom have bias. If you care, it would make sense to find out.” – (Personal Communication Jerry Kang, JD, Professor of Law, UCLA
April 15, 2014)

So, I do care, I found out, and I’m posting my results here. It’s super easy to test yourself, just go to the Project Implicit website and follow the instructions.

The result: I have (some) biases

Here they are:

  • For Gay/Straight: “Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Straight People compared to Gay people.”
  • For Gender/Career: “Your data suggest little or no association between Male and Female with Career and Family”
  • For Gender/Science vs Liberal Arts: “Your data suggest a moderate association of Female with Science and Male with Liberal Arts compared to Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts”

So, I have automatic preferences for straight people (anti-gay bias), and automatic preferences for women having careers and being in science (pro-woman bias). I did notice incidentally that I had trouble associating “geology” with “science” in the tests – I kept associating it with liberal arts. That’s what happens to molecular biology majors….

The Implicit Association Test does not measure endorsed points of view, which means these are not my outward attitudes, they are the conditioning my brain has received over time. The key word is “automatic.”

There’s nothing to be ashamed of or to celebrate. Just helpful knowledge to empower my human potential and more importantly, those around me. It’s worth trying it yourself – each test takes 5 minutes, and it is validated (see the many posts of mine about this).

There isn’t a test yet around gender/transgender, and the reality is that in society today, explicit, outward bias is still tolerated against people who are transgender in a way it is not against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Transphobia is different than homophobia, however, its impacts are palplable, and enormous in health and health care, in my opinion.

As I discussed in the presentation I gave last year (and am about to give again: Presentation: Being a Transgender Ally and Unconscious Bias), these biases are malleable. The most important thing is to know we have them.

There is something called the “illusion of objectivity” where people tell themselves that they are objective, which actually results in more biased behavior. I am more worried/scared by this statement – “I am objective” – than any other statement made in health care.

These associations are important because they do shape our society in significant ways, from the ways we recruit and promote social and cultural minorities into employment, to a host of other opportunities that people may/may not receive because of their gender or minority status.

Vivienne, a neuroscientist and entrepreneur in this space, happens to know a lot about this, including the quantification of the costs of the lost opportunities to harness human potential. And..the literature and her work is showing that we can change the trajectory of humans, going from “finding” human potential, to enabling/creating it.

One of the best things I (or a person) can do to prepare themselves for a dialogue like this is to know who they are, including the traits that are bundled in their humanity. I welcome this opportunity to maximize my own human potential in collaboration with the entire XXinHealth community 🙂 .

Taking over the Boys club – XX Retreat — XX in Health
Ted Eytan, MD