Unconscious Bias Training: Biased af bias?

Elisabeth Møller Dresager

Student thesis: Master thesis


A concept of Unconscious Bias Training has gained increasingly momentum in corporate diversity management practices. There seems to be a more or less unanimous agreement that managing and reducing unconscious bias will lead to more diverse and inclusive organisations. An agenda that has been majorly promoted as part of company and organization strategy for the past decade, in terms of both a moral and business imperative. This thesis examines how a research-intensive phenomenon like bias (both conscious and unconscious) comes to be articulated into implementable initiatives, and even further into tangible training courses and activities.
What is lost and transformed in the meaning of bias, when it undergoes various articulations and re-articulations in the journey from research, through diversity management research and then finally to business strategy? Grounded on a social constructivist perspective with a post-structuralist approach this thesis seeks to answer that exact question. Through the concept of articulation put forward by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theory, this thesis finds that the journey of bias from research to organizational practice is accompanied by a number of paradoxes and with that, complexity. Complexity that doesn’t seem to surface in the adoption and implementation of bias training, but that becomes visible when the bias trainings are to be carried out. The thesis finds that the responsibility of managing these conditions lies in the hands of company leaders. Drawing on Slavoj Zizek’s modern critique of ideology this thesis furthermore finds that the leader's approach towards this responsibility can be viewed as a form of cynical dis-identification with the company ideology.
Increasing embedment of unconscious bias training in diversity management requires equally increasing attention. For this reason, this thesis’ problematization of 'bias management' is a contribution to theory on diversity, gender, work and human resource management.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages80
SupervisorsJustine Grønbæk Pors