Interview with Leslie Hawthorn: LISA '13 Workshop on Recognizing and Overcoming Bias

Next month in Washington, D.C., Leslie Hawthorn and Sheeri Cabral will lead a half-day LISA '13 workshop, Recognizing and Overcoming Bias — Ways to Make Your Workplace More Successful and Welcoming. In this interview, Leslie Hawthorn, community manager at Elasticsearch, offers a preview of what the workshop will offer.

The LISA '13 early bird registration and hotel discount has been extended until October 22.

LISA '13

Rikki: What do you plan to cover in your WiAC (Women in Advanced Computing) workshop at LISA '13?

Leslie: We'll be covering the many biases that each person brings to situations in the workplace that are a product of our socialization, cultural meta-narratives, and the lore of the tech industry itself. We'll look at stereotypes and how they operate to make our teams less productive and our workplace less welcoming and collaborative. Sheeri and I will start with talking about some of our own biases—none of us is perfect in this regard, by any means—and how we've worked to change our thinking and overcome those biases. We'll then segue into examining common stereotypes and biases in the tech industry in small group discussions with the audience, encouraging folks to share their own experience. We'll wrap up with reporting back, tips for combatting bias in your workplace, and what to do when you find yourself faced with a co-workers biases, or your own.

Rikki: Who should attend your session, and what will they take away from it?

Leslie: We welcome all in our session and we want to be quite clear that we think everyone can benefit from it. This is not targeted to any one group of people, e.g. women, sales folks, or—my favorite tech stereotype—pointy haired bosses. Attendees will leave with solid lessons to improve their collaboration skills by understanding some of their own innate biases and how to work around them, as well as how to help others on your team work around them.

Rikki: What additional resources would you recommend to attendees who want to learn more about bias in the workplace?

Leslie: Folks may enjoy the Project Implicit website at
Project Implicit supports a collaborative network of researchers interested in basic and applied research concerning thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control. The site offers a variety of questionnaires from university researchers that help people uncover their own cognitive biases—quite illuminating when you're trying to level up as co-worker and person.

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