Challenging unconscious bias


By Peter Yoh, Head of Social Housing for Liverpool City region and member of Riverside’s Black and Minority Ethnic staff network

I’m mixed race – my late father was originally from Shanghai and my late mother Irish Scouse. I was born and raised in the heart of South Liverpool.

Among my other hobbies and interests, I have a passion for food and cooking. I love eating and cooking Chinese food as well as many other cuisines from different countries. Being one of seven children, some of my siblings like cooking and others don’t, just like other typical large families. This may surprise some people given my Chinese heritage.

I’m immensely proud of my Chinese heritage and have fond memories growing up. Through the years, I have faced all kinds of different challenges and experiences, some good and some not so good, because I have been in the minority due to my ethnicity.

I remember one occasion, following a first date with a former partner from Blackpool, I was introduced to her mother and father. Both were very pleasant and likeable people who introduced themselves, and after shaking hands, asked me when I was going to rustle them up sweet and sour pork! I smiled, and politely said ‘would that be with rice or chips?’. Even at a relatively young age, I realised both parents were trying to make a connection with me, but were demonstrating their unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias is when your background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes or cultural context has an impact on your decisions and actions without you realising. It happens when our brains make incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us even realising – just like mum and dad from Blackpool!

Inevitably, unconscious bias travels with us, and can influence our behaviour and decisions in the workplace. Being aware and addressing our own unconscious bias is crucial to creating a workplace which is inclusive and where people are judged on merit.

As a member of Riverside’s Black and Minority Ethnic staff Group, I hope my experience will encourage others to be more aware of unconscious bias. Riverside understands the difficulties this type of prejudice can cause in the workplace and has introduced mandatory training for all staff. Making people take note of something which by its very nature they are not aware of is a great start but it is just the beginning of challenging our implicit beliefs and thoughts.