The good, the bad, and the ugly of implicit bias

Elsevier, The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10171, 9–15 February 2019, Pages 502-504.
Cheryl Pritlove, Clara Juando-Prats, Kari Ala-Leppilampi and Janet Parsons

The concept of implicit bias, also termed unconscious bias, and the related Implicit Association Test (IAT) rests on the belief that people act on the basis of internalised schemas of which they are unaware and thus can, and often do, engage in discriminatory behaviours without conscious intent. This idea increasingly features in public discourse and scholarly inquiry with regard to discrimination, providing a foundation through which to explore the why, how, and what now of gender inequity. Attention to the gender gap in academia, particularly pronounced in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) fields, has led many institutions to mandate implicit bias training. Here we critically explore the impact of such interventions, illuminating the good, the bad, and the ugly of implicit bias and the implications for women in science. Although it is essential to promote awareness of gender inequities, the current focus on implicit bias risks masking broader social, structural, and political barriers to women's advancement.