GenderLAB – learn, engage, create!
Members of the Diversity and Difference Platform have created an innovative and co-creative workshop format called GenderLAB that combines elements from design thinking and norm-critical exercises with the latest research insights on gender diversity and unconscious bias. It was developed in collaboration with KVINFO, Hanken School of Economics, the GODESS Institute and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and funded by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) under the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The basic premise of GenderLAB is that the social environments we engage and work in are the product of our own making – and thus able to become more open, inclusive and equal for all. It leads you through a structured process that, step by step, engages you to critically reflect on societal norms and to mobilize these insights in order to solve an equality challenge relevant to your own organization.
It is a scientific fact that our human brains are incapable of processing all the information that they are confronted with on a daily basis. Therefore, our brains must make shortcuts that rely on categorizations. We can also rely on norms, which are guidelines for behavior and practices, that can help us with our complex day-to- day lives. While our brains would be unable to function without these categories and norms, the problem is that these are based on culturally and historically defined ideas of for example gender, sexuality, ethnicity. These categorizations dictate what, in any given context, we understand to be normal or natural.
This also means that we, without consciously thinking about it, make erroneous judgements. For example, we automatically relate certain bodies to certain professions, positions and values. This means that our evaluations of, for instance, candidates for new jobs are always gendered, classed, sexualized, raced, etc. – often unwantedly so. This is called unconscious bias.
Such biases can thus lead to an implicit and sometimes invisible form of discrimination that not only creates inequality, but also gives cause to bad business decisions, since different people’s qualifications, skills, and competences are not evaluated as objectively as we would like to think. Understanding and limiting unconscious bias therefore has important benefits that directly impact how we work together, be that at work or in our free time.
GenderLAB is organized in a way that nudges participants to become aware of some of their own biases and pushes them to transgress the categorization shortcuts in their minds. Integrating the most recent insights on unconscious bias allows sensitising participants to what they might think of as "normal" and guiding them to find practical ways for creating a more inclusive perspective instead. GenderLAB has been successfully run at a number of public and private organizations in order to foster more inclusive and open environments. At cbs.dk/GenderLAB you can find our dissemination report, explaining each step of the workshop in more detail. To go even more into depth, we have also created a video series featuring some of the people involved to explain some of the key elements of GenderLAB.