The Pearl Initiative collaborates with SABIC to raise awareness of conscious and unconscious biases

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Published: Thu 27 Apr 2023, 4:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Apr 2023, 4:30 PM

The Pearl Initiative, a business-led non-profit organisation focused on promoting corporate accountability in the Gulf region’s private sector, recently collaborated with SABIC to conduct a series of sessions under the theme ‘Break the Bias’. The series aimed to raise awareness amongst university students on conscious and unconscious bias as well as ways to prevent them from utilising best practices implemented by SABIC.

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Over 850 students from six different universities in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE participated in the sessions. The initiative introduced different types of workplace bias, such as ageism, gender bias, and name bias, and how they may lead to discrimination and harassment if left unchallenged. During the sessions, senior leaders from SABIC, Baker A Sindi, senior manager, Compliance Programmes MEA and Shatha Awdah Al-Shammari, senior manager, New Hire Experience, discussed with students examples of different types and levels of bias.

“As business leaders, it is our role to prepare the leaders of tomorrow by ensuring they understand and appreciate the value of diversity and inclusivity for fostering creative, innovative, and productive workplaces. By partnering with the Pearl Initiative in this ‘Break the Bias’ initiative, we will ensure that future workforces are aware of their rights, trained to recognise and understand bias, both conscious and unconscious, and are equipped with the resources and tools to overcome the associated challenges,” said Sindi

Bias in the workplace leads to social isolation, withdrawal, and health issues and impacts employee productivity and retention levels. In addition, it is estimated that active disengagement costs economies billions every year. Gallup estimated that active disengagement due to workplace bias costs US companies $450 billion to $550 billion yearly. A recent study from the Centre for Talent Innovation titled "Disrupt Bias, Drive Value” shows that 33 per cent of those who reported experiencing bias felt alienated, and 34 per cent withheld ideas and solutions. In addition, approximately 80 per cent of those surveyed said they would not refer people to their employer if they experienced workplace bias.

Vineetha Mathew, senior advisor programmes at Pearl Initiative, said: “The effects of conscious and unconscious bias at work can be detrimental not only to individuals but also to the wider workplace, economy, and society. By raising awareness of these biases among young people, we can take a crucial step towards building a more inclusive and equitable society. This approach not only fosters critical thinking but also facilitates dialogue and strategies for managing these biases in the workplace.”

The ‘Break the Bias’ initiative is a collaboration between the Pearl Initiative and SABIC. The series was organised to engage SABIC youth programs ‘By Youth, For Youth’ with youth across the Gulf region. SABIC has several youth programmes, such as Young Leadership Council and Young SABIC Professionals.

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