A Guide to Combating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

The BIGteam hosts monthly “Lunch and Learn” conversations to discuss social issues, share industry tips, and allow team members to learn PR skills from experts in the field. As part of our series this month, Dianne Austin, director of DEI at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-founder of BIGclient, Coils to Locs, a supplier of coily, curly synthetic wigs for women experiencing hair loss, spoke to our team on how to watch out for unconscious bias in the workplace. 

So what is unconscious bias? How does it show up in the workplace? And how can we overcome it? Here’s what Dianne had to share:

What is Unconscious Bias?

According to Dianne, unconscious biases are the mental shortcuts and judgements we can make about other people that we may not be aware of. They’re the stereotypes, both good and bad, that we have about others without actually knowing them personally. These biases are learned thought patterns, given to us by our family, the media, and other outside sources. Though we may not be consciously aware of them, these biases affect the way we engage with others in a multitude of ways.

What Kinds of Biases Show Up in the Workplace?

Unconscious biases show up both in the hiring process and once a candidate joins the team. There are a few examples of biases that can show up in the workplace:

  • Halo vs. Horns Bias: This is when an employee makes a blanket decision about who someone is based on a “positive” or “negative” attribute they have. For example, missed deadlines, poor performance and work tardiness may be overlooked in an employee who is conventionally attractive because of their looks. Their physical attributes overshadow the reality of their behavior.
  • Affinity Bias: This is when employees only connect with and spend time with employees they feel have similar backgrounds, interests and cultural perspectives as them. 
  • Name Bias: This is when assumptions are made about an employee solely based on their name. For example, when looking to hire someone new, a manager favors a traditionally white named candidate over a traditionally Black named candidate, despite the candidates having similar skill sets.
  • Conformity Bias: This is when an employee’s opinion changes to match the opinion of the group. For example, when a hiring team gathers to review job candidates, conformity bias can cause an individual to sway their opinion of a candidate based on the majority opinion. 
  • Nonverbal Bias: This is when an employer assigns negative attributes to an employee or job candidate due to their body language, such as a handshake or hand gestures. 

It is important to also recognize when biases show up and how to look out for them. 

  • Common Biases in the Hiring Process:
    • Showing a preference for candidates who have gone to certain colleges.
    • Assuming that someone with an accent is not a good communicator.
    • Looking for a candidate who will be a “good fit” based on personality and interests, rather than skill sets and work experience.
  • Common Biases that Occur Post-Hire
    • Not including the employee in casual conversations or social gatherings.
    • Assigning negative attributes to employees. For example, not assigning projects to employees who appear “quiet” or “reserved.”
    • Being less forgiving. For example, halting project assignments to an individual after one mistake resulting in a shorter learning curve to their progress.

How Do We Mitigate Unconscious Bias in the Workplace?

It is important to recognize that we all have unconscious biases to some extent, but we’re all responsible for mitigating them to the best of our ability. 

Here are Dianne’s five steps to overcoming implicit bias:

  1. Be aware that you have biases.
  2. Make the effort to understand what your biases are and correct them.
  3. Take steps to remove biases from your hiring process: For example, standardize interview questions to give a fair chance and focus on skill set, rather than personality traits.
  4. Create and promote an inclusive culture where employees hold each other accountable: Be purposefully inclusive – hold a lunch for new employees so they can get to know the whole team, or assign projects to all employees and not just a select few. If an employee says something that seems exclusive or derogatory, let them know their comment may be hurtful, and encourage them to think about how their words may affect others
  5. Expand your network: Seek diversity in new friendships and surround yourself with different people to minimize subconscious implicit biases.

The BIGteam wants to say a BIGthanks to Dianne Austin for masterfully guiding us through this complex and relevant issue. It’s not easy, but being aware of the ways your workplace fosters or doesn’t foster inclusivity is the first step to positive change. 

Let us know how your workplace is overcoming unconscious biases by tweeting us @BIGfishPR and make sure to check out Coils to Locs to learn more about Dianne and her company. 


BIGtakeaways from Apple’s WWDC 2021

On June 7th, Apple held their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) via livestream on the Apple Website and Youtube. This is the second year in a row that the WWDC has been held virtually, but that didn’t make the announcements any less exciting. Developers, tech enthusiasts, and Apple device users were treated to a host of new iOS15 features, Apple accessory features, and more. The BIGteam joined in on the fun – check out our top takeaways from WWDC 2021 below.


New Facetime Features

More Realistic Calls: Apple is striving to make FaceTime calls “more real” with two new Microphone Settings, Wide Spectrum Mic and Isolated Voice Mic, so users can choose whether they want the person they’re calling to hear background noise, or just their voice. FaceTime will also incorporate Spatial Audio, so when the person you’re calling moves around in a room, sound comes from the direction they’re talking from. 

Group FaceTime: To improve Group FaceTimes, Apple took some notes from Zoom. Users can now schedule FaceTime calls and send links to a scheduled call via email, text or calendar invite. These links will be compatible with non-Apple users as well, directing them to a browser window. Users can also switch to a Gridview when there are numerous people in the calls.


Apple’s new Shareplay feature is an attempt at helping users share the fun experiences they have on their Apple devices with friends and family. Users can listen to music together, watch movies and TV, and even share their screens when making a delivery order or browsing the internet. What makes Shareplay different from your average screenshare session is that other users can now interact with the same app you’re using on your device from their device. For example, if you’re listening to a song with your friend via Shareplay, your friend can pause and skip it as they choose. The same can be done with movies and TV shows. Apple is working with third-party apps to allow Shareplay capabilities for games and other streaming services.


Photo Sharing: Gone are the days of having your whole text conversation dominated by hundreds of photos from an event you just attended. In Messages, photos will now be shared in a “collage” or “stack” form, so that they take up less space and are easier to navigate. 

Shared with You: iOS apps on your device will now showcase a “Shared With You” section that compiles relevant links, locations, photos, music, etc. you received in Messages. This way, when you log into Maps and are looking for the perfect cafe to work at, your coworker’s suggested spot will pop up as a reminder.  


Notifications: Notifications will look a lot different in iOS15. Rather than an endless stream of pop-up emails and texts sitting at the top of your screen, you will now be able to schedule a “Notification Summary” that will use machine learning to package up all the most relevant notices in one place. 

Do Not Disturb: Receiving a text from your loved one during the work day can sometimes cause panic or annoyance. Is someone sick and going to the hospital? Or is your mom wondering where you bought that sustainable toilet paper? Your contacts will now be able to see that your phone is on Do Not Disturb and choose whether their message is an emergency, or if it can be sent silently and seen when you’re available.

Focus: Apple understands that users are busy, and wants the notifications, apps and people you contact to be relevant (and not distracting). Users will now be able to create “Focus” categories that will consist of chosen apps, contacts, and notifications you’re wanting to receive at a given point in the day. Once you turn on a “Work Focus” for example, you’ll only see work emails, Slack messages and texts from coworkers.


Tend to misplace your wallet often? That may no longer be an issue. New Apple Wallet updates turn users’ phones into a transit card, credit card, ID and more. Apple is still working with different corporations to verify Apple wallet cards and keys as valid forms of identification.


Audio Features

Have trouble hearing a friend using AirPods when they’re on a busy train or doing their dishes? With Conversation Boost, voice audio will be further isolated for people using AirPods. Apple will also be announcing chosen notifications over AirPods too (this means email!). 

Lost my AirPods

If you’ve lost your AirPods beyond Bluetooth range, you can now indicate on “Find My” that they’re lost, and Apple will send you their location despite distance. 

iPad OS15


Get ready to personalize your app display with the inclusion of Widgets on iPad OS15. With Widgets, users no longer have to scroll and search to find the app they need. Put key app content front and center for easy access. 


With the new “Multitasking” feature, users no longer have to switch back and forth between app screens. Split your screen in half and utilize two different apps at once. This feature is sure to be a hit amongst note taking students and professionals. 


Monterey: Mac’s new operating system has a whole host of new features to offer. Some of the most exciting include:

  • Universal Control: Users can now operate multiple Mac and iPad devices with a single track pad. Drag images and files across multiple screens from one trackpad.
  • Tabs: Customizable Tab Groups by task and category can make a sea of tabs much easier to navigate. 
  • SharePlay: Shareplay features mentioned above will be included in Monterey.
  • Focus: Focus features will also be a part of Monterey’s OS. 


A large part of WWDC this year focused on privacy. Some of Apple’s newest privacy features will present a challenge to email and app marketers, but guarantee anonymity and privacy to its device users. Mail Privacy Protection will now hide your IP address from email marketers and prevent them from seeing whether you’ve opened an email or not. The same features will extend to apps, blocking them from seeing your IP address, location or contacts. Users will also receive a new Privacy Report that will list third-party data collectors who are trying to get your information from certain apps. These features are a big leap in protection and transparency from Apple. 

WWDC 2021 has given users plenty of new features to be excited about. Which feature was your favorite? What else do you hope to see rolled out? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting us at @BIGfishPR.



Get To Know Our 2021 Summer Interns!

We are so excited to welcome Roth and Samantha to the BIGfish team as our 2021 summer interns and Maggie back as our senior intern! Get to know these future PR pros below.

Samantha Tubin

Name: Samantha Tubin

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/samantha-tubin-58787b1ab

Hometown: Tenafly, NJ

Tell us a little bit about your background: I am a rising senior studying Public Relations at Boston University. Before BIGfish, I held positions as a marketing intern for a retail company, as well as worked at a boutique marketing agency. I am super excited to continue my communications journey with BIGfish! 

What attracted you to BIGfish? The tech industry is ever-expanding and BIGfish has an impressive roster of innovative clients. Plus, surrounding myself with tech PR experts will allow me to learn and grow! 

Describe yourself in 5 words: Dedicated, witty, driven, sarcastic, foodie

What’s your favorite food?: Tacos! Or really any Mexican food. 

What do you hope to accomplish in this internship?: I hope to learn how to successfully gain maximum press coverage and media engagement for businesses so I can grow as a PR professional! 

Anything else we should know about you?: I love to listen to music. You can find me jamming out anywhere and everywhere. 


Roth Santos

Name: Roth Santos

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rothsantos

Hometown: Seekonk, MA

Tell us a little bit about your background: I’m a senior Public Relations major at Suffolk University. I started my internship experience in public media, working for GBH and PBS. Interested in a more creative role at a smaller company, I became the social media marketing intern at Rocketbook Inc. I like working with companies who have a strong sense of purpose and actively seek to make the world a better place. 

What attracted you to BIGfish? After being exposed to the fast-paced and creative world of start-up marketing with Rocketbook, I sought internships in the tech and start-up industry. BIGfish caught my eye because of their small size, incredible location and past experience with brands I really respect. 

Describe yourself in 5 words: Persistent. Self-advocate. Funny. Weird. 

What’s your favorite food?: Chocolate

What do you hope to accomplish in this internship?: I’ve never worked for a PR agency before, so just orienting myself to the pace, workload and collaboration involved with that is an exciting endeavor. In my past marketing roles I didn’t gain much media relations experience either, so honing that skill set will be important. Lastly, I hope to gain a better understanding of the tech industry, and get a grasp for where PR can address some of its big issues. 

Anything else we should know about you?: I love upcycling and thrifting. 90% of my clothes are from second-hand stores, and 90% of the furniture in my apartment I found on the streets of Boston. Impressively (or embarrassingly, depending how you see it) I’ve started to memorize the various trash pick-up schedules for different Boston neighborhoods.