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Diversity, Inclusion and Unconscious Bias

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We proudly welcome unique perspectives at Sonoco and believe that our people should be as diverse as our customer base. Research shows that truly diverse teams outperform their non-diverse counterparts both financially and in decision-making efficiency. And while these are some of the many benefits of diverse teams, they are not the reason we promote diversity, equity and inclusion at Sonoco. We believe people build businesses by doing the right thing. Creating a diverse workforce, treated equitably in an inclusive environment, is the right thing to do.

It's not enough to look for diverse backgrounds and perspectives through the hiring process. We need to ensure that employees from diverse backgrounds—with respect to gender identity, race, ability, religion, age, sexual orientation and other factors—feel accepted, welcomed and fairly treated. It's one of the reasons we have established a global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council at Sonoco.

As part of Sonoco's commitment to diversity and inclusion, we want to understand, name and strategically combat unconscious bias in workplace decision-making.

What is unconscious bias?

All of us have implicit stereotypes we believe about others, both positive and negative. These unintentional assumptions and beliefs based on observable characteristics are called unconscious biases. They develop throughout our lives based on our own lived experiences along with the messages we receive from family, friends, social media, news, and pop culture.

The danger of unconscious biases is that they can influence us to have a preference for or aversion towards another person or group of people without our awareness. Before we know it, we have amplified certain voices while silencing others. Unconscious bias can negatively impact individuals or groups of employees as well as hindering the success of our business as a whole.

The good news is that unconscious bias is not permanent. We can work against negative outcomes through self-awareness and reflection, education and communication with others.

Common Types of Unconscious Bias

There are multiple types of unconscious bias based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, age and even perceived physical attractiveness.

Here are just a few ways unconscious bias manifests in everyday life and how to identify it before it affects our interactions with our peers and colleagues.

Similarity Bias

First, there’s similarity bias, or the tendency to surround ourselves with others who have similar interests, experiences or backgrounds to our own. We are more likely to get along with, and want to work with, people who remind us of ourselves.

Ask yourself, what common identities do you share with this person that might cloud your judgment or influence your decisions? When we assume others are like us, we limit our ability to interact meaningfully.

Confirmation Bias

Next, there’s confirmation bias—a tendency to only ask questions that reinforce what we already believe to be true.

When you ask questions off the top of your head, you may be unknowingly trying to find evidence to support an existing belief. Instead, try to develop standard questions that promote fairness, even if it challenges your own views. You can also talk with an outside party or seek input from someone whose perspective you know to be different from your own.

Conformity Bias

Conformity bias is the problem of “group think." It occurs when we take cues for behavior from the actions of those around us, such as going along with the majority opinion of a group without voicing our own opinions.

Leaders in the workplace can combat these microcultural inaccuracies from forming by gathering individual feedback before bringing the group together to discuss.

Name Bias

Lastly, there’s name bias, a tendency to base preferences or judgments about people based on the type of name they have, often along racial or cultural lines. When we base our interactions on whether we recognize someone’s name or it’s one we’ve never heard before, it can shape our decisions and impact our ability to create inclusive environments.

We can change these behaviors by consciously choosing to learn from others regardless of what we think we know about them based on a name alone.

Together, we can create a more inclusive and open environment that allows each of us to contribute from our own life experiences. Together, we can spot unintended discrimination before it even happens. And together, we can build the Sonoco we want for our future selves.

About the Sonoco Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council

The Sonoco Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council seeks to create a diverse workforce, treated equitably in an inclusive environment…fostering diversity, equity & inclusion education, awareness and communication throughout Sonoco globally.

Current Resource Groups include:

From educational programming to community service, Resource Groups cultivate respect, engagement and a work environment where everyone can grow themselves, their career and our Company.