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unconscious bias

Unconscious bias refers to a type of employment-related claim alleging that with respect to promotions, raises, and job offers, women and minorities are often discriminated against because they face preconceived stereotypes in evaluations, despite conscious efforts to do otherwise.

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The leading proponent of this theory is sociologist William Bielby, who regularly testifies on behalf of employee plaintiffs in major employment discrimination cases (including those against Wal-Mart, FedEx, and Johnson & Johnson). As an example of unconscious bias, Bielby's research found that in identifying candidates for management positions requiring relocation, hiring managers systematically excluded women from consideration because they reflexively assumed that women weren't interested in jobs requiring them to move long distances. Critics of unconscious bias claims assert that while stereotypes are admittedly involved in interactions between strangers, when a Caucasian manager has known an employee for a significant time period, he will apply what is referred to as "individuating information," thereby allowing him to make objective decisions on the basis of the employee's individual skills and abilities rather than on gender or racial stereotypes.

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