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Invisible Inequities Training: Toward a Bias-Free FIRST Front-Line?

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  • Invisible Inequities Training: Toward a Bias-Free FIRST Front-Line?

    As many of you were preparing for the holiday season in 2016 and feeling one way or another just after the U.S. Presidential election, FIRST®launched Invisible Inequities—a free, online training module to grapple with bias and help create more diverse, inclusive and equitable teams.


    FIRST Diversity and Inclusion has been collaborating with NAPE to design a training series for Coaches, Mentors, Volunteers, Partners and other key stakeholders who work directly with students. Invisible Inequities is the first of three online modules offered and help participants:
    · Identify examples of cultural stereotypes and bias and how they affect equitable participant engagement on FIRSTteams,
    · Reflect on differences between their team demographics and their community demographics, and
    · Apply strategies to recruit participants from underrepresented and underserved groups.


    So, is it possible to be totally bias-free as you are recruiting team members and interacting with them in FIRST Tech Challenge or our other three programs? No. We know that culture shapes your biases and beliefs about people based on their age, gender, race, language, (dis)ability, or income level—usually without your realization. “The mind is a difference-seeking machine,” is the best way to think about it. Globally recognized for her work on Implicit Bias, Mahzarin Banaji says your hidden biases cause you to create order of the innumerable details you’re processing at any given moment and make reasonable assumptions. However, that “firewall” in your mind sometimes governs your thoughts and behaviors, shapes your preferences, and can create a Blindspot—the mind’s quick, incomplete sorting judgments about someone’s “character, abilities, and potential” to thrive.


    FIRST is committed to bringing its programs to students who would benefit most and to address inequities in STEM. FIRST has set a strategic priority of making its programs more inclusive and better representing the communities where teams are located. We are not currently as diverse as we would like to be and certain underrepresented and underserved students feel marginalized. A 35 minute to 1-hour length training could never attain bias-eradication. That’s not feasible. Acknowledging your bias allows you to laser-like focus on strategies that deny your biases the chance to influence student recruitment, roles and retention on teams. Through engaging and reflective activities on the power of culture on your interactions with students, these modules will equip you with specific strategies to support community outreach, student participation, persistence, engagement and success.




    When asked, “How likely is it that you will change the way you creating an inclusive environment for your team as a result of participating in the Invisible Inequities training module?”, nearly 87% of training survey completers to date say they are very likely to change or somewhat likely to change. “So now, knowing my bias, I will try to compensate in recruiting all different groups. I was going to say recruit them equally but now after following the module, I will say that I need to approach this with equity in mind--not equality,” reflects Jared Hasen-Klein, a high school junior and Director of Team Operations at Team 1836: The MilkenKnights who’s not only taken the training, but also participated in the training design youth focus group.


    That’s the kind of consciousness competence shifting and triggered action-planning we are hoping for! We know the training has potential for impact, but we need to engage a critical mass of Coaches and Mentors. Kudos to the FIRST VISTA Members and management team for incentivizing training participation in the underserved communities where they have a presence! I DID IT is the simple message members email along with the certificate of completion to be entered in a drawing to win some pretty fabulous prizes.






    Have you completed the module? What will you do to spread the word and encourage engagement within your sphere of influence? The training module is free and accessible to anyone through Schoology Learning Management System. To start, fill out the module access form, and you will receive instructions on how join the course.


    Post By: Shelley Henderson, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, FIRST


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