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Shark attacks and icecream
Shark attacks and icecream sales both increase at the same time of year, but is there a link between the two?
If someone was inclined to be prejudiced against sharks, or icecreams, they might try to claim that there is one. But in reality, they would be missing (or refusing to see) the missing factor: hot weather.
According to Jan Elsner, an expert on ‘unconscious bias’ who presented to more than 80 CFA leaders at last week’s Inclusion Summit, the above example goes to the core of what prejudice and stereotyping is all about: putting things into categories then creating links between them that aren't really there.
Stereotyping rises from bias, a very tricky thing to tackle, said Jan, who explained to the group that bias is part of being human.
“Our human brains exaggerate perception,” she said.
“We can only hold so many things in our conscious mind – we can’t possibly pay attention to everything so we have to apply filters, and categorise things.
“Unfortunately this act of categorisation can then lead to stereotyping.”
Jan said that people who lead and influence in their groups or organisations –particularly one as socially and geographically diverse as CFA – needed to remain mindful of what was going on inside their own heads, and to model good behaviour to others.
She said that the most harmful words or actions for someone in one of society’s minority groups were not always direct and obvious.
“People who unconsciously exclude others, or stand by and let things happen without stepping in are often the most damaging. And often they are entirely well-meaning,” she said.
The Inclusion Summit, held at the Melbourne Town Hall, drew together Executive Mangers, Regional Directors, Operations Managers along with other senior managers and volunteers from around the state.
Jane Lewis, a guest speaker from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Rights Commission said that the word ‘Inclusion' was important because it went beyond ‘tolerance’.
“When you consider that nearly 30 per cent of Victorians were born overseas and 1 in 5 have a disability, this isn’t something that any of us can ignore,” she said.
CEO Mick Bourke, who opened the summit, said that the aim of the forum was to allow CFA to move ahead with focus on action, rather than lip service, around inclusion.
“This is a journey we continue with renewed vigour, starting with the ideas generated today,” he said.