May 10, 2022

WorkLife Law has received funding from Walmart to work with six companies to pilot its “Bias Interrupters” program: evidence-based metrics-driven tools for interrupting racial and gender bias in informal workplace interactions and HR systems. The “Bias Interrupters” program was developed to address the problem, documented by WLL’s studies of six different industries, that a company’s business systems (e.g., evaluation and interview processes) reflect the bias of people traditionally hired and result in the continued hiring and promotion of similar people. Corporate diversity programs fail because companies do not use an evidence-based metrics-driven approach to leveling the playing field. This concept is discussed in more detail by Joan Williams, Sullivan Professor of Law, and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law in her recent TED talk and book Bias Interrupted: Creating Inclusion for Real and for Good.

The six companies selected for the pilot program will be our partners in producing rigorous research to establish best practices for leveling the playing field for all employees. Each participating organization will launch a pilot using metrics to establish baselines and measure progress in one of four business systems: performance evaluations, access to opportunities, recruitment, and informal workplace interactions.

The insights gained from the first stage of this pilot program will help us work with 30-50 companies in the second year of the grant to scale-up our Bias Interrupters work. The evidence gathered from the program will allow us to establish the generalizability of our findings and learn the most common barriers companies face in countering bias, allowing us to develop strategies to combat them. By the end of the program, we will have created detailed roadmaps that organizations can follow to interrupt bias in performance evaluations, access to opportunities, recruitment, and informal workplace interactions.

Simple Bias Interrupters can be highly effective: taking less than 10 minutes to read through a two-page document led to increased performance evaluation ratings and bonuses for both women and Black employees. Professor Williams’s team has published over 30 articles in Harvard Business Review and has extensive experience working with companies, including most notably a pilot study where WLL worked with the Gap to effect a shift to more stable schedules; sales increased as a result. Bias Interrupters aim to change business systems using an evidence-based model that provides simple solutions leading to more diverse and better performing workplaces. WLL is dedicated to quantifying the real-life impact of gender, race, and class bias in workplaces and excited to partner with the six companies to generate and advance evidence-based strategies to improve the workplace experience for all employees.


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