‘No evidence unconscious bias training works’
Interestingly, Black is also scathing about unconscious bias training that has been rolled out by HR departments across the globe, which he says will not work.
“It is one of those fads that companies have spent billions on. But there is no evidence it actually helps. In fact, there’s some evidence it does more harm than good.”
Why? “Because people don’t like being told what to do. If I say you’re a sexist or misogynist, you’ll go ‘Who are you to tell me, what do you know?’.”
Studies found employees who received the training were no more likely to behave differently a few days later, or to nominate women or people from ethnic minorities for recognition. In another, people told about biases and how they should behave became more prejudiced.
Black says we should think about our “headwinds” – things that have been difficult – and “tailwinds” – our advantages – if we want to tackle bias.
We still tend to overestimate our own headwinds and underestimate other people’s, however.
“You think, life’s really easy for that person. But they’re thinking, ‘Well you have no idea how tough it was because of a, b, and c, and vice versa.’
“It’s not as simple as being black or Asian, or gay or transgender. It’s a whole range of factors, including social classes.”
He says encouraging people to use their tailwinds to help others overcome adversity makes us feel empowered.
“It’s not a battle. We’re all in this together,” he adds.
It’s a fine sentiment. Though some would argue Black, an impeccably well-connected Old Etonian, has enjoyed more tailwinds than most.
Born to the late advertising executive and socialite Brinsley Black and Lady Moorea Hastings, a former magistrate and daughter of a Labour peer, he attended Colet Court prep school and later Queen’s College at the University of Oxford.
What were his tailwinds? He pauses. “In the main, I have overdosed on tailwinds. The nature of my family was not always helpful, possibly the way my parents sometimes chose to parent. But in the grand scheme of things, they were minor headwinds.”
Peers at Eton included David Cameron and Boris Johnson – although he insists they were not friends at the time – and he and his family have gone on holiday with the Camerons, as well as Michael Gove and his family, with whom they remain close.
After studying, he went into management consultancy and briefly worked at ABG Research, owned by Robert Maxwell, before it went bust.