Social media knows me well. It suggested I buy this mug, and I… well, I thought this was a great idea! This helpful advertising suggestion followed some interesting conversations I have been having recently (both on-and-off-line) about unconscious bias.

The context of these conversations was women in academia but as with most good conversations, this topic has stayed with me and I have been thinking about it in wider terms. It comes down to this: I didn’t really want to think that I had been affected by unconscious bias—and as a white western woman privileged in all sorts of ways I also didn’t want to make a fuss—but I now realise that I probably have been affected.

This article from Allie Weill writing for the California-based public media organisation KQED speaks into this subject. It explains the social media ‘storm’ that erupted a couple of years ago over the use of academic titles. I wasn’t on social media at the time but as I understand it, some people said that academic titles should only be used in certain settings. Others (especially women and also people of colour) reacted against that and it unfolded from there. Of course there are always different ways to look at the same situation but this is a good article with stories about real people. If you are interested in this topic, I’d say it’s worth a read whatever your industry. This is the line that got me: 

For women and people of colour, an academic title can be a tool to remind others of their expertise in a world that often undermines it.

The postman delivered my mug yesterday. Here I am enjoying my first cup of coffee from it. “It is just a fun mug” we might say. We would be wrong. My new mug is a powerful visual aid that—along with the important conversations people are having on these sorts of topics—is helping me to redress prejudices towards myself and others that I have unconsciously allowed to seep into my thoughts. I look at my mug and smile. It is reminding me of a big part of who I am and it is helping me to see others in better ways too.

I look at my mug and smile. It is reminding me of a big part of who I am and it is helping me to see others in better ways too.

Do you have a visual aid? What does it say about where you’ve been, who you are, and where you are going?