On Wednesday, June 5th, Sephora closed its stores nationwide to provide diversity training for all 16,000 of the company’s employees. The temporary closure and training protocol were implemented after singer SZA publicly shared an experience in which she reported being racial profiled during a trip to the company's Calabasas, California store. The singer posted on social media that a Sephora employee called security on her to “make sure she wasn’t stealing” while she was shopping for cosmetics.

Sephora officials responded immediately to SZA’s complaint to apologize for the incident and thank the singer for bringing the issue to the company’s attention. Weeks later, the diversity training was announced to help employees across the country understand Sephora’s values, company officials said in a statement.

SZA Sephora Tweet

Could UNCONSCIOUS Bias Impact Your Business?

Unconscious bias incidents can have a major impact on how customers view a company or brand. 

On June 19, the Greater Memphis Chamber will host a breakfast forum with Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt.

Understanding unconscious bias and creating company strategies to reduce its potential impact are central themes of the groundbreaking book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See Think and Do by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. Dr. Eberhardt’s book is focused on research to understand the cogitative biases and stereotypes, especially racial biases, that impact everyday life, business, criminal justice and more. 

Eberhardt has worked with business and law enforcement agencies across the country to help organizations recognize and understand implicit bias and how it impacts their work. Her talk will focus on what business and community leaders need to know and understand about our unconscious biases and stereotypes and their impact so that we don’t become victims of those biases.

“All of us really have a vulnerability to bias. Implicit bias can be defined as the feelings and beliefs that we have about social groups that can affect our decision making and our behavior, even when we are unaware of it,” Dr. Eberhart says.

Understanding our behaviors

The cognitive system of our brain categorizes everything, constantly sorting information into organized categorized groupings in our heads. We use past experiences and the cultural categorizations we have absorbed to help us anticipate a sequence of events. According to Dr. Eberhart, our cognitive brains use all of this information to make decisions that inform our behaviors – without even realizing this process is happening to us.

According to Dr. Eberhart’s work, even when committed to equal treatment, bias built from subconscious stereotypes can undermine our efforts to create inclusive environments, especially in the workplace.

Our cognitive brain learns social groupings inherently. It categorizes people based on race, gender, social class and a host of other groupings. According to Dr. Eberhardt’s work, even when committed to equal treatment, bias built from these subconscious stereotypes can undermine our efforts to create inclusive environments, especially in the workplace.

Understanding Bias in the Workplace is Important for Businesses

Even companies with core values dedicated to diversity and inclusion can find themselves at the center of controversy. Dr. Eberhardt believes that while bias can be inherent, it is critical for businesses to understand it and create processes and policies that help reduce its impact on the workplace.

“All of us are living in this world where we are absorbing what’s out there. We are absorbing what we see and we are absorbing these associations that are getting made.” Dr. Eberhardt told Daily Show host Trever Noah in an interview earlier this year. “…you begin to associate a particular group with a particular trait. But then you don’t know exactly when you learned it.”

Eberhardt has frequently noted that people often equate bias to racism or bigotry, but they are not the same. 

"You don't have to have a moral failing to act on implicit bias," Eberhardt said. "All of us have a vulnerability to bias."


Join the Greater Memphis Chamber on June 19 to learn about how you can help your company prevent misleading or negative interactions with consumers by better understanding unconscious biases and identifying strategies to help prevent the potential impact of bias in your workplace.

Event information

What: Breakfast with Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt Author of Biased

When: June 19, 2019 from 7:30 - 9:30 am

Where: Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Road, Memphis, TN 38117   

Ticket information: $40 for members, $75 for non-members 



This breakfast is part of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Thought Leadership Series. To find out more about our events, visit our Events Calendar.

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