Guest Blog – Implicit Bias / Unconscious Bias: Impact as a Social Work Supervisor

Brandon Garrick wrote several guest blogs while he was earning his Masters Degree in Social Work at NC State University. Brandon has thus far focused his social work with the often underserved prison population, and is now pursuing his Doctorate in Social Work at the University of Kentucky.

You can search for Brandon’s past blogs on this page (Search on Brandon) that covered topics such men’s health issues, the disproportionate African-American population in US prisons, suicide prevention and misconceptions of atheists.

Introduction: Implicit bias (also called unconscious bias) refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner (Blair,2002). These biases are important to acknowledge and challenge as they can promote disparities in various ecological systems.

For instance, implicit biases can negatively impact a provider’s inclination to engage in patient-centered care, provide referrals to specialized treatment, or even adhere to evidence-based guidelines when serving diverse populations (Hall et al., 2015).

The following reflection will discuss how I scored on the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT) on race and my reaction to it. I will discuss previous training that I have received on implicit biases. In addition, I will detail my thoughts and feelings about my biases and why it matters as a supervisor.

Discussion. When I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity to take a Professional Certification course on diversity, equity and inclusion due to my cousin being one of the presenters. The training was mainly for diversity and inclusion professionals and was held at Rutgers Business school by the National Diversity Council.

At this training, I learned about implicit biases and their negative influences on diversity and inclusion in hiring. The training discussed the benefits of having a diverse workforce, specifically regarding the diversity of thought in business.

There are multiple best practices to address and challenge implicit biases. One method an individual could take to address implicit biases is to continue researching and self-reflect. In social work, we often discuss the importance of self-reflection in supervision and practice. The first step in overcoming unconscious biases is to become aware of them, which I aim to do as I take the IAT on race.

The IAT is anonymous test that measures attitudes toward or beliefs about certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups. I selected the one on race due to my belief that I will do well on it.

My responses suggested a slight automatic preference for European Americans over African Americans. My results are accurate despite my questioning of the exercises involved in the test. I thought I would score in this range because there are areas to improve if I wanted to fall into the little to no automatic preference between African American and European categories.

Supervisor: I am content with my score and biases, but I worry that they can negatively influence me as a supervisor. In addition, this IAT on race only focused on race, and I am sure I have deeper biases towards other social groups. I know implicit biases could negatively influence me as a supervisor, and I must work towards overcoming them.
Continuing education and reflection will be vital in overcoming my implicit bias. Pursuing higher education (MSW, now DSW) has reduced my level of implicit bias.

Conclusion: After taking the IAT on race, I am more knowledgeable about my implicit biases toward African Americans. The website is a good source, and I plan to take additional ones to see where I stand regarding implicit biases toward others. My goal is to be an excellent supervisor that promotes social justice among my supervisees, and this goal holds the responsibility of overcoming and challenging implicit bias. In addition, as a social worker, I have the ethical responsibility to challenge oppressive policies and systems (NASW, 2021).


Blair I. V. (2002). The malleability of automatic stereotypes and prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6, 242–261. 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0603_8

Hall WJ, Chapman MV, Lee KM (2015). Implicit racial/ethnic bias among health care professionals and its influence on health care outcomes: a systematic review. American Journal of Public Health 105: e60–e76, Crossref, Medline, Google Scholar

National Association of Social Workers (2021). Code of ethics. retrieved from

Race IAT retrieved from

Ten attributes and skills of successful DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Leaders

On October 19, I participated in a “Diversity Officers Roundtable” as part of the two day virtual panel discussion as part of the Energy Diversity and Inclusion Council’s Energy Industry DEI Summit. Miracle Johnson did a superb job of moderating the panel that included myself and two outstanding Chief Diversity Officers, Kelli J. Scott of First Energy and Ray Stringer of Constellation Energy.

We kicked off the panel discussing the huge increase we have seen in company DEI efforts and the demand for having a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO.) Between the three of us on the panel, we came up with ten key skills or competencies we felt were need to be a successful CDO:

1) Understanding the business you are serving in. It is crucial to connect DEI to the overall business strategy and to understand the diversity dynamics of the industry in which you are working.

2) Consultative skills to be able to work with senior leaders across every function to actualize the impact of DEI on the overall business strategy and their own functional areas.

3) Having grit and courage. (See my recent blog about courage.) DEI work is not easy; there are many challenges and hard topics to address.

4) Perseverance, which goes along with grit. DEI work is a long never-ending journey; it is a marathon, not a sprint.

5) Operational savvy. In addition to driving DEI strategy, you need to be able to manage execution and operationalize DEI. This also includes being focused on the outcomes you are working to achieve.

6) Empathy. There are a wide range of issues in the world, in the country and in the workplace that have real impact on different diverse people and constituencies. It is important to understand how:
• working at home and managing kids may impact working women
• how the frequent murders of young black men impact black employees
• how the explosion of various state anti-LGTBQ+ laws impact your LGBTQ+ employees.

7) The ability to work with a wide range of increasingly diverse employee populations; e.g. cultural intelligence. Working effectively with a wide range of people is what diversity is all about!

I am one of the facilitators for NDC’s certification program, one way of building key CDO knowledge and skills

8) Enrollment. Being able to get people at all levels, from the individual contributors to managers to executives engaged and bought into DEI efforts.

9) Being open minded, creative and innovative.

10) Investing in the needed education and skills building for a career in a fast-changing field. This can include college curriculum, conferences, and certification programs like the National Diversity Council’s DiversityFIRST™ Certification Program.

If you aspire to be a DEI leader in the workplace, or a CDO, perhaps evaluate yourself across these ten skills and consider enrolling in the NDC’s DiversityFIRST™ Certification Program.