Last month, The Leasing Foundation held an insightful event in conjunction with Alfa and Metro Bank on Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.

Attended by staff from various leasing and asset finance companies this educational and rewarding workshop shone a light on what happens when our brains make incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising.

It can be challenging when you first discover that to some degree we are all subject to this bias and as such, the opportunity to discuss unconscious bias in an honest and open environment was a welcome one.

Unconcious bias:

  • It’s natural
  • It’s unintended
  • It can affect decisions
  • It can be mitigated

The Unconscious Bias event was chaired by Emma Thomas from Siemens Financial Services and included expert contributions from Sasha Scott MD of the Inclusive Group, Deborah Henley of Vivacity Consulting and Barry T. Whyte, founder oVeero and Series Q.

Most work environments will adhere to gender and racial equality laws and best practice but even with these well-known areas of discrimination there is clearly still a long way to go – think, for example, of the current conversation around BBC pay discrepancies between male and female presenters doing the same job.

With unconscious bias we are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. Most challenging is that we may not even be aware that our views and opinions are having impact and implications on others.

No one employed in leasing should feel excluded and under-valued. We should all feel that the individual contribution we make is significant. To gain a better understanding of our own unconscious biases requires questioning: Are we making assumptions? Are we displaying unintentional but preferential treatment to certain individuals? Are our words or actions making others feel excluded?

Improving our understanding and ability to recognise bias gives us the opportunity to ensure individuals feel supported at work, and reach their potential.

Some key take-aways from the event included:

  • Light-hearted activities designed to allow people to recognise and explore areas of potential bias are a great way to open discussions on the subject of unconscious bias and enable individuals to express themselves in a comfortable environment
  • Open and transparent discussions on the use of diversity quotas and targets within organisations as a means of supporting diversity are important
  • Developing leadership traits that support an inclusive culture is key
  • It was great to have constructive and open dialogue about diversity and inclusivity across the asset finance sector and share perspectives on where progress has been made / where we have areas that require more focus

Feedback from the event has been really positive, discussions were open-minded and there were strong collaborations from the speakers and the attendees.

A study of science faculties in higher education institutions (Moss-Racusin et al 2012) asked staff to review a number of job applications. The applications reviewed were identical, apart from the gender of the name of the applicant.

Science faculties were more likely to:

  • Rate male candidates as better qualified than female candidates
  • Want to hire the male candidates rather than the female candidates
  • Give the male candidate a higher starting salary than the female candidate
  • Be willing to invest more in the development of the male candidate than the female candidate

There is nothing to say that recruitment practices in leasing, however well intentioned, would have different results.

This research shines a light on gender but undoubtedly these biases also apply to race, sexual preference, cultural background, physical and mental challenges etc.

Unconcious bias is unintended, it can affect decisions but it can also be mitigated. At work this bias can influence decisions about recruitment, promotion and staff development as well as recognition for achievements. If left unchecked it can lead to a less diverse workforce. Employers can overlook talented workers and instead favour those who share their own characteristics or views.

For anyone that has an interest in this subject or would like to get involved in diversity and inclusion work please contact The Leasing Foundation.

Thanks must go to:

Brian Murphy, Alfa

Nathan Mollett, Metro Bank

Emma Thomas, Siemens Financial Services

Sasha Scott, The Inclusive Group

Deborah Henley, Vivacity Group

Barry T. Whyte, Founder of Veero and Series Q


  • Sasha Scott
    • Managing Director of The Inclusive
    • The Inclusive Group is an established diversity consultancy that focuses on promoting inclusion & reducing unconscious bias primarily within the corporate sector. Sasha Scott runs the Inclusive Group & has facilitated learning & development to professionals within FS and professional services for the last 16 years. Sasha is considered a thought leader on diversity, bias, inclusivity & managing psychological health. After graduating in Psychology she spent 15 years within Investment Banking as a derivatives broker at UBS & LIFFE. Her first-hand experience of the financial sector has given her a unique insight into the commercial drivers behind reducing bias within the workplace and the critical need to promote & sustain inclusive workplace cultures across sectors in order to attract & retain talent. Sasha is passionate about authentic leadership development & thus a firm supporter of LGBT issues within the workplace 
  • Deborah Henley
    • Owner/Director of Vivacity Consulting Ltd
    • Over last six years, Deborah has worked with leaders and Senior Managers within the MOD, Accenture, AmEx, Goldman Sachs and First Gulf Bank, to help them enhance their influence and impact in the workplace. By defining their leadership brand, and communicating their message through story and through their own authentic presence – she helps them create truly diverse and inclusive culture. Her background is in clinical psychology, Expressive Arts Therapy and Neuro-linguistics before moving into corporate life to Head up Relationship Development for EY’s Financial Services clients. Her book “Your Leadership Story – how to use life experience to influence and inspire” is published in early 2018 
  • Barry T Whyte
    • Founder of Veero and Series Q
    • A self-confessed teenage geek, Barry taught himself the basics of coding from computer magazines in his bedroom. For the next ten years he was a furtive entrepreneur in the corporate world, firstly in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather then in consulting at Bain & Company.
      Barry joined tech education start-up Decoded in early 2013, leading growth from 7 people in a cupboard to a global team of over 100 in three years, scaling through international expansion to New York, Sydney and Amsterdam. He is now founder of Veero, which will open London’s first virtual reality cinema in 2018. Barry is also a co-founder of Series Q, a non-profit with a mission to empower LGBT entrepreneurs; and sits on advisory board of EurOut at London Business School. He speaks at conferences, including Cannes Lions, London Tech Week and SXSW.
      Barry holds an MBA from Columbia Business School, blogs for the Huffington Post, and makes seriously good homemade soup