Implicit bias, says Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, is the “thumbprint of the culture on our brain.” Beliefs sourced in external ideas and experiences emerge in the decisions we make, and we are often not aware of what’s guiding them. When these biases and discriminations are baked into a system, they don’t rely on overt actions to do harm, they simply inform the way the system works, ultimately producing, as she says, “generation after generation of unequal outcomes.”

In business, this creeps into “every nook and cranny: ‘How do we write an ad? Where do we recruit? Who do we hire? How do we promote? And who do we tap for succession?’ In each of these processes, we can see that there are systematic effects of a person’s group membership that are entering into our decisions about individuals,” she says. “And that’s what we call implicit bias.”

The process of change, according to Dr. Banaji, requires three necessary forces: change at the individual level, at the government or society level and then, as she puts it, “something bigger.”

Businesses have tended not to be one of those forces, she notes, but on matters of race, in particular, she’s hearing from more companies who want to know how they can create change. “We’re seeing that business is saying, ‘this affects our business,’” she says. “If they can’t hire the best people, nurture them, plan for their future and so on, their products will not be the best products and their services will not be the best services.”

Learn more in her book Blindspot, at her site for implicit bias in business, and in the conversation below: