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Starbucks Training Focuses On The Evolving Study Of Unconscious Bias


Though the public is intrigued by the idea of Starbucks' half-day all-staff training on discrimination and bias, that is just the first in many steps the company plans to take to try to implement a better system, says Heather McGhee, president of Demos, a social advocacy group.

McGhee, along with former Attorney General Eric Holder and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, are advising Starbucks on its training and policies.

"Starbucks has very aspirational goals for the values it wants to set, both within its company and in the world," McGhee says.

Because of Starbucks' reach, its public presence and large staff of about 175,000 U.S. workers, McGhee says she thinks of the company's initiative as a kind of ongoing public education program that she hopes will have broad reach.

"So few companies, if any, have taken the kind of responsibility that Starbucks has to have said, a) this was about race, b) this wasn't just one bad apple and c) we have the right and responsibility to do something about it," she says.

McGhee says her main goal for the training day is to create a shared language and understanding about why inclusion and diversity are critical for a company as public as Starbucks. She says she's glad the company was so quick to fully embrace that.

"If addressing bias is not mission critical for your company, then you shouldn't do it at all, because it's just too difficult to do if it's not something that is essential to making your company succeed," she says. [...]

McGhee, the Starbucks adviser, agrees this is a work in progress — one she hopes will eventually spread to other companies.

"I know that other CEOs have reached out to the leadership of Starbucks and said, 'We assume and we know that we have a problem with this too, so thanks for going first and we'll be watching.' " she says.