Are we blind to our biases?
Original content by ChangeDriver™
Is your organization missing out on the best people or approaches because of bias?
In 1980 Abbie Conant, a trombonist, auditioned for a position in the all-male Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Conant beat out 32 male trombonists for the position as the orchestra’s first trombonist.
The auditions were blinded. Each musician played behind a screen and the selection committee had no way of knowing if players were male or female.
It was an unbiased audition.
The orchestra’s conductor Sergiu Celibidache, was dismayed to discover that “Herr Conant” was a woman. However, upon hearing Conant play during the blind audition he had exuberantly exclaimed, “That’s who we want!”
Conant would never have been selected for first trombonist if the auditions were not structured in a way to ensure all bias was removed.
Even after being selected based on her talent, she was harassed and demoted to second trombonist by the music director. Conant successfully sued the orchestra for discrimination and back pay, but her career was hobbled. The idea that a woman could never be good enough undermined her success.
Since then, the Munich Philharmonic no longer holds blind auditions. German classical music’s long tradition of sexism continues today. Women are viewed as muses, while men are seen as possessing the genius. How much talent has the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra lost over the years because it refuses to change its attitudes and question its ingrained biases?
Embracing societal change means embracing the future. If we aren’t willing to let change flow in, we risk becoming obsolete.