A Hallmark Lesson in Affinity Bias
15 minutes of a movie led to a personal lesson in diversity and inclusion
I am a lover of cheesy Hallmark movies and I recently settled in for one – that’s when my current form of escapism turned into an “ah-ha” moment.
I say this as the movie not only entertained me but taught me an uncomfortable lesson. I am just glad that I took the time to pause and learn from it. I hope you are all prepared to be a bit uncomfortable and don’t judge me too harshly. (For my personal affinity towards cheesy movies or for my initial affinity bias)
In the opening minutes of the movie, I did not “see” myself in any of the main characters. The movie was based on three longtime girlfriends and not one of them looked like me. My first instinct was to change the channel – I was sure I could find something that might be a better fit for me.
But I am anything if not self-aware – so, my internal dialog sounded like this:
Me: This is not a movie I’m going to like.
Me: Why? You’ve really not run across a Hallmark movie you did not like.
Me: Well, there are no white women in this girlfriend group.
Me: Oh my god. This is how other ethnicities feel every time they turn on the tv. Every time, every day.
Me: You can be better – just watch the movie.
Me: ok, I can turn it off if I don’t like it after a few minutes. (Quickly recognizing I only have that option because I am a white woman and can “see” myself everywhere)
Me: 10 minutes into the movie and totally invested in the story these women were telling. I connected, became attached, and shed a joyful tear or two at the happy, sappy ending – just like I always do.
This internal dialog has weighed on me ever since. I felt ashamed of my initial reaction and I’m sure the way I have written about this moment could be offensive to some. I look to “intent” in moments like these. My intent in telling this story is to highlight unconscious bias, learn from the experience, and be better moving forward. The path is not perfect, but it is headed in the right direction.
I was proud that I instantly called myself out. Then I felt shame again for my initial reaction. Then hopeful that solutions can be learned. The Diversity and Inclusion journey needs people who are open to different points of view, willing to admit mistakes, have the ability to recognize when biased feelings surface, and have a true willingness to work with those different views and beliefs.
I’ve been fortunate to work for and work with organizations that gave me access to diversity and inclusion initiatives, discussions, and resource groups. I’ve covered the spectrum: starting a resource group, leading a few groups and organizations, and observing many more than I can count. I’ve learned valuable lessons from each experience – the successful encounters and the failures. (can it really be called a failure if you learned from it?)
The road to recognizing and improving biases will be different for everyone, yet it is a very important road. Everyone deserves to “see” themselves and to have the ability to safely work as their true self.
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