NASA Spends $73,500 on ‘Unconscious Bias’ Training

‘Creating a culture of positive influencers who are empowered to use their privilege wisely’

NASA's Kathleen Rubins with astronauts from Russia and Japan / AP
July 12, 2016

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is spending at least $73,500 to teach astronauts about diversity, their "unconscious biases," and how to "use their privilege."

NASA is adding a new curriculum to its "Diversity Dialogue Project," and has hired a contractor to hold "regularly scheduled dialogue sessions" about inclusion.

The program is designed for employees to "engage in a facilitated dialogue process in an "open, non-judgmental and comfortable environment," according to documents released by the agency.

The IVY Planning Group, a training firm, received $73,500 to deliver four sessions lasting four hours each at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The contract has a one-year option period, and could cost as much as $151,900.

The curriculum seeks to develop a "deeper understanding of diversity issues among Center employees." The training will emphasize "enhancing personal growth and effectiveness through the processes of listening, introspection, finding meaning, and building acceptance for differing perspectives."

The goal of the Diversity Dialogue Project is to "create change at Goddard through individual participant shift in thinking, attitudes, and behavior to promote greater respect and inclusion in the workplace."

Employees will have a chance to "address diversity concerns in a safe environment that develops cross cultural competence," and "discover and challenge your own perceptions, biases, and assumptions that may impede personal effectiveness."

The training will also focus on so-called "unconscious bias" training, which rests on the theory that "everyone is a little bit racist or sexist," and has become popular among government agencies. The Justice Department is mandating "implicit bias" training for its agents, the intelligence community brought in Google to train its employees about "biased culture," and the National Institutes of Health is spending $723,637 to teach college professors about their "unconscious bias."

NASA will teach its employees on the "the potential impact of our behaviors and (unconscious) biases in the workplace."

The curriculum will also touch on privilege, as it attempts to create a "culture of positive influencers who are empowered to use their privilege wisely."

Aside from unconscious bias, other diversity and inclusion topics included in the training are: "micro messages and inequities, race, gender, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, the business case for [diversity and inclusion] D&I, [and] diversity of thought."

The Bethesda, Maryland-based IVY Planning Group provides management consulting on diversity, and holds "Microtrigger Workshops."

"IVY is a minority and woman-owned firm that advocates taking action," the company states on its website. "IVY is a catalyst for change. The diversity journey has evolved."

IVY Planning Group believes diversity has to be "ingrained in every facet" of a company. The group sells a "Microtrigger Toolkit" for $1,199, which includes its book of 58 microaggressions.

Some of the topics covered in the workshop are "How should I react if my boss ‘triggers’ me?" and "What should I do when I realize that I have ‘triggered’ one of my employees?"