100 Percent Empowerment, Zero Percent Guilt Trip


During workshops, Cat Adams and Linet Mera of the Unconscious Bias Project use cartoons they commissioned as catalysts for discussion.

Cartoons: Theresa Oborn

The Unconscious Bias Project (UBP) wants to help scientists tackle the biases lurking in our labs, lives, and classrooms. “We work to help scientists acknowledge the problem of unconscious bias, understand that they shouldn’t feel bad about it, and—most importantly—know that there’s something they can do about it,” said Cat Adams, a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, who launched UBP at UC Berkeley in 2017. “This is why our slogan is ‘one-hundred percent empowerment, zero-percent guilt trip.’”

Unconscious bias often stems from stereotypes that can lead to prejudiced or unsupported judgments regarding a person or group. Through participatory workshops and media campaigns, UBP guides researchers, students, and faculty on the path to understanding and correcting their own biases, with the goal of reducing unconscious bias in STEM through “fact, tact, art, and activism.” When Adams and co-founder Linet Mera conduct a training, they promote a sense of shared ownership of this goal by inviting a member of the group to learn the material in advance and act as a co-leader of the session.

The idea for UBP began to percolate before Adams came to Berkeley, but it wasn’t until she arrived on campus that she felt she had found a home for the organization. “As a public institution, Berkeley fosters a sense of transparency,” she said. “I knew this was the ideal place to help scientists identify and correct unconscious bias.” UBP was recently invited to lead workshops at the University of Arizona and the University of Puerto Rico, and this spring it was awarded a $10,000 Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees grant.

— Mackenzie Smith