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Welcome to the JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workspace. I am JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family.” With me is my friend and co-host Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is unconscious bias. Bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. In my words, I say we hold an attitude that we don’t even realize we have sometimes.
Yeah, I agree.
In preparing for this, it made me think about the story from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Blink,” where he shares that in 1970, the top five orchestras in the United States had fewer than 5% women. The screening committee did not believe they were deliberately choosing men over women in hiring musicians, but when they started double blind auditions, suddenly a significantly higher proportion of women were chosen, and most now have at least 50% women. If you are a fan of The Voice, you know that the pop star judges are seated faced away from the contestants auditioning. This is intended to reduce the possibility that contestants are selected for reasons other than their voice.
I really do appreciate that, too.
Yeah, I think so too. And I think it’s interesting to be observing them and you know, even if they choose, but of course, it’s usually obvious on that, usually, whether it’s a male or female, but it can remove the bias around their age, their appearance, their style…
Yes, disability. That’s right. So we have with us today, an expert on this topic, Julie Kratz. Julie is a speaker, trainer, and author. She’s a highly acclaimed leadership trainer who led teams and produced results in corporate America for nearly two decades. After experiencing her own career pivot point, Julie developed a process to help women leaders create their winning career gameplan focused on promoting gender equality in the workspace and encouraging women with their “what’s next” moments. Julie is a frequent keynote speaker and an executive coach. She holds an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, is a certified master coach and holds a certification in unconscious bias. Who knew there was a certification? Julie is the author of “Pivot Point: How to Build a Winning Career Game Plan,” which might mention a certain person in it named JoDee Curtis.
Ooh, I gotta read it.
And “One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality.”
Thanks for having me! A couple things I wanted to add, actually, to the intro, JoDee. Malcolm Gladwell’s work, it’s just, it’s fascinating. He’s taken an interest in unconscious bias, and of course, “Blink,” his work is about that. He actually has taken – there’s a test called the Implicit Association Test through Harvard. He’s taken it actually 10 different times on the race part of it. And he has, actually, his mother is from Jamaica, so he is biracial, and he actually has a bias towards people of color. And so he kind of has been an interesting spokesperson on the topic, because, like you said, unconscious bias, we’re not even aware of it. It’s something we’re thinking, but not intentionally acting on. It’s a lot of the thoughts that are kicking around in our brain that are on autopilot and very subconscious. And a lot of it’s just how our brains are wired to recognize patterns, make assumptions, and just save that brain energy for the tough stuff. And so even people active in this space, myself included, we all – we, in fact, all have bias. I really think it has to do with, if you think about, to build off of what I said before, autopilot, it’s when our brain is not necessarily triggering us to behave in a way that’s biased, you know, treating somebody negatively because of the way they look or because they have a disability or their gender or their race, whatever that may be. It’s not necessarily treating somebody differently consciously. It’s the thought that goes before the behavior that may or may not be matched with an actual behavior or action. So it’s the thought – you know, I specialize in women, so one of the common ones for women is kind of this maternal bias. When women have small children or they’re at childbearing age, we make assumptions, we think things like, eh, she doesn’t want to travel, she has small children, or yeah, let’s hold off on that promotion, I don’t think she’s ready for that, she doesn’t have enough time for that. And so that’s the thought that then kind of may or may not see the decision that’s not really fair to that person. And in these situations, you know, we can talk about what to do to prevent it more, you get self aware about your own bias. And again, the Implicit Association Test that we can definitely share that link through Harvard is a wonderful way in 10 minutes to get a check on your bias. The more you can be aware of it, the more then you can be aware of how it may or may not be shaping your actual behavior.
You know, I’ve started to think about, I think I do have an unconscious bias about women in their childbearing years. When I’m driving and I see somebody driving, like, an SUV and there’s little kids in the car, I always let them in. So I always figure like, oh, man, they must be having a tough time. I try to imagine. So I probably toward people, young women having children.
You may have a bias the other way, because they go either direction. I mean, there’s a propensity towards one way, actually the biggest bias most people have in common is ageism. We tend to prefer young people to older people. But for me, when I took the gender Implicit Association Test, I actually connect women with career and men with family more so.
Which, that obviously is usually the other way around. But you’re right, I mean, not all bias is a negative thing. Not – there is no right or wrong here. It’s just it’s simply being aware of it. And that, that’s a great example of a time when you might be more helpful to somebody of one gender versus the other.
I don’t have any kids in my car, Susan, I hope you’ll still let me in.
Don’t count on it.
You’re not getting in front of her.
Why is now the time to educate people on this topic? It – I’m sure it’s been around forever, but certainly with social media and the fake news and the real news and everything else that we hear about in our lives, maybe we, maybe we know about it more, or maybe we’re even more unconscious about it. What do you think?
Yeah. I mean, two key events that I think probably most of your audience is familiar with is, of course #MeToo, right? That, kind of that hashtag and story broke back in October of last year, ironically, a day after I published “One,” about male allies, which I did not know was gonna happen. But, you know, we’re nine months into, to #MeToo right now, when we’re recording today. And I think we’re at a really pivotal moment of awareness that, you know, there are a lot of men have come out and said, I had no idea these things were affecting women that I care about. Almost every woman I know, my sister, my daughter, my mother, you know, they have a story, and they had never shared it before until they knew it was a thing that it was okay to share. So I think we’re really starting to recognize that there are definite behaviors that are going on that are unfortunate, and a lot of it, again, is routinized in the way our brain works, which is what unconscious bias is all about, unpacking that wiring, right? And helping rewire some of that, you know, neural pathways that have existed in the way you behave for years. So I think #MeToo is an important catalyst for change. I also think, you know, Starbucks, they just, you know, closed down shop and for a half day trained all their employees on unconscious bias. If you’re interested, they actually were so kind to put up all the training videos on their website, so you can look through all the training content, it’s great to broadcast, you know, at your organization, get the conversation started. I’m not as familiar with their content. I was certified in a different program. But what I will say is both of these events, you know, happening in the last few months, I think it really bubbled up a need for people to say, hey, this is a thing. This is not something we could ignore. And the other piece of it is, if we don’t look at Starbucks, right, if you’re familiar with the case, it was a racial kind of bias situation. There’s sort of risks associated with that, and it’s it’s beyond lawsuits, it’s beyond not retaining employees if you have a culture that supports that behavior, but you know, you’re going to risk your longevity and people looking at you as socially responsible. So there’s a lot, if you’re not stepping into this conversation right now, there’s a lot you could be missing out on.
You know, I would love to ask, because I bet most of our listeners, especially if they’re running an HR department, they have diversity and inclusion training happening at some point in the year, or at least when people are onboarded. How do you differentiate between, like, diversity and inclusion training and unconscious bias training? And why is it important to have both?
Excellent, excellent point. Yeah, I mean, most companies, I find that once you get to a couple thousand employees, they have a diversity and inclusion leader and that person’s usually responsible for training and initiatives and, you know, holding people accountable to driving diversity in recruiting and retainment. But I think of that as like the umbrella. So D&I, diversity and inclusion, is kind of the umbrella. One of the spokes underneath that is unconscious bias. Okay, they may have other things about goal setting initiatives, they may have other types of inclusion training initiatives, diversity recognition. So unconscious bias really fits underneath that as one of the main spokes. And what I’m finding now is that it’s still, like you said, there’s not a lot of people certified in this, experts in this. So there’s diversity and inclusion, people will go get certified, usually, and then come back and train other people to then train the content, just they’re able to kind of scale and share the content. But there’s still very few organizations that actually have a formal training program around unconscious bias.
I think you’re right, but now that Starbucks has put theirs up, I bet a lot of people will try to leverage that, which I think is not a bad idea if you don’t have any other resources.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Hey, doing something is better than doing nothing. Again, the Harvard Implicit Association Test, take it and have a conversation. I mean, these conversations really need to take place in a safe place, you know, it’s hard to admit that you have bias. But I think when I facilitate this, I step in to say, hey, I’ve got bias, right? No one’s perfect. This is how we’re wired. So humans, it was great back when we were living in caves fighting off saber toothed tigers, and we had to make decisions really quickly. Not helpful in the workplace today.
I want to, like, stop recording and go take this assessment. Now, Julie…
Ten minutes. I highly recommend it.
You shared with me last week that 20% of companies were offering training on this. Did that include all diversity and inclusion topics, or unconscious bias specifically?
Unconscious bias. So, yeah, what the research shows is about 20%, so one in five companies have some sort of training program on unconscious bias. That could be anything from a short elearning video to a full blown half day training program. So it’s definitely quantity not specified, but quality right. So what they’re forecasting, and I witnessed this firsthand in my recent certification, I went to the Cultural Intelligence Center last month in Chicago, they usually have 20 people in the classroom, there were 60. Way more interest in this topic than they’ve had in the past, and they can’t keep up with demand, because in the next three years it’s expected to be at 50%. So companies are either going to have outside trainers, like myself, or hire people and train them within to continue to support this conversation, to make sure that it’s a part of your onboarding, it’s a part of your employee development, that there are, there are different parts of the employee cycle where we make sure unconscious bias is something that’s being trained and managed and developed.
I, you know, I so agree with you, because I think people, when they go to a course like that, they get really, their eyes are opened, but you have to keep it fresh, because they get back to work and they start getting back to the work in front of them, and you know, what, 18 months later, they need to be reminded in some way, shape or form.
Yeah. It’s not a one and done conversation. I mean, this is, this is core to who we are, our experiences, it just accumulates in our brain and we store those and we make decisions based off those. So it’s really not that there’s something wrong with you, it’s just, hey, this is something you just got to kind of unpack and noodle on, and have a continued safe conversation around it, because we can all be better at this.
Unknown Speaker 13:22
Right. Right. Well, Julie, recently, I’ve heard so much, it seems like I’ve – everything I read or hear or a webinar I participated on, people were talking about creating your tribe, which, I love that concept, and I love thinking about being surrounded by our tribes. But yet, as I was thinking about this topic of unconscious bias, aren’t we maybe surrounding ourselves with people who think like us when we create a tribe? And should we be – actually one article I’ve read from Kim Barnes, the CEO at Barnes and Conti Associates, I saw this on LinkedIn. And she said, “We tend to seek information that supports our views and disregard facts that are counter to our belief system. This is known as the confirmation bias,” and explains why people, for – as an example, with conservative political views watch and read conservative media, liberals watch and read liberal media, or articles, or newspapers, or whatever, or websites. “We hold fast to ideas even after we have been shown evidence that they’re untrue or impossible. We ignore data that might cause us to be or seem unfaithful to a set of principles held by a group we identify with – and we may even punish those who question ‘common wisdom.'” So if we are creating or joining tribes, aren’t we increasing the likelihood of not only confirmation bias, but unconscious bias?
Ooh, yeah, the linkage is, I think you’re making a strong case for that. As humans, we’re wired to surround ourselves with people that resemble us, because back before we could communicate in an articulate way, that was the way we kind of assessed trust. You look like me, therefore, you must think like me, and therefore we – I can trust you. Now fast forward to, again, today, diverse teams outperform teams that look the same. All the data supports that, and yet we continue to find people that are like minded and surround ourselves and insulate ourselves with those people. I can even speak to my tribe. I have a peer group of four of us. Well, we are all white, middle career women. You know? We are a lot alike, and we’ve talked about that, and we want to have people of color and men involved in our circle. It just kind of started out that way. So yeah, I absolutely carry that bias with me and find my tribe that’s like me. So I encourage you, when you’re finding your tribe or assessing your network, think about, about who am I not – who’s not in my network? You know, whether that’s, kind of typical diverse variables are gender, race, disability, LGBTQ, you know, but think beyond that, you know, are you surrounding yourself by people that think differently than you? Those people will give you better ideas, you’ll make better decisions by interacting with them, but it’s a constant struggle. I’m, I’m working on that myself, making sure I’m bringing in diverse perspectives into my network, but it’s still something that’s a struggle.
Yeah, I know, I’m on a serving a nonprofit board, and we have been talking for two years about adding diversity to our board, and we keep adding people who look just like us, and it just – we’re struggling because we… and it’s really made me more aware of how I have surrounded myself with people who look like me, right?
Yeah, yeah. I think that’s such a vulnerable, honest thing to say, and I think that’s what we need more leaders to say, especially in corporate America. I mean, it’s, it’s very white male dominated, and it’s not that they’re the enemy by any means, but, you know, a lot of the bro culture, a lot of the male dominated culture has been built by men surrounding themselves, hiring and promoting men that resemble themselves. I think just acknowledging that is is so huge. I was at a conference last week where a senior male leader said, I’m not good at this. I’m not great at this diversity thing, but I’m going to get better. And he reflected on he’s made 20 hires since he’s been in that position, only three of them were women. And I think just saying that, owning that is huge. It doesn’t mean your past is going to dictate your future, you can absolutely change it, but you’ve got to start by looking in the mirror and accepting where you are.
Acknowledgement is the first step toward recovery, yeah. It’s true. So, so, hey, Julie, when a client hires you to come in, and really help them fix, maybe, what they see is unconscious bias happening or they looked at their diversity numbers, like, where do you start, and where would you recommend our listeners, if they were trying to do the same thing inside their companies, where, where should they start?
Yeah, I think get a pulse on the attitudes, you know, just like an employee engagement survey, you know, I have a list of 10 kind of polling questions I recommend that we either do in interviews or if they feel comfortable doing a survey or, you know, some sort of data gathering, get a pulse on where you’re at with this stuff. What are the perceptions around diversity and inclusion and, and bias? You know, do people feel they’re, they’re affected by that? Do they feel they’re truly included? Do they feel like they belong? Because at the essence of this, and this goes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, of belonging in an organization, for people that look different, or have a different, you know, perspective, and that’s awesome, it’s very valuable to the organization, but they’re not showing up in a way that’s authentic, usually, to themselves, that they feel different than everybody else. So, you know, gathering some data on perceptions. I highly recommend, again, the Implicit Association Test I keep mentioning. But if you can have, if you can, I’m starting to get organizations comfortable with having people do that as a pre-work, come to a conversation, just buddy up with somebody and compare notes a little bit on what you learned from yours. I promise you, it’s not personal. They’re gonna rate you kind of slight to moderate to high bias on the, on the different variables, you can pick your own adventure. So you can do something like, they have something on being overweight, versus gender, versus race. So you can, you know, kind of choose which one you want to survey your bias on, but more importantly have a conversation about it. You know, I had a conversation about my slight racial bias with an African American woman at my certification, and I was really nervous. I mean, I felt very uncomfortable about admitting that. But, man, she gave me some really cool tips and ideas on how to expand my network and ideas on events to attend, people to reach out to. So that made me better, and just admitting it made me feel so much better too.
Where – well, you’ve talked about, certainly there is an increase in the need, more people being at your certification class, the demand for training is going up. Where else do you see the future of this work going?
Ah, yeah. Yeah, I think there’ll be growing demand for it. What I’d like to see, honestly, is, is next evolution. We covered a lot of what it is, why it’s important, kind of the things we talked about today. But how do you fix it? You know, and again, it’s a journey. So once you’re aware of it, what are the behaviors that you’re reprogramming your brain to do so that you can override that bias? And I think that’s the evolution of the work. The last 10 years have been spent, you know, “Blink” was a great precursor to this. Another book, “Blind Spot,” also summarizes a lot of the Harvard research. Great read on this. But it still is a lot about what it is, not what to do about it. And I think we’ve really got to help people understand that it – awareness is great, but what do we do about that? And I think it’s very custom to people. As a coach and trainer, I think it’s a facilitated conversation about, you know, what are your key, key goals, what are you focused on? How does that fit into your overall development plans so this doesn’t feel like another effort and another thing I have to do? And it’s continually getting feedback and reflecting on it. So it’s definitely a journey. But I think companies that get good at this, I mean, you’re going to create a culture that people will never want to leave. They’re going to feel like they belong so much. They’re so included. They’re getting all these great results from diverse people around them. They’re not going to leave. I mean, that’s why people really, really leave, I think especially women are like, peace out, like, I don’t feel like I belong here, I look around, no one’s like me, I’m out of here. If we don’t address this, I mean, we’re gonna have some real attrition problems, especially with talent shortages in the future.
Right. Do you know of some companies that are really doing this well? Or are there any doing this well yet?
Right. I mean, there really are far and few – kind of, Starbucks is very controversial just because it kind of was a PR play to close down and train everybody, but, I mean, they spent $13 million. So I think that’s awesome. I’m not, I’m certainly not going to wait for someone to get it perfect, because we’re going to be waiting a long time. Two organizations that I’ve been profiling and watching recently that I think do a pretty good job overall with diversity and talk about things like bias. One is JPMorgan Chase. I was at a men as allies summit in New York City last month. They do a really nice job openly talking about allies, which is a lot of my work, getting men involved in the conversation, but also really being vulnerable and accepting their own biases as leaders and conscious – they have specific conversations that they have with people outside of their circle that look like them, they have to have a conversation once a week for 30 minutes with somebody that’s different than them, which is really cool. I mean that, that bridges the gap alone, just seeing people that are different than you, you start to see them as less different. Another one is Salesforce, which we’re fortunate here in Indianapolis to have co-headquartered. And, you know, they, they have a rule for it, to have a meeting you, you have to have one diverse person in the meeting. And so again, that welcomes a diverse perspective. And then after you do that, that becomes the cultural norm. It’s less about you being different. It’s just like, oh, this is the way we do things. We got to make sure we have diversity to have good conversation.
Julie, I’d be invited to every meeting because I could be diverse on the age spectrum. I’d be the most popular person.
You would. You would.
But it would be interesting to me on who assesses the diversity, right? I mean, I, you know, the obvious, age, male, female, but what if it’s like, well, I live on the east side and you live on the west side, or what – do you know how they define that?
I think – so most of the topics, and they have their own diversity employee resource groups that kind of align with this, but the traditional top four, right, is disability, LGBTQ, race, and gender. But there are other ones beyond that. There’s veteran organizations, for example. I mean, there’s all sorts of, you’re right, diversity is in the eye of the beholder, right? But I think you got to think about if you’re all the typical example, this happens a lot in corporate America, I was the one woman in a lot of rooms with all men. It’s looking around the room, be like, are we all kind of the same? Is it a bunch of white male engineers all together again? Like, okay, maybe we need to reach out and get somebody else in this conversation. And the results are, again, phenomenally better when you have somebody that’s going to have a little bit of divergent thinking.
Where do we come across the difference between it’s discrimination, and it’s unconscious bias?
Because I think a lot of us, maybe, have been calling this discrimination. And now it makes me think of certain situations well, was it discrimination or was it unconscious bias? Or how to draw the line there?
Well, I love that you brought this up, because one key point of unconscious bias training is just because you have a bias doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it. So I would argue discrimination is actually acting on the bias. My bias is important to unpack, as it’s not – it’s why you did that, right? Your bias is what could influence your behavior or actions, but it’s not a guarantee. Because again, so back to me, I have a bias of women towards career. That doesn’t mean if women choose to be stay at home mothers, that I am going to shun them, or, you know, say things that are derogatory or discriminate openly against them. But I do have a bias kicking back there that’s kind of like, well, women are supposed to have careers. Right? And so the bias is the thinking. The discrimination would be the action.
Alright. Thank you. Thank you.
Yeah. It’s always a choice. It – just because you have bias doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it. People are incredibly good, like, Malcolm Gladwell was a great example, right? He’s incredibly good at acting in a way that’s consistent with his values, but he still has a bias in there that he’s working on.
So, Julie, is there any other advice that you’d like to give us today before you take off?
Oh, my gosh, I think, you know, think about this topic a little bit more. I, I would love to hear your input on the subject of unconscious bias. I think the title itself is – we’ve gotten to a point where people are aware of it, but I’m not sure it’s the most inclusive title, it kind of suggests there’s something wrong with you. So I would love to hear your input on, as I’m creating new training programs and kind of half day workshops for teams, you know, what do you think the right title approach is? Like, what do you want to get out of this? You know, if you are a diversity manager, learning manager listening, HR manager, you know, what would be something that would make that successful? What would be the objective that shows you, you move the needle in this workshop and, and perhaps you know what your employees’ take is on this. I just love feedback. I’m in the process of building out my training curriculum, so I’m going to start marketing that this month. But I am just incredibly enthralled by the topic, but also a little paralyzed on how to go to market so that it doesn’t feel like I’m telling people there’s something wrong with them. That really makes people want and excited to learn about this.
Right. Right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been fascinating, I think, and I know I can learn a lot from this. You’ve mentioned several websites, the assessment, Starbucks, any links that you’ve mentioned today, if you could send us we’ll put them on social media.
I would definitely check out the IAT online, I’ll get that link to you, and the Starbucks videos would be awesome, and then you can find me at nextpivotpoint.com as well.
Nextpivotpoint.com. So N-E-X-T P-I-V-O-T P-O-I-N-T dot com.
You got it.
And where can they purchase your books, Julie?
Both are on Amazon, so the easiest way is just type in “Pivot Point” and Julie Kratz. It’ll pop right up for you. It’s at $9.95 on Amazon, right to your mailbox. And “One: How Male Allies Support Women for Gender Equality” is also there, $14.95. If you want to do a bulk purchase order, I’m getting a lot of requests for lunch and learns, so if you have, you know, a team of 20 or so and want me to come in and facilitate a book club discussion here in the Midwest, I’d love to do that. We can do a bulk order shipment at a discount as well.
Fantastic. Julie, this has been so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
All right. Thanks, Julie.
Gut Plus Science is a weekly podcast hosted by Nikki Lewallen, an employee engagement enthusiast and advocate. She interviews CEOs every week to help companies build successful people first cultures. I don’t miss an episode. Gut Plus Science, the podcast that explores employee engagement insights you can act on from CEOs you can trust. Thursday mornings on gutplusscience.com.
So JoDee, we’ve got a listener question. We received this question from Michael in San Jose, California. Michael shared that he’s working with a new CPA firm, and he never receives any feedback on his performance. In his prior firm, it was very natural for his managers and partners to talk about his performance, both in written documentation and informally in conversations. He’s now unsure if his current firm just has not created a culture of communicating on performance or maybe he’s not meeting the standards. He would like our advice on what he should do. What do you think?
Michael, my advice is to ask, ask, and ask again. I think, sometimes – it’s interesting that Michael said that he may not be meeting their standards, right? Because that’s so many times what we do when we’re not getting that information shared with us. We’re making assumptions. We’re making assumptions that we’re not doing well, or we’re making assumptions that we’re doing really well when that might not be the case either. So we tend to do that. But I think many times we’re waiting for someone to share. It seems obvious that this firm doesn’t have the culture that the first firm has, but we can help create that by asking for performance feedback. And I think as specific as Michael can ask the question the better off, right? We tend to say when we ask for it, how do you think I did? Right? How did this go? And then people respond with generic answers to a generic question. Oh, you did fine. Oh, it went well. Oh, I was happy. Whereas if we say, what did you think about the timing of my performance? What did you think about the interactions I had with the client? What did you think of quality of my, my work on this particular area? Right? As specific as you can ask the question, I think the more specific the answer will be back to you. And then people, I believe, will come to anticipate that you’re going to keep asking them, and they’ll be more likely to share.
I think that’s really good advice. Good luck, Michael. I hope that you’re gonna hear you’re doing very well.
In the news, so although not a surprise, I enjoyed the statistics in a recent report from Gallup. They state that 74% of employees have the ability to move to different areas to do their work, and that 52% of employees say they have some choice over when they work, maybe what time they come in or what time they leave, whether they work on weekends or later during the week. 43% of employees work away from their team at least some of the time. So again, not a surprise, but I was – I thought it was interesting that the percentages were that high.
I love the flexibility. That’s terrific.
Yes. Workplaces are just becoming increasingly more project based, employees today are attracted to interesting problems and meaningful work, not just a job title or a certain place in the office. Teams make more decisions without approval from above, which means that non-managers must act more like leaders and think more big picture like executives. Gallup concluded that organizations are looking for employees who can make independent decisions with confidence, problem solve with diverse peer groups, and manage their own time, projects, workflow, relationships, and career path by themselves. The message is that a manager who was always visible, watching every minute, and stopping by to ask if you got the memo is becoming obsolete.
What a relief.
Right. So if you didn’t know it before, it’s now official.
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