15 March 2021
I’m a little late for International Women’s Day, but inclusion is our core value year-round. :)
Here’s a list of concrete commitments you can make today to create a more equitable space for women and gender-expansive individuals in your organization. If you are in a position of power, I would challenge you to act on one of these today. 1
If you notice a peer being interrupted or discounted in a meeting, you can help by speaking up in that moment. Something as simple as “I’m really interested in what [human] was saying, could we go back to that?” can be incredibly powerful. If someone hasn’t been able to get a word in during your meeting, use your power to pause for a sec and see if they have anything to add.
The accomplishments of women are substantially more likely to be attributed to “team effort”, and they often have to overperform to get the same amount of recognition as male peers. Have a talented, hyper-competent team member guiding you? Call their contribution out specifically, at your next milestone. What challenges did they address or skills did they display to set the team up for success?
Women and gender-expansive peers are evaluated differently than men. As Catalyst’s BiasCorrect project exemplifies, the same behaviors that are praised for one group can be vilified for another, and we cement this in the way we talk about them. Common culprits are words like nagging, abrasive, or emotional. Ask yourself if you would describe a male peer the same way.
“Sorry Sandra, you’re too pushy for a leadership role. Now when Todd does it, it makes him assertive.”
The absence of feedback does not equate to the absence of challenge. Little barriers and bits of inertia can discourage women from speaking their truth, by communicating that no one is listening. Instead, be an agent for change by asking (not demanding) women to share their stories.
To quote Elaine Welteroth, author of the New York Times best-seller More Than Enough:
You may have heard of frequency bias, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. If you haven’t, well, congratulations. You’re going to see it everywhere now.
Listening to the experiences of women is valuable because it allows you to put a name to the experience, and primes you to spot inequalities you may have missed.
Women are rarely provided the same opportunities for growth. But there’s something really easy you can do right now to balance the scales; provide detailed, concrete feedback using your organization’s preferred method of performance evaluations. We use Lattice; maybe you don’t have a tool for it. That’s cool. You can still hand it directly to their supervisor.
This feedback can be used in their next evaluation, and could help promote a new generation of leaders in your organization.
Conversely, if you hear someone giving a peer vague feedback, ask them for an example, or to explain their meaning. Much like debugging with a rubber duck, talking it out can help us spot our own biases.
Take a look at your team. Could it be more diverse? Some teams end up with more viewpoints represented than others.
There are a lot of constraints to internal allocation in regards to timing and urgency, so chances are your allocation department can’t mix it up right this second. However, by giving this feedback (and continuing to give it) over time, you give leadership something to measure while creating a public perception that team diversity is valued.
If you’re interested in reducing bias of all sorts in your workplace, one resource that I’ve really enjoyed is Lean In’s 50 Ways to Fight Gender Bias (which is, in fact, where I found most of the supporting articles). Incidentally, the write-up of the original book is still on my to-do list. Keep an eye out! ↩