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This episode was originally recorded as an Advocacy in Action session during Women’s History Month and features a conversation between JBC Vice President Adrienne Lawrence and The Rep Project Research Director, Rebecca Cooper, as they discuss the lesser-known barriers women face in the workplace and ways to address and remove those barriers.
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Hello to my Will to Change audience. It’s Jennifer here and I wanted to announce that our next cohort for the DEI Foundations program is beginning April 11th. I wanted to say a little bit about why this program is so effective and so accessible. And if you’ve looked into it or you don’t know anything about it, regardless, I think it’s worth a look and it’s a wonderful and robust investment in your inclusive leadership journey.
So a little bit about why I believe this is an important investment in you and your leadership. Of course, inclusive leadership is a skillset every leader must have in 2022, and of course, beyond if they want to keep pace with rapidly diversifying markets, customers, ideas and talent. So you can think of something like this as an investment in the next step of your inclusive leader journey, and we’d love to be a part of it.
So a little bit about the program, we created it as a six week foundations level program and it’s designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to meet the challenges of this changing world of work and begin to dismantle systems of inequity that have permeated society, communities and workplaces for far too long. Coming out of the program you’ll better understand what it means to be an inclusive leader. Learning how unconscious biases impact your interactions with others, and you’ll be able to speak more eloquently about the value of DEI in a way that engages others around you. And you’ll have opportunities to learn from subject matter experts, as well as your peers and uncover the power of your own diversity story so that you can talk about DEI in a way that connects and resonates with others.
So if you’d like to visit us at jenniferbrownconsulting.com, you can look under courses at the top of the page and use coupon code podcast for 20% off. Again, that’s the code podcast for 20% off. As I mentioned, the next cohort kicks off on April 11th. Please consider joining us.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Gender bias, just 1%. It can affect Fortune 500 companies that hire 8,000 people. It can cost you about 2.8 million a year, and that’s probably on the low side. The fact is that you’re not truly taking advantage of all of the opportunities you have available to you by promoting a more gender equitable workplace. And so you’re leaving money on the table if not losing it. The goal is to have gender equality because it’s a human right. It remains persistent still, gaps in resources, access, opportunities, decision making, and what we need to do to get to a place where that human right is truly fulfilled and your organization can benefit is by way of gender equity.
ANNOUNCER: The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore, more productive workplaces, ultimately driving innovation and business results informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies. She and team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now onto the episode.
DOUG FORESTA: Hello and welcome back to the Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. The episode you’re about to hear was recorded originally as an advocacy and action conversation in partnership with the Representation Project. And it features a conversation between Adrienne Lawrence, vice president of Jennifer Brown Consulting and Rebecca Cooper research director for the Representation Project as they discuss the lesser known barriers that women face in the workplace and how to address and remove these barriers. Again, this episode was recorded during Women’s History Month, so you’ll here references to March of 2022. Obviously the conversation is still as relevant as ever and now onto the episode.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: My name is Adrienne Lawrence. I am a vice president at Jennifer Brown Consulting, and I’m going to be leading this conversation today, which is in pursuit of progress, building on women’s history for a gender inclusive tomorrow. And this is in partnership with the Representation Project. During our one hour conversation today, you will be recorded and you’ll be able to review our conversation again, if you want to follow up on it and to learn more. And you’re also able to ask questions, which we will pitch at the end in our Q&A session, which will probably be about the last 15, 20 minutes of conversation today. And we really look forward to having this discussion because as we know right now, March is Women’s History month and there’s so much to do in terms of creating workplaces and environments and spaces that are more gender inclusive. So when you do have those questions, please do check in the chat.
There should be a link there for a Google Form for you to go ahead and submit your questions. And if you could submit them through that form, that would be fantastic. And at the end of our conversation today, there also is going to be a link for providing feedback so please do feel free to share your thoughts. And so we can continue these conversations on a monthly basis where we can all learn more about making our workplace more inclusive. And so as we start this conversation today about making workplaces more gender inclusive, I would like to welcome in our partnership representative. That is Rebecca Cooper from the Representation Project. Thank you so much for joining us, Rebecca.
REBECCA COOPER: It’s really an honor to be here. Thank you.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Thank you. The work you do is so incredibly impactful. Would you mind mind sharing with our viewers or participants today about what the Representation Project does?
REBECCA COOPER: Sure. The Representation Project is a nonprofit that our mission is to fight gender injustice using media. And so we started… The org formed after Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who’s our founder after she released her first documentary misrepresentation. And so our org today still uses documentaries, youth filmmaking programs, research, and also activist campaigns to reset the cultural norms around gender from an intersectional perspective, and take a real stab at challenging some of these harmful norms and stereotypes for young women and men and gender nonconforming people.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And we’re really excited to have this conversation today, and we hope that a lot of you find it to be very enlightening and so that you know how to make your workplaces a little bit more inclusive. Maybe take a second look at your own interactions with this world, but all in all our goal is to work together to make our world a better place. And so let’s talk about what we can do to build on Women’s History to make it at a more gender inclusive tomorrow. First, the why we’re here. As I mentioned, March celebrates Women’s History Month, and we talk about women’s contributions. Because we live in a patriarchal society it’s generally been men who have been uplifted and their contributions to society have been valued while women have been overshadowed. And we still see some of this play out today.
And so why we recognize women in particular and the things that they have done to elevate and uplift and advance our society. That is something that we should be doing year round, but definitely in March, as we want to acknowledge. And we want to definitely uplift. We also are seeking to achieve gender equality. It’s something that we are not seeing across our society, particularly in workplaces, which are just microcosms of our larger communities and societies. This is something that remains a challenge. And we know this because we just had even just gender Equal Pay Day, the fact that women still make less than men. And that’s just one aspect of the absence of gender equality. And it’s incredibly important to understand that if we’re reaching for gender equality, we have to know how intersectionality fits into that. Having an understanding of it is essential. It is something that’s completely and totally necessary because there are so many different systems of oppression in our society, different dynamics that will limit people, will hold them down.
And as we’re talking about women, women are dynamic. There are different things about us all as individuals. So understanding how that intersectionality collides and can create new hurdles or new challenges or unique ones separate and apart from the CIS hetero able bodied white woman in this world is so incredibly important because everyone is unique and not necessarily fitting within that box. And we all have to work together at the end of the day, because if we’re going to have a more egalitarian society, it’s going to be on each of us to achieve that goal. So let’s talk about some universal obstacles, as in things that impact women, no matter what other box they check, shall we say? So not necessarily if they’re also black or able body or whatnot, but this is something we see universally, these challenges in the workplace, devaluing women’s voices, stereotyping, the taking of liberties and the wage gap.
Let’s go one by one. So when it comes to devaluing voices, women are often spoken over, interrupted. There’s this assumption that men know better and also credits not necessarily the given where it’s due. These are things that women experience every day in workplaces. And it’s something that we have to look to change. We need to interrupt the bias. We need to recognize that we all have unconscious biases. And again, living in a patriarchal society, there is that implicit thought, unfortunately, that men know better. That’s kind of where that thought of mansplaining comes from. As in you need to hear a man explain it to you because a woman must not know it. We have to break away from those very limited mindsets that essentially keep us as individuals from growing, from creating inclusive spaces where individuals are valued for their human capital, for their knowledge and for their contributions.
And so when we recognize these limitations, we recognize how we are contributing to these problems whether we are speaking up over other women, whether we’re interrupting people, that’s how we can start breaking down some of those barriers that create the challenge in the workplace that we don’t need. We also want to get away from stereotyping. That’s where we traditionalized opportunities. Maybe this thought that, oh, well, men should be in construction and women should be in nursing. We still see this when we do not have gender equity in jobs and positions. And oftentimes women are pushed out of that position, pushed out of physicians by way of the traditionalized mindsets and the systems of oppression we see. We also have labeling. Again, that’s a man’s job. That’s what a man should do. Men work in sales, not women. And these gender based burdens that we often see in workplaces, whether it’s during a meeting, this thought that, oh, well, the woman should take notes, because that’s a secretarial job or it should be the woman to organize some kind of event.
Also the emotional support, this notion that women should be caretakers, that often ends up rolling into the workplace and women are strapped with the burden of this thought that they need to provide emotional support, to listen to so, and so’s sob story, or to be nurturing. That is not a woman’s job. No place in society is at a woman’s job. If an individual chooses to make that their job, maybe because of the relationship that they have with the individual who’s sharing their unfortunate circumstances, that’s a choice in one thing, but oftentimes women are saddled with that theory and that thought, and these things can be extremely problematic because it can be extraordinarily limiting. And also when women decide not to have to take on that burden, as a result, they get labeled with negative terms.
This thought that they are breaking away from the unconscious biases that our society holds and really straps women with. And we need to break away from that because it’s creating unnecessary challenges and hurdles. We need to free our minds from the thought that only people of a certain gender can do a certain job. We need to avoid these stereotypes. We also need to look at who’s taking liberties, names. For example, I’ve been in depositions at times where I’ve had opposing counsel call me Adrienne, while I’m calling him Mr. Jones. That’s a liberty being taken. And no matter how respectful I am by calling that individual by their last name and giving them the designation, Mr., that person is essentially showing me a slight, a disrespect. It’s a microaggression by calling me Adrienne. When generally when attorneys are in opposing situations and you’re on the record, people aren’t calling themselves by their first names. It’s inappropriate.
And so these are little liberties that are taken, these slights that create implicit biases and challenges that are unnecessary for women, especially when we come to the burden of bearing microaggressions, physical proximity as well. People invading your space, feeling that it’s okay to put their hand on your shoulder. They wouldn’t do that to a man, but to a woman. And it’s that implicit notion and idea that it’s okay because you are lesser deserving of respect. That’s also very problematic as our inquisition and assumptions. I mean, those questions that are asked of women in workplaces that are generally not asked of men, such as questions about family, about their personal lives, inappropriate questions.
Again, if you would not ask a man, why ask a woman? And making assumptions. There’s often the assumption that women are in care taking roles and thus maybe, oh, this thought that, oh, well, Jill’s not going to want this project because it would require her to stay late. And I’m sure she wants to be home with her family. These kind of assumptions become extremely limiting. Not only do they box people in and not let them define themselves for themselves, but these assumptions also create chaos for an individual because then how am I as a woman supposed to maybe have all of the accomplishments I need to get my bonus or my raise when you’ve already decided for me that I can’t handle something or what my preferences are?
Those are forms of benevolence that are not beneficial. They are very limiting. They essentially put women on a pedestal when you make decisions for them, especially when those decisions are based on implicit biases. And these are things we must get away from. In addition to the wage gap, it has to be closed. 83 cents, that’s still where we are. The average amount of woman is making on the dollar of a non-Hispanic white man. So even with all things being equal in terms of work ability, that means on average, it’s going to take women longer to retire. I’m going to have to work harder to be able to purchase the exact same home. All of these limitations end up impacting women in the long run. And we’re talking 500, $800,000 over the course of a lifetime if not more for an average woman. And this persists across education levels and the gap only widens the higher you go. So when you see a woman executive. realize how much wage theft is going on when it comes to her abilities and her opportunities. Not only how hard she had to work to get to where she is to overcome the biases, but then the fact that even though she’s there, she is still being robbed by a system that doesn’t value women’s work as much as it does men’s.
These are all very significant problems that we need to build on, we need to close, we need to create better inclusive working environment so that we can have a more egalitarian society. I will turn it over to Rebecca to address the intersection of impact.
REBECCA COOPER: Thank you. Yes. As Adrienne put it, plainly and simply, intersectionality is imperative. What better way to lead into talking about intersectionality than to look at the wage gap. We learned that $.83 is the average for women compared to the white men’s dollar. But when we looked closer at black women, black women on average are making $.062 to the white man’s dollar. It’s lower for Native American and indigenous women who make $0.57. Let’s talk about what intersectionality is.
First of all, intersectionality is the concept that people often have multiple overlapping identities that compound the experience of oppression and workplace discrimination. Intersectionality considers all aspects of your personhood, all of your marginal identities. For me, I personally am a woman. I also identify as a queer woman and a fat queer woman. So that makes my experience of womanhood different from a straight woman or a thin woman’s.
Also, I’m a white woman, so my experience of womanhood and sexism and oppression in the workplace is vastly different from BIPOC women who are experiencing sexism in a different way in the workplace. Let’s take a deeper look at intersectionality. You can go to the next slide. Thank you. The first time this concept appeared would be in the ’70s when feminist theorist Audre Lorde brought up intersectionality in writing, but Kimberlé Crenshaw, who’s an incredible scholar, coined the term in 1989.
This is a quote from Kimberlé that just absolutely hits the nail on the head when it comes to intersectionality. Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LGBTQ+ problem there, but many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of those things. Okay, and the next slide. Thanks. What does this mean for you, right?
Are you considering intersectionality in your DEI initiatives? A couple of terms to think about: double jeopardy and triple jeopardy. Maybe some of you have heard of this before. Double jeopardy simply means somebody who occupies two marginalized identities that overlap and create nuanced oppression. Triple jeopardy would be the same thing plus an additional identity. The picture down below, you could have a queer black woman who is experiencing marginalized oppression in multiple different ways.
You could have a Muslim woman who’s experiencing multiple types of oppression, or a disabled woman, a fat woman, et cetera. The next slide. Some of the shortcomings when you don’t consider intersectionality in your DEI initiatives and you silo each identity is that you really undermine your own DEI goals. When I say silo each identity, I mean, taking each marginalized identity and planning your DEI initiatives around that, so having gender initiatives and race initiatives, et cetera.
Some questions to ask yourself. Are all of your gender inclusion initiatives being shouldered and initiated by black women? Are the gender spaces inclusive to BIPOC women? Does your DEI committee meet at somebody’s house that’s inaccessible to folks who are in wheelchairs or have physical disabilities? Maybe your company celebrates pride and makes your LGBTQ+ employees feel welcome. Are you giving out shirts that are not size inclusive, right? Are your pride shirts going to a 5X and a 6X and accommodating all of your employees?
When we’re talking about DEI initiatives, we’re talking about making diversity intentionally intersectional, but also inclusion efforts. Making sure that we’re asking all of these questions and seeing folks in a multifaceted way, not just each identity one at a time. Some unique obstacles. You could go to the next slide. Yes, great. The one after that. A lot of DEI professionals are starting to talk about intersectionality and the first place that we go is race and gender and the way that those intersect.
But here we’re going to just go over four more important marginalized identities that women also experience in the workplace in their entire lives. I’m just going to go over each of these and give you some stats to go with them too. First, we’ll look at LGBTQ+ women. LGBTQ+ women we know are from a study from NYU, when there are LGBTQ+ indicators on resumes, those women are 30% less likely to get a call back for an interview from potential employers.
We’re seeing that queer women are being discriminated against even before they’re getting into the office, right? Hiring and employment practices are discriminating against queer women in ways that straight women are not experiencing. We also know that queer women are far more likely to experience microaggressions as professionals than women overall. This includes, like Adrienne mentioned, being spoken over, having their judgment questioned, also being asked to speak on behalf of an identity.
We also know that 41% of queer women face some type of hostility in the workplace, which is a remarkable number. And nearly half of LGBTQ women in the United States in the workforce live in states that actually don’t protect them, right? They live in states that don’t have codified laws, anti-discrimination laws based on sexual and gender identity. That’s a huge policy issue that women who fall in the LGBTQ+ community face. And then when we take a closer look at disabilities, we know that folks with disabilities…
You can go to the next slide for me. Thank you. Awesome. When we’re talking about disabilities, we’re looking at physical disabilities, but we also want to look for and advocate for folks with cognitive disabilities, communication disabilities, and mental health disabilities, too. We know that folks with disabilities regardless of gender face employment discrimination. Particularly men with disabilities experience twice the unemployment rate as folks without disabilities.
But that rate is even higher for women with disabilities. 9.4% is the unemployment rate. We also know that less than half of women with disabilities feel like they have equal opportunities to advance in the workplace, which is a big survey finding. Also, women with disabilities have increased rates of sexual harassment in the workplace. Again, women all over of all different marginal identities are being forced to endure sexual harassment.
When you have a disability as a woman, that increases your likelihood of facing sexual harassment. And then the next slide, thank you. Age. Younger women can also face age discrimination in the workplace, but we’re specifically going to look at older women. An alarming 64% of older women say they’ve experienced age discrimination in the workplace. That means that they’re being seen as irrelevant, incompetent. They’re being passed over for promotions.
And since women are positioned as sex objects in society, the negative impact of ageism is actually occurring for women more frequently and earlier on than their male colleagues. The last stat I think was looking at women 40 plus, but the age difference for when men and women are facing discrimination, there’s a gap there too that’s important to notice. And another stat here, white men over 50 are 2.3 times more likely to get an interview than white women over 50.
When you look at black women over 50, it becomes three times. White men over 50 were three times more likely to get an interview than black women over 50. There’s an example of your triple jeopardy there and how it works. And then the next slide we’ll talk about size. Thank you. We’re talking about women with large body types. I use the word fat women in a positive way, not as an insult, as part of a growing collective of organizations and activists that are reclaiming that word.
Women are 16 times more likely to report sizeist employment discrimination than men. Of course, sizeism impacts everybody, but women are experiencing sizeism at higher rates than men in the workplace. A 2001 study found that there’s actually a BMI wage penalty. The Rep Project doesn’t use BMI as a worthy measurement. But for the purposes of this stat, for each one unit in increase in BMI, women take a 1.8% wage hit. They earn 1.8% less, which is a wild finding, and that wage penalty was just not found for men. This is something that is impacting women of size.
Again, it’s important to take an intersectional look at size when we’re talking about sizeism because this world of sizes oppression has its roots in racist ideals of thinness, right? This is hinging on racialized ideals of what beauty is and what women’s worth are. The way sizeism impacts women of color, black women in particular, takes on a whole new nuanced way and shows up in some real insidious ways for women of color who are also occupying fat bodies.
That is all of my stats. I’ll pass it back to Adrienne to talk about some action steps for advancing intersectional gender justice.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Thanks so much, Rebecca. I appreciate that. Yes, it’s so essential that we seek gender equality, and let’s go ahead and explore what that looks like. Let’s first talk about the benefits of it. When it comes to gender equality for your organization, off the bat, it means a more positive company culture. A gender equal workplace where all employees feel welcomed, valued, respected, and heard means that you’re going to create an overall more positive workplace for everyone where you have inclusivity.
You’re going to have less turnover. You have employees who are likely going to notice their coworkers’ talents and look to uplift them. You’re also going to be capitalizing more on your human capital and all the resources available to you, because, hey, why pay someone for their talents and skills and then just not use them? We want to be able to get over our gender biases and take advantage of all of the great resources and human capital people have to offer, but we have to get past the bias to do that so we can reach gender equality. Also, you’re going to see more enhanced innovation and creativity. Again, people bring unique talents from their walks of life no matter what. Unfortunately, because we do live in that patriarchal society, there is this underlying thought that women have less to offer, less value, less experience, and worthy knowledge. And that’s just not true. What we want to do is truly awaken all of the talents that are within people and be able to allow them to use their knowledge and to benefit your organization from it.
As a result of doing things like that, you’re going to see more innovation, more creativity, opportunity to have a more active workforce. Also, you’re just going to have a good reputation. It’s not a bad thing at all. Building that great reputation of intentionally promoting gender equality, where you have more equal pay, also fostering a greater reputation so more people are going to want to work there. Again, lower turnover. People are more invested in your organization and helping it achieve its goals.
Also, improves conflict resolution. When you’re dealing with those issues that we all see in workplaces, it’s going to be easier to resolve them when people feel they’re on equal footing. This thought that they’re not being held back in any way, or they’re not being devalued because of their gender. That’s incredibly important. Because, again, in a society, we’re all going to have some sense of conflicts or issues, but having those strong communication skills that are founded on equality go a long way.
We also know gender bias, just 1%. It can affect Fortune 500 companies that hire 8,000 people, it can cost you about 2.8 million a year. And that’s probably on the low side. The fact is that you’re not truly taking advantage of all of the opportunities you have available to you by promoting a more gender equitable workplace. You’re leaving money on the table, if not losing it. The goal is to have of gender equality because it’s a human right.
It remains persistent still, gaps in resources, access opportunities, decision-making, and what we need to do to get to a place where that human right is truly fulfilled and your organization can benefit is by way of gender equity. Gender equality, so we’re all clear on it is, is rights and responsibilities of people. It’s not dependent upon your gender. It’s genderless. That’s the end goal that we want, where people’s value, their contributions, it’s something that can be given freely to them and it has nothing to do with their gender.
But we have to get there through gender equity. That’s where you treat individuals fairly, but based on the respective needs of their gender. If you know that women in the workplace are not paid equally despite having the same skills and talents, maybe you exercise some gender equity by reassessing the wages, looking at a comparative model and saying, “Hey, are women I work with, are they being paid equally as the men?”
Maybe you look at what access opportunities, mentorship, leadership opportunities are being extended to women, knowing that generally women are less likely to be in leadership positions than men. You do what’s necessary to overcome the biases, challenges, hurdles, limitations that our society has imposed by virtue of the fact that we live in a patriarchal society. Let’s talk about what we can do to put some of that equity in action. We can level a playing field.
Four areas of impact: confronting constructs, using your privilege, investing in women, and just an everyday culture. When it comes to confronting constructs, you’re going to want to educate. That’s going to trainings like this, having conversations, build on the intersectionality, know that this is a valuable attribute that the person brings to the table. My walk of life is going to be very different than Rebecca’s walk of life. Because even though we’re both women, as Rebecca noted, she’s queer and I’m a black woman.
Society has interacted with us differently, treated us differently. We have different skill sets and abilities. Those are beautiful things that allow us to see the world differently. You should want people on your team who are different, so that no matter what the challenge comes, you can capitalize on it, that you have someone who can handle that. And when you educate people and help them understand more and infuse into your DEI conversations that which involves intersectionality, then that’s when you’re in a position to win. And as individuals, we can also exercise more self-awareness. Look at what kind of unconscious biases do I have? What do I maybe implicitly think is true or reinforce that isn’t true? It doesn’t allow people to define themselves for themselves. Exercise that self-awareness and look at, how am I speaking? How am I using my body language? How am I interacting with women? Also welcome feedback when individual are talking to you and they’re interacting with you and they share that this was a microaggression, or this is a massage noir, that little form of bias and limitations that impact black women that has a racism and a sexism angle intersecting.
When people share with you that maybe your thoughts, weren’t one of inclusivity, welcome it, listen to it, learn from it, grow and develop that inclusive eye. Look for ways in which you can uplift women. And that you can find opportunities to take a more intersectional approach. We want to be mindful of these limitations, of these things and realize our biases. For example, women often face a likability penalty in the event that women are expected to be kind and nice and all sorts of warm and motherly. Like when I’m just here to do my job, but if I’m not likable and I’m not smiling all the time, I can face a penalty for that. And often women do when they’re in leadership positions, it’s a thought that they’re less trustworthy. And so you want to overcome these things. You want to confront your own biases.
And I know you can do that. One way, flipping the switch. And is just a general thought. It is a Twitter page that I like to follow, because what it does is it flips the switch and it shows you how silly a lot of the biases we hold are; manwhohasitall, “Welcome to my new followers. This account proves that men can actually be quite successful. With the right mentoring, tone of voice and outfit we can be anything; men entrepreneurs, men leaders, and boy bosses. Thank you for following and supporting a male cause.” A lot of these things are what women experience, what women hear, the labels women face. When you flip them and see, how does it work for men? It sounds absolutely ridiculous, right? Yeah. So this is one way to be able to detect what unconscious biases am I holding?
My friend is a history teacher. She’s a compiling a list of great historical figures and she needs a male to add to the list suggestions. This shows you, this is what the system looks like. And if you flip it; last one I’ll read, “My wife actually respects men. She thinks they’re every bit is equal as women. She’s great. I’m so lucky,” Matt, 35. These kind of things are built into our society and they’re absolute nonsense. But until we confront them and we change how we do business, then they’re going to be a reality and it’s going to continue to hold back women.
You can also use your privilege. That means passing the mic. We know that oftentimes women are not allowed to speak without being interrupted. And oftentimes we are devalued in terms of our contribution. So if you happen to be one who society often listens to, maybe be a little bit more quiet and pass the mic to someone else. Or even if you’re a white woman and you know that generally they don’t ask the black woman in the meeting her thoughts, use your privilege, past the mic.
Also, you can speak up. When you see something, say something. If your colleagues interrupted and you have privilege in that moment, you can say, “Hey, let’s wait and hear what Lori has to say. I know you’re really eager, Steve, but Lori was speaking.” Use your privilege, speak up. Also look for those inequities. Again, developing that more inclusive eye. If you’re in that position of privilege, maybe you’re in a senior position at the workplace. As an attorney, I have privilege when it comes to legal endeavors and I can see when a woman or an individual who doesn’t have privilege in that moment is being taken advantage of and I use my privilege by speaking up. I look for equities to make this world a more equitable place.
Also, balance that benevolence. No one needs saviors. While it’s important to champion people and uplift them, at the same time, it’s very different than thinking you need to save them. So you want to be mindful of that and make sure you continue to respect individual’s choices and let them dictate how they’d like to do business, how they’d like to move forward. For example, once when I was working for a major law firm, we were doing work for very, very wealthy people, including A-list actors. And I was one of the top associates and that actor wanted to bring us work. The gentleman I worked for, a law partner, said to me, “So and so A-list actor wants this help and I’d give it to you, but he’s known to be a bit of a misogynist and I think he’d probably come on to you.”
That wasn’t helpful for me because I needed to earn my hours. Also, I want to do my job. He thought he was being benevolent and he was saving me from an uncomfortable situation. No, he wasn’t. He was holding me back from an opportunity to do my job. The better way to handle that would just simply say, “Hey, do just an FYI, this guy’s known to do X, Y, and Z. Are you comfortable with that? Okay, cool. Let me know if anything happens. I got your back.” That’s empowering. It lets me know, because you never want someone to walk into a shady situation, but also lets me know that I’m supported.
This is about balancing benevolence as well, recognizing that there are limitations society places on women, but not using those to hold women back. Also consider your male privilege. And if you have it, you can negotiate, pay, interrupt others, be aggressive in business dealings, not going to hold you back. If you rise in a company, nobody’s going to say you slept your way to the top. You can expect pay equity for the work you do. If you’re underpaid or not promoted, it won’t be because you’re a man. If you are cisgender, coworkers aren’t going to ask your real name or call you the wrong pronouns. If you are not conveniently attractive or in shape, you don’t have to worry as much about it negatively affecting your career or social potential.
Also, if you don’t succeed, no one’s going to say, “It’s because men shouldn’t be in this field.” These are male privileges that are within society. And so if you’re a man and you have this privilege and you hear comments like this, or you see this implicit bias is going on, say something. Also, if you’re a woman and you are contributing and perpetuating this, or if you’re non-binary, whatever it is, shut it down.
Three: invest. That’s about mentoring, champion the underrepresented. We’re getting away from the whole benevolence thing. What we are is uplifting, sharing insight, sharing knowledge speaking up on behalf of, opening doors. Also, closing certain things like the wage gap. As Rebecca had spoke spoken about, the fact is that women and especially women of color make a lot less than men despite the hard work, despite the achievements and the accomplishments. We often have to work twice as hard to get where we need to be. And that shouldn’t be the case because we all rise when we rise together. We want to cultivate leadership equitably. Look at opportunities, look at who is not necessarily at the top, who isn’t reflected in management leadership and make a change.
You want diverse voices. You want people who can do the job that fortunately our society often will hold people back based on their gender and what they look like. You also want to equip women at all levels. Look at where you can provide resources and access no matter where that woman is in her career, because there should be opportunities across the board, regardless of age or level of commitment to the company. Uplift, uplift, uplift.
And lastly, everyday culture. You should establish standardized metrics and expectations. Leave little room for that whole subjective ideology that often plays out when we hear things like, “I just don’t think they’re a good cultural fit,” or, “There’s just something about her.” No, close the gap on that because that’s just an opportunity for unconscious biases to come through. When it comes to prioritizing work life balance, if you’re going to have events, maybe opportunities for your coworkers to connect, having a happy hour at five o’clock or 5:30, it’s not necessarily amenable to a lot of people, especially if the individual has childcare or some kind of family care obligations. So look for opportunities in different avenues to allow access for everyone so that you can and continue to develop your skills as well as your colleagues.
Also increase transparency. People shouldn’t operate in a black box system. They need to know what’s expected of them so you can see that fairness there. And when you have that fairness, there’s a sense of reassurance and that commitment. And analyze that data with an inclusive eye. Again, making sure that your workplace is one where there is inclusivity requires data. Again, those standardized metrics and analyzing them inclusively, looking at ways that maybe explain why certain people are not doing as well. You’re going to need to take a full well rounded look and not just one from a very limited vantage point so you can ensure that you’re maintaining a culture that is one of inclusivity. So I want to thank you all for joining us. And with this last 20 minutes, I am excited to start our conversation with me and Rebecca. Rebecca, thank you so much again for joining us and to contributing to this conversation. And let’s hope that my AirPods do not decide to hijack this conversation again. But while I do have you, I would love to get your thoughts in terms of what do you see right now as being one of the most challenging things when it comes to developing full and complete inclusivity for women in the workplace?
REBECCA COOPER: That’s a great question. I might be biased, speaking of biases, I might be biased as the research director, but I think that the good collection of data means, like you said, taking an intersectional approach. But it means also developing standardized metrics, being really clear upfront with how your company is committed to intersectional DEI by standardizing the metrics and making sure that there’s an annual audit that’s being completed, that that data then gets collected and kept in ways that uphold the integrity of your employees. And also that it’s analyzed in ways that are then helping to fund more DEI initiatives and helping with the inclusion process.
So I think one challenge in the world of developing standardized metrics and making sure that they’re used is that folks are afraid to ask folks about their identities. It’s hard to talk about, especially some of these marginalized identities, it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s absolutely imperative if that we’re collecting information on the ways that your employees are experiencing discrimination at work. And so just following best practices for diversity audits and assessments is important. And then, accessing expert analysis on how to look at the data and implement it is also really important too. So I think there are many challenges, but the first one that comes to mind is making sure that we’re really taking care of benchmarking and using that data in productive ways.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more because if people don’t know necessarily maybe the diversity that lies within their entity, but also concerns people have, experiences they have, then you don’t necessarily know what you are truly working with. But one thing I have also seen in working in the DEI space and providing information and analyzing it and being able to provide assessments is that oftentimes companies won’t even realize that they have not created a safe space so people don’t even feel comfortable sharing their basic information. If they’re filling out surveys, maybe they won’t even list their race because in part they realize there only maybe five other black people at this company. I might be a dead giveaway if I happen to list down my race or my sexual identity. And so creating that safe space and working with experts who can help you navigate that is so incredibly important for creating that inclusive space, because it’s not something that’s just a quickie survey monkey send around. It can be very challenging. And so, Rebecca-
REBECCA COOPER: Yeah.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Go ahead.
REBECCA COOPER: I was just going to say, also that speaks to the importance of representation, which is what obviously the Representation Project focuses on, but we look at representation in media, but also representation in your workspace is so important to see that your executives and your senior leaders and your managers look like you and reflect the world that we live in that have marginalized identities. That representation matters so that folks can see themselves sending in the workplace. But also it matters because it means that people are in key leadership positions that have insights and have lived experiences to advocate for a better inclusive workspace too.
And I can’t help but think about, we’re all watching what’s happening with Judge Jackson right now, who is the ultimate example of a leader. We’re watching this person experience what every woman experiences in the workplace and we’re watching it happen in Congress with a national eye on her, and we’re seeing her integrity and her expertise being challenged, and we’re seeing her being cut off and not able to speak and all of these stereotypes that you brought up earlier that women face. And so to see her enduring that on a national stage. And also the fact that she’s being challenged as though she’s biased just because of her identity as though we all don’t have identities is wild.
So to see leaders in our workplace, in our country that are women, that are women of color, that are disabled, that are fat, overturning these stereotypes and really enduring the horrible workplace discrimination is really important for a young and early career professionals to see and help advocate for a better world too. So just wanted to add that in.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yes, very much so with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, it’s important to see that intersectionality aspect of it when it comes to her being a black woman, where we saw the senators asking her about race, about critical race theory, all of these things involving race, trying to probe for biases. That is implicit bias playing out, or even just explicit in terms of race. That’s not that just because of the color of your skin, that you are going to be biased in some way where no one asked Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett, how if they had a white defendant in front of them, how would they rule, would it bother them or impact them in some way? And so these are little things that they are microaggressions. They’re sometimes just overt aggression aggression, but they’re problematic and they’re not one for inclusivity. They essentially call you an other. We want to get away from those things, but it’s so incredibly important to have an intersectional eye when looking at them. I know we have a lot of great questions teed up, and so I would love to hear your thoughts, Rebecca. This first one, which is also more on an international scope, it says, “In light of today’s news about the Taliban and Afghanistan shutting down education for girls past a young age, can you speak to the global differences of treatment of women that may show up in an individual organization, and how are you addressing the need for awareness and education and global employee partner vendor networks?”
REBECCA COOPER: That’s a great question. There is plenty of data out there that shows that women are not showing up in leadership positions globally, so the trends we see in the US are the same on a global level. We don’t see women in leadership positions, in C-suite positions. We don’t see women being promoted at the same rates as their male colleagues. We also see all types of gender discrimination happening at a global level, too. To your question about how to address that, I’m glad you brought it up, because intersectionality looks different depending on where you are. It looks different depending on where you are geographically, culturally. Different identities have more salience and prominence depending on where you are. Religious identity is at play, a lot, in some of these countries where women are being highly discriminated against in the workplace. When we measure representation in the media, we’re looking at US entertainment media, usually, and so we use the US population numbers as our benchmark. But when we look at media from different countries, those benchmarks change. Race categories fall apart and mean different things in different countries.
So, it’s important to take into consideration what your world around you looks like and be true to that when you’re measuring your diversity inclusion, but also the nuances of what discrimination looks like for women in different countries and the different experiences that women have based on their nationalities, their religion, the languages they speak, whether or not they’re working with other employees that are across the globe or what their… When you were talking, Adrienne, about work-life balance, time zone is something to consider, too. In this age where we’re all working remotely and we have teams from all over the place, taking into consideration how someone who’s working in India might be impacted by your 5:00 PM PST meeting. So, those are some of the things that come into mind, and really trying to get as an inclusive, zoomed out look as you possibly can, and make sure you’re not letting anyone fall through the cracks when you’re fighting for gender justice.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Thank you. So, what are your thoughts on when you form a DEI committee in your workplace, in terms of who are the best folks to have involved? Should there be separate ERG employee resource groups for the different intersection?
REBECCA COOPER: I think that it’s important to listen to your employees. One stat we know is that although black women and women of color are underrepresented they’re actually shouldering more of the burdens of setting up DEI initiatives that are taking place, outside of their formal job responsibilities. So, it’s important, A, that we’re elevating marginalized voices. It’s important that your gender collective is not all white or all heterosexual. But it’s also important to take care that the burden is not falling on marginalized identities to be educating their coworkers outside of their formal job responsibilities. There has to be a balance, and it’s really important to be checking in with your employees and making sure that everybody feels heard is not experiencing burnout from having to educate, in addition to what they get paid to do. I’m sure you have more insight into that, too, Adrienne.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yes. I always advocate to either credit or pay individuals who are on the DEI committee, because if you say, “This is a business priority,” and they are doing portions of this job in their “off time,” they should be compensated for it in some way, or it should be credited toward hours. When I was an attorney and I build hours, it should have been, essentially, deemed a non-billable billable hour that would be credited, because you are asking individuals to uplift your company and you say it’s a priority, so treat it as such. Additionally, it’s problematic when you assume that simply because someone comes from a marginalized identity that they know. Assuming I’m black, so I must know all about race or racism, that is racist. It’s problematic because you’re making an assumption based on my race, when there might be people who know a lot, know more or are devoted or committed. So, you want to approach things without coming to an assumption first, or assuming. Ask, let people define themselves for themselves. Also, it’s just so incredibly important to seek out experts and consultants.
I can’t begin to tell you how many things I’ve seen go awry, and where they bring you in the aftermath because they didn’t take it seriously, and so they just threw a bunch of people together, generally, people of color or people from marginalized groups, and it ended up blowing up in their face, and oftentimes on social media. There are things that you have to show that you are invested in. You wouldn’t just ask some guy around the corner to fix a plumbing issue you have in the building, so why just have your regular, everyday employees try to work on an actual expertise that is required? So, for our next question I will ask you, my question is how to get past the prejudice of men who think DEI is all about minorities a favor, and who believe unconscious bias does not exist? Because so many men think this doesn’t apply to them, the exclusions keep getting compounded.
REBECCA COOPER: Oh goodness, I feel your pain. So, first off, there are in incredible implicit bias tests that exist. You can find them on the internet, they are free to access. I would encourage everybody in your company to take them for all of these identities, because you can’t argue with the data that shows even if you believe you’re not racist, if you take an implicit bias test and it shows you that you’re more willing to select a black person as having… I think the implicit bias test for race has wallets and guns associated with people of color and white people. It’s a beautiful design to show real quickly when it’s coming at you fast, who do you see as a criminal, which is a horrible stereotype for BIPOC people, and who do you not? And so, the data there is a great place to start when you’re having a conversation about implicit bias. Also, I think it’s just important to consult the policies that exist around this. This is why it’s important to have an anti-discrimination mission statement.
It’s important to be really transparent at the top that these are our values as a company, and this is what we stand for, making sure that folks of all marginalized identities are being taken care of, so that way you can simply point to the policy when people are violating it and making it an unsafe space for people at work.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yes. I’ll also note that there is now a link in the chat to Harvard’s implicit bias tests that list out several of them based on various identities. I’ll also say it’s important to realize that some people don’t want to see their unconscious biases. They don’t want to admit them. They don’t want to admit that they have issues in various areas, and there’s nothing you’re going to ever be able to do to get them to admit to them. There are going to be people who just don’t support diversity, equity, and inclusion, because it essentially means to them competition. Letting other people in who the system have excluded means that maybe they recognize that they’re not the best person for the job anyways or that their skills aren’t as good, and they’ve been relying on the system as holding others back, and they just don’t want to deal with it. A lot of people don’t like competition, and because we do have systems of oppression in play, you’re keeping out a lot of that competition.
So, when you break down the barriers and you have a more inclusive workspace, then it means that you’re going to have different voices, and you’ve just got to accept that certain people don’t want that. In that at same framework, you have to ask yourself, “Well, what do I want for the best interest of my company? Do I want to you to uphold these oppression systems and biases, or do I want to make more money and be the best at what I do?” And so, a lot of people will continue to prefer keeping on top and keeping people excluded as opposed to money. Money is not king, capital is not king, despite living in a capitalistic society, so it’s important to recognize those things. Otherwise, also I would very much encourage you to consider how you’re doing your hiring. Are you hiring through a lens where you are ensuring that people come into your workplace with a diversity mindset? Because at hiring, you can figure out how people feel about DEI and inclusivity programs, you can see where their knowledge base is, you can see their willingness.
There are various tests for this, and so if you’re actually using those tests, and you’re using them as objective gauges on whether you’re going to bring that person into your organization, then you are going to be creating and uplifting more of an expectation that embracing inclusivity, inclusive principles, is an expectation, and you’re going to be making your workplace even better. Go ahead, Rebecca.
REBECCA COOPER: Yes. That’s fantastic. I was going to add, too, if you’re somebody who is not in a position of power, but find yourself up against folks who are unwilling to change in your workplace… Just to hammer home what Adrienne brought up in the presentation of your privilege, using your privilege, this is super important. So, if you’re or a man or like me, a white woman, in the workplace, if somebody’s not going to change, you should be stepping up and protecting folks from being stepped over, or from marginalized folks from being interrupted. We saw in the pandemic in the last year, that more white employees see themselves as allies to women of color. That’s a huge increase since the year prior, but we see a huge decrease in white allies in the workplace that are actually speaking out against discrimination, that are actually mentoring or sponsoring women of color, that are using their privilege in productive ways.
And so, it’s one thing to say you’re an ally, it’s another thing to use your privilege in the workplace to do some harm reduction, to make sure that you can limit the negative impact they have in your workspace.
ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yep. Thank you so much for that. We really appreciate you all joining us. We are coming to the conclusion of our conversation today. Thank you so much, Rebecca, and for The Representation Project. Can you quickly tell our participants today where they can find more information out about your organization?
REBECCA COOPER: Absolutely. So, you can follow us on social media at misrepresentation, also our website is therepproject.org. We have a one-pager on intersectional gender justice in the workplace that has a lot of these statistics and some action steps and resources for you, as well, that we can share, likely, in the chat, and definitely you can find that on our website. Thank you so much for having us. This has been truly an honor.
JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.
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