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Gender Expectations Live On …

4 Jul

Gender Expectations Live On …

When it comes to gender bias, we’ve come a long way in the last few decades.  Take a look at the following list of commonly held beliefs from the late 1900s (yep, that was only 2 decades ago). 

I know of few people who would broadly agree with this list, though some might (in their inner thoughts!) hold a couple of these ideas.  Some statements have been debunked by fact and science; others have been muted by experience.  But I think it’s safe to say that for the most-part, these don’t hold true today. 

Now, take a look at this list:

Perhaps a few more that still linger?  Depends on the facts, the culture and the individual.  But they’re still out there.  And some lie not too deep below the surface.

What’s still on your list?  What’s still on this list of those around you and on your team? It’s time to start talking about it and being actively aware of our biases.  Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Stereotyping Good, Gender Bias Bad

26 Jun

Let me start with an important distinction between “sex” and “gender.”

Haven’t we all heard the rebuke “You shouldn’t stereotype!”?  Well actually it’s not such a bad thing.  What is not a good thing is gender bias … and we all exhibit it.  Seriously, “it’s in our genes.”  What is key though, is to be aware that we have it and then to make choices about what to do with it.

Sex is a biological difference.  It is:

  • Determined by nature
  • Universal
  • Not easily changeable

Gender is socially and culturally constructed:

  • Grounded in traditional male and female roles and responsibilities
  • Changes over time
  • Varies between communities

Males and females are treated differently from birth not only because of their physical differences (with unique challenges at different life-stages) … but also because of the different socio-cultural values associated with gender.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at stereotyping and gender bias.

Stereotyping is “A widely held but firmly fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford Dictionaries).  It’s based on both:

  • Physical attributes (e.g., age, sex, race)
  • Intangible aspects (e.g., religion, culture)

And actually, it’s critical to our evolutionary survival.  It:

  • Helps us sort and categorize people, places and things
  • Is often evaluated based on “additional associations” (usually negative)
  • Defines social interactions and permeates learning and decision-making processes

The problem occurs when stereotypes introduce Bias.  Bias is when we start viewing the stereotype as true and definitive, without pausing to consider whether we are making a fair judgment.  Gender bias is persistently found in global cultures, including Western countries.  It challenges gender equality and women’s empowerment by systematically excluding and discriminating against women and girls simply for being born female.

So, look again at the spa picture at the top of the article.  Why did it look “odd”?  Was it Stereotype … or Bias? And what does it reveal about your underlying beliefs and thoughts? 

Something worth thinking about.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing and talking about it?  Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Investment Banking Riddle

19 Jun

As I said last week, I’m going out on a limb on some sensitive topics in the next couple of weekly posts, and I don’t want to offend anyone in any way.  My intent here is to share some observations and ideas and spark some collaboration and discussion, rather than make statements about any gender identity, race, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical attributes, political belief, national origin, religious or other groups.  There’s the caveat, and please read along with an open mind.

First, stop.  Let me implore you to check out “Can You Solve the Riddle?” – a great short-clip on YouTube, created by Mindspace – Investment Banking Riddle.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kFC7669quE if my newly found blogging skills don’t translate).  It’s worth the 3 minutes if you haven’t seen it before … and “then we shall proceed” (Did your parents ever say “Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we shall proceed” before reading stories to you?  Anyway, I digress). 

… … … … … … … … … … …

Go to the link … it’s only 3 minutes … it’s worth it.  Really!  “Just Do It” as Nike would say.

… … … … … … … … … … …

“And NOW we shall proceed.”  

We all have hidden biases.  OK, I’ll own up to it.  I didn’t figure out the answer to that enlightening Mindspace video immediately.  Actually, I crafted a convoluted wrong answer.  And my Mum was a high-powered executive in the business world … and I know a few female CEOs … and I too consider myself a smart, senior leader.  Who happens to be female.  Who blogs about gender issues.  But I fell for it. So did my girlfriends.  Hidden bias.  It’s real.

Gender bias occurs when views and attitudes assign a greater importance to one (gender) over the other.   Here are a few snippets from studies in the world of recruiting, development and retention:

  • A resume with a female-associated name is perceived as “less competent” than a male-associated one (and in the US, a “foreign” name has similar perception differences as “American” one)
  • Recruiters view men who have only part-time work experience as less hirable than women with the same part-time work experience
  • Managers are more hesitant to overtly criticize women, even when needed
  • Men are more cautious about being seen to be “unsupportive” of female employees (especially in today’s environment)
  • Managers couch written criticism more vaguely than they do for males with the same quantitative performance ratings
  • Managers often couch development areas for women with light praise (to “soften the blow”), but then go on to give the same women lower ratings that don’t correspond with the remarks on the evaluation
  • Supervisors do notice when women behave in ways that conform to gender conventions (e.g., being “likable” and demonstrating “communal” behavior), but those characteristics do not meaningfully contribute to career advancement
  • Relative to men, feedback for women has a higher judgement-to-fact ratio, which makes it more subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions)
  • Women are more likely than men to under-emphasize their own strengths and over-emphasize their skill-gaps in self-evaluations
  •  And … as we’ve just seen, we can believe that men are more likely than women to be the CEO of an Investment bank.

Our biases and gender expectations are rooted in evolutionary genetics and learned behaviors (as I discussed in a blog earlier this month “What We Can Learn From The Savanna”).  Our instincts take less than 1/20th of a second from stimulus-to-reaction, and we are often not even aware of them.   

So, what’s the problem with a bias driven by instinct?  The definition of “bias” sounds harmless enough (“prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another”).  The problem is that word “prejudice”: “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights.”  Hmm… not so good.

Are you brave enough to explore that you’re biased?  We all harbor gut-reaction instincts that are biased.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing, admitting, and talking about it?  Then we might be better able to do something about it.  

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

www.annaminto.com

D&I is Dead

12 Jun

I’m going out on a limb on some important but sensitive topics in the next couple of weekly posts, and I don’t want to offend anyone in anyway.  My intent here is to share some ideas and spark reflection; not to make statements about any gender identity, race, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical attributes, political belief, national origin, religious or other group.  So, please read along with an open mind, and an appreciation for the attempt to raise such topics.

Years (OK, decades) ago, I used to commiserate with a fellow Consultant at a Big 3 strategy consulting firm about our substantial requests to attend recruiting events.  Not only were we asked to participate in the “everyone B-School” events, but also to participate in anything “women” anything “working Mom” and anything “international.”  We were in high demand given the low representation for each of these groups in our company.  My friend also happened to be in a racial minority, so she lamented that she had even more marketing commitments than me. We used to joke that it’s a good thing that we were heterosexual, or we would have another “minority” event that we were asked (actually, expected) to attend.  Those were the days of “Diversity.”  Have someone from as many “minority” groups as possible.

The original focus of these efforts was on visible minorities – “women” and “people of color.”  Which then expanded to more specific sub-groups such as “working Moms,” “Black,” “Asian” and “Hispanic.”  Also, other minority groups such as “Gay and Lesbian” and “Disabled.”  This recognition of “minorities” evolved with the surfacing our isms –   sexism, racism, agism, nationalism and the like.

As our “minority” numbers began to slowly creep up, and as we began speaking about our “isms,” some progress was made toward better recognition of “diversity” through “special interest groups.” However, it became apparent that the next challenge was not just about having diversity, but also about embracing “Inclusion.”  Merna Myers clarified it well when she stated that “diversity is about being asked to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.”  We began looking at our biases in thought and in action, such as the words we used, the office social activities we hosted … and the behaviors around those company functions.  So, there you had it, D&I.  Diversity & Inclusion.  That was the thinking for about a decade, and it was a great start for the times.

More recently, the terminology is shifting towards DEI.  When it first surfaced, it was defined as “Diversity, EQUALITY and Inclusion.”  Equality means dividing resources evenly – “everyone being treated the same.”  That was a good start.  Recently though, it has shifted to “Diversity, EQUITY and Inclusion.”   In a business sense, “Equity” means that the opportunities (to be promoted, for example) are the same for underrepresented groups as they are for the majority group …. and that might mean providing different kinds of support for different groups, in order to provide equal opportunities.  For example, inclusion councils, ambassadors, employee resource groups, etc.  

And that IS “fair.”  A fair way to provide equal opportunity for all.

Are you fostering DEI for all … and how?  What interesting equity initiatives have you seen?  I’m curious to hear what’s working (or not) for you and your team!

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

The Great Office Debate (Part 2 of 2)

15 May

The Great Office Debate (Part 2 of 2)

So, what do we do now?

Following up on last week’s post highlighting the arguments for “work from home” and “work from office,” it’s clear that neither model will suit most organizations in their entirety all the time (though there are arguments that can support either model for functions or departments within the organization).  

The question not “should we continue “at home” work?”, but rather “what does the new remote work model look like?”  Getting to a new hybrid model is no small task, and here’s an approach to help you get there:

(1) CALL IT LIKE IT IS.       

If some overarching reason (perhaps Vision/Mission or Culture?), truly dictates that the entire organization can only operate in one model or the other, then call it like it is and don’t waste your time thinking about this.  Be very thoughtful and honest though that this is really so … and beware of the ripple effects of your decision on attraction, retention, culture, efficiency, customer service, etc.  Communicate the decision, and why it is so … and move on to something else.  If that’s not the case, read on.

(2) DEFINE AND UNDERSTAND the distinct pieces of “work” from the top-down.  

Identify, prioritize and break down key work processes.  Be clear on what purpose they serve, what they deliver, what parts actually need to be done (or eliminated) to get there, and who they interact with.   Get specific about each role within it.  Understand what’s a collaborative project and what’s an individualized project.  Identify which value-adding activities are done more efficiently and effectively, where and why.  Articulate, and get in words, the rationale for being in the office (or not) for specific work activities.  This is a herculean task that results in a true diagnosis by looking in the mirror. Carefully facilitated and coordinated sub-group think-tanks are an efficient way of getting there.

(3) IN PARALLEL, LISTEN… really listen and learn. 

Ask your people what they want and why.  Only your employees can tell you how they have changed as a result of the pandemic, and what they want moving forward. Deaverage input not only by function or department but also for example by young, mostly city-dwelling people who may have differing views from older, suburban-living people.  Learn with an open mind:

  • Foster honesty – make it safe to know the WHOLE truth.
  • Be collective – hear from the cross-section of employees across the organization.
  • Be internally public – so people know you care enough to ask and want the unvarnished truth.

Tell the truth about what the company needs to have done and engage people in the hard work of creating solutions together.  Dream big.  And, btw, all this means that just a “survey” is far too superficial alone.  Excellence requires structured think-tank input and 1-on-1 conversations as well.

(4) DRAFT the policies – for the overall organization and for specific groups.  

There are many (many) options to consider.  It’s a complex task, with interrelated parts and it’s unique to your organization.  Get your senior team together for a work-a-thon to tackle it.  It may take a day or two.

  • Clearly articulate and prioritize the “next new” question(s) you are going to answer, for which types of “work” and why.
  • Note that “Away” works best for relatively independent tasks, codified and shared at a distance.
  • Note that “In Person” matters for relatively dependent tasks, coordinating tacit knowledge in fluid ways, and coordinating in unpredictable ways.
  • Get in the details.  Conceptual simplicity still gives rise to operational complexity.
  • Incorporate flexibility as much as you can.
  • Consider hybrid policies that can increase both retention and recruiting pools.  
  • Remember that structure is important.  An unstructured hybrid approach does not work if left to individual choice to come in when people feel like it.
  • Make sure that performance systems are based on output and value delivered.
  • Beware that there are motivation and compensation impact to everything.
  • Look at both effectiveness and “fairness” across groups.
  • Be creative and learn from others.
  • Group like-policies by department together for simplicity where possible.
  • Ensure there is a cohesive plan.

Once done, share it with the Leadership team.  Adjust.  Align.  Proceed.

(5) CRAFT the message.  

There has been a subtle but significant shift in the employer-employee relationship.  In the “pre (covid)” world, employers set standard rules of employment and the worker acquiesced.  Now, employees expect their employers to consider their individual circumstances when designing their specific roles and evaluating their performance.  Come from a “what’s in it for me?” perspective.  Get specific and be prepared to answer questions (e.g., who works remotely?  On what days? Etc.).  Also, be aware that employees’ relationship with employers has shifted, putting more focus on individual employees’ health, well-being and personal needs.

(6) REMODEL your walls.  

Real estate holdings often need to be reevaluated for what kind of physical space best enables a fluid workforce in the next new.  The shape and feel of the office experience must suit the purpose.  Structure the place to ensure that time in the office is optimized for face-to-face time. Many yearn for meaningful connection, social community, flexibility, and safety.  Consider the:

  • Reality of casual conversations that come before or after a meeting.
  • Importance of “water cooler” talk, walking in the halls and bumping into people.
  • Need for larger interactive, properly equipped “collaborative innovation spaces” for group brainstorming, hackathons, demo hours, etc.
  • Insight that trust and working relationships are often nurtured over coffees and lunches.   
  • Expectations that people who are on-site are not just there for in-person meetings or closed doors.
  • Need for time and place for people to just sit together and work.

(7) OVERCOMMUNICATE the next new … loudly and often

In the absence of communication, we all connect the dots in very imaginative and often delusionary ways.  Get specific.  Enlist those with “megaphones,” and address those who are “wrench-throwers”.

(8) CORRECT.  

None of us are geniuses, and we don’t have crystal balls.  Take solid action, then figure out what’s working and what’s not.  Gather data and feedback; gauge the productivity of people and of teams and their connection to your organization.  Make yourself and your senior team accountable to the organization and its people.  Then repeat the process periodically.  It’s unlikely that we’ll nail any model perfectly on the first try.  And if you don’t get it right, someone else will.

Bottom line:  we’re not returning to the “old” and we need to define the “new” in a thoughtful and methodical way. 

I welcome your thoughts and am happy to discuss your particular journey to the “next hybrid new.”

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto