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How to call out and correct gender bias at work

(ENTREPRENEUR) Gender bias is one of the many bias that are still too common in the workplace. Make work a productive place with these tips.

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Bias in the workplace

Being a working woman isn’t easy. As evidenced by the recent scandals at Uber and Fox News, sexual harassment is still rampant in many workplaces, revealing company cultures that treat women as entertainment accessories rather than equal players.

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Although less invasive, gender biases and stereotypes are foundational to a sexist culture that makes such harassment possible – a culture that insists that women are less valuable and less intelligent than men.

Contributing to the ceiling

Deb Liu, vice president of platform and marketplace at Facebook, points out that gender stereotypes are more than just a nuisance – they actually limit what women can achieve in their careers.

Studies show that women who belong to a parent-teacher association are 79 percent less likely to be hired.

They will be offered a significantly smaller salary, because recruiters question their commitment to their career. While it may be legitimate to question a candidate’s work-home balance, male candidates with children are not penalized in the same way as women.

The golden question

Fortune.com asked Liu “How can women respond to gender stereotyping at work?” Liu encourages readers to call out gender stereotypes when you hear them, pointing out that “Each time we let stereotyping go by without calling it out we… tacitly agree that stereotyping is okay. These missed opportunities allow gender stereotyping to persist.”

But how do you call it out?

It’s especially difficult to call out gender stereotypes because you might just get stereotyped again. If you respond with hurt or offense, you may be told that you are being too emotional, oversensitive, or hysterical, or you might get a reputation as the one who always pulls the “gender card.”

While Liu recommends calling out gender stereotypes, her method may work for some better than her others.

The examples she gave were fairly straightforward. For example, when a male coworker described a female job candidate as “too bossy,” Liu responded, “Please don’t say that. You wouldn’t use that term to describe a male candidate.”

Liu’s response does two things.

First of all, it sets up a boundary of acceptable behavior. Setting a firm boundary can be particularly helpful if you don’t have the time or emotional energy to help someone unpack their bias. Simply saying “I don’t care for that type of language, please don’t use it around me,” may not cause the person to magically transform their bias, but it will give them something to think about, and will remove the offending behavior from your immediate vicinity.

Pointing out how a word or stereotype would be applied differently to a man is also helpful. The Family Circle First Lady Cookie Contest apparently seemed like a cute idea for many years, until Hilary Clinton ran for office. The idea that a “first husband” would bake cookies to help his wife’s campaign seemed embarrassing – which illuminated how absurd the entire concept was in the first place.

What worked well for Liu is these call-outs, because her coworkers were willing to examine their language and then clarify more specifically what they really meant. A coworker who described Liu’s meetings with the loaded term “gossipy” was forced to get specific and point out that the chatty, casual atmosphere of the meetings didn’t suit him.

Asking someone directly “what did you mean by that?” can be a powerful way to call out a stereotype.

If you simply label the person as sexist, they may go on the defensive. Asking what they meant gives the person the benefit of the doubt that they may not have meant to put down someone, while also subtly but directly challenging them to explain their meaning in a thoughtful way. If they are simply being biased, they’ll probably stutter and mumble and realize their embarrassing mistake. If they didn’t really mean to be sexist, they’ll be encouraged to find a way to say what they meant that doesn’t rely on a gender stereotype.

As Liu explains, “Making implicit gender stereotypes explicit and openly confronting them… pushes us to challenge those notions, which ultimately benefits us all.”

Taking this strategy one step further

Liu makes some great suggestions, and I’d like to add my own – and remind readers that these strategies work for gender biases (both men and women), but could also be applied to stereotypes about race, sexual orientation, or other identity factors.

One strategy is to recast the offensive comment in the light of the person’s more positive values or behavior.

For example, I might say, “Kristen, I’ve always noticed how respectfully you treat the men in the office. So I’m surprised to hear you use such a loaded term to describe Jason.” Once again, you reduce the likelihood that the person becomes defensive by assuming (or at least pretending to assume) that they didn’t mean to be sexist. This strategy helps close the cognitive gap in people who think of themselves as open-minded and fair, but still unconsciously exhibit bias.

If you can afford the emotional vulnerability, it can sometimes be helpful to respond by expressing your feelings.

This strategy works best with people who already respect you and care about how you feel. Point out how stereotypes about women, even when applied to someone else, make a hostile work environment for you. For example, at a past job, when we hired an older woman to join our team, I heard a man jokingly ask, “whose grandma is that?” I let him know that while his joke may have seemed innocent, it made me nervous to wonder if I would feel out of place or lose the respect of my coworkers as I aged. When he thought about me, someone he respected, being the butt of such a joke, he realized his error and apologized.

Besides learning the delicate art of calling out bias, we need to also train ourselves to receive such feedback well, in whatever form it comes.

Requiring women to not only process stereotypes, but to do so calmly, eloquently, and effectively, and then to deal with the backlash, is a lot to ask (especially after being told to be calm and sit down for so many generations).

Hearing a gender stereotype can be a truly demoralizing experience. Have compassion for the fact that a coworker may feel vulnerable, hurt, angered, or frightened, so their response may not always be graceful, be they male or female.

Practice makes habits. Make good habits

Whatever your strategy, don’t give up! Bias is everywhere, so you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice. It’s an unfortunate burden that women have to carry, but a necessary one.

Only by calling out stereotypes when we see them can we begin to challenge these unconscious biases and create a more equal workplace.

#DownWithBias

Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Paula Kramer

    May 13, 2017 at 7:57 am

    I’m calling out inequality between women.

    Everyone seems to be ignoring the two most basic issues in feminism. First, feminist leaders are creating inequality between women. Second, feminist followers are choosing to live with inequality between women.

    The National Organization for Women (NOW) is going full steam ahead in creating inequality for its own members. NOW is denying voting rights to its own members. This is an election year for NOW’s president and vice-president. Members can vote only if they attend the national conference in July. NOW leaders chose Orlando, Florida in the middle of the Florida peninsula for this election conference. Orlando is about as far away from the rest of the country as is possible to get. No absentee voting. No voting through chapters. No voting for members who do not have the money, transportation, time, or substitute care for children, parents, and/or spouses to attend the conference.

    What’s even more frightening is that NOW members choose inequality for themselves by making choices similar to the choices Trump supporters make. They keep choosing to let elitist leaders create inequality for them and between them.

    Why are NOW members making choices that are similar to the choices Trump supporters make? Trump supporters chose a president who plans to take basic necessities away from them. NOW members chose an organization that takes voting rights away from them. Why? Self-sacrifice for the greater good? Their self-sacrifice benefits elitist leaders, but neither Trump supporters nor NOW members see that. If Trump supporters are unintelligent, what does that make NOW members?

    Elitist leaders work for their own interests, no matter what they promise to do or whom they make promises to. How many other feminists are making choices that support elitist leaders?

  2. Pingback: Kutcher's plans to discuss equality backfires in giant proportions - The American Genius

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Business advice from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind

(OPINION) Leadership comes from years of refining your practice, and great leadership comes dedication and focus, but Babe Ruth would add more to that…

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All good leaders pull from a variety of inspirational sources to create their formula for success, even from unlikely sources like an overweight baseball legend. Babe Ruth was a winner in his day without steroids and without the paparazzi and while he wasn’t a business leader, he hustled every day to be the best.

Today, we share with you a quote from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind when operating business because this simple concept is one of the hardest to remember. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games,” Babe Ruth said. Let that settle in. Are you resting your laurels on yesterday’s home runs?

Are you puffing your chest because last year’s sales were high or because your net worth was higher in 2008 than anyone else’s in your circle or because you won a prestigious award in 2007?

It’s very common to consider past accomplishments as part of your identity, there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes relying on yesterday’s home runs stunts a leader’s intellectual growth – once you think you’re at the top of your game, sure you keep working, but are you really focused on today’s game?

The cliche of keep your eye on the ball would also be relevant here, because if you’re in the outfield dreaming about last week’s home run, you’re not in the game today with everyone else.

What steps are you taking to focus on today’s game? Maybe the image below should be your desktop or smartphone wallpaper as a reminder to focus?

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Business Entrepreneur

10 advantages and disadvantages of becoming a freelancer

For many reasons, you may be considering becoming a freelancer, and while there is great freedom in becoming your boss, you also take on a great deal of responsibility and risk.

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You already know the signs of when it’s time to quit your job and become an entrepreneur. But before you start your own freelance business, you should be aware of the pros and cons for your decision. After all, this type of decision has the potential to be life-changing, in either a positive or negative way. But we’ve done the work for you. Here are the top five positives and the top five negatives of becoming a freelancer in lieu of a full-time, 9-to-5 employee.

5 advantages of being a freelancer

1. Flexible Hours – The first advantage of becoming a freelancer is that you can work whenever you want. You get to choose your own hours. If you want to sleep in until noon, you can do that. If you want to take the weekend off so you can explore the city, by all means, go for it. As a freelancer, you can actually work during your most productive hours, and those hours don’t have to fall in during regular business hours.

2. Control over Jobs and Clients – When you work for someone else, you don’t get a choice of who you work with. You can become stuck with unprofessional or rude clients. But, when you’re a freelancer, you can choose with whom you work. If you don’t mesh well with a client’s personality or business or payment philosophies, you can pass on the opportunity and wish them the best. It’s as easy as that.

3. Work Wherever You Want – Whether you prefer consistency or shaking things up when it comes to your work environment, you can choose to work wherever you want, whether you choose to work in a local coffee shop or while you’re on vacation in Europe.  You are no longer stuck in an office or even in your home. Find a place in which you work best. You could work in a park, at the library, or in your living room while you’re wearing your pajamas.

4. You’re the Boss – You no longer have to answer to anyone but your clients and yourself. No one is hanging over you or micromanaging you. You are free to do as you please, when you please. Making all the tough decisions just became your responsibility; you have all the control.

5. You Keep All the Profits – No longer do you have to work for a flat rate, no matter how large the projects are taht you complete. Now, you get to allocate or keep all the profits from your large and small projects and clients. This gives you the freedom to then use that money to improve yourself and expand your business.

5 disadvantages of freelancing

1. Not Steady or Reliable Workloads – Unfortunately, being a freelancer means that your income and your workload are unstable and inconsistent. For the most part, you won’t be able to depend on any regular project, client, or profit, whereas you would know the exact pay you’ll receive at a traditional job.

2. Distinguishing Between Work and Personal Time – Being your own boss and working from your home also means that it can be difficult to distinguish between your work time and your personal life. This means that you can work long hours and never make time for your personal interests.

3. A lot of Legwork – You are now in charge of finding all your own clients and projects. When you worked a traditional job, your projects were probably handed to you. But now, you’re the sole person responsible, so that means a lot of legwork on your part.  And that means you have to wear many hats, including marketing, advertising, and sales.

4. Not Getting Paid – Being a freelancer also means that you run the risk of not getting paid. This is fairly common in the freelance world, and one more hat you’ll have to wear is that of a debt collector. There are ways to protect yourself from non-paying clients, but sometimes you won’t realize you’re at risk until it’s too late.

5. No Employer Benefits – Health benefits are expensive. Depending on your current health, switching to a freelance lifestyle might not be in your best interest. Also, starting your own freelance business means you no longer have paid sick days or vacation time to use. Every day you don’t work is a day you won’t get paid.

The takeaway

Freelancing is equal parts positive and negative. You just have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk that almost always accompanies it. Freelancing means professional freedom, but it also means instability and the risk of failure. And that may not be what you need in your professional life. But if you risk your stability for something more in tune with your professional goals than a traditional job, you have the opportunity to build your name and reputation and reach your professional goals.

This editorial was first published here in 2012.

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6 entrepreneurial tools for startup productivity

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a small business or startup, improving efficiency means more money and less stress. Here are six tools to help do just that!

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Truly great entrepreneurs are also well organized and know which tools will help them see their ideas to fruition.

That can be key for getting a startup business off the ground. Good ideas and a strong entrepreneurial spirit aren’t always enough on their own. Sometimes you need the right mix of technology and tools to keep the more mundane and tedious tasks from bogging down your efforts.

Here are six tools almost any entrepreneur can use to help keep productivity high when starting a new business:

Lawtrades: For legal help

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but making sure you have your legal ducks in a row is important for any startup. Lawtrades helps with that while trying to keep costs down — music to the ears of any startup business owner.

The service is a legal marketplace of sorts designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. It connects business owners with legal professionals that it claims don’t charge “bloated law firm hourly rates.”

Lawtrades offers a number of services, including business formation, employment and labor, contracts and agreements and intellectual property.

Do: For productive meetings

Anyone who has started a business knows that it doesn’t happen without a multitude of meetings. Do is a service that can help make your meetings productive so you can waste as little time as possible.

The app allows you to plan and share an agenda to make sure everyone is on the same page. Other features include the ability to track accountability by showing you which points and/or tasks have been covered.

1Password: For easy password management

Starting a new business likely means starting and managing lots of online accounts. The 1Password app from AgileBits helps you save time by remembering passwords and other information for you.

The app helps you generate strong and unique passwords for your many accounts, and secures them behind one safe password known only by you. The app doesn’t only work for passwords — it can also help remember other information such as credit card numbers, safe combinations or street addresses.

Kanbanize: For product development

If your startup involves a specific product or set of products, Kanbanize helps you develop them with your team without bogging down the process. The software allows you to post and share boards that include product information and progress, and you can choose which people see which information.

For example, if you want to update investors on the status of your product development, you can share certain boards with stakeholders and no one else.

Evernote: For organization

There are many applications available that aim to help team productivity, but Evernote is one of the best.

The software allows you to collaborate with your team all within one workplace, keeping projects and other work together. You can also give feedback on ideas and share notes while syncing the data across computers and phones.

There are many other features as well, including in-app chat functionality and integration with Google Drive.

TaskHusky: For web development

Almost any new business will want some sort of business, but a staff of web designers and developers isn’t always an option for startups. That’s where TaskHusky comes in.

TaskHusky is an on-demand service for small businesses that need help with one-off tasks with the Shopify, Bigcommerce or WordPress platforms. The company has a simple three-step process: You create a task and pre-pay, a TaskHusky team member is assigned the task and gets to work and the task is completed and is sent back for your approval.

The takeaway:

Smart entrepreneurs understand they can’t get everything done on their own when it comes to starting a new business. These six tools may not be everything you need to launch and maintain a startup, but they will go a long way to helping you keep productivity at a high level.

#productivity

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