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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, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when 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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Converse in viral kerfuffle over alleged design theft

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Aspiring shoe designer Cecilia Monge accused Converse of stealing her designs she submitted as part of an internship application.

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Converse shoe with red, yellow, green, and blue striations in recent conflict over alleged design theft.

In a TikTok video that quickly went viral, aspiring designer Cecilia Monge (@ceci.monge) showed her portfolio designs she sent Converse when applying for a 2009 internship with the popular sneaker company. Converse never replied to her application, but that doesn’t mean the didn’t receive her designs. Lo and behold, two years later, Monge felt “shook” to see the new Converse National Parks shoes with designs and colors uncannily similar to her own work. We can’t say the giant Nike subsidiary, Converse, definitely stole Monge’s ideas, but we can share the original TikTok video and a follow up video by Monge and let you decide for yourself.

Side by side, the designs are strikingly similar, to say the least, with wavy patterns and a near-identical color scheme. With 5.7 million views and more than 118k comments, Monge drew a massive outpouring of support. People believed Monge’s side of things, and not Converse’s response that comes off like a corporate version of “Nuh uh, no we didn’t.” To add fuel to Monge’s growing fire of indignation over what appears to be an out and out ripoff of her UNPAID design work, soon other designers and people in creative careers shared similar stories of when their ideas and designs were also poached by a big company.

It’s bad enough to solicit unpaid work from applicants. However, to then produce that design or tweak it slightly and use it without compensating the designer (or writer, artist, musician, etc.)? Why, that’s just lower than a snake’s belly. It’s another example of how some large corporations act with impunity, knowing they can outlawyer nearly any individual designer or creative person. It adds to the growing mistrust we individual contributors have that the company gives even one fraction of an iota of a rat’s patootie about us—profits over people, yadda yadda yadda. People are truly upset. In order to help collect these shared stories of similar suspect use of unpaid work or ideas, Monge created the hashtag #designersspeakup on TikTok.

In addition to more support and Converse-shaming, designers shared their stories. It gets painful to watch, because it gives one the impression that this happens all the time. Another TikTok user, @braunlaw, J. Braun, Esq., took this opportunity to add videos under that hashtag with tips on how applicants can protect their intellectual property without spending a ton of money to do so.

Aren’t we tired of watching the little guy lose and the big guys do whatever they want, no matter whom it may harm? I know I am.

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How to choose the right software for your business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software products for your up-and-coming company? Use these questions to decide which kind is best for you.

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It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.

Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.

Determining Your Core Needs

First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:

  • Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
  • Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
  • Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
  • Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
  • Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
  • Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.

Key Factors to Consider

From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:

    • Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
    • Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
    • Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
    • Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
    • Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
    • Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
    • Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
    • Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.

Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.

Finding the Balance

It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.

You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.

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This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.

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Two men standing in meeting room with others, shaking hands as they agree to be co-founder together.

Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.

Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”

So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.

Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.

When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”

As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.

Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).

Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.

In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.

Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”

The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.

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