A gathering of women focusing on the frontiers of technology and our own experiences is simply powerful. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to attend with several of my women colleagues.
As I was listening to very accomplished speakers and panels, part of me felt inspired and part of me equally aware that, in 2023, patterned bias remains ingrained in our cultural and societal norms. The abundance of data on both the pervasive bias AND that women bring unique attributes to leadership and teams should urge us to get with the program. My version of this is, “how do we all make an impact and accelerate progress?”
In addition to fundamental changes in policies and practices, training, focused leadership roles, etc., I believe that change is equally an individual responsibility. We don’t need to wait for, or rely on, a formalized program, an ERG, a diversity officer. Each one of us can own a part in rewiring old patterns. Nor should it matter who we are and where we sit in the organization. Simple? Yes, actually, and definitely doable!
Be an Ally
All roles contribute to the sum total of our work. Some roles are just more visible, some colleagues more outgoing, while other roles and task quietly happen in the background. Amplify your colleagues’ work. Give credit. Encourage confidence in those who wouldn’t otherwise get the recognition.
Encourage Diverse Teams
Design thinking, collaboration, creativity, innovation, resilience – all emphasize that bringing together many viewpoints, experiences, style, and backgrounds results in better outcomes. Conformity, status quo, authority, sameness may be “tried and true” but will never be a game changer or move anything forward. Creating diverse teams, hearing all ideas, with open minds, can make an immediate impact.
Consider the Person, Not Just the Role
We each have our own working styles, cognitive processes and unique ways in which we process and learn or interact with our environment. A “big picture,” “new ideas,” extrovert will go about work differently than a detailed-oriented, analytical person. The first may float some ideas that are just that, ideas, while the second person will prefer to have a more concrete plan before presenting it. Some people need a lot of structure, while others might be suffocated by it. If we get to know the person in the role, we might just be surprised and learn different and equally effective ways.
Which brings me to this next point: personality traits translate into aptitude and strengths in a role. Sadly, performance reviews tend to use roles and job descriptions like cookie cutters and focus on areas that are less aligned with someone’s individual profile. One size doesn’t fit all. Especially in a team setting, strengths often balance each other out, so why not pair complementary traits and let the team shine? I believe in playing to people’s strengths and allowing them to flourish.
See Work in Life Context
We are dedicated to our work AND have to balance it with personal responsibilities and conditions. Daycare hours, transportation schedules, family matters, personal appointments, etc. Yes, that juggling act still falls primarily to women. Offer flexibility. Measure the output, not the time in seat, or how late someone stays at the office.
These are just a few examples that motivate my human interactions in the workplace. And that is precisely the point: we are humans. Shouldn’t that drive our interactions above everything else? Therefore, my ask should be simple, doable: let’s each look at what we can change in our own actions. And look to the people in your circle, model that, and find ways to educate, nudge, and raise awareness that traditional gender biases are antiquated and contribute nothing to our interpersonal settings, let alone effectiveness, growth, success.