The discussion around gender bias seems to be more top of mind today, than ever before. Yet, so many of the men and women who want to make improvements in wage equality, opportunity and communication don't necessarily feel they are in authority to make game changing decisions that will lead to more equality and a better workplace.
Emerald Archer, Direct at the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary's University, shares
"Inequalities like this are often a product of social processes rather than a natural difference between, in this case, men and women. The theory of cumulative disadvantage teaches us that inequalities like the gender wage and wealth gap are attributed to a series of small setbacks that unfold over the course of one's career. A study by Tower and Latimer suggests that 'early career disadvantages can compound over time, resulting in important disparities in career advancement, compensation, and opportunities.'"
Recently, Seth Godin wrote a blog post on why the scientific method can often be sloppy. He very accurately pointed out:
"For hundreds of years, science has gotten it wrong about gender, race and ethnicity. Eugenics and its brethren sound simple, but often lead to tragic outcomes.
The sloppy scientist says, "on average, across populations, left to its own devices, this group is [not as skilled] [neurotic] [hard to work with] [not as smart] [not as strong] [slower]" etc. They make assumptions without sufficient data, and the rigor is missing.
The first problem is that human beings aren't averages, they're individuals. And the bigger problem is that we're never left to our own devices. We are creatures of culture."
Both Emerald Archer and Seth Godin point out that culture - our micro decisions every day on how we communicate, relate to each other, practice rituals and behave - can have a lasting impact on our environment and our own future.
Although you might feel like the fight for gender equality is too big for you to fight alone, you can have an impact today, simply by changing your behavior and resetting a standard. Like Seth Godin says, "culture is up to us."
You want to know how you can implement one thing every day that will shift culture? Show your value and acknowledge value specifically and appropriately to those on your team. Emerald Archer says,
As a woman, you have to align what you do with the performance outcomes of the group. That means you need to make it crystal clear how your work on the project lead to a particular positive outcome. Use this in describing your work, especially on your resume and in annual reviews. Making this a part of your narrative will make it easier for others to advocate for you when decisions on salary and promotions are made and you aren't in the room to advocate for yourself. Being confident about your contribution will in turn make others confident in you.
Research tells us that in tech industry performance reviews, men "received three times as much feedback linked to a specific business outcome, and twice the number of references to their technical expertise" when compared to women. Women's accomplishments as they relate to organizational outcomes were vague- like, they were "helpful," "supportive" and "collaborative." But these descriptors do nothing to show women's real value to the company or project. Next time you are evaluating women on your team, be specific about their contributions. This will allow the woman being evaluated to advocate for a raise or promotion when the time comes, or for you to more effectively advocate for her when she's not in the room.
Shift the culture of your workplace today, simply by owning your value and acknowledging contributed value properly by both men and women on your team. It's such a small shift that every individual can implement today to create a better tomorrow.