It’s International Women’s Month and numerous articles and thought-pieces regarding the unequal distribution of opportunities, wages, and rights among people of different genders have been written. Research and facts have shown that gender equality is still a long way away, even among the world’s most socially-advanced and progressive countries. It is thus timely and pertinent that the theme for this month is #betterthebalance.
At PEPWorldwide Asia, where our female colleagues not only contribute their time, energy, and expertise, but also take the lead in driving our organizational imperatives, we believe that actions are what will ultimately decide between progress and remaining static. Here are three simple, but key, actions that you can consciously take, no matter what your gender is, to help #betterthebalance at your workplace to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive together.
1. Include Female Colleagues In Decision-Making Processes
In an article published on Bustle last year, women report feeling excluded at work, even when some of these workplaces post very good gender diversity figures on paper. Female workers report being excluded from meetings, being left out of important conversations, or being talked over even when they are present in such discussions.
So, the next time you’re in a meeting, a discussion, or even a coffee-break-chat-turned-serious-conversation, check that the women who should be there are present and are being included. This applies not just for the actual meeting itself but any pre or post-meeting conversations. Just a short, “Hey, Nadia should join us” or a “We should hear from Eileen” would often suffice. Of course, your female colleagues might have other plans or priorities—or are simply not free to join in at that specific time—but inclusion isn’t about forcefully pushing people through doors, it’s about ensuring that the doors are open to everyone.
When you are unable to ensure the presence of a female colleague at that particular time, make a point of saying something like, “I think that’s a great idea/valid point. We should run it by Gina; I’m sure she would like to hear about this!”
If you happen to be in a meeting and you notice a woman being interrupted or talked over, just a short, “Oh wait, I was listening to Yi Ling” or “Wait, let Kavitha finish” would do. In a meeting or a discussion, such actions aren’t just a courtesy; giving everyone the time to speak is an important aspect of facilitating a professional, collaborative and creative atmosphere.
2. Call out Seemingly Harmless Sexist Comments
Calling-out someone, or publicly rebuking people whose views, words, and actions are perceived as prejudiced, biased, or bigoted, can be very uncomfortable in the workplace for a variety of reasons. However, a big part of this is the false perception that “calling-out” is by nature an aggressive, disruptive and damaging act.
At the workplace, where professional and personal relationships have to constantly be balanced and calibrated for everyone’s comfort, there are professional, non-confrontational ways of calling out misogynistic comments. Here are some things you can say when someone makes a sexist (or racist, or ageist, etc) remark or joke:
“I think that’s more of an individual quirk. I know many men who do that too.”
“I’m positive that has nothing to do with her gender.”
“I’m not sure I find that funny. Can you explain it to me?”
“I’m not sure if what you said is appropriate/good for morale. Maybe you should reconsider and say something like…”
Keep in mind that allowing misogynistic comments or sexist jokes in a professional setting isn’t a professional course of action. It may in fact work against your company’s interest. While you may want to avoid a confrontation with one colleague, you may be undermining the motivation, morale, stature, and reputation of the targets of such comments. A passive reaction is also likely to encourage similar comments in the future. This is antithetical to the culture of respect that helps workplaces and organizations to function effectively.
3. Give Credit Where It Is Due
In a 2017 article on Business Insider, the phenomenon of “hepeating”—where men thrive by receiving credit merely for repeating or paraphrasing a female colleague’s ideas or comments—is reported to continue to dominate some workplaces, companies and industries. Anyone would find it infuriating when someone else gets credit for their comments and ideas but it can be especially painful and damaging for women who already find it a struggle working in an environment that is not inclusive in the first place.
If you observe something similar happening, whether it’s during a meeting, in an email thread, or even in a normal conversation, simply call attention to the woman who said it first. Try to be direct without being accusatory, something like, “Oh, so that’s what Jennifer was saying, right?” or maybe along the lines of, “So you agree with Diana’s idea then?”. If your colleagues don’t seem to be able to understand your female colleague’s contribution when they bring it up the first time, try asking her more questions about her ideas to give her the opportunity to clarify or sell what she is proposing.
When your colleagues do actually give great ideas or useful insights, be generous with simple praises like, “That’s a good point!” or “Thank you for that!” or just a “What a great idea!” to spur your colleagues on.
In order to #betterthebalance, it is not enough that we keep to the status quo and wait for others to bring about change. We should empower ourselves with the right knowledge and tools and take whatever actions we can ourselves. At PEPWorldwide Asia, we actually have the PEP Personal Work Preference Profiling tool which helps one to understand the respective working styles of their colleagues and thereby improve the effectiveness and efficiency of professional processes such as communication and assigning of work. Such tools are useful in fostering workplaces
These simple steps, when applied in tandem consistently and consciously with the right tools, can make a huge difference to the culture and atmosphere of an office or a workplace. Studies have shown that workplaces with cultures of respect also build cultures of excellence and productivity, something we at PEPWorldwide Asia know a thing or two about.
About the Contributor: