Here are five concrete ways to make gender equality in your workplace intersectional:
1. Women from different backgrounds are your partners. Empower them.
Rather than view other women as competition, we should view them as partners in the effort to advance gender equality. We can’t address gender issues separately from issues involving race, disability, faith, and sexual orientation because we encompass all of our multiple identities at once. We must be intentional about making space for intersectional conversations in both one-on-one interactions and corporate sponsored gender initiatives. When you succeed, share both your strife AND achievements to show women it is possible to prevail in male dominated spaces. Let us come together around what unites us!
If you learn that one of your colleagues has a national origin that is different from you, talk to them about how cultural differences around gender has affected their experience or shaped their perspective. Empower them to be confident and focus on leveraging powerful body language.
2. Amplify positive messages and portrayals.
We can use the “amplification” strategy by women in the Obama administration in our own networks. More often than not, stereotypes and misconceptions are reinforced in the media. When we don’t personally know someone from a particular identity, it can be easy to succumb to stereotypes. Overcome this by amplifying positive portrayals of people from a different background than you and share positive messages of support.
When women of color are unjustly portrayed in the media and subsequently generalized, make the choice to share the stories that show women of color as leaders, innovators, and human.
3. Capitalize on teachable moments and learning experiences.
Although it can be exhausting, one of the best ways to change hearts and minds is having one-on-one conversations. When an alienating comment or incident arises, use that moment to leverage your diverse perspective and educate a teammate or manager on how to speak or act in a more inclusive way. These teachable moments create space for necessary conversations and build trust. When planning group meetings or events, incorporate experiences to learn more about the variety of people in the group.
If your employee or colleague from a different faith background informs you they will be fasting due to a religious holiday or has dietary restrictions based on their beliefs, create an opportunity for the whole team or company to learn more. Embrace these differing faith beliefs at the next team lunch or outing to raise awareness and expose your colleagues to something new.
4. Contribute to an inclusive work environment.
When we make assumptions based on appearances or inappropriately inquiry about someone’s identity, we are making our shared working environment uncomfortable, distracting, and in some cases unsafe for that person. We need to actively contribute to making our places of employment physically accessible, conducive to self-expression, and inclusive of all identities. You can do this by learning the proper language, knowing the current policy in place, and having a plan of action for when issues do arise.
Create space for gender expansion in the office. Gender inclusive restrooms are a great first step, but it is also important to avoid assuming gender and how people prefer to be addressed. Apply a mindset of gender as a fluid spectrum to your internal policies such as the dress code.
5. Educate, then ask for support.
It is important to ask for support and buy-in from your stakeholders. You’re more likely to get a “yes” when you first take the time to educate your audience. Share the circumstances surrounding the ask, the reason for asking, and the effect it will have. If you don’t make a strong ask, whether for personal growth or company wide initiatives, it may never come.
When you have team members with disabilities attending your company’s event, find out if it will be accessible to them. If it isn’t, inform the appropriate team why it needs to be and ask them to support your efforts to make sure everyone has a positive experience.
This is the outcome of bringing a diverse group of women and gender non-binary folk together. Barriers are broken, vulnerable stories are told, and brilliant ideas to help all women succeed emerge. That’s exactly what happened last week at a women’s history event where I had the honor to be a speaker alongside Margenett Moore Roberts, Fatima Mekkaoui, Daisy Auger Dominguez, and Karen Fleshman. The objective of the event was to bring a variety of voices for an open conversation and strategy session about how to overcome bias, build trust, and strengthen our power together.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Do you have more tips or examples to share?
Learn more about gender expansion in the workplace at www.kylegraden.com.
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