Talk About (Gender) Bias

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant make some pretty obvious points in the first of their four-part New York Times series on women at work. Their punchline is that raising awareness of gender stereotypes and bias is not enough. Only by expressing disapproval of the biases and resulting barriers facing women can we change the facts on gender diversity in leadership. I express disapproval. Now let’s change those facts!

Dr. King’s Dream: Is It Closer?

In celebrating the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, I reflect on the dream of having people judged on their contributions, not on how they look. My dream is a world where leadership and success are based on talent and contribution, not on how we look or on gendered definitions of leadership. We have come a long way but have far to go.

Mindsets, Diversity, Inclusion . . . and Me

I write about the unconscious mindsets that create obstacles for gender diversity in business leadership. A recent medical challenge has shown me how quickly an unhelpful mindset can be created. It lowered my standard for productivity. To re-engage in my work (my mission), I have to become aware of this mindset and take action to change it. This makes me less judgmental about the mindsets that are the root of obstacles for women.

Unconscious Mindsets: De-valuing the Feminine?

Three recent studies demonstrate the depth of unconscious bias that affects women. These “mindsets” keep women (and minorities) from reaching their potential in business. One study showed that transgendered men (formerly women in the workplace) got higher performance ratings and greater access once they became men. Another showed higher evaluations of the same resume when it had a man’s name than when it had a woman’s name. Another showed more positive response to an identical e-mail when the name indicated the sender was a man than when it indicated the sender was a woman or person of color. Women and people of color will be proportionally represented in leadership ranks only when these mindsets arise to conscious awareness – and change.

A Dialogue: Comfort and Opportunity

In a recent luncheon conversation, I had the impact we aim for in our diversity training. I was speaking with an attorney about the disappointing pace of achieving gender diversity in the legal profession. He asked me why I think law firms have not been more successful in promoting and retaining women at the partnership and leadership levels. I noted that McKinsey & Co. says the reason is unacknowledged “mindsets.” Asked for an example, I talked about what I call the “comfort principle.” He left our lunch aware of how important comfort is in getting opportunities at work. Awareness of this and other “mindsets” enables us to do something about them, lowering obstacles to diversity in the workplace.