CategoryDiversity

From PIC — “The Many Ridiculous Roles for Women in the Workplace”

Early in my career, I read an article which said  men generally cast women into 1 of 5 roles in the workplace.

Those 5 roles are Mother, Wife, Girlfriend/Mistress, Sister or Daughter.

  • Mother is expected to coddle and comfort and cover, even when you’re not doing what you should. Sometimes they nag or punish you — but not too severely because mother never wants to see you suffer.
  • Wife is expected to help and support the men they work with, no matter what. They nag more often than mothers — but they don’t press too hard because they care for and rely on you. The wife is all bark but no bite.
  • Girlfriend/Mistress is expected to help and support the men they work with. Because there is chemistry and affinity, the girlfriend/mistress often receives reciprocal help and support. However, the length and level of loyalty is limited because commitment to the relationship is missing.
  • Sister switches from collaborator to competitor and back again with the men they work with. Because the relationship feels familial, there is reciprocal help and a level of loyalty in the relationship.
  • Daughter needs to be looked out for by the men they work with. She needs coddling, comfort, cover and coaching. She yields loyalty and commitment and is treated with kindness.

On the surface, these roles are harmless. In fact, men are often cast into the same roles (father, husband, boyfriend, brother, son) … However, men have 2 additional roles rarely attributed to women — coach and boss.

For men and women who participate in sports or other competitive activities at some point in life, they see men in coaching roles more often than they see women. When they encounter a person at work who is demanding but caring, they put them in the coach box … If they’ve never had a woman coach, they won’t view women at work thru this lens and they’ll put a demanding but caring woman in the mother or wife box instead. Same applies if they’ve never had a woman as boss previously.

Again, on the surface, this seems harmless … But what happens when a man’s relationship with these roles are not positive? For women, we can switch up and view thru the lens of coach or boss — where we know those roles must be respected and revered, even when our personal feelings about the individual isn’t positive. For men, they often can’t get beyond the familial lens to see the woman thru a lens that commands respect. The relationship becomes peppered with resistance, defiance, insolence and passive-aggressive behaviors that can damage a working relationship beyond repair.

When men encounter women of color in the workplace, it can be even worse. If a man has not encountered women of color regularly outside of work, they often cannot see them thru any of these lenses. When this happens, women of color are relegated to stereotypes and caricatures instead. Stereotypes and caricatures are rarely worthy of respect or loyalty.

These roles and lenses create a minefield of issues surrounding gender in our workplaces. From the outside looking in, no one really understand why the relationship isn’t working — and the woman is often blamed for the persisting problem and the lack of resolution.

The article from all those years ago essentially told women there was nothing they could do to break beyond the confines of these roles. It advised women to position themselves to be placed in the roles of sister or daughter to avoid being viewed as nagging or coddling … Early in my career, I tried to follow this. It worked. In some ways, it still does. I’ve watched enough women and men cast into these roles to believe this is true and operating in workplaces all over.

I’m ready to turn the page on this. I’m ready to see women break free of these roles.

We cannot do this without help and change by men. Men have to push and force themselves to see women as coaches and bosses in addition to the other roles.

How?

Read the rest at Performance I Create

HR in Formation

I’ve never been a big Beyonce fan. I’ve written about it on this blog before … But her talent and influence are undeniable.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 2 weeks, you know Beyonce released a controversial new song and video on February 6th. Then she performed the same new controversial song during the Super Bowl on February 7th while wearing equally controversial costumes.

The title of the song is Formation.

The lyrics of the song are no less racy than most of Beyonce’s recent work. She’s not singing for kids anymore. She’s singing sho-nuff grown folk lyrics … and even I’m not grown enough to sing some of those words in front of my momma.  If anyone’s been really paying attention to her words, this song shouldn’t be too surprising.

The visual imagery in the video and during her Super Bowl performance are a big departure for her. The visuals are in-your-face pro-Black. She’s calling out police brutality and injustice. She’s celebrating her culture and history. She’s boldly declaring where she stands on the #BlackLivesMatter support spectrum.

Or is she?

Almost immediately, there were people who said the visual imagery wasn’t enough. That when you combine the lyrics with the imagery, it was just more of the same … And I agreed with them. The mismatch of the images and the words left me confused about her real intent. I needed to figure it out. I needed to know if the biggest superstar in the world was using her platform to make a bold socio-political statement… or nah.

I still don’t know the answer. And in typical fashion, Beyonce isn’t outright saying. I’ve given up trying to figure it out.

What I learned through my brief obsession with this topic is that Beyonce has been publicly and privately supporting many of the causes focused on helping disenfranchised people of color for many years. I also learned that the writer of this new controversial song is very young and unknown, which is impressive and telling considering Beyonce could work with anyone she wanted.

So what else does she need to say? She’s making her position clear through her actions and her financial support … I’d really love for her to come right out and say these things. However, with so much backlash over the video and performance, I can only imagine what would happen if she did. I can understand why she would keep her statements brief in order to maintain the money that allows her to do all these other things.

In my typical fashion, I started thinking about the practical management lessons in this situation.

The lesson is simple … As leaders, it is time to get in Formation.

It is time to use our influence to send clear messages about the things that are important. It is time to use our resources to support the things that are important. It is time to actively create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise get them without our help.

I’m not talking about throwing all caution to the wind to promote purely personal agendas … I’m talking about holding our organizations accountable for and moving them toward walking the talk on the issues they say they care about.

  • Get in Formation on fair, competitive compensation … Make the updates and changes necessary on your pay plans to position your organization to attract, retain and demonstrate the value placed on talent.
  • Get in Formation on comprehensive, affordable benefits … Find an ACA compliant plan that provides complete coverage and doesn’t put you employees at risk of hardship.
  • Get in Formation on a path to promotion with commitment to development …  Seek to help your employees to learn and improve so they can move up in the organization and broaden their influence.
  • Get in Formation on diversity and inclusion … Hire deliberately to make your organization a reflection of the world at large so you are in the best position possible to compete nationally and globally.

No more speaking about it. It’s time for our words to stop and actions to speak.

It’s time to get in Formation. And slay … Slay like Beyonce, right where you are.

“You Should Smile More” — and Other $#!+ No One Says to Men at Work

I am a feminist … It’s taken me a really really long time to accept this truth about myself — and in some ways I still struggle with the label. But there is no doubt about it. I am.

First of all, I am a woman — and all women should be about the things that help women. Along those lines, I support women’s causes and their efforts. Pay equality. Changing our worldwide rape culture narrative. More flexible work scheduling that allows for healthier and realistic work-life balance.

I’m 100% down with less sexism in the world in general.

Much like racial prejudice, there are levels and nuances to sexism. Male privilege is as pervasive as White privilege. It seeps into our every day conversations so much that we barely notice it … It doesn’t make people racist or sexist, necessarily. But sometimes it causes hurt and confusion unintentionally.

If we truly want to make our working worlds more unified places, we have to start noticing it and changing it.

And I really believe we can!

So here are a few common low-key sexist phrases to start with:

“You should smile more” … I’m a smiler. I have a wide array of facial expressions. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, smiling is NOT in most job descriptions.  No one ever suggests men smile more. No one coaches men to be more likable. Stop doing it to women. Stop asking women to explain and justify the looks on their faces with stupid expressions like “resting bitch face” — unless we’re making “shriveled c*%& face” a thing too … Otherwise, just stop doing this. Focus on facts, not facial expressions. 

“That’s a nice dress” … If you like my outfit, I don’t mind a sincere compliment. But that’s not the case for everyone. The last I checked, styling is NOT in most job descriptions. Men are rarely complimented on their clothes and shoes and stuff like that. No one coaches men to dress up or dress down to be more effective in their jobs. Stop doing this. Focus on vision and mission, not fashion. 

“Go home and have a glass of wine” … I don’t drink wine. I drink rum — and I’m developing appreciation for vodka. But TV and movies have created this fantasy of women who soak themselves in bubble baths after a long day while sipping chardonnay with a lone tear of frustration rolling down their cheek. That is not the case for everyone. It’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup — but don’t negate that with icky gender stereotypes. Focus on encouraging, not directing or narrating. 

“Did you change your hair?” … My actual hair style hasn’t changed significantly since 1993. But, again, I personally don’t mind a sincere compliment. That’s not the case for everyone. Men don’t generally hear feedback when they get a haircut or shave or anything like that. Men’s physical appearance isn’t a hot topic at work. It shouldn’t be for women either. Focus on the coins, not the coifs. 

“You look tired”… In my mind, I wake up #flawless every day. In reality, I know this isn’t totally true. My grind means long days, short nights and occasional dark circles. It’s off-putting to point that out to anyone; there’s no appropriate or comfortable response for this. For women, this comment ties back to the illogical ideals on physical appearance and the “Stepford” complex imposed. Again, it’s great to encourage someone to take a break and regroup. Don’t use backhanded compliments to get there. Focus on supporting, not judging. 

“Boys will be boys. You know how it is” … The last I checked, child labor was still illegal. I don’t work with boys. Everyone is 18 and up. That means everyone at work is an adult. Childish behavior shouldn’t be encouraged or tolerated. We shouldn’t dismiss or excuse inappropriate, uncooperative, rude and unprofessional behavior from anyone based on their gender. Focus on correcting and coaching, not condoning. 

I’m not advocating a workplace without general observations or compliments.  However, I am suggesting we be mindful and considerate in the words we choose. I am suggesting we be authentic in and accountable for the energy we bring. I am suggesting we be conscious and inclusive and accommodating of people’s differences in a way that doesn’t create weirdness, resentment or burden. I’m suggesting we be more kind and human with our resources.

And I’m suggesting we stop saying $#!+ like this and other shady, low-key or blatantly obvious sexist stuff at work … or be prepared to start catching feminist clapback.

From PIC — I Don’t Talk About Race at Work

Although my lack of melanin often confuses people, I am Black. I was born and raised by lighter-hued parents in a predominantly Black neighborhood, surrounded by my family and friends who were a wide array of brown and I was/am influenced heavily by Black culture and history.

Being in Human Resources as a Black Woman has always felt like a privilege to me. I have the ability to make sure there is job opportunity and pay equity and fair treatment for people who look like me. When someone is mistreated because of their race or their gender or some other external thing that has nothing to do with their work, I have the ability to make it right. And I take that responsibility very very seriously.

However, I don’t talk about race issues at work …

       Read the rest of  “I Don’t Talk About Race Issues at Work” on Performance I Create

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