Theory – Part 3
“Women and people of color are often the “only” in the room, a scenario that can spur outsider and impostor feelings.”
Own your privilege.
“Think about the last time you made a career decision. As a man, you were probably never asked, ‘How does this decision affect your wife or kids?’ or ‘Why are you focusing on your career instead of your family?’ That would seem like a weird conversation even in the 21st century. Not so much for women.
White men are also far less likely to have to code-switch—adjust their style of speech, appearance, and behavior to fit into a particular culture and increase their chances of being hired, accepted, or promoted.”
Even when you’re surprised or dismayed by what others tell you, show that you value candor. Be thoughtful and sincere. Appropriate responses include:
- I recognize I have work to do.
- How can I make this right?
- I believe you.
Become a confidant.
Tsedale’s research shows that Black women who progressed at their law firms typically had trusting relationships with certain white male partners who took a genuine interest in their careers.
Bring diversity to the table.
When you witness discrimination, don’t approach the victim later to offer sympathy. Give him or her your support in the moment.
See something, say something.
This is the more-taxing ally work. Vigilantly monitor your workplace for racist or sexist comments and behavior, and then be clear and decisive in shutting them down. Don’t wait for marginalized people to react, as they’re often accused of “playing the race or gender card”—a tactic used to silence women, people of color, and women of color specifically. When you witness discrimination, don’t approach the victim later to offer sympathy. Give him or her your support in the moment.
Also look out for gaslighting—psychological manipulation that creates doubt in victims of sexist or racist aggression, making them question their own memory and sanity. This tactic is designed to invalidate someone’s experience. Examples include comments like these: “I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm by that. That’s just his way.” “You might be blowing this out of proportion.” “You’ll have to learn to be less sensitive.” “Can’t you take a joke?” “There are so many more important things to focus on right now.”
Sponsor marginalized coworkers.
In Tsedale’s research, sponsorship was shown to be critical to Black women’s access to significant training, development, and networking opportunities and advancement. Unfortunately, many white men picked protégés who looked just like them.
Insist on diverse candidates.
If you’re hiring, strengthen your own processes. Insist on open job listings and targeted recruiting to avoid an overreliance on referrals, which have been shown to perpetuate workforce homogeneity. Make sure candidate pools are diverse—with at least one person and ideally many people from marginalized groups. Finally, enforce fair application reviews and committee deliberations.
Build a community of allies.
We have observed that effective senior allies not only set an example but also outline expectations for everyone’s behavior and link outcomes to responsibilities and rewards.