Mary Schaefer, today’s guest author, is a coach, trainer and consultant who works with leaders, managers and business owners—particularly those who need a manager-employee communication breakthrough or to create a positive, functional work environment. Mary’s mission is to create work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. Mary holds a Master’s degree in HR and is one the the co-authors of The Character-Based Leader. You can connect with Mary on Twitter (@MarySchaefer) or through her website. #7 in an 8-part series.
“What’s it going to take?” This is the question posed to me and other compatriots by my colleague, Jane Perdue. What is it going to take to remedy the situations related to these questions?
“Do you ever wonder what women, men and society need to do so that…
- The contributions of all genders and races are called out regularly without the need for a calendar event?
- Women and persons of color are designated as a doctor, not “a woman doctor;” as a scientist, not “a Latino scientist,” etc.?
- Special designations aren’t needed in announcements, e.g.: the first woman to lead the federal reserve, the first female best director Academy Award winner, the first African American female flight crew, etc.
People’s abilities to both get the job done AND build relationships are equally valued?”
As I pondered Jane’s questions, I reminisced with a long-time friend and colleague about the challenges we faced and (sometimes) overcame as women in the workplace. So many strides made –still so much to be done.
Learning to get unstuck
During our conversation my friend put it together for the first time that she had come close to being struck (yes, as in “hit,” as with a fist) on 2 occasions at work, in a 7-year period. She was so young at the time. She didn’t know what to do. No one observing the events did or said anything about it.
I was reminded of the time I delivered training on preventing sexual harassment and people in the room were questioning whether it happened anymore. Afterward, I easily recounted 18 times that I had been sexually harassed, in big and small ways, in the preceding 13 years. I recalled 18 times without even thinking really hard. And yes, it still happens.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
A few years ago an acquaintance relayed a story to me about her husband witnessing a young woman being overlooked in a meeting. She would get interrupted. No one heard her ideas until someone else came up with them. My acquaintance said her husband felt at a loss. After all, what could he do? It wasn’t his business.
Really? Then whose business is it? Which is exactly what I said to her. He could have intervened in the moment and said easily, without alienating anyone, “Let’s hear more about Alex’s ideas.” He could have gone to Alex afterward and asked her about her reaction to the meeting, and gone from there in getting her the support she needed.
Making it your business
(No, it didn’t get by me that my female acquaintance was letting her husband off the hook for this. It’s called collusion.)
Nobody gets a pass.
As my old friend and I continued to reminisce and analyze situations we encountered, we came down to this. It’s a simple as choosing bravery over cowardice.
Those of us in the minority, whether it be women, people of color or other minority classes, we do the best we can, but we are not going to make it a different world without those in the majority taking this on, fully and bravely. (In the diversity/inclusion/equality world, the word “majority” is not about numbers, but social power.)
Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D. and associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, has developed a great body of work around white and male privilege. Several years ago I went through a diversity facilitation workshop. The session leaders divided us up by race and gender, and we spoke from those positions. As a Caucasian woman I finally got it that I could “afford” to not look at the things people of other races go through. That was my “privilege.”
The privileges those of a certain race or gender carry will be our ultimate downfall if every person doesn’t begin to muster courage – the courage to do what it takes to help our society intentionally see and embrace the gifts everyone has to offer and make it so commonplace we no longer have to call out the race or gender distinctions.
It’s everyone’s “business.”
Get educated, get equipped and get your brave on!*
*Compliments to singer, songwriter and musician Sara Bareilles for inspiring the use of the phrase, “Get your brave on.”