Via The New York Times.
From Inclusion to Support: How to Build a Better Workplace
Photo by Shonagh Rae
At the New Rules Summit, hosted by The New York Times, participants working in groups proposed changes to create equitable environments in the workplace. Here are the topics, quotations from group leaders and takeaways.
A Workplace for Women
TO RECRUIT WORKERS, tell your story. Business leaders need to communicate why their companies are great places for women to work. This can include talking about family-friendly policies and their commitment to elevating women. They should also hold up women in their company, particularly those in senior roles, as examples of the type of people they want to hire.
Workplace culture needs to be filtered from the top: Chief executives should be leading the conversation and speaking publicly about their companies’ efforts around gender diversity. Transparency is important for showing that words are being backed up by actions. One way to do this is to regularly collect and release data on company hiring practices.
TO RETAIN WORKERS, offer options. Flexibility and a sense of autonomy are crucial for retaining women, especially mothers with young children. Performance metrics for all employees should be based on results, not hours spent in the office. Allowing them to work remotely and set their own schedules, when possible, should replace the outdated structure of working Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.
Managers should be upfront with their expectations: Be explicit about how work gets done and about communication preferences when employees are remote. There should be regular check-ins and recalibration when necessary. In offices where employees are generally expected to be present, employers should give examples of when it is acceptable to work from home.
“Leaders should try to frame ‘what women want’ as ‘what people want’ so that workplace changes get implemented. Men and women often want similar things, such as getting paid, promoted and evaluated fairly. But companies also need to collect and act on data around important differences, like the way women’s personal lives and responsibilities can create tension with their work.”
Georgene Huang, C.E.O. and co-founder of Fairygodboss
“The gender equality movement has not been equal to all women, and the impact of unconscious bias in the workplace is even more pronounced when you’re a woman of color. Companies need to be much more intentional and proactive in moving beyond just raising awareness toward actionable solutions that will ensure there are equal opportunities for all, which includes expanding our definitions of inclusion and focusing on recognizing and elevating the unique experiences of all employees.”
Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity, Twitter
Strategic Social Networks
BE INTENTIONAL about building a strategic and diverse network of other women. Look at your calendar and block out the time to make it happen. Develop a deep connection with members of this group that enables each of you to see and recognize individuals’ aspirations and roadblocks. Make sure others in the group know enough about you so they can effectively advocate for you. Use this network to support one another. When others ask you for recommendations, have a ready-built list of talented women across many different fields that you can share.
ACTIVELY REDEFINE what success looks like for your own industry and organization. Challenge the notion that continuing on the same path will be cost-free. Find ways to communicate that if your company or organization maintains the same uninclusive practices, behaviors and policies, its bottom line, brand and chance for success will be negatively affected.
“We don’t need to emulate men’s networks and practices. In fact, it doesn’t help.”
Daisy Auger-Dominguez, workplace culture strategist; president and founder of Auger-Dominguez Ventures
Helping Employees Thrive
WORKPLACES NEED to reimagine the ideal worker Too many consider the “ideal” worker one who is on duty 24/7 and has no outside life or responsibilities. The current system does not work for anyone. In addition to reinforcing gender inequity, it causes burnout and costly chronic illnesses.
By contrast, healthy employees with time for personal care and obligations are more productive, committed and likely to have breakthrough ideas. The research is clear. Flexible workplaces are good not only for workers: They’re good for business, too.
With this in mind, leaders must view work-life balance not as a matter of accommodations for “outliers,” but as an essential part of running a humane and successful business. They must change the way they evaluate employees and champion the stories of the new “ideal” workers: not the ones who work the longest hours, but the ones who do great work while maintaining balance.
CREATE POLICIES, language and culture to make this kind of workplace real. Employees should not be evaluated on presence and work hours, but on the quality of the work they do. Exactly what constitutes “good work” will be different for every industry and every company, so managers must define — and clearly communicate — what it means for their team.
An official policy encouraging employees to take time off will not be helpful if the manager never does so. Managers should also create safe spaces for employees to be able to ask for what they need without fear of retaliation.
Employers should be transparent and use data to ensure accountability. For instance, they should track how many employees actually use the benefits and flexibility provided, and encourage more to do so if the numbers are low. Other steps could include discouraging employees from checking and sending emails at all hours, or actively encouraging workers who are still at their desks after a long day to go home.
“Work is what researchers call a greedy institution, and life is also an increasingly greedy institution.”
Brigid Schulte, author, journalist and director, Better Life Lab at New America
A.I., Without the Bias
BE CLEAR about the values we’re directing artificial intelligence toward. It is going to automate only the values we already hold. What most A.I. does is take data from the past and use that to predict the future. The data may be a reflection of the past in a way that we don’t want in the future. So be intentional.
RETHINK WHAT’S POSSIBLE in the future. Underrepresented ethnic groups and women are often outliers in large data sets. We can learn a lot not from the predictive model, but from the outliers. How can we center those people in the margins in the future?
GET MORE WOMEN in computing and in leadership positions. Women are informed by their own experiences. They understand patterns of discrimination and have a different set of assumptions. Use A.I. to help us see our own biases and who we’re overlooking and who we’re missing. If what’s normative consistently gets us the wrong outcome, then we need to change our assumptions about what’s normative. We need to create new norms.
“We can’t let the machines overdetermine the future. Human beings must always be in charge of machines, not the machines in charge of the women, the people, the society. That seemed to be a through line in our discussion. The question is: How will the largess or the profits and resources that accrue from increasing automation be redirected back into society to benefit society?”
Safiya Noble, associate professor, departments of information studies and African-American studies, U.C.L.A.
Creating an Anti-Harassment Culture
ACCUSATIONS of sexual harassment cannot be met with positive attributes of the person in question. “But they’re a nice person.” “But they’re a great performer.” “But we can’t afford to lose their business.” When the beginning of a sentence is “they sexually harassed someone,” it can never be followed with the word “but.”
WE NEED individuals to have the courage to speak up. To really address sexual harassment and assault, we need institutions to have the courage to truly hold people accountable. On a personal level, that means supervisors and bystanders feel empowered to come forward.
There should be accountability in doing the right thing, and that should be reflected in performance reviews. On an institutional level, that means creating a culture that cultivates that empowerment. People reporting sexual harassment is not a sign that your culture is broken — the breakdown happens when reporting does not.
“Sexual harassment is about the abuse of power, it’s not about sexual desire. The processes that need to be in place to create workplaces where people treat each other with respect is what prevents sexual harassment. We’re not talking about creating un-fun workplaces, we’re talking about creating safe spaces where everyone can have a voice.”
Marianne Cooper, sociologist, Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University
Via The New York Times.