From Inclusion to Support: How to Build a Better Workplace


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.

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 Allowing them to work remotely and set their own schedules, when possible, should replace the outdated structure of working Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.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.

Georgene Huang, C.E.O. and co-founder of Fairygodboss

Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience and head of inclusion and diversity, Twitter

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.

Daisy Auger-Dominguez, workplace culture strategist; president and founder of Auger-Dominguez Ventures

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.

Brigid Schulte, author, journalist and director, Better Life Lab at New America

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.

Safiya Noble, associate professor, departments of information studies and African-American studies, U.C.L.A.

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.

Marianne Cooper, sociologist, Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University

Via The New York Times