In a time where we need innovation to discover solutions for our fast-changing world, is your company paying attention to the lived experiences of women (particularly at the intersection of race and gender)? How can you make sure there are more seats at the table for women — particularly women of color — to contribute the ideas we need to meet tomorrow’s challenges?
For today’s episode of the Inclusion in Progress podcast, we discuss:
- How we can address gender inequality and why we can’t overlook the experience of women of color in the workplace
- How the intersection of gender and systemic racism can affect performance — and how employers can mitigate headwinds for women of color at work
- How centering women of color in your gender equity strategies at work will contribute to a more inclusive, innovative work culture that supports high performance for all of your team members
We also look into how promoting gender diversity with an intersectional lens can have a positive impact on your companies’ financial performance, employee engagement, retention and attraction of top talent.
If you want to learn more about how we’re partnering with tech and cybersecurity organizations to level the playing field for gender equity at work, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entrypoint into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Women are more ambitious than ever — and the post-pandemic flexible work model is fueling their ability to achieve those ambitions. Yet despite some very hard fought gains, women's representation is not keeping pace in the workplace.
But what if companies are still missing that vital intersection of race and gender — and losing out on ideas in the process?
In a time where we need innovation to meet the challenges of our fast changing world, how can we make sure that there are more seats at the table for women to contribute the ideas we need to keep innovating? Particularly when it comes to supporting women of color? This is what we're going to be covering on today's episode.
So, if this is your first time joining us on Inclusion in Progress, welcome to the show! I'm your host, Kay Fabella, and I am a DEI consultant for distributed teams.
On this show, you'll get research-backed industry insights into the future of work, and practical “how to’s” for equity and inclusion to help you reduce barriers to advancement for top talent on your teams.
I also lead a fully remote team myself and work with clients across EMEA, APAC and the Americas — which means you'll get a global perspective on how companies are supporting their distributed teams — building workplaces that work for everyone.
If you like the podcast, please make sure you follow us on your favorite podcast app — and if you've been listening for a while, feel free to leave us a review — because that helps us get these conversations in front of other equity-minded leaders like you who are equipping their teams to thrive in the future of work.
As we're recording this episode, I'm working with #TeamIIP to put the finishing touches on our latest whitepaper, which we'll be releasing next month. If you're listening to this in real time, we are releasing this episode in February 2024 — so this will be the whitepaper for 2024. And the whitepaper that we're going to be putting out for this year is a summary of our findings from a virtual roundtable discussion we hosted at the start of this year. In January, we asked several cybersecurity leaders from some major companies what they were doing to continue to advance and promote women at work — given the challenges that their industry and, let's be honest, the tech industry as a whole has had with gender equity, especially in the past few years. It was a rich discussion featuring the likes of Cisco and Fortinet and VMware, and I'm excited to share the findings with you when they're ready.
So for you to be the first person to know when our new whitepaper goes live, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter to make sure you're the first to receive it when it goes out to our subscribers first, and then of course to everybody else on the podcast, and in our larger community. If you haven't already subscribed to our monthly newsletter — and I really hope you do because pretty great — it's easy to sign up at our website: inclusioninprogress.com. On this monthly newsletter, we're sharing our latest insights on remote work, cross-cultural communication, and best practices to ensure equity and access to opportunities for distributed teams and strategies to help reduce the barriers to communication there may be as you are continuing to expand across the globe. Plus, you'll also get a behind-the-scenes peek into insights that we don't share anywhere else. And, yes, that includes this podcast. So, if you want to be the first to know when our 2024 whitepaper on gender equity in cybersecurity goes live, head to the link in the show notes of this episode, or go to our website — inclusioninprogress.com — to join our newsletter.
An interesting point of discussion that came up at that roundtable that we hosted in January was how to continue to center intersectionality — to make sure women across all identities weren't left behind in the progress we've been making, or been trying to make, on gender equity at work.
I define intersectionality a little bit more in a previous episode — that's Episode IIP059 of this podcast, which you can check out after this — but to summarize, Kimberly Crenshaw deserves all due credit for coining the term intersectionality back in 1989, she described how discrimination against different facets of a person's identity can overlap and impact their lives. And it's important for us to recognize the different ways that the various forms of inequality can operate together and exacerbate one another as a result of those intersecting identities.
Now, intersectionality, within the context of the workplace, allows us to consider different systems of oppression, barriers to access, and how they overlap and are compounded to shape the employee experience. For example, a woman from a majority culture who speaks the same language as most people in her company will have a different work experience than an immigrant woman, for example, who's not speaking in their first language at work. Understanding the intersectional makeup of our workforce’s population allows us to measure how employees of different identities are experiencing work differently every day, and help troubleshoot how to overcome those barriers.
This is particularly timely because as this episode comes out it's Black History Month in my birth country, the United States, and I really think it's worth revisiting this idea of intersectionality for today's episode and, specifically, whether or not women of color face more than one barrier to promotion at work.
In today's episode, let's take a look at how to address gender inequality to support women of color at work, how the intersection of gender and race can affect a woman of colors’ performance and ability to show up as their best self at work, and finally, actionable ways that you can take to ensure that women of color aren't overlooked — particularly when it comes to promotions into leadership positions — which will ultimately contribute to a more inclusive work culture for all of your employees.
So, let's dive in!
When we describe barriers for women of color and barriers for historically-excluded groups in general, we often refer to this concept of headwinds and tailwinds. So, if you have traveled on an airplane — I hope that's quite a few of you, I'm a huge fan of travel myself — headwinds are the thing that the pilot doesn't want, because they're pushing you backwards instead of pushing you forwards. And so when it comes to discussing this topic around the barriers that women of color face, particularly in the workplace, I like to refer to this idea of headwinds.
So let's take a look first at the ways that those headwinds affect women of color when they are related to gender specifically. Now, women contend with gender-based stereotypes and biases on a day-to-day basis. If you're a woman listening to this podcast, I know you're nodding your head. And women of color, in particular, also face those same stereotypes and biases — whether that's in-office or in a virtual work environment. And that shows up in headwinds, that means they have less access to training, or workshops, maybe even skill-building programs that can get in the way of them progressing their career and limiting their ability to compete and promote themselves on equal footing.
Sadly, as we've seen, many women of color leave before they can actually reach a position where they'll be promoted in the first place. And so that results in this lack of representation of women at every level of the company, which not only creates a sense of imposter syndrome for women who come from similar backgrounds who look to leaders that don't look like them, but it also hampers from a larger business perspective the development of products that resonate with an increasingly global, multicultural, multi-identity audience. So that inhibits you as a company in your ability to respond to market trends that reflect the wider world when you don't have those perspectives at the table.
As we often say at Inclusion in Progress, for your organization to thrive on the inside, it needs to mirror the changing world outside. But when it comes back to this conversation about women of color, they also face headwinds at work due to race. This shows up in microaggressions, hostile work environments, [and] discrimination — in worst case scenarios. Research indicates that women are more likely to be interrupted at work. But when it comes to women of color, speaking up and speaking out can be even more daunting.
Sadly, many women of color know they're less likely to be believed when they speak up and speak out in the workplace. You've got these still very pervasive and dangerous stereotypes, like that of the angry black woman, or the spicy Latina, or the docile Asian. And, unfortunately, because these stereotypes exist, they lead to feelings of isolation. They impact women of colors mental health because they're constantly second-guessing themselves and even self-monitoring how they show up in the workplace — playing this game of, essentially, having to figure out mentally every day the gymnastics of working in an environment where they often feel out of place and, ultimately, leads to them not being able to achieve their ambitions to progress in their careers and to, again, get to leadership positions where they're able to actually influence change and contribute positively to the organization's mission.
Now — if we take it back to headwinds where race and gender intersect — this means that when you have both of those headwinds pushing at you, that women of color are more likely to face double standards that come from both the biases associated with gender and race. And this has shown up whether they're working remotely, in the office, or a mix of both. Women of color are subject to higher expectations, harsher judgments, and even a narrower margin for error. Coping with those double standards, of both race and gender, means women of color in the workplace are also sadly less likely to take risks that would lead to their advancement, because they're often constantly checking themselves and measuring themselves because they're scared of unfair scrutiny.
If you think about that on a purely practical level, how much time and energy and resources would we gain back if women of color didn't have to measure their so-called “presentability” when they are speaking up or contributing their ideas on their teams? How much would companies gain back if women of color were able to share their ideas without fear of judgment or exclusion?
So now that we've taken a look at the headwinds facing women of color in the workplace, let's take a look at some of the tailwinds that we can provide as equity-minded leaders and listeners of the Inclusion in Progress podcast.
The first step is to be looking actively how we can address any barriers to access to rooms and resources for women of color in the workplace. We can look at it from a systems and processes level, ensuring that every stage of the talent cycle is free from the risk of racial and gender bias to reduce the likelihood that women of color are overlooked for those opportunities for advancement.
From a behavioral perspective, creating a zero-tolerance policy for microaggression and discriminatory behavior, and offering regular touchpoints for people to continue to put those lessons into practice and intervene when they see such behavior happening. This zero-tolerance policy can be applied to both in-office and virtual interactions and should be adequately adapted to both, and clear channels should also be provided for resolution when, in this case, say women of color seek support for when those microaggressions happen.
The second piece that we want to be looking at in terms of tailwinds is how we can advance more women of color into leadership positions where they can continue to not just affect change, but also continue to keep the doors open for others to come after them. Now, mentorship and sponsorship programs within organizations are often touted as a way to ensure women of color have equal access to professional development and advancement — and that is absolutely true. We partnered with a global tech company a couple of years ago to roll out a global sponsorship program, specifically targeted at women and people of color, and we saw leaps and bounds in terms of advancement opportunities; access to not just promotions, but also networks of people at the leadership level that they wouldn't have had otherwise. As long as we are not just creating spaces for women to feel safe, but also spaces where they can take those risks in a safe environment to advance their careers, mentorship and sponsorship programs are a great way for organizations to continue to invest and advance more women have color into leadership.
Within these programs, it's really important to also provide specific training geared towards not just women from non-majority backgrounds, but also the allies that support them. When it comes to supporting women from non-majority backgrounds, for example, women of color, we often have to work harder to develop their confidence and resilience and their ability to self-advocate as they move up the ladder at work, being mindful of some of the headwinds that still exist in our workplaces. And when it comes to supporting allies — specifically executive sponsors and mentors and people who can actively speak women's names into rooms — offering them the ability to actually see how systemically there are specific headwinds that women of color have to face, and ways that they can help troubleshoot to support their mentee or sponsee to be able to achieve their career goals and advance up the ladder in the workplace.
Addressing specific barriers or headwinds that women of color face when it comes to race and gender and the intersection of both at work is crucial for us to dismantle any of those headwinds and provide further tailwinds for women of color to continue to move up at work, fostering a more inclusive work environment where women of color and all historically underrepresented groups can contribute fully to the success of your organization.
So there you have it, how women of color face double barriers to promotion at work, due to both gender and race, and ways that you can ensure that women of color in your workforce aren't overlooked or underestimated. To increase gender representation, particularly for sectors that rely on innovation like many of our partners in the tech industry, companies must continue to address the headwinds that prevent women from joining, staying, and advancing to those leadership roles. By promoting and centering gender diversity through an intersectional lens, we can have a positive impact on our company's financial performance, employee engagement, retention, and attraction of top talent.
At Inclusion in Progress, LLC, we understand the profound impact that gender equity has on workplace culture and a company's ability to meet their business objectives. As a woman-owned business with women on our team who often lacked support or growth opportunities in traditional work environments, we are all deeply committed to empowering organizations to walk their talk when it comes to inclusion.
And now with International Women's Month coming up, we're finalizing engagements for delivering our signature keynote called, “Beyond IWD: How to Champion Change for Women at Work Every Day”. Our interactive virtual session is designed to uplift and empower women in your workplaces with very specific research-backed daily micro-actions that your participants can use to boost gender equity at work, whether at their desk or near their desk, to be able to help not just advocate for themselves, but also help you create a company where every team member can contribute their best ideas without fear of judgment or exclusion.
One of our client partners who worked with us on delivering a keynote said, “I wanted to express gratitude to Kay and IIP on behalf of our company for your partnership today. Your content provided the perfect foundational knowledge for our attendees and even introduced them to new diversity, equity, and inclusion concepts and terminology. You weaved in topics beyond just gender so gracefully, which is exactly what we were hoping for. We can’t thank you enough for the preparation required to customize this talk on gender equity and for your delivery of the content and engagement with our audience.”
Now, if you want to learn more about adapting our International Women's Day keynote to your organization and teams, reach out to us at email@example.com or head to the link in the show notes of this episode. Our team is here to support your journey toward a more inclusive workplace through International Women's Day and beyond.
As always, we appreciate you tuning in to our latest episode. We thank you for continuing to share these episodes with other equity-minded leaders like you. And we'll see you next time on Inclusion in Progress!