Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Ask women to join you on the “escalator”

Man on Escalator by Casey Rodarmor via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

We love this 2-minute video from the Mayor of London’s office. It’s a thought-provoking public service announcement on gender inequality in the workplace.

At one point, the guy directing men to the escalator and women to the stairs says,

“It’s just the way it is.”

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be. We can, and should, disrupt this inequity.

  • If you’re in a position of privilege, how will you disrupt the status quo?
  • How will you invite women to step on the “escalator” of career growth with you?
  • How will you help members of underrepresented groups rise up and lead?

Here are five ideas to get started.

1. Ask them to join you at high-profile meetings

It might be a strategic planning meeting. Or a customer advisory council. Or drinks with the recently hired executive. Or lunch with some teammates.

Invite a woman or underrepresented person to join you. Give them access both to the discussion and to the people around the table.

2. Turn your keynote into a showcase

In 2015, the Grace Hopper Celebration invited Megan Smith (then CTO of the United States) to give a keynote. She, in turn, asked six colleagues from the US Digital Service to join her on stage to share the work they were doing. As you can see in this video, all were women.

What a brilliant way to increase the visibility of colleagues.

3. Invite them to be a co-author

Working on a new blog post, internal memo, or paper? Think about a qualified woman or underrepresented minority who could contribute to the piece. Invite them to join you, and list them as one of the co-authors.

4. Give them high-profile stretch assignments

Turns out that 70% of employee development comes from challenging assignments. Employee development is the accelerant to career growth.

Ask yourself if you’re giving these opportunities equally to your staff. Ask which woman or member of an underrepresented group you’ll assign to the next one that comes up.

5. Make room at the table

Enter any conference room, and your eyes tend to look to the opposite corner. And that means the power position at any conference room table is the seat diagonally away from the door.

In meetings, do you see white men sitting in that power seat, as well as in the center seats around the table? While women and other underrepresented minorities gravitate toward the edges of the room, away from positions that convey status?

As allies, we can invite marginalized people to take the power seats. We can go a step further and offer to swap our seats with them. Here’s how:

“Anya, I know you’re going to make some killer points today. Why don’t you take my seat so everyone can hear you better.”

One last thing

We bet you have examples of how you’ve invited others with less privilege to step on the escalator with you. Shoot us an email or tag us on Twitter. We want to hear from you.

Becoming an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.