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Inclusive Language, The Paradox of Meritocracy, and Believing Bias Even When We Don’t See It…

Inclusive Language, The Paradox of Meritocracy, and Believing Bias Even When We Don’t See It Ourselves

5 Ally Actions | Aug 10, 2018

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and become a better ally.

1. Shift your language to be more inclusive

During a diversity and inclusion webinar we attended earlier this week, one of the speakers surprised us with her less than inclusive language. Specifically, she used “nuts” and “crazy” to describe unusual business conditions. Our concern? Using these terms in casual conversation can diminish the experience of people who live with mental illness. (It’s similar to how we wouldn’t use “retarded” as a synonym for “stupid.”)

Here are some alternatives to consider: “unusual,” “outrageous,” “wild,” or “irrational.” While we know how challenging it can be to change everyday language, please consider doing so. We’re working hard to stop saying “crazy” ourselves to be more inclusive and respectful of the people we strive to be allies for.

That webinar prompted us to tweet some additional ideas for how to shift your language to be more inclusive:

  • Say “folks” or “people,” not “guys”
  • Use “them” instead of “him” or “her,” even when referring to one person
  • Say “partner,” not “husband” or “wife”

The responses to our tweet ranged from supportive to inquisitive (from people who wanted to learn more) to unconstructive. We encourage you to check out the thread here and consider changes you can make to your everyday conversations.

2. Push back when hearing claims of meritocracy

Do you know that organizations that call themselves meritocratic are actually more likely to discriminate?

Research from MIT shows that this paradox happens. “When an organizational culture promotes meritocracy (compared with when it does not), managers in that organization may ironically show greater bias in favor of men over equally performing women.” Seems counter-intuitive, right? Read more in The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations.

So, the next time you hear a colleague claiming your company is a meritocracy, push back. Chances are, it isn’t.

3. Take action to address the 62% pay gap facing black women

August 7th was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in the US. This means that black women had to work all of 2017 and this far into 2018 to make as much as white men made in 2017 alone. Put another way, black women as a whole earn 38% less than white men.

What surprised us is that 4 out of 10 hiring managers — people with the power to do something about it — don’t know the gap exists. Read more here.

Ask yourself what you can do to ensure that black women in your company are promoted at the same rate as white men. And what you can do to support and sponsor people of color on your team.

4. Tell job candidates about your support for diversity and inclusion

Nearly half of American millennials say a diverse and inclusive workplace is an important factor in a job search, as reported by the Institute for Public Relations.

Are you confident that your careers page conveys your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives effectively? Do you and your interview team know how to talk about these initiatives? Doing so could be a deciding factor in hiring millennials, and, just as importantly, many others who care, too.

5. Don’t “politely ask for evidence” that gender bias exists

This week, Ken Wong (Founder of Mountains, a craft games studio) wrote a viral twitter thread. He started by saying:

“Hey my dudes! Please stop asking women for statistics and proof that gender bias exists. It sounds reasonable to politely ask for evidence… I used to think the same! Let me explain why it’s a little more complicated than ‘just asking questions’.”

Here’s a summary of what he went on to say:

Got it. Thank you, Ken.

One more thing

There’s a plethora of cautionary tales in this exposé published a few days ago: Inside The Culture of Sexism At Riot Games. Pour yourself a favorite beverage and dive in. Afterwards, take a close look in the mirror. If you noticed any similarities between their culture and yours, you’re going to need to up your ally game.

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

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