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Respecting Expertise, Supporting Transgender Employees, and Understanding the “Only” Experience

5 Ally Actions | Oct 26, 2018

Photo by Tan Danh from Pexels

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

1. Push back when someone questions the judgment of a URM with deep expertise

Each year, and McKinsey release a “Women in the Workplace” report. The 2018 version came out this week, and the TL;DR is that gender diversity has stalled across corporate America.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, the report found that black women face more microaggressions than other women. That they’re more likely than other women to have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise. That they’re more likely to be asked to provide additional evidence of their competence.

Allies, let’s push back if we see our colleagues acting this way towards an underrepresented minority (URM). A simple, “She’s got deep expertise; I trust her” might do the trick.

2. Make the “only” experience rare

Here’s another important point from the Women in the Workplace report:

“Being ‘the only one’ is still a common experience for women. One in five women say they are often the only woman or one of the only women in the room at work: in other words, they are ‘Onlys.’ This is twice as common for senior-level women and women in technical roles: around 40 percent are Onlys.”

The impact of being the “only” woman is substantial. They’re more likely to receive demeaning comments and have their abilities challenged. They’re also twice as likely to have been sexually harassed during their career.

Take stock of the “onlys” on your team. The only woman. The only person of color. The only person over 50. The only coding bootcamp grad. The only whatever. Are they being heavily scrutinized or held to higher performance standards than their peers? If so, call it out. Share the data from the Women in the Workplace report to raise awareness of the problem. Take action as an ally to minimize the “only” experience.

3. Don’t ask employees to “just put it on your credit card and expense it”

Many people live paycheck to paycheck, and aren’t in a position to float company expenses while waiting to get reimbursed. Furthermore, some people don’t have credit cards, due to lack of credit history, prior credit issues, or personal choice. Even if they do have one, their card may come with only a limited amount of credit line that they can charge against.

If you need an employee to make purchases or to travel on behalf of your company, don’t ask them to “just put it on your credit card and expense it.” (Thank you Erica Baker for calling this out.)

Instead, give employees corporate credit cards. If that’s not an option, offer to let them use yours.

4. Support transgender employees

Earlier this week, the Trump administration urged government agencies to define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals a person is born with. As the New York Times reported, this definition could write transgender people out of existence.

The 519, a Toronto-based non-profit focused on LGBTQ2S communities, has a poster full of good reminders on being an effective trans ally. Check it out. Display it at work. Start a conversation. (Thanks to Elisa who tweeted about this poster.)

Also, take a look at your company benefits and anti-discrimination policies. Are they supportive of transgender employees, or is there room for improvement?

5. Adopt the 30–5–1 approach

In Traditional mentoring can’t keep up today’s pace of change. Here’s how to rethink it, we learned about a cool initiative at JPMorgan Chase & Co. It’s called “30–5–1,” and it’s perfect for allies:

  • Spend 30 minutes a week having coffee with a talented up and coming woman.
  • Spend 5 minutes a week congratulating a female colleague on a win or success.
  • Spend 1 minute a week talking up the woman who had that win to other colleagues around the firm.

To make it even better, we recommend applying it not just for women, but for members of all underrepresented groups.

(Thank you Karen Casella for bringing this article to our attention.)

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

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