#ChooseToChallenge – International Women’s Day 2021
How to support colleagues who are being silenced verbally at work.
Each of us is responsible for our own thoughts and actions. It may not be easy, but we can ‘choose to challenge’ conversational inequality. Prepare a phrase to avoid brain freeze when faced with conversational inequalities.
Riana Duncan’s brilliant 1988 cartoon captures the experience of many women. “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”
“Jane just said that.”
Spontaneous support is very welcome as our founder, Jane Morgan experienced. “Jane just said that” was the phrase uttered by a male colleague. With this factual and open-hearted intervention, the idea was heard and appropriately attributed. The unwitting perpetrator learnt something constructive that day.
Conversational inequality, though often unconscious, is a well established gendered and social status/role phenomena. Culture, both international and workplace, shape how we participate in conversation.
In 2020 Tokyo’s Olympic chief, Yoshiro Mori, admitted that “I don’t listen to women that much lately…”. His resignation followed swiftly. We argue (passionately and politely) that the struggle to be heard is extremely unpleasant, and very real. Mori is not alone. Again and again evidence shows that men talk longer and more often in mixed-sex groups. Men interrupt women more. One experiment showed that listeners believed incorrectly that females spoke more than males.
“The struggle to be heard is extremely unpleasant.”
Moving towards inclusive workplaces is probably the most difficult challenge in workplace gender inclusion. Uninviting, or downright difficult, workplaces are prone to the leaky pipeline where women, (half of the population), become under-represented minorities in the workforce. At a national level, Mori’s Japan ranked 115 (out of 153 countries) in 2020 economic participation (World Economic Forum’s gender gap sub-index). Ireland was a less-than-stellar 43.
“So inclusive conversations make a difference.“
Spontaneously Support Via Advance Planning
Our workplaces are enriched by a diversity of voices in meetings and discussions. New and different ideas deserve an airing and consideration, and make our workplace more inclusive (and often more representative of customer-base too). Try out, or be inspired, by the phrases below. Equip yourself and support ‘others’ to stay in the conversation.
When hot potatoes are flying and steam is coming out your ears, it can be hard to be cucumber cool and spontaneously polite. To challenge workplace conversation inequality, now is the time to find a phrase that works for you.
Advance planning your phrase enables you to firmly and politely welcome your colleague back into the conversation or pave your own pathway back in. Practice a phrase that works for you. Perhaps you might discuss this with trusted colleagues or your work-BFF.
Those with experience of being on the receiving end of inequality (or worse) often say that what hurt most, was colleagues / bystanders not speaking up. Plan your allyship now.
“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking. I’m speaking.”Kamala Harris, during the 2020 USA presidential debates
Kamala Harris’s deftly stayed on topic despite 16 interruptions.
Keeping Yourself And Others In Check
As we saw above, listeners may incorrectly perceive who is creating the most hot air in the room. This fun meeting tool gives you an easy way to track who’s participating.
1). click button depending who is talking
2). count the men/women in your meeting.
#ChooseToChallenge conversation inclusion by planning your phrase now.
Further Resources To Support ‘Choosing To Challenge’ Workplace Inequality
- Stats On Workplace Gender Discrimination In Ireland
- Develop Your Confidence -> Solution-based Group Negotiation Workshop For Professional Women
- Work 1:1 With A Professional Career Development Coach
- Strengthen Workplace Inclusion By Developing Relationships Across Boundaries