First of all, Happy International Women’s Day. In researching all the amazing women in history and even our contemporaries, I realized they have one glaring thing in common. They have persevered many times against all odds. They did not stop until they found someone, someplace, somehow to express themselves. A few of my favorite modern day examples of being heard immediately and building other women up are Melinda Gates, Mindy Grossman, Lori Grenier .
Throughout her new book, “The Moment of Lift,” Melinda Gates points out that the “best way to fight back is to speak up — to say openly the very thing that others stigmatize.” –Melinda Gates
While this may seem obvious, it is in the nuances that I can see a way to make real progress. On this day, I vow to listen more closely to women. Immediately acknowledging ideas, intuition, issues and the like. This is the white space where we can do better.
If a woman (we will call her Tina) at work comes to me with an idea to improve efficiency of communication through a prioritized email system, what do I do? Classic experience would be to say “oh, that is a great idea.” Then have her introduce it at a meeting and have a 50% chance of having it shot down, disregarded or worse scenario, ignored. A few weeks later a man might introduce a slightly different version and claim it as his own idea. Even worse yet, another woman might do the same. Anyone relating yet?
The Immediate Response Challenge is to take an action on small things like this and call out the bad behavior. What could that look like? Well, consider just acknowledging that the original idea came from Tina. It is a risk but “the truth shall set you free”. Perhaps, you could author an email to the person that stole the idea in an affirmative, positive manner and say “I am so excited to see you adopt a form of Tina’s idea, it really is fantastic and will undoubtedly increase productivity.” Or you can tell Tina personally that you are so proud of her idea and how can we work together to ensure this doesn’t happen again. (go to HR, document the idea in an email chain, start using the idea as proof of concept to have evidence to show, create a bright ideas panel at each meeting that publicizes great ideas and innovation).
I can hear people gasping while reading this thinking that I don’t understand office politics. To the contrary, I have experienced this slippery slope of what we ignore. The best way to reshape the narrative for women in business is to start with the small things and build our resilience for making immediate responses.
A company culture is built on what we ignore as small things to serve fear and a “pick your battles” mentality.
What if we could be more honest and forthright immediately and respond on behalf of other women in the workplace? What a world that will be!
It will take both men and women to accept The Immediate Response Challenge in order for it to work. Tina needs others to champion her and not look the other way when she is overlooked, ignored or diminished.
Agreed, that this is a radical idea to put truth over self interest (staying employed). Together we can do much better at supporting each other. Nothing is worse than unraveling the facts of wrongdoing whether it is lack of promotion, sexual harassment or lesser pay. We ALWAYS find that someone knew about it and did nothing. We ALWAYS find that they could have adopted The Immediate Response Challenge to lessen the impact. Like a whistle blower, we need to protect employees that have the courage to speak up on another woman’s behalf (both men and women). Together, we are strong. Together we can reshape the narrative. It is in the small things that are ignored and allowed that reveal the real issues facing women in the world. Be Bold. Take The Immediate Response Challenge and stand up for each other.
Light Your Fire