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5 Easy Ways to Eliminate Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threats are real. They affects performance and morale. Luckily, research shows you can drastically reduce their impact with pretty simple interventions. Read on!

Defined as “a situational predicament in which individuals are at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their group,” stereotype threats have a harmful effect on women in the workplace.

Red Shoe Movement’s Principle #7 Addresses Stereotype Threat

Labels refer to any word or expression we use (even tongue-in-cheek) that has an overt or subtle derogatory undertone: Bitch, bossy, competitive, etc. These labels reflect deep-held beliefs we contribute to perpetuate every time we use them. So when women don’t conform to the social norm expected of them and are interested in power, or when they are decisive and have a strong will to carry out their vision, we collectively bring them down a notch or two by calling them names.

In other words, certain expressions can have very detrimental —even if unintended— consequences. Identifying this effect goes a long way to changing our choice of words.

Principle 7 of the Red Shoe Movement deals with stereotype threat

Principle 7 of the Red Shoe Movement deals with stereotype threat

With the help of a nuanced infographic created by Catalyst, we review how to flip five common labels used on women to reduce stereotype threat.

1She’s Too Abrasive or She’s Too Aggressive

This is a case of damn if you do, damn if you don’t, if there ever was one. Women are told that they need to be assertive and express themselves and what they want clearly. Yet, when they do, they are penalized for not being warm and fuzzy. Finding the sweet spot can be quite hard.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than focusing on their style you should focus on their work performance.

In addition: Some research shows that when it comes to feedback, women get more negative personality criticism than men. Things like: “You can come across as aggressive sometimes.” So may I also suggest that you think twice before providing this kind of feedback? Would you say the same thing to Tom that you’re about to say to Lisa? That’s an easy way to assess if you’re about to fall into a stereotype threat.

Knowing the stereotype threat definition helps you guard off any words that may lead to it

Knowing the stereotype threat definition helps you guard off any words that may lead to it

2She’s So Helpful

One of the ways in which organizations can facilitate the promotion of women to positions of more responsibility is by creating opportunities for exposure. Those seldom lie in a support position. When women are viewed as part of the “back office” or the support team, they are less likely to be perceived as leadership material. So although it’s good to appreciate the support of your team members when warranted, if that’s all you do for them, they won’t go as far in their careers as they could.

Solution

Catalyst: When you speak of the women in your team, be specific about their contributions.

In addition: Find real opportunities for every woman on your team to develop and exercise leadership skills regardless of their position. Admins and support staff can be put in charge of leading projects that give them the exposure they deserve. You might be surprised at how people rise to the occasion once you raise your expectations.

Flip the Script Women

Courtesy Catalyst

3She Gets Overly Emotional

I don’t need to tell you that women tend to be more in touch with their emotions than their male counterparts. Or that often, when we are angry we cry. And although this may be a biological response, both tears and displays of anger in the workplace tend to be frowned upon. When it’s women who are doing either, obviously. The social norm that affects men expects them to exhibit anger, assertiveness, and aggression as part of the attributes of male leadership. Not so much for women.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than calling her “emotional” take the time to describe to women the consequences of their behavior.

In addition: Help them learn to explain the reason for their tears while they are shedding them, so their audience is aware they are not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of anger, frustration, etc. Help your male employees identify their different responses to anger when expressed by each gender so they understand women can get angry yet be effective leaders.

4She Lacks Leadership Gravitas or She Lacks Executive Presence

This is frequently code for “she doesn’t look like the current leadership,” which tends to be white, and male. This expression particularly affects women of color because they face a double whammy. Gender and race or ethnicity. It’s trully quite a stereotype threat when you wish to promote more women to the top.

So if you are truly committed to diversity and inclusion at the top of your organization, the current leadership will have to look beyond the traditional definition of executive presence.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than just crossing a woman off explain exactly what you mean.

In addition: If you continue using the old definition of the attributes, abilities, experience you look for in a leader, you’ll probably continue to recruit the same type of person. Get rid of unstructured interviews where “cultural fit” can become an unspoken way to hire people who look like you or your current leadership team. Instead, create a list of specific requirements for the position and a list of questions that you ask all interviewees. Assign points to each answer and have someone else tally all the answers from all interviewees to get you the finalist. There are many concrete, simple interventions you can implement to make sure you hire the best person for the job rather than someone who fits some old stereotype.

5She’s Too Judgmental

Often, when women give critical feedback others consider her incompetent. This stereotype threat undermines women’s leadership chances.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than making it about her leadership style, focus on whether she’s demonstrating good judgment.

In addition: Everyone should understand that human beings are all judgmental. We can’t see the world other than through our individual lens. That lens places a layer of judgment on everything as we can only perceive people, circumstances and situations through our own experiences, emotions, knowledge, culture, social context and so on. So, rather than impose another stereotype threat, which might stop women’s impetus to grow, why not acknowledge that we are all equally judgmental.

As I said in a recent post about an entirely different subject, words matter. They build our reality. Choosing the right ones will guarantee we create a more promising future for everyone.

Sergio Kaufman of Accenture, leading the way in female leadership

For a CEO, Sergio Kaufman is as easy going as it gets. He’s an Industrial Engineer by training but he’s definitely a people person.  A champion of inclusion and diversity and a strong believer in female leadership. It’s leaders like him that move the needle faster in gender equality in large organizations. Find out why he’s so successful.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Leveraging 100% of the talent pool is Sergio Kaufman’s goal. And to that effect he’s been instrumental in designing and supporting policies that make it easier for everyone at his company, Accenture, to progress in their careers. And given that Accenture is a consulting firm that works with many large corporations around the world, their success serves as a model for the rest of the world.

At a recent presentation in front of a conservative audience of mostly male executives, Sergio Kaufman talked about men as the weaker sex. Needless to say his comments made more than a few people uncomfortable. But Sergio says he likes to shock. To disrupt. To get people to discuss the important issues. And today, he sits with us to talk about what it takes to promote female leadership, the advantages of gender equality, and a lot more. Meet Sergio Kaufman, one of the leaders in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director & Leader of Hispanic South America

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

What are the traits of an effective leader?

An effective leader has two interesting variables. The old model of leadership was based on power (I tell you what you have to do) and knowledge (even when your boss was a complicated person, you respected him/her because he/she was knowledgeable.) Today, knowledge changes every 6 months so it’s difficult for leadership to be based on knowledge. And power has been transformed into influence. The new organizations clearly have much more respect for an influential leader than for a powerful leader. And that has an interesting effect.

If I work with people based on power, the day I leave my job, everything returns to the previous situation because once the leader changes, the power changes. If I work with influence the change is much more permanent and effective. That “old knowledge” changes into “values” that are much more permanent than knowledge that changes all the time. We went from a leadership based on power and knowledge to one based on influence and values.

And why do I mention this in connection to gender issues? Because the first two attributes I mentioned are much more frequently adopted by men, while influence management is much evenly distributed between genders. I would even say that in public life, there are more examples of influential women and powerful men. It is a different leadership model that allows for a completely different dynamic in business. It encourages and it will continue to encourage the inclusion of women in decision-making positions and positions of increasing responsibility.

The second point is the issue of diversity. Very likely, many of the attributes of empathy required for an inclusive leadership are also more balanced in women.

Read more about Integrated Talent Management in this interview with Marcelo Fumasoni of Novartis.
Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Given that you are a man who firmly believes in gender equality, what is happening in terms of female leadership at executive levels in the region of Accenture you lead?

Diversity is an operational necessity. We operate in a large region with about 10,400 people. We interact with the world, with diversity. Trying to manage a diverse organization connected to the world with a scheme where I think I can choose people, train them, and expect for them to all fit into identical little bottles of talent, leads to a serious loss of richness. That richness is our innovation. So it’s about having diversity in all aspects. We have people who think differently to solve different problems. And definitely leveling the playing field for women is part of the success we are having in terms of talent development and innovation. When you level the playing field male and female leadership emerges equally. 

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman’s suggestions to involve more male leaders in promoting female leadership

What is the best way to involve more male leaders on the issue of female leadership in Latin America?

It’s a virtuous circle and when you see it in others you become someone who sees the result. What the Red Shoe Movement does in disseminating this information is useful and I think it is also useful for companies that have gender equity initiatives to tell their story. My role in this is to share transparently our experience. One could say that Accenture has an advantage because it has active policies for women and diversity in general. And that if we share them openly we lose the market advantage that attracts distinct talent. I think sharing these stories helps improve society as a whole and also it helps position the organization. I think you have to compete to make things better and not hide what you think you’re doing well and that is working for you.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

More on talent strategy in this interview with Arturo Poire of Erickson.

What are some practices that you think inadvertently affect women negatively?

There’s a behavior that many men see as something positive. It is looking after women, taking care of them, protecting them. So you tend to protect your female team players more than your male talent. And it seems like a good thing to do until that additional protection ends up, inadvertently, being a problem.

For example, say I have a fantastic project that can speed up a career trajectory, but is in another country. And I say, “I’m not going to offer it to this woman because I am going to complicate her life. So I give it to a man. The appropriate thing to do would be to tell the woman, “Look, I have this opportunity, you’re the right person for it. I will support you. We will figure out together how to manage the travel required. Do you want to take it?” Sometimes we don’t offer opportunities to women not out of selfishness but because we think we are offering something that is not fair to her. And actually, the best thing to do is to offer every opportunity and let women choose. In addition, when you offer the opportunity you must support the person appropriately. Sometimes one tends to give men more straightforward career advice and to be more careful with women.

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Pursuing female leadership

What advice would you give to a woman interested in career growth who is forced to turn down opportunities due to lack of flexible policies in her organization? 

There are three choices: you can change the organization, you can sacrifice your expectations, or you can move to a different organization. But first I’d try to change the organization by being very outspoken about what’s not working. Be vocal in a positive way. I believe in saying things assertively with good manners.

But don’t give up on shedding light on any problems you notice in the organization.

Go and talk to your bosses and let them know they are not giving you the opportunities you seek. That is what helps change organizations. Because if you leave you end up contributing to the self-fulfilled prophecy. The organization is left with the idea that women have family concerns and that’s why they leave. So you as a woman end up reinforcing that stereotype.

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

In a recent conference you talked about an article in “The Economist which talked about men as the weaker sex. Why do you think future employment presents a challenge to men?

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men's future job opportunities.

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men’s future job opportunities.

First, the evidence is academic. You look at any university in the world except in a few careers and men are outnumbered in quantity, they take longer to graduate, and have lower grade averages than women. These are important facts to consider. And it’s true, demographic waves move slowly but the effects are already starting to be felt. In addition, in the past many jobs required physical skills, something in which men had an edge, but with technology, that becomes less important. Those are two strong trends. There is still a difference in careers like economics, engineering, and technology where there are smaller percentages of women. Our challenge is to encourage more women to enter those fields.

There is a McKinsey study that says that in itself, the fact that there is a greater proportion of women than men graduating college is not enough to move the needle at the highest positions of decision-making. That the needle moves when this becomes a top priority in an organization. Your thoughts?

I fully agree that gender diversity has to be an explicit priority. I believe in what is verbalized and that the organization has to express how important diverse talent is. When you tell the women in your company, “I hope that the future leadership of the company emerges amongst you and I will actively look at that,” it changes attitudes and expectations.

You can follow Sergio Kaufman on Twitter.

Talent Strategy — The Weakest Link in HR Strategies

Do you want to take your talent strategy to the next level? Today we’ll cover how to Retain Top Talent. Read on!!

Key piece of your talent strategy —How to retain top talent

Sometimes, attracting top talent is not the hardest part of the talent equation. It is retaining talent that keeps heads of HR up at night. As a matter of fact, how to retain top talent (particularly women and diverse employees) has become a highly competitive sport. Even more so with the Millennial Generation, known for needing to be valued.

Read about the 10 Successful Tactics for Motivating Millennials at Work.

We had a chance to talk to Arturo Poiré, Vice President & Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson, the giant technology company. (Full disclosure, he is, with Mariela Dabbah, the co-author of The Latino Advantage in the Workplace, and the voice of Arturo’s Corner in Dabbah’s Find Your Inner Red Shoes.) Prior to his position in Ericson, Poiré was the Global Head of Talent Management at Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Arturo Poire, VP and Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson

Arturo Poire, VP and Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson-
Co-Author of The Latino Advantage in the Workplace

As many of its competitors, Ericson recently released its diversity data and committed to setting up recruitment goals for increasing the number of women and minority hires. In the last couple of years they have ramped up their diversity and inclusion efforts. They have been involved with initiatives to increase women in operations and decision-making positions such as Battle of the Numbers and Women Up.

Do you have an answer to the million dollar question, How to retain top talent? And more specifically, women and diverse talent?

There is no single answer to this question. Organizations need a whole range of supporting systems in place to make them an attractive employer. In research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation (Off-Ramps and On-Ramps Revisited 2010) they describe what motivates highly-qualified women as high-quality colleagues: job security, being able to be themselves, flexible working, collaborating with others, giving back to the community, recognition and compensation. An organization that focuses on these areas coupled with development at all levels, agile career paths, sponsoring and mentoring, and a culture that embraces differences is off to a good start.

Talent Strategy Advice

What is the best talent strategy advice to attract women to male-dominated professions and industries?

Organizations need to work harder at not only getting women interested in male-dominated industries but also getting young girls interested from an early age. Talent acquisition and talent management functions need to work together and align on talent strategy to enable processes, initiatives, programs and offerings to complement each other. Talent acquisition needs to focus on establishing long-term communication and engagement with diverse talent communities, high schools and universities, while talent management focuses on retaining and developing diverse talent.

Many opinions about male-dominated professions and industries are quite outdated. Focusing on what a career within a specific field may actually look like and what opportunities it may offer is just as important as shedding light on specific initiatives, activities or offerings targeted towards female potential employees.

Align your talent acquisition and management functions with the overall talent strategy. And make sure all HR roles remain aware of their own biases.

My advice to women – Performance will always be key to a successful career no matter the industry. Show interest in many areas and broaden your competence every chance you get. Do not be afraid to step in to bigger roles and stretch assignments. Seek roles where you develop a customer focus. Make sure you have career and development plans in place. Get yourself a mentor or a sponsor. If you are not satisfied with the situation where you work, raise your voice and if you have ideas of how things should work differently – bring them forward. Build your network, both internally and externally. We can only change things if we all strive to improve and find solutions for the future.

Always focus on performance and show your interest in a diversity of areas. | Inspirational quote about performance

Always focus on performance and show your interest in a diversity of areas.

What is an effective way to get your entire organization behind your diversity and inclusion talent strategy?

Engaging the entire organization in a culture of constructive dialog around diversity, inclusion and talent is a first step. In many cases, progress is hindered by lack of awareness, by the inability to challenge unwritten rules, or by the culture of the organization itself. Organizations need to engage individuals at all level to get buy-in, not only on talent strategy but also in its implementation.

Commitment from top executives is also important to confirm that diversity and inclusion is recognized as business-critical and a must for retaining talent.

How do you get past the idea that the moment you actively try to diversify your talent, you are not getting the best people for the job?

Every time we talk about diverse talent, this is linked to not hiring the best person for the job. We need to move away from this bias that women or ethnic minorities, if selected for a job, are not the best talent. I believe competence always comes first. We (organizations) need the best talent regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

In order to continue to stay competitive, organizations need to further diversify their workforce. A diverse team is better for business; it delivers better results, more creative solutions, connects better and easier to the world around us, and has a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

How to retain top talent when its quality is questioned

For all the talk about retaining talent, we keep hearing stories about high- achieving diverse employees leaving companies after having been passed over for promotions. How do you integrate the overall talent strategy with specific tactics for retaining talent?

An organization needs to define its vision, mission and talent strategy as a starting point. We must agree on what we are trying to achieve and the ways to do it. Once this has been defined, an action plan or specific tactics can be defined for an integrated approach.

An important aspect to remember when talking about retaining talent is not only focus on how to “fix” the “diverse talent” but rather to look at it from two perspectives. The talent (and all aspects connected of supporting and building talent) and the hiring managers, recruiters and decision-makers (and their mindset, approach and potential prejudice.)

Are we truly unbiased when working with our talent pools, nominating employees for assessments, appointing to key positions and strategic projects? Are we honestly an equal opportunity employer?

Being an equal opportunity employer may not necessarily mean offering male/female/homosexual/disabled candidates exactly the same benefit and compensation packages – it is about creating the same opportunities for advancement and success. That could mean offering a single father a daycare solution or someone who is visually impaired the best-in-class tools. But the question remains: are we offering equal opportunities to let everybody explore their full potential?

How to retain top talent when organizational practices get in the way

What organizational practices are contributing to unconscious bias? What are companies doing to review the processes they have in place to mitigate potential biases towards women and diverse talent?

Talent strategy: Engaging the entire organization about diversity talent strategy is a critical first step

Engaging the entire organization about diversity talent strategy is a critical first step

Talent management must be a role model when it comes to scrutinizing their own behavior and how it impacts others. As the professionals in talent management and HR are the people who maintain the organization’s culture, we must pay extra attention when defining, describing and phrasing behaviors and characteristics that are required and identified as desired in a candidate.

We may unconsciously be confirming stereotypes, cementing behaviors in leadership and performance, when designing incentive schemes and defining recruitment criteria. As an example, we can look at mobility where we tend to use confirmation bias in the belief that men are, generally speaking, more mobile than their female counterparts. In the same manner, we align mobility with leadership and also promotional opportunities, which ultimately creates a bias against women.

Sufficient awareness of unconscious bias will enable organizations to review and question processes and definitions of leadership. It will also provide the opportunity for the business to discuss potential biases when key processes are being implemented, such as performance management and at calibration when key decisions about people are being made. Only education and constant awareness will help mitigate biases, as this is something that is always present as part of human decision-making.

Read About The RSM Step Up Plus -- A Year-Round Empowerment Program
A sustainable, measurable way to attract, engage and promote your talent.

A sustainable, measurable way to attract, engage and promote your talent.

Best Tips to Identify the Qualities of a Leader

By Mariela Dabbah

Female Leaders: Are You Looking in the Right Place?

Jenny G. is a 24 year-old Air Force Guard pilot who works as an actuary at an aircraft interior design company. Finding female leaders like her inspires me beyond words! A few weeks ago she noticed that one of the teams at her job was having some trouble and she offered her help. “I noticed they were having some communication and leadership issues and I knew I had the experience to help them resolve them,” shared Jenny.

Qualities of a Leader: Female leaders may be right in front of you

Qualities of a Leader: Female leaders may be right in front of you

She never expected the kind of answer she received from her supervisor via email: “Number crunchers don’t have leadership skills. In a few years I may reconsider your offer.” Really? At a time when companies are looking for ways to encourage and promote female leaders, this supervisor couldn’t recognize all the qualities of a leader in this young ambitious woman?

This is what happened next. Rather than believing her supervisor’s words and downsizing her aspirations, Jenny sent a note to the big boss suggesting that she might be able to help the troubled team. And she sent along her credentials: 12 years as a civil air patrol volunteer (which got her interested in joining the Auxiliary U.S. Air Force, part of Homeland Security), her involvement with the Red Shoe Movement, and all the other activities she’s always been involved with that clearly show she has all the qualities of a leader.

Impressed, the big boss asked her to come into his office and, after a nice conversation, promoted her to Program Manager of the team in question. And one more thing: The former supervisor? She now reports to Jenny!

Unfortunately, this is one of many examples of managers missing opportunities and overlooking great potential female leaders.  This happens either because they look in the wrong place or because they hold stereotypes that prevent them from seeing what the people they have right in front of them have to offer.

Qualities of a leader: They’re right in front of you

Missing out on some incredible talent can often be a function of old habits dying hard and of our tendency to take shortcuts. But if you’d like to avoid overlooking women (and men!) who possess the qualities of a leader here’s what you can do:

  •  Pretend your (metaphorical) glasses are broken and borrow the glasses of a colleague who has a different background than you do. Then ask yourself: How would Andrea/Tanisha/Bo/Michael/Ricardo look at this specific candidate? What would she/he see? When you do this exercise you’ll start noticing different aspects of people that you probably didn’t notice before. You can also ask those colleagues to tell you what they see when they look at your candidate so you don’t even have to imagine it.
  • Female leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you look in the right place.

    Female leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you look in the right place.

    Explore the lives of your diverse employees outside of work. What experiences do they have that might have given them a solid if non-traditional leadership foundation? Okay, they weren’t in the Girl Scouts, but did they lead their church fundraiser every year? Were they in charge of their household early on? Do they run a family business on the side? Keep in mind that female leaders come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Admit that nowadays leadership is no longer the exclusive realm of senior employees. There are many young employees who are natural leaders and who have practiced those skills in school, in clubs, in volunteer activities and so on. Give them a chance to prove what they can do and you’ll be amazed.
  • Recruit outside of your traditional top 30 schools. Often diverse talent doesn’t make it to those schools because nobody guided them along the way. They didn’t start preparing for admission early enough in their education, or they couldn’t afford those schools financially and didn’t know they could get a free ride if admitted. Recruit at state schools and smaller schools and you’ll find some hidden jewels that have all the qualities of a leader you’re looking for.

So if you want to avoid losing young female leaders like Jenny on your watch, I suggest that you start looking in less obvious places and avoid making any assumptions. You’re probably surrounded by these amazing women who are waiting to be discovered.

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Career Quiz: Are you ready to move up the ladder?

Do you sometimes wonder whether you’re ready to move up the ladder?  Do you question your interest in taking on more responsibility or even going through any required training?

Undoubtedly, in order to move up the ladder you’ll need to take some risks and accept stretch assignments that present you with challenging situations. You might need to work extra hours and perhaps learn a new skill. The advantage is that more and more companies are looking for ways to promote their female and diverse talent. So if you have an inkling that you want to move up the ladder and expand your career opportunities this Quiz can help you assess how close from your goal you are. It will put you in touch with signs you ought to be looking for and strategies you may need to devise to move up the ladder in your career.  Go ahead, take it and then tell us how it went!

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Now, are you ready to find out if you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz! 🙂