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An Alternative and Informal Way to Johari’s Window: Discover your Blind Spots

Being aware of your blind spots is always useful. But to grow in your career and particularly when you work with others it’s invaluable. Check out this alternative and easy-to-implement method to Johari’s window.

For decades, many people relied on the Johari’s Window technique. Created by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, it’s an exercise where subjects pick a number of adjectives from a list that they feel describe them. Then, the subject’s peers are asked to choose an equal number of adjectives describing the subject. These adjectives are introduced into four quadrants (see image.)

  1. Open Area: Includes adjectives that were selected by the subject and his/her peers.
  2. Blind Spot: Includes adjectives only selected by the peers.
  3. Hidden or Façade: Includes adjectives selected only by the subject.
  4. Unknown: Includes the adjectives nobody selected.
Johari's window quadrants. Check out this alternative and easy to implement method to Johari's window.

Johari’s window quadrants

An Alternative and Informal Way to Johari’s Window

This exercise is aimed at increasing your self-awareness, learning how others perceive you and discovering any blind spots.

It came to mind as I was recently listening to Shonda Rhimes talk about developing memorable characters.  I found it fascinating that one of the questions she tries to answer about them is “what don’t they know about themselves.” In other words, one of the most successful creators of contemporary TV dramas focuses on her characters’ blind spots in order to advance the plot.

I couldn’t help thinking that this would be a very useful alternative to the Johari Window when asked in the context of one’s career. An informal way to discover blind spots that may be interfering with your growth or with achieving certain goals.

So I put my little theory to the test with a few friends and colleagues. What follows is what I learned in the process. Warning: Read on before you try this at home.

Blind Spots: Discovering them helps you grow

Blind Spots: Discovering them helps you grow

To Discover Your Blind Spots, Provide people with a very specific question

It’s a mistake to think that you can throw out a question such as, “What do you think I don’t know about myself?” and get useful answers. (Not for nothing, the Johari technique offers 56 specific adjectives to choose from.)

Although it may seem like a specific enough question, it’s really not. It opens the floodgates for people to discharge any old grunt they have with you and tell you things they don’t like about you. (Which you probably knew anyway.) So, it’s important to say something specific such as, “When it comes to my professional life, what do you think I don’t know about myself? Things I may do in an automatic way that may be a blind spot of mine?”

Clarify the reason why you are asking the question

Many people may think you’re fishing for compliments. One of the people I asked recorded five long messages describing my personality. And although it’s always uplifting to hear people you admire say nice things about you, that’s not what you are going for. To grow, you not only need a steady diet of cheerleaders and people who’ve got your back, but you also need to know what you don’t know.  And who’s in a better position to share that with you than those same people who will give you the shirt off their back? So, you have to be clear about the reason you are seeking these insights in order for everyone to feel comfortable providing them.

Discover your Blind Spots with this Alternative and Informal Method to Johari's Window.

Discover your Blind Spots with this Alternative and Informal Method to Johari’s Window.

Before you ask, prepare yourself to truly listen

Even before I offer a simple framework to help people give you the feedback you seek, a warning. You shouldn’t embark on this journey unless you have a thick skin and have learned to take criticism in stride. Asking for this kind of information is a risk both for the person asking and for the person providing the answer. You may hear things you didn’t expect to. Some stuff will be great and other stuff will probably be uncomfortable, surprising, or painful. But if you ask for it, you have to be ready to take it. You can’t get upset or start giving the person counter feedback, which they haven’t asked for. Think about it this way: This person is taking a risk by offering insights they think you are not aware of. They do it because they care about you and your growth. Don’t penalize them for being honest.

Carefully choose those you ask

For several reasons, this is not a question you can just ask just about anyone in your network. So choose wisely who to include in your experiment. These are the parameters you should consider when selecting someone:

  • They should know you well
  • They know you in a professional context
  • You should trust that they have your best interest at heart
  • They don’t hold a grudge against you
  • They are not your siblings 😉
To grow in your career, you not only need cheerleaders but people who tell you what you don't see about yourself.

To grow in your career, you not only need cheerleaders but people who tell you what you don’t see about yourself.

Provide a framework for people to use for their answer

Through the years, I’ve developed a thick skin. It was the only way to survive in business. But I wasn’t born like this. It used to be very hard for me to hear what others had to say about my performance. But as you mature and realize you won’t die every time someone says something negative about you and that on the contrary, those comments help you grow, you become stronger.

So when I thought of going through with this experiment, I just asked the question without giving it a second thought. I didn’t feel that I needed to give my friends and colleagues a framework for providing feedback because I instinctively knew I could take whatever they had to say about me. Until someone brought to my attention that that was one of my blind spots. 1) Not realizing that not everyone is ready to ask a question like this and deal with the answers. And 2) not realizing that not everyone has the necessary emotional intelligence to modulate the kind of feedback they give to different individuals depending on that individual’s temperament. Touché.

So here’s the framework

Send an email explaining why you’re asking the question. “I’m interested in discovering any blind spots that I may be able to leverage for my career growth and I need your help. Would you mind telling me, ‘When it comes to my professional life, what do you think I don’t know about myself? I’m not referring to what some of my weaknesses are, but about any particular behavior, belief, attitude, gesture, etc. that I may be unaware of. The idea is to discover some areas that I may be able to put to better use for my career, and others that I may need to tweak to move forward. In order to make the most of your feedback, please try to frame your comments within one or more of the following constructions:

  • You should consider doing more of…
  • You should consider doing less of…
  • Sometimes you do x… which has y… as a consequence. Perhaps you could consider doing more of z…
  • Under x circumstances you tend to do y. I’d suggest you do more of z/ or less of b”
Learn how to ask others for feedback with this alternative method to Johari's window.

Learn how to ask others for feedback with this alternative method to Johari’s window.

What to do with the feedback

Once you review the feedback, sit on it for a bit. Don’t make any rash changes or decisions. It takes a minute to digest this kind of insights and to understand what you can use and what you can’t. Or what you don’t want to.  Keep in mind that you’re asking people to guess what you don’t know about yourself.

I received a bunch of answers that were not blind spots of mine at all. Things people thought I didn’t know about and which in fact I make overt use of in my professional and personal lives. (Like I was very histrionic, for example.) Clearly, if you had as many years of psychotherapy as I had (part of my Argentine upbringing) or if you have been exposed to coaching or any other practice that develops your self-awareness, it will be harder for others to discover any true blind spots. That doesn’t mean that they are not there.

If done with your eyes wide open, this is an informal way of getting to some valuable information about yourself that can help you unveil where the opportunities for growth lie.

If you're ready to move up in your career explore our successful Step Up Plus program!

Example of Unconscious Bias in Action: What’s wrong with this picture?

Take a quick look at this image. What does it represent to you? No, it’s not a test about unconscious bias in action but it should be. Let’s analyze this example of unconscious bias in detail.

A perfect example of unconscious bias in action. What do you see when you see this pic? Here's the description used by iStockphoto where both the publisher of the article discussed here and the Red Shoe Movement purchased it: A stylized vector cartoon of a Man and woman's feet playing footsie, the style is reminiscent of an old screen print poster. Suggesting Romance, flirtation, love, attraction, seduction or temptation.

What do you see when you see this pic? Here’s the description used by iStockphoto where both the publisher of the article discussed here and the Red Shoe Movement purchased it: “A stylized vector cartoon of a Man and woman’s feet playing footsie, the style is reminiscent of an old screen print poster. Suggesting Romance, flirtation, love, attraction, seduction or temptation.”

Here are a few things that come to mind when I look at it: A woman rubbing a man’s leg under a table. A seductress in action. A woman coming on to a man. And several variations which you can read in the caption (above) used by iStockphoto to describe the picture to potential buyers.

Let’s Add Context to the Picture: Sexual Harassment?

Now some context. This picture illustrates an article about sexual harassment in a magazine for leaders. The title of the piece is: “How to stop sexual misconduct in the workplace,” a problem that has mostly involved high powered men harassing less powerful women.

Yes, it’s true that there are cases of women harassing men. But this particular piece focuses on solutions for the more pervasive situations that started coming to light following the New Yorker revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation. The illustration is a perfect example of unconscious bias on the part of the publisher.

A Great Example of Unconscious Bias: The Red Shoe

I know you probably think I’m hypersensitive because the shoe is red. And you’d be right. I’m hyper observant of red shoes in real life and on print. But that doesn’t make the pairing of this image with the text any righter. You see, it’s part of why things move so slowly when it comes to changing the culture in our workplaces and our communities. We let slips like this go unchallenged.

This particular article was written by two men and a woman. Granted, they may not have seen the picture the editor picked for their article. But the editor did. And the female president of the publication did as well. And nobody thought there was something wrong with the way the picture contradicted the advice they were giving.

This is how unconscious bias works. It’s unconscious. So you must be trained on how to perceive your own biases and on how to perceive those of others in your environment. Then, you must have the presence of mind to call out what you see at the right time. That is, before going to print. Fixing the workplace is a joint venture. We are all in it together all the time. Regardless of titles or job descriptions. In other words, we should adopt the very effective New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority campaign slogan, which has been licensed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: “If you See Something, Say Something ®”

The picture used to illustrate the article we discuss here reflects an unconscious bias and it contradicts the advice in the article. Example of unconscious bias.

The picture used to illustrate the article we discuss here is a clear example of  unconscious bias and it contradicts the advice in the article.

Unconscious Bias in Action: 4 situations where you should say something

1Colleagues talking about women in a dismissive or derogatory way.

They may not realize that their comments reflect a bias against female colleagues or they may be doing it on purpose. Either way, when this happens in your presence, take a stand. Stop the conversation by pointing out that this kind of talk is damaging. Although it may be hard to do depending on the context and the people doing the talking, it’s imperative to find a way to avoid engaging in the conversation. Clearly, the same applies when the derogatory talk involves men.

Read more about how to become a male ally.

2People making jokes about women (or any other non-majority group.)

These may be the hardest situations to “fix” given that jokes often seem to slide by without much contention. But be aware that they are as damaging as the other examples of unconscious bias discussed here. Not only do they frequently offend women but they also perpetuate the stereotypes they portray: Women as weak, submissive, not smart or as sexual objects.

The best way to intervene? Rather than laughing along, just say something such as:  “That isn’t funny.” Then, when the joker points out your lack of sense of humor, you may reply in a kind voice and a serene demeanor: “How would you feel if I made that joke about your daughter or sister? Or if I told her the joke?” This way you bring the unconscious bias to light and give people a chance to put themselves in the shoes of the group that is the butt of the joke. You can apply the same approach to the previous point.

3Advertising by your company that features women who are unnecessarily scantily dressed (meaning, the ad is not for a product you’d use at the beach.)

There are no lack of examples of ads featuring women in sexy clothes, poses or roles to sell products and services. In a great many of them the women are just eye candy.

This is another example of unconscious bias in action that has a pervasive effect on the image of women. Why not question your creative team or your agency about their decision to use sexy women to generate sales? It may mean they are not that creative after all.

4Starting/Spreading rumors about sexual relationships in the office.

Whether founded or unfounded, rumors are damaging to everyone’s reputation but in the end, they tend to affect women the most. Almost inevitably, going forward, others will assume that these women received a promotion through special favors. An unconscious bias that doesn’t affect men the same way. On top of that, this kind of rumors create tension at home for everyone involved, particularly for those in committed relationships. So, as hard as it is to resist the guilty pleasure of gossiping, do. If for some reason, the information about the affair is relevant to you, your best approach is to discover the source of the rumor to verify its veracity and take action from there.

Changing unconscious biases that are so ingrained in our culture is not easy. By being observant and calling out unacceptable behavior and unconscious slips we can all contribute to creating a workplace that is welcoming to everyone. Is there any example of unconscious bias that comes to mind? Share it with me in the comments section below.

Ultimate Software, a Tech Company Ahead of the Rest

Ultimate Software, a company that provides Human Resources solutions, is way ahead of the competition. Boasting nearly 50% female leaders in an industry where that number is in the single digits is a testament to the company’s lifelong focus on equality and inclusion. This is what makes Ultimate different!

Ultimate Software is the 2019 Red Shoe Movement Tech Lead. And there couldn’t be a better partner. They lived by our 7 Red Shoe Principles even before they ever met us! The strength of our partnership is evidenced in our interview with two of Ultimate’s top talent, Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of HCM (human capital management) Innovation, and Heather Geronemus, Senior Manager of Media and Community Relations, who share what makes Ultimate a frontrunner for advancing women’s careers in tech.

Valeria Mendoza— When you think about female leadership at Ultimate Software, what do you see that is different from the tech industry?

Cecile Alper-Leroux of Ultimate Software

Cecile Alper-Leroux of Ultimate Software

Cécile Alper-Leroux—

At Ultimate, half of our employees are women, and approximately 48% of our leaders are women. It has always been that way, since our inception over 28 years ago (we began with four employees: two women and two men). That is a remarkable state of affairs in any industry, but it is unheard of in the tech industry!

Ultimate offers a unique working environment, where women feel they have an equal voice in decisions and are more likely to voice their opinions, disagree, or raise alternate suggestions, without fear of repercussions. Women feel they belong and are welcomed and encouraged tobring their best selves to work. It also means that we have a broader, and I believe, more innovative view of the future of work. Our HR management products are in large part being chosen by women decision-makers, and we believe we can always be better. Including other voices and viewpoints that influence our product creation and services strategy makes our product more competitive.

Scott Scherr, CEO, Ultimate Software, honored on 2019 Hall of Fame

VM— Can you share the story of a successful stretch assignment you had at Ultimate Software?

CAL—The most satisfying stretch assignment I’ve been given at Ultimate was to create a new team—the HCM Innovation team. We knew that, to make the thought leadership applicable for our sales teams, we would have to connect future and theory with the concerns of decision-makers in our prospect and customer organizations today. Because I was given significant creative license, we created a center of excellence and knowledge that has helped not only our standing in the marketplace, but has also elevated the conversations our employees have with customers and prospects. That is helping to shape the conversation about the future of work in a rapidly changing world. If I had not had a leader who trusted me and was patient as we designed the new function, we would not have had the courage to push our limits.

VM— Which ones of the RSM principles do you relate to most and why?

CAL—I relate most to principles 1 and 5, because I believe that they are inextricably linked and can have a significant impact on women at work. Principle 1: “Mentor younger or less experienced women whenever you have a chance.” Mentoring women is important, for all women at all levels and stages of their careers. I’ve learned from every mentoring relationship I’ve had, whether I was the mentor or mentee. Mentoring others helps us crystallize our thoughts and refine our beliefs, which makes us better mentors. Every person can use support and mentorship in their work lives, as it provides a necessary alternate perspective and enriches our thoughts. But I believe mentorship is a critical first step for women’s careers, and we all need to take the next step to become sponsors of the women we mentor. Principle 5: “Celebrate the accomplishments of women publicly.” Sponsorship is more than a one-on-one relationship. It requires a public endorsement of another person. It becomes a relationship in which a sponsor advocates for the mentee/sponsee to propel them forward in their careers. It requires a sponsor taking on the risk of publicly endorsing someone else, and the effect can be career- and life-changing. We need more sponsors for less experienced women in the workplace to ensure a future with equal representation of women in leadership roles.

Ultimate Software team

Ultimate Software team

VM—What is the mission of the group Women in Leadership at Ultimate Software?

Heather Geronemus of Ultimate Software

Heather Geronemus of Ultimate Software

Heather Geronemus—The mission of Women in Leadership is to help women at all stages of their careers at Ultimate reach their maximum potential and support one another. One of the most inspiring traits of female leaders at Ultimate is their willingness to spend time mentoring other women in the company. No matter how busy they are—whether it’s through our formal mentoring program or simply taking the time to give advice, provide encouragement, or answer questions—they’re always available or willing to make time. Our leaders are constantly helping the next generation of Ultimate leaders thrive. They are genuinely warm, caring women who are always ready to share their knowledge and experience with their colleagues, whether they have been with Ultimate for years or days.

VM—Can you share some of the benefits you derived from being part of the group?

HG— There are countless benefits to being part of the Women in Leadership (WIL) group at Ultimate Software. We provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, service to our communities, and networking with peers. I recently participated in one of our mentoring cohorts both as a mentee and a mentor. Without a doubt, this was one of the most rewarding opportunities WIL has provided to me. Naturally, the ability to have a mentor was amazing. But, the most surprising part of the experience was learning how much I had to offer my own mentee who is in a completely different part of the company than I am, and, more importantly, how much we were able to teach each other. Additionally, as a leader in the WIL organization, I have grown tremendously. Working and collaborating with a group of inspired, passionate women who are dedicated to helping other women at our company thrive has been so rewarding.

On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, Ultimate Software’s employees and customers join the Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas. They will conduct bell-ringing ceremonies in 18 locations in North America, Europe and Asia! On this day, a company whose color is green, is stepping into red shoes, ties and accessories to support our mission to accelerate the representation of women at the top. That’s just how they roll. Welcome aboard Ultimate Peeps!

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer

 

 

 

On International Women’s Day 2019 We Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas

International Women’s Day 2019 is an important day for organizations to take a stand on gender parity. To show their support for an inclusive workplace. Join us in a unique celebration that resonates worldwide!

International Women’s Day 2019 is the perfect platform to celebrate the professional, political, social and cultural achievements of women while shedding light on the need for more women in top leadership positions. And although this is exactly what we do year-round with our #RedShoeTuesday campaign, on Friday, March 8, we kick it up a notch.

Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas on International Women's Day

Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas on International Women’s Day 2019

For the second year in a row, we will “Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas” with Celebrity Cruises, a Red Shoe Movement® Gender Equality global initiative. We echo the UN Global Compact “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” with stock exchanges. An initiative that brings the attention for the need of more involvement by the private sector to elect women on boards.  But we will not only ring the bell on the 7 seas, we will do so on the 7 continents as well.

“We are thrilled to team up once again with Celebrity Cruises. This year we actively set sail for gender equality.Working with Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, we get to see her innovative style in action as she thinks in inclusive terms from the design of a ship like the Edge to the Captain at the helm. It’s exciting to see the entire Celebrity fleet and offices around the world take part of this International Women’s Day event,” said Mariela Dabbah, founder and CEO, Red Shoe Movement.

International Women's Day women on the bridge

International Women’s Day women on the bridge

Lutoff-Perlo will join Dabbah for the ceremony on the Celebrity Edge and the Celebrity Reflection. The two ships will be anchored side by side in Grand Cayman so that guests and crew can participate in a joint event on the top decks of both vessels. The ceremony itself entails an introduction to International Women’s Day and to the Ring the Bell on the 7 Seas initiative, followed by the captain of the ship reading the Ring the Bell Manifesto and ringing the bell by several people. As it can be expected, everyone wears red shoes, ties, and accessories to honor the Red Shoe Movement’s mission of accelerating the representation of women at the top.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the RSM for a second year to carry out this initiative and bring the message supporting gender equality to every corner of the world with our ships. As a female executive in a field that continues to need more women on the bridge and in leadership positions, I am devoted to this issue one concrete action at a time. For our guests and crew to stand together as they Ring the Bell for gender equality is quite special,” shared Lutoff-Perlo.

International Women’s Day 2019— A Special Award

On International Women’s Day 2019, Captain Kate McCue, the first North American female captain of a cruise ship, will be honored with the Red Shoe Leader Award as a role model of inclusive leadership. Not only is she part of a small group of female captains of cruise ships, but she has also developed a global reputation in the industry. Her passengers, crew and colleagues adore her unique style. Come meet her on our Instagram Live on Friday, March 8.

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer Ultimate Software

Viv Maza, Chief People Officer Ultimate Software

Ultimate Software joins International Women Day’s 2019 event

Part of the coverage of the 7 continents will be delivered by the Ring the Bell Tech Lead Ultimate Software. The organization, a leader in the creation of Human Resources solutions, and recognized as one of Fortune 100best places to work for, will conduct bell ringing ceremonies in numerous locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

“Ultimate’s women leaders have helped build and shape our business from the beginning,” said Scott Scherr, CEO, president, and founder of Ultimate Software. “A culture of equality—where we value, respect, and care for all individuals, every day—has been one of the main drivers of our success. We’re proud to join this movement and celebrate International Women’s Day together.”

Ultimate Software, tech lead of the Rings the Bell on the 7 Seas

Ultimate Software, tech lead of the Rings the Bell on the 7 Seas

Clearly, Ultimate Software is not your run of the mill tech company. They demonstrate day in and day out that they care for 10% of their associates.

In a time when there are only 5% of women in leadership positions in the tech industry, nearly half of all women at Ultimate Software are leaders. It’s the reflection of CEO Scott Scherr’s commitment to equality and that’s the main reason why this year we honor him with our Hall of Fame. “Ultimate is a leader by example, proving that a companywide focus on equality brings real change,” said Dabbah.

Celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 with us!

Moving the needle in female representation at the top doesn’t happen by remembering the issue once a year. But International Women’s Day offers a global platform to continue to elevate the conversation. Don’t stay quiet on March 8. Join our conversation on social media using #GenderBell#IWD2019 #IWDleader.

Don’t miss our Instagram Live with Captain Kate McCue and Mariela Dabbah on March 8, 2019.

 

This International Women's Day join us with our hashtags #GenderBell #IWD2019 #IWDleader

This International Women’s Day join us with our hashtags #GenderBell #IWD2019 #IWDleader

 

Iris Bohnet Promotes Changing Design Over Mindsets

Iris Bohnet, is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy Schooland author of What Works: Gender Equality by Design. Don’t miss an equal parts insightful and inspiring interview!

An indisputable leader in the field, Iris Bohnet is a behavioral economist who combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations.

She has helped companies and governments across the globe use behavioral design research to de-bias how we live, work and learn. We had a chance to meet her at a recent conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Iris Bohnet at Council on Foreign Relations

Red Shoe Movement—At the recent Women and the Lawconference at the Council on Foreign Relations you mentioned that you are hopeful about the state of the gender equality conversation despite the fact that we keep talking about the problem when there are already very well researched solutions. Where does your optimism come from?

Iris Bohnet—My optimism is based on the demands that I see for the solutions. I did not see this 10 years ago. Back then, we didn’t have evidence about what worked. And we didn’t have a demand from companies and governments from different countries asking for help with these interventions. However, let me qualify my optimism because I fall prey of what we call selection bias. I’m responding to organizations that are reaching out to me. So, this is a self-selected group of organizations interested in this issue, and it’s not a representative sample of companies in the U.S. But by now I’ve worked with 50-100 companies around the world. Apparently, there’s enough movement in the space for all these companies to reach out and ask for help on this issue.

RSM— What are some good practices for women who don’t work in HR who wish to contribute to de-biasing their organizations?

IB—Let’s start with people who are not in managerial roles. Everyone can be a micro-sponsor. Everyone can play the role of watching out for micro-inequities or -aggressions. For example, if you make a comment in a meeting and then it’s repeated by John, I could bring this fact up easier than you can. And hopefully I can do it with tact and not in an adversarial manner. That’s an example of micro-sponsorship. I can thank John for building on your comment and then, bring the discussion back to you so that you can own it. And it can be done by women and by men. Everyone can pay attention to these patterns of exclusion.

When you have a managerial role you have more responsibilities in leading meetings, giving feedback during appraisals, and offering people opportunities to grow. Women may not be sent to leadership training or not offered a higher salary because they don’t ask for it as they fear backlash. Unfortunately, feedback is fraught with bias. Women and people of color often get less useful feedback. Managers can check that they help everyone grow. The best predictor of people’s satisfaction with their job is a good manager, so they have a great role to play every day.

Iris Bohnet award winning book

Iris Bohnet award winning book

RSM—Of all the interventions you propose in your book, which ones have you seen consistently implemented successfully?

IB—Probably the one picked up most is the debiasing of language in job advertising. It’s easy to do because HR doesn’t have to reinvent their practices. It’s an ad-on to what they are already doing.  The second advantage is that is a no-brainer because organizations want to cast a wide net and attract a wide range of talent. This intervention is not costly.  You can develop your own algorithm or work with one of the start-ups such as Applied or Textio offering the tool, and the system then does the work.

RSM—Do you see a major shift in gender dynamics as Generation Z enters the workplace? How do you think the current dynamic will change or not?

IB—I truly don’t know. I haven’t studied this generation specifically. It appears from surveys that both men and women are more interested in work-life balance. They have more demands about the time they spend outside of work. They are looking for self -fulfilment and self-realization. The younger generation asks a lot about purpose at work. The meaning of what they do is important to them. This will likely impact gender dynamics but we don’t really have the data yet to show how.

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Iris Bohnet on gender equality design

Advice by Iris Bohnet on reaching men

RSM— What do you say to men who are “tired” of all the gender equality talk. The pushback of the #MeToo movement? It seems to force women to once again, protect men’s feelings before their own.

IB—It depends on the men. I’d say there are two categories. On the one hand you have those men who care but are tired because we’ve talked about it for so many years, they’ve gone through diversity training programs, they’ve seen their companies implement leadership programs for women and still don’t see a change. To them, I’d say, we’ve done the wrong things. We tried to change mindsets or women. What we’re doing today is different than what we’ve done so far. Our approach is based on research, it’s new and different from what we’ve done before. It builds on evidence of what works.

On the other hand, there’s the category of men who don’t care and don’t think we have a problem. People who love homogeneity and are comfortable with people who look like them. This is a bigger problem and it requires a different approach. This group needs less talk and more action. These are people who don’t want to move from A to B. They are comfortable in A. For them, we need to look at a social movement. Figure out how to promote change even when people don’t see that gender inequity is real and a violation of human rights.

RSM—For many years, we’ve all looked at the business case for inclusion and encouraged women to bring up the metrics to conversations around this topic. Do you believe that’s still the best approach to get an organization to get behind inclusion at the highest levels of decision-making? Or have we arrived at a place where you can answer “it’s not just good business is the moral and ethical thing to do to support 100% of your talent”?

IB—I think we need to use both approaches. We always have to talk about human rights. But the business case is helpful. But even the two approaches together are not enough. There is a third piece that we need to add: We have to help people follow their virtuous intentions. It’s like healthy eating. We can make the case that it’s good for you to eat healthily but even if you believe that eating more vegetables is the right and the smart thing to do, it doesn’t happen automatically. We have to help people work through their intentions in a practical way. You have to debias systems and not start by debiasing mindsets. Eventually, good behavior changes mindsets. But it takes time.

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet sharing about gender equality by design

Iris Bohnet’s suggestions for best inclusion practices

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for fostering gender inclusion in an organization, what would it be?

IB—I don’t think there is the one silver bullet that will solve all our issues. And which one you start with depends on where the organization is in its journey. If an organization is at the beginning of its journey, I’d say measure. Understand what’s going on before you throw money at the problem. Who are you hiring, what are the pay gaps, who’s leaving, what’s the climate? What doesn’t get measured not only doesn’t count but it also can’t be fixed.

RSM— If you had to recommend one best practice for women to reach the highest levels of decision-making, what would it be?

IB—Build a support network inside and outside your organization. People who lift you up and help you navigate the system. It should include mentors, sponsors, friends. And make sure you also have a support system at home. Don’t try to do this alone.

RSM—What do you think of our #RedShoeTuesday campaign?

IB—I like the idea a lot! The red shoes are a signal —the more people wear red shoes the more others will wear them. That’s just human behavior. I like that it’s something visible. My biggest concern is whether enough people own red shoes. (Laughs.) Maybe, you have to decrease the barriers to entry a bit and allow people to wear anything red, a scarf, a hat, a tie. But the idea is great. I often say: seeing is believing!