Human Resources Management Articles on a variety of HR topics, Diversity and inclusion, leadership and more, offered by the Red Shoe Movement

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

How does discrimination in the workplace manifest itself and what can you do to change any subconscious discrimination that may be at play?

Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

By Mariela Dabbah

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Discrimination in the Workplace: Deliberate or unintended?

The latest flurry of women being named to high positions is welcome news.

In the last few months we’ve seen Janet Yellen become chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Mary Barra take the helm as the first female CEO of GM, and Melissa Mark-Viverito step in as Speaker of the New York City Council. Unfortunately, this great news has a seldom-discussed downside. It creates the illusion that there’s no longer need for companies and organizations to make an effort to address discrimination in the workplace. That opportunities to rise to the top jobs are available to everyone regardless of gender or background. That you only need to want the job badly enough to get it.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play? Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

A recent study by Catalyst confirmed that feeling like the “other” at work eventually impacts an individual’s behavior. It begins with a real lack of access for people who feel racially/ethnically different. For example, people who feel different than others at work are assigned less senior-level mentors than those who don’t feel different. (58% of women who felt racially/ethnically different had mentors who were CEO’s or senior executives, as compared to 71% of women and 77% of men who didn’t feel different.) Chances to get plum assignments diminish when someone lacks senior-level mentors who can offer opportunities, and the likelihood of career advancement decreases as well.  Over time, people who feel different than their work colleagues start downsizing their career aspirations. In general, women are more likely than men to downsize their aspirations (35% compared to 21%), but this difference is even larger for women who feel racially/ethnically different (46%) and even more pronounced for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness,” (for example, a Hispanic woman.) In addition, being a mother resulted in the downsizing of career aspirations being even more pronounced.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable? Read all about it!! Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

Is discrimination in the workplace unavoidable?

So what might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead (seek senior-level mentors who can become sponsors, for example) is in reality something different. Catalyst’s report concludes that fewer opportunities for those with multiple dimensions of “otherness” may be what’s harming their aspirations. In other words, an organization’s lack of mechanisms and strategies to guarantee that every high potential has equal access to a successful career track is what’s failing, not the lack of employees’ aspirations.

Not surprisingly, the report showed that women who felt racially/ethnically different were least likely to be at senior executive or CEO level in their organizations (10%, compared with 16% of women who didn’t feel different.)

What can you do to change any subconscious discrimination in the workplace that may be at play?

As someone looking for change, whether an HR practitioner or a professional woman feeling the impact of this reality, there are several things you can do.

1. Start by asking questions:

How are mentors matched with high potentials?

How can your company ensure access to high-level sponsors for all high potentials?

Are your ERGs leveling the playing field for people who feel as “others” or are they unknowingly  perpetuating discrimination in the workplace?

Are there effective metrics in place to track the progress of all high potentials, including those with multiple dimensions of diversity?

2. Print Catalyst’s report and bring it to work. Compare your numbers with those in the study. Organize rounds of candid conversations with all stakeholders to review and change any policies that negatively impact the career opportunities of your talent.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different. Don't miss out. Revealing new research from Catalyst and insightful analysis by our very own, Mariela Dabbah.

What might be interpreted as self-discrimination in the workplace due to a lack of knowledge of what’s needed to move ahead is in reality something different.

3. Implement an experiential program where those in the majority get to feel “other” for a little while. Nothing like a personal experience to change people. For example, if you’re in a white male dominant company, send groups of two or three men to different multicultural women’s conferences. Or if the majority speaks English only, sit them in front of a Spanish comedy for an hour surrounded by Spanish speakers without the chance to change the channel.

These findings are not new. We’ve been discussing for decades the fact that people with diverse backgrounds (women more than men) have a harder time moving up the career ladder than their Anglo Saxon counterparts. This report gives us all reason to do our part to shake things up right now. Let’s not stay on the sidelines. Let’s take center stage and get it done.

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! 🙂

Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

What are the concerns with Gen Y in the Workplace? How can these generational differences be leveraged? Experts shared with us their experiences and perspectives.

by Rachelle Dragani

Generational Differences

The crowd that gathered to discuss Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy to Achieve Efficiencies in Your Company at a recent Red Shoe Movement Signature event could be divided into two categories:

Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

Gen Y in the Workplace: Leveraging Its Tech-Savvy

1) The Gen Y-ers, those born after 1980, eager to use social media and the latest digital technology to promote their companies, build loyal clients and foster worldwide connections, all from their phones or computers.

2) The Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, those born between early 1960s to the early 1980s and between 1946 and 1964, respectively, with more years of work experience under their belts and an understanding of the power that technology can have in making or breaking a company.

Regardless of the generational differences between these two groups, their shared primary challenge was keeping up with the rapidly evolving tech scene. Generation X and Baby Boomers were eager to leverage the increasing size of Generation Y in the workplace as a conduit to improve efficiencies in their companies.

The concerns with Gen Y in the Wokplace

“I understand that’s the way everything is moving, and I know there is a lot to learn from Gen Y in the workplace,” said Kendra Bradley from Siempre Mujer. “But we weren’t brought up with iPhones and this much technology, and it is really frustrating to try desperately to keep up with this whole other world.”

Some Generation X/Baby Boomers were also frustrated that there were no universal laws for using social media. They felt it was tough for them to learn more about the positive benefits of new technology when protocols differed so greatly between industries.

Samantha Heron, who works in finance at MetLife, pointed out that in an industry as private as finance, almost all information needs to be kept under wraps. Even a seemingly innocent Tweet such as “Got takeout in the office cuz I’m working super late tonight on a big project!!!” could tip off competitors or reporters that something big – an acquisition, executive turnover, a new account – could be in the works.  Once information slips, a possible deal could go south.

Gen Y in the Workplace: Helping them to see value of face-to-face connection

Gen Y in the Workplace - Understanding Generational Differences

Gen Y in the Workplace – Understanding Generational Differences

Kary Takach spoke up about her experiences in the hospitality industry at Andaz Wall Street. She understood the importance of embracing technology in her industry, especially to help foster loyalty among guests and ensure they choose her hotel again when they come back into town. She noted, though, that in a business like hospitality, sometimes nothing can replace the comfort that comes with face-to-face interaction. It’s a reminder that she has had to give to some of her younger, iPhone-addicted employees.

The Gen Y-ers in the room were receptive to Gen X /Baby Boomers’ concerns. As a matter of fact. a few even acknowledged how overwhelmed they often feel with the daily appearance of new tech apps, even though they’ve grown up embracing the latest gadgets, platforms and ways to connect.

What Gen Y in the workplace can learn: Appropriate use of social media

The Gen Y-ers present also agreed that for every brilliant Tweet or Facebook post, there are probably ten more useless ones, and sorting through the sludge of the Internet can be exhausting.   A few admitted that they and their colleagues had some harsh reality checks when one of their seemingly innocent social media posts spun out of their control, garnering unwanted attention.

Despite any generational differences, both groups at the event agreed that each generation had plenty to learn from the other. The more experienced professionals could help the Gen Y-ers (especially the ones that thought Tweeting out a picture of their morning coffee was a productive use of time) determine what belonged on public social media accounts, and what information needed to be kept private. It’s a lesson that too many young workers have had to learn the hard way. They agreed that older colleagues shouldn’t be afraid to create very specific rules about what can and can’t be shared publicly, and then enforce punishments if certain info is still leaked.

What Gen X/Baby Boomers can learn from Gen Y-ers

It was generally accepted that Gen Y-ers now had a chance to become the experts in their places of work. They could help their colleagues understand the ins and outs of managing a social media account, discover compelling and informational online contacts and dream up new ways to reach out to clients via the web— All invaluable strategies that should be enough to set generational differences aside as they could greatly benefit the bottom line of the organization.

Most importantly, “neither side can profess to know it all,” said one of the Experts who asked to remain anonymous.  “I know I’m on top of my game for what I do, but someone can easily come up behind me representing the new pinnacle of talent and achievement,” she pointed out. “I know I need to take a step back and see how Gen Y-ers can help me in my long-term growth, just as I am teaching them. One of the hardest parts is making your own standards and rules for what gets put out there, and sometimes you just have to step away from the computer and figure it all out.”

Career Coaches: Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Men mentoring and coaching women - Career Coaches

Men mentoring and coaching women – Career Coaches

Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Many of the powerful women I interviewed for my book Find Your Inner Red Shoes shared that they had received most of their mentoring and coaching from men. Some had early male career coaches or mentors who made a big impact in their journeys. Some sought out male mentoring and coaching as they moved through the ranks and became these men’s protégés. Regardless of the industry these women were in, they all found men who saw the value in helping them become leaders in their desired field.

The Real Role of Career Coaches

When you look for potential mentors to coach your female employees up the organizational ladder, it’s easy to settle for the more common role of a career coach: Helping people advance in their careers by refining their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. What is harder to find are career coaches who guide your employees through a process of self-discovery that eventually leads to a better alignment between their inner strengths and passions, and their career track. Someone who functions as a catalyst for your employees’ ambitions and who guides them in the path to self-fulfillment which is the surest way to heightened career engagement and productivity. This is exactly the type of mentor that the successful women I interviewed had!

The Real Role of Career Coaches: Having a Career

The Real Role of Career Coaches

As you look for potential career coaches to match with females on the fast track, keep in mind that mentors don’t need to look like their mentees. For good mentoring and coaching to occur, it’s less important for it to be delivered by someone with the same background/gender as the mentee than by someone with the ability to unleash their mentees’ interests. In addition, what makes a mentor/coach most valuable is the ability to help mentees crack the code for career advancement in the organization—who to approach for what, what strategies will land them a seat at the table, best ways to leverage their background, and so on. In the best-case scenario, as the relationship progresses, mentors become sponsors introducing their mentees to key players and becoming conduits to bigger and better career advancement opportunities.

The Advantage of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

When the goal is to promote more women to leadership positions and the dominant demographic in power is men, it’s important that men do some of the mentoring and coaching of the high potential women (particularly women from diverse backgrounds) to create a succession plan that includes both genders.

There are many advantages for your company to have men as career coaches for women:

  • Men can help women decipher the unwritten rules of the organization, the ignorance of which can affect women and other groups negatively.
  • Men can become powerful sponsors of the women they are mentoring and coaching, vouching for their abilities and integrity when a desirable position becomes available.
  • The exposure to women’s thought process, collaborative style, and approach to problem-solving can help men see the value of including more women at higher decision-making levels.
  • The positive impact of working with smart women who are advancing through the ranks can help change the perception that they are a threat to men’s power and elicit more support for women in the organization.
Career coaches

Career coaches

Potential Disadvantages of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Because men and women have very different management and leadership styles and because in most companies the top echelon of the organization is highly male, when you assign men as career coaches for women there is a  risk of perpetuating the stereotypes that have created the disparity in the first place. So it behooves you to identify the right men for the job.  Men who embrace change and welcome different approaches and ideas. Those who feel comfortable sharing knowledge and power because they understand that in the end the strategy will benefit the entire organization.

Finally, to achieve your goals of promoting more women to the highest decision-making positions, you might need to assign both a male and a female career coach to your fast track employees. The first one will share insights on the way men climb the ladder and the second will hopefully offer the tweaks necessary to succeed as a woman in your particular company.

Do you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz and Find Out!

Do you have Executive Presence? Take our Quiz and Find Out!

Do you have Executive Presence?

Right now, the buzzword for female advancement in the workplace is executive presence, a desired trait for certain leadership positions. But for many women, that concept brings up a good deal of questions. What does executive presence mean exactly? Are you born with it or can you acquire it if you don’t have it? Who determines if you have executive presence or not?

The fact is that executive presence is itself a pretty elusive concept, one that is more in the eye of the beholder than anyone would admit. At its worst, it’s used in the expression, “He/she doesn’t have executive presence” when selecting a candidate for a top executive position, which is code for, “The candidate doesn’t look like the executives currently serving in our organization,” which in turn is often code for, “The candidate is not a middle-aged white man.”  So saying that someone lacks executive presence is often nothing more than a way of saying that they don’t fit the leadership mold in that company.

In this situation, the first question you should ask yourself is how much you need or even want to fit the mold before you go about changing your style. In some cases, not fitting the mold is actually good. If the organization is looking for someone with a different experience and perspective, having a diverse background or a style that’s unlike that of the reigning executive pool works to your advantage. The next question you must ask yourself is if executive presence is a requirement for the type of role you’re interested in —for example in finance or human resources. Continue Reading the Article

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But if, at critical points in your career, you’ve heard the feedback that you lack executive presence, you might want to consult with trusted advisors on ways you could develop a bit more. The truth is, no one is born with executive presence, but there are some basic traits on which to build the executive presence required to lead. Some things you can learn – such as maintaining eye contact, speaking with clarity, controlling your body language. But others – such as inspiring confidence, intelligence, and making snap decisions that are consistently good ones – may be more a function of your psychological makeup and not something you can pick up from a coach.

If you want to be a leader in your organization, however, it’s critical to hone your executive presence to attract the attention of those who can offer you the right opportunities.  So take this quiz and find out if you already have the kind of executive presence needed to be promoted to the highest levels of a company, and what else you could do to refine what you’ve got.

Should you find out that you lack some of the characteristics that are inherent requirements of a person in a leadership role, you can redirect your career path towards one that better aligns with your internal assets.  And if you still want to pursue a leadership role, one option might be to seek a leadership role outside of a large corporation where certain rules apply. There are many successful women making a huge impact in all sorts of organizations where they can channel their interests and valuable talents.

Photo Credit: landofart.ru