Be Leaderly Talks Gender Bias on the TEDx Stage

More and more companies want to lessen gender bias in the workplace, but I contend they may be overlooking one of the most obvious, everyday breeding grounds for sexism: meetings.  In my just-released TEDx talk, I offer 3 ways that men and women can reduce gender bias through better meeting culture.

Here are some key points I make in the talk:

•  More companies today are proclaiming that they value women. Some set hiring quotas to get more women at the top. Some groom women for the management fast track. Other companies fire leaders who have a record of not respecting women. And those actions are meaningful. But I believe the gates of largescale change are lined with small-scale disruptions.

•  At work, we’re collaborating with each other more, not less. And we’re doing it through meetings.

•  I offer 3 ways we can interrupt gender bias at work through meeting culture, by: 1) rethinking who’s at the meeting table, 2) getting people to fully contribute their best ideas, and 3) making people feel heard.

•  Inviting women to the meeting table: Women must be proactively involved in the design of everyday products, policies, and cultures. We need to stop retrofitting services and products to fit women after the fact. What can you do? Namedrop and nominate the woman who should be in the room – who isn’t.

•  Getting people to fully contribute their best ideas: Inviting women to the meeting table improves diversity, but it doesn’t guarantee inclusion. Women are far more likely to be interrupted when speaking than men. Interrupting isn’t just rude, it’s impractical. We not only diminish a woman when we interrupt her, we lose out on her idea.

•  How can you interrupt interruptions? Ask women to share their ideas first. Echo women’s messages, giving credit or visibility to the originator of an idea. Use…an app!

•  Even the best-intentioned meritocracy can easily become a ‘mirror-to racy.’ Similarity is one of the strongest drivers in who we’re most likely to befriend at work, admire, or endorse, including in meetings.  Tension isn’t a sign of strain to be avoided. On a team, it’s actually a sign of health.

•  Making people feel heard: Building psychological safety in a meeting allows people to share their perspectives – without fear of humiliation. If you’re a leader, speak after your team voices their opinions on an issue, not before.  Make it less risky to contribute by asking your team what ideas wouldn’t work, and then afterwards, ask them what ideas would work.

•  Women don’t need to be granted a voice. We already have them. What will you do to amplify those voices?

•  Unconscious bias is the unfinished business of our time. You can stand aside as a passive observer – or you take some of the tiny actions here and disrupt business as usual. I’m issuing a call to interrupt bias…an invitation to healthy tension.

If my message resonates, and you’re interested in bringing me in to speak to your organization, let’s connect!

Photo credit: Rawpixel on Unsplash.

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Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

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