This week I’m speaking at Ryerson University’s Inclusivity in STEM Conference. I’ve been asked to speak about barriers that I’ve faced in my career as a result of my identity, and how I’ve worked to overcome them. As you can imagine, this has had me reflecting upon my time in the world of work and thinking about what it’s meant to be a woman working in a non-traditional industry for women (my early work in radio broadcasting, which was, as with media in general at that time, dominated by men) and in a more traditionally female field (my current role in HR), within the tech sector where women are said to be underrepresented.
As someone who is Caucasian and university educated I know that I have been afforded opportunities and experiences other women have not. And yet still I have faced barriers – especially in my early career.
As a young, female broadcaster, the biggest barrier that I faced was equal pay for equal work. The most obvious example of this was when I was a Promotions Manager for a radio station where, at age 25, I had responsibility for a small team and a sizeable budget. When I learned that the man who reported to me, setting up for events and managing on-location broadcasts, earned more than I did, I was told that “my time would come” and that he had a higher salary because he was married and had a family.
In my current role, I am happy to say that I no longer face those kinds of barriers. I’m now able to work with leaders across our organization ensuring that we’re all aware of the potential barriers to our employees’ growth and development. Diversity and inclusion are imperatives to a business, both economically and culturally.
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, two-thirds of executives rate diversity and inclusion as an important issue (and that number is up from 59% in 2014). Equally important, the same report notes that 78% of respondents believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage.
There are many ways to address the complexity of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and recently there has been much discussion around bias. Here are some ways to be more aware at work:
Much attention has been paid recently to the study of unconscious bias as prominent organizations like Google and Facebook have introduced these concepts into their workplaces. Everyone has unconscious biases so, while recognizing biases is not enough to prevent barriers, it is an important first step for us all. To learn more about unconscious biases and to assess your own, you can visit Project Implicit to complete an Implicit Association Test.
A number of studies have highlighted how unconscious bias impacts the hiring process. Researchers at MIT and the University of Chicago discovered that even names can unconsciously impact people’s decision-making. The researchers, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan and their team, distributed 5,000 resumes to 1,250 employers who were advertising employment opportunities. The resumes had a key distinction: some were mailed out with names that were determined to be “typically white,” others with names that were “typically black.” Their findings showed that resumes with “typically white” names received 50% more callbacks than those with “typically black” names.
Regardless of your role or title you can have an impact on removing barriers in your workplace. If you notice biases in processes and practices, speak up. Whether it’s in the hiring process, onboarding, performance development or mentoring, you can remind others that the goal is to provide a fair and respectful environment for all employees. This kind of environment can also be developed through the implementation of programs like flexible work initiatives, which provide equal opportunities for working parents and caregivers.