Lead With Inclusion

50% of women are going to hell

February 21, 2024

Many years ago, I was interviewed by Fox News because a mentor of mine helped me publish my first article in Forbes online. The original title of that article was “Fifty percent of women are going to hell”. Of course, the publisher made me change it to something more tame because they thought it was too sensational so even though it’s been more than a decade since that Forbes article, I figured I couldn’t waste a good headline.

Victoria Pynchon, the person who recognized I was being overlooked as an awesome contributing writer, almost lost her byline over it because she fought for the title. She understood it was a play on the words from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

Vicky was a woman who helped another woman. I got my first byline because of her, a white woman. And why is that relevant? Because this week’s DEI Don’t is:

Don’t assume all spaces for women are inclusive of Black women.

And I know what you’re going to say because I’ve heard it over and over again. Why do we need to keep separating ourselves? Isn’t it divisive? Why make the distinction between Black women and white women? Aren’t we all just women? Can’t we all just get along? But aren’t those the same questions that we get when women create women only spaces? Men say women centric spaces aren’t needed, but yet we know they are.

One of the topics that keeps recurring is the tension between women in employee resource groups (ERGs). While employee resource groups are women-only spaces, what we are seeing is that women of color don’t always feel they belong. They are feeling ostracized and othered in a space that is supposed to be curated for them to feel safe. So I am shedding light on this phenomena because it is largely being ignored. When I speak with white women about this, they tell me that all women feel welcome and of course they are not making anyone else feel as though they are being excluded. But they are blind to the ways in which their subtle acts of exclusion are being perpetuated.

With Black History Month being followed by Women’s History Month, there is some work we could all be doing to improve workplace culture and make it more inclusive.

Lead With Inclusion

Are you having inclusive conversations? Have you ever thought about the topics that you discuss and wondered whether or not these are topics that others in your circle are able to contribute to? If not, this is an area to review. If you find yourself discussing topics that others cannot contribute to, that is an area of exclusion. Does that mean you can’t ever discuss those topics? Of course not. But it does mean you have to do a little more explanation or invitation to others to join the discussion. You may need to inquire as to what others may know about the topic and have the discussion be centered there because there is nothing more exclusionary than three people having a conversation about something with one person simply sitting there smiling and nodding.

On the other hand, if you find yourself on the outside of conversations, and frequently on the edge of exclusion, this is an opportunity to have some uncomfortable conversations before exiting the situation completely. Is there an opportunity for you to provide feedback? Is there a way for you to direct the conversation? What options might be open to you prior to you removing yourself from the group?

Be An Inclusive Leader

If you are leading an employee resource group or any woman-centered association or group, you have a responsibility to review your leadership behaviors and ensure that everyone feels included.

If you’re an ally, can you observe objectively and provide feedback on what you see? Can your input be helpful in these scenarios?

And remember everyone, even allies make mistakes. I have had many conversations with various white women over the years and the questions they ask me are usually some form of how to behave in groups where they are the only white woman in a room full of Black women, how to treat Black women when they are attempting to invite them into a space where they may end up being the ‘only’ and also how to interact in ways that are authentic.

The fact that these women asked is important. The answer to these questions are as varied as the people and the situations that are brought to my attention but as long as you are thinking about it, you are on the right track. It is when you are certain that you have nothing to learn or when you believe no change is needed, that you are very likely perpetuating this week’s DEI Don’t.

Having uncomfortable conversations and learning how to be authentic are two of the skills you will learn in our Unconscious Inclusionprogram. Join us in a safe space to try some of the tactics you want to employ but have been scared to implement.

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