Some of you might have seen a post by Susan Fowler, a recent engineer at Uber, and her experiences there. I have worked in several male dominated industries, and I share some experiences with Susan. However, I want to focus on the positives, as well as a few things that have worked for me. Here are my ten tips for supporting gender diversity in our analytics community.
- Use your connections
Use your connections, and never apologise for it. My sister works in analytics as I do, and she is an industry leader. I am exceptionally lucky to have such a great role model. The point is, your connections might get you an interview, which is what happened to me. But, you will be the reason you get the job. Men are great at using their contacts – so do the same. It’s ok to ask for help via an introduction, a technical question or just career advice. The funny thing is, people love helping others, so just ask!
- Find or be a good mentor
Mentors are a huge part of my success. Firstly, because when you are learning the ropes, it allows you to test ideas on someone, before pitching them to your boss. It will also provide a place to vent when you are facing a tough problem. Some mentors even become your biggest advocates, championing you for jobs and promoting you to superiors at your company. I personally believe you can never have too many mentors, as different people will play different roles in your journey.
If you have experience to share and look to become a mentor, become a mentor to someone who is different to you. One of the difficulties we face is that people tend to mentor someone similar to them, someone that they identify with. This means that if our leadership team is 75% white middle class male, then those who get the support of mentors will be largely of that same demographic. This is why it is important to mentor someone unlike yourself – you might just learn something too.
- Use the power pose
If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk on the power pose – I highly recommend it. Basically the science behind it is that the way you stand, affects the testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain. If you stand in a powerful position, you can trick your mind into thinking you are confident; it might even have an impact on your chances for success. I do a good old power pose before any important meeting or presentation when I am feeling a little nervous. It may look a little weird when people bump into you in the bathroom in your lunging power pose – but hey, at least you’ll feel confident.
If a woman tells you something is sexist – believe them. If a person from a different racial background says something is racist – believe them. The power to be heard and be believed is significant. One of the best ways you can support diversity is to simply believe people when they tell you they have not been treated equally. A response like ‘oh that couldn’t possible happen here’ or ‘but women have just as much opportunity at this company’ will make that person feel as though they aren’t being believed. Being believed is just as important as having a voice and your reaction plays an important role here.
Most people have a desire be liked in the workplace. For those of the female variety, I have found it is even harder – a lot of the qualities that you need to progress are perceived as positive in men, but negative qualities in women. An example is being assertive – think confidence for a man vs. bossy for a woman.
So what I do to overcome this need to be liked is to stick a post it note on my computer to always remind me – it’s not personal (INP). There are times when I get feedback and it’s easy to think – it’s because I’m failure, it’s because I’m not good enough, it’s because I’m not smart enough. But maybe this piece of work just wasn’t up to scratch. And having INP on my desk reminds me of that. If someone disagreed with you – it’s not because they don’t like you. It just means your argument isn’t strong enough; so go back and try again.
If you are a supervisor the best thing you can do is judge someone on their performance not on how well liked they are. And yes, this still happens (remember the point on ‘believe’). Make sure you are aware of your own personal bias; so can try to mitigate that as much as possible. A good way of doing this is asking others for feedback too, so you have more evidence of performance not just your own viewpoint. Or, separate out specific performance metrics from likeability metrics like ‘team player’ or ‘gets along well with others’.
- Stop saying I’m sorry
Stop saying I’m sorry. I’m going to say it again. Stop saying I’m sorry.
I often find myself starting a comment in a meeting with “I’m sorry but I think …”. There is no reason for me to apologise for my view – particularly as I’m an analyst who has data to support my point of view. Keep a list in your notes of alternatives to use when you catch yourself falling into that trap. There is even a gmail extension you can add to stop you adding to emails (I’ve got it…). And if you hear a colleague doing the same, have a quiet word to them.
- Support girls and women to be proud of their strengths
We still treat boys and girls differently. Boys learn to be proud of their accomplishments and girls learn to apologise for them. Start calling this out – teach the women in your life to be proud of what they are good at.
- Do your fair share of the housework
The 2016 census shows that most Australian women spend between five to fourteen hours a week doing unpaid domestic housework. For the average Australian man, it’s less than five hours a week. This suggests women still assume more than half their share of the housework.
We all only have so much time in the day. In fact, let’s look at the numbers. Using the median of the above figures. Let’s assume that a woman does 9.5 hours of unpaid housework a week, while her partner does 2.5 hours. Over the course of one week that’s a seven hour difference. That’s one hour less a day that the women in our example has to devote to her job. Over a year, the woman in our example has 365 hours less to devote to her career than her partner.
The impact of this imbalance means that women actually have less time to dedicate to employment than their partner may. Key takeaway: do your fair share at home – walk the dog, do the dishes, make dinner for your family or put on a load of washing. Keep it in balance.
- Take a seat at the table (and encourage others to)
Sheryl Sandberg talks a great deal about women taking a seat at the table. And I’ve never really felt like that advice applies to me as I am pretty confident and willing to put my hand up. However, a few months ago we had some very senior people at our office. I was invited to a Q&A session with them and our senior executive. I walked in the room and saw one seat left sitting between our founder and our Chief People Officer (CPO). I opted for a stool in the back row. Nicolle, our CPO, tapped on the chair and said, “Moe, this seat is for you”. As soon as she said it, I got up and moved. But in that moment I realised sometimes we all forget Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and need someone to tap on the seat and remind us that we deserve to sit there too. So next time you are in a meeting, look around and see who might need a gentle reminder.
- Encourage men to become male champions of change
I was very privileged to work at Defence when Lieutenant General David Morrison AM was Chief of Army. Few would expect the Chief of Army, in one of Australia’s most male dominated institutions, to be recognised as an Australian of the Year for his commitment to gender equality and diversity. Largely, this was due to his tough as guts response to the mistreatment of women in the Army. He told those that didn’t believe in equality in his army to get the hell out.
The funny thing is, I was not surprised by his response or his award. I was exceptionally proud. I had the privilege of meeting Lieutenant General Morrison at many networking events in Canberra for women. He mingled, he listened and he advocated for women.
Supporting and bringing along our male colleagues is hugely important. Male champions are a big part of reaching gender equality. Encourage male involvement at all levels in your company to advocate for women.