The ‘little things’ that impede inclusivity

Creating an inclusive workplace for women means taking a look at the little things that pile up over time.

Ever been told to smile more at work? Then you’re probably a woman.

You Should Smile More: How to Dismantle Gender Bias in the Workplace is a new book by The Band of Sisters, six C-suite women who met while working at PepsiCo.

It discusses how to make work inclusive for women, from offering flexibility to being aware of the “little things” — or, as the book describes them, “the moments that slow-build until the unwelcome environment takes hold and women disengage.”

What kind of moments?

Angelique Bellmer Krembs, one of the book’s authors, says many little things involve language or assumptions, such as:

  • Calling a woman a “girl”
  • Saying a woman is “too emotional” or that she should smile more — things rarely said about men
  • Assuming a woman with kids will be too busy to take on a big project
  • Asking a woman to take notes or clean up, even when that’s not her job

“These things reflect the narrow window that women are given to be who they are at work,” she told The Hustle.

The book also distinguishes between mentorship and sponsorship:

  • Mentors nurture
  • Sponsors help junior employees move up

While women often have mentors, studies have found men are more likely to get sponsors.

How do we fix it?

Each chapter offers tips for employees, bosses, and witnesses who want to be allies. But companies can always do more, Krembs says, starting with listening and finding new ways to listen.

They might include talking to outsiders, developing ways for employees to submit honest feedback without fear of repercussions, and looking at exit interviews or Glassdoor reviews.

“Some companies say, ‘Hey, we’ve got all these DEI initiatives, we’re in good shape.’ To me, that’s a red flag,” Krembs says. “A company [that says] we know we need to do more… That’s where I actually think more progress is happening.”

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