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May 17th, 2022

How Leaders Can Encourage Positive Representation at Work




In recognition of Women's History Month, BiasSync’s March virtual conversation focused on equity for women, women of color, and other typically underrepresented groups in workplaces, with specific emphasis on how leaders can encourage positive representation at work The monthly webinars help leaders to think about the DEIA challenges that they're having in their organization or potentially become aware of how to address these challenges.

“Representation is about seeing oneself in an environment, feeling that the environment will be safe, feeling that the environment will be accepting of what one brings to the table and feeling that the environment will promote and empower one to increase one’s leadership capacity and contribute to the organizational goals,” said Dr. Jessica Williams, a black feminist artist and educator dedicated to authentic connection as a means to empowerment, helping individuals and organizations process uncomfortable elements that are often barriers to connection, engagement, belonging, and inclusion. Representation matters because we have to feel safe and seen in our workplaces.”

“Representation matters because we have to feel safe and seen in our workplaces.”

Equality generally refers to treating all employees the same—no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, and other factors. Equity goes a bit farther—it takes into account differences in access and opportunities and ensures that all employees can reach their full potential.

Dr. Crystal Miller, BiasSync’s chief learning officer and organizational strategist, added,“Representation is just one way that employees, clients, and the community see tangibly whether or not you're living up to your diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility goals and efforts. It's a concrete observation.”

Organizations make common missteps about representation during recruiting, hiring, promoting, and similar type processes. Dr. Williams thinks organizations focus too much on looking outward to find diverse candidates rather than looking inward at the organization to determine whether it has an environment that's going to make employees want to be there, stay there, grow there, and contribute there. In other words, companies have to be able to look at not only how to attract diverse talent, but how to sustainably hold that diverse talent.

Common Mistake: Just Looking at the Numbers

“It's not just about the recruitment of these individuals; you have to create inclusive spaces where there is impact, where there is voice, where there is participation and engagement of your populations.”

According to Dr. Miller, one of the common missteps in organizations is just looking at the numbers. As she explained, “It's not just about the recruitment of these individuals; you have to create inclusive spaces where there is impact, where there is voice, where there is participation and engagement of your populations.”

Dr. Miller cited a study in the MIT Sloan Management Journal, where CSAIL and Segway analyzed 34 million records during the timeframe of The Great Resignation and found that the number one reason that women and groups that are historically and currently underrepresented are leaving the workforce is toxic, non-inclusive work culture. It is 10 times more likely that someone leaves for that reason than compensation. The common misstep is not putting enough into the company culture to make it inclusive, to make it psychologically safe and supportive.

What To Do to Encourage Positive Representation

According to Dr. Williams, “When the leaders of the organization show up as their authentic self, and they are able to bring their full self, it gives so many other people permission to do the same. It helps when you see the people who are in leadership and power making and decision making positions in organizations show up and just show their humanity. Leaders can be extremely powerful in modeling that behavior for their organizations. It's coming from heart, it's coming from compassion, and it's coming from a very humane place of being and place of operating. It has to be based on empathy.”

Dr. Miller explained, “There are three different types of empathy. BiasSync focuses on cognitive empathy, because we find that with compassionate empathy or affectionate empathy, when you have the capacity to quite literally feel the way that somebody else is feeling, you actually open yourself up to affinity bias, typically because you've had a similar experience. Cognitive empathy is suspending your personal experience for a moment, allowing yourself to open up to somebody else's experience without interjecting your own, being focused on their experience and trying to understand it conceptually, trying to hear it from their voice and understand their background in it. When we are able to do that, we are actually able to mitigate our biases and we're able to be present with the other person and their experiences and what has led to who they are in this moment in time and the journey that they've undergone throughout their life.”

Specific Steps for Organizational Leaders in Mitigating Bias

  • • Recognize that not everyone fits the traditional mold
  • • Understand that people have different levels of bias and different levels of DEIA training
  • • Start with the discomfort of discussing differences and respond with empathy
  • • Bring your full, authentic self into work

How BiasSync Can Help Foster a Positive Workplace Culture

BiasSync Five-Stage Inclusivity Roadmap™ (Inclusivity Roadmap) acts as a guide for organizations as they pursue a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible workplace. Contained within the Inclusivity Roadmap are diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) insights, best practices, checklists, and trusted esources.BiasSync’s inclusivity roadmap helps organizations to assess progress in their DEIA journey and recognize that they might have to think critically about maximizing efforts during different growth periods.The roadmap facilitates that journey. In difficult conversations, one of the guidelines is creating agreements.

BiasSync’s equity audit walks organizations through the employee life cycle to ask critical questions and make sure that the organization is taking inventory. It takes artifacts from the organization, gathers data, and makes sure that organizations are not operating from bias when it comes to representation. BiasSync’s proprietary 8-Touchstone framework analyzes equity throughout your organization’s lifecycle—from recruitment to identity (including reasonable accommodations, LGBTQIA+, race, and other underserved communities).

Unconscious Bias: A Solution

Positive representation for diverse employees in the organization means providing a comfort level for the typically misunderstood and underrepresented employees. Positive representation makes people feel safe and comfortable. To understand people’s experiences from their diverse perspectives, contact us now.

Not just diversity. Inclusion.

Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s about people’s experiences in the workplace. If you’re ready to understand how bias impacts your company—with data to make effective changes, contact us now.