Intersectionality: A concept we should all be aware of

In a Ted Talk I watched recently, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s The urgency of intersectionality, Crenshaw caught my interest by talking about a type of bias that is notably not talked about, yet quite dangerous and telling. Crenshaw coined a term, intersectionality, to describe the process of looking at what happens at the intersection when an individual is subjected to the biases of more than one marginalized characteristic at once (a person who is black and gay, for instance).

Crenshaw illustrates the concept of intersectionality by describing just that – an intersection.

An intersection where the biases that come against us (in hiring, and other forms of exclusion) work simultaneously and become doubly effective.

When we have more working against us in terms of bias-driven prejudice, we are statistically less likely to get that job or that promotion, or even that respect.

Crenshaw reiterates a certain point throughout the talk: When you can’t see a problem, you can’t solve it. She uses black women as an example of a population of people whose stories of mistreatment are more likely to fall through the cracks, compared to their white female and black male counterparts.

Crenshaw uses the word prism to describe the multi-angled lens through which we should view such complex issues.

 

To consider a complex phenomenon,

we should use a complex lens.

What does your lens look like?

 

Ted Talk:

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s The urgency of intersectionality

https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality/transcript?language=en

 

Test your biases, literally. It takes 5 minutes.

Did you know that you can get tested for biases?

Caution: If you didn’t expect this already, you’re going to learn that we’re all affected by bias in our own ways.

Take the Implicit Association Test (IAT) test and don’t be ashamed of the result. I got my Masters degree reading and writing about the most subtle forms of gender biases, so you’d think that I’d be pretty good at checking my own bias in that area; but my test results suggested that I have a bias toward men (and against women) in the workplace. More specifically, I learned that my results are described as “Automatic association for Male with Career and Female with Family”, because I had a tendency to group men into work-related groups and women into family-related groups, under a time constraint. I could have sat down, taken my time, and chosen all of the correct answers carefully, but you are also judged on the time it takes you to respond to the questions.

When I really think about it, this makes sense. This explains why I, while waiting in the vet’s office to meet my new vet, was assuming I’d be meeting a male vet. This memory stuck with me because, when the female vet entered the room, I was faced with my own narrow thought process in that situation. And this isn’t the first time I made this type of association based on gender, but the good news is, just having this awareness is a huge step toward overcoming the impacts of bias.

Back to the test:

What the testing site does not end up telling you is how to change this. How to overcome this bias.

There are things you can do after taking a test such as the IAT; for example, I should apparently expose myself to more strong female leaders and CEOs, in the media or elsewhere, in order to increase my association there.

You can also get help directly addressing your group’s biases by taking them through training surrounding this topic of implicit bias.  Talk to us if this is something your group could benefit from.

A model for looking at the communication of modern-day biases

A model for looking at the communication of modern-day biases:

 

Our message:

Get yourself/team updated — or as some gen-Z-ers might say, get woke.

And get on the same page with your team.

Prevention is always ideal. Awareness is the key.

Transitioning to Management, Made Easy

You’ve heard the phrase, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.

Well, I am proposing a new, modified version of this statement. Professionalism is, after all, a lot more about your behavior and how you treat people than it is about how you dress.

I propose that we behave for the job we want, not for the job we have, because making the transition into higher levels of management can be a challenge when it calls for a change in our everyday behavior.

Given the heightened level of self-regulation and discipline that comes with heightened responsibility, many people struggle to change their professional persona when their role changes. People who were once our equals – maybe even our friends – now report to us, and it can be awkward and uncomfortable to change the way we relate with those people.  This is where the new, modified statement comes in. If we start managing our professional persona early, then when the time comes to take on more responsibility – and it will – you will have a much easier time making the transition with members of your team.

Some tips for disciplined self-regulation:

  1. Keep in mind that friendliness is different from friendship. Friendship brings with it a certain comfort level and allows us to cross one-another’s boundaries. If we’re being friends in the workplace, it’s not the friend whose boundaries we need to worry about crossing. It’s all the other people who work around you.
  2. Think about the future. Is this unprofessional behavior I’ve been participating in worth it? What are my priorities in my work environment – meeting the behavior expectations of my job, or making friends?
  3. Model your behavior after a professional you admire. Think of a current or previous supervisor you had who seemed to have a great balance between work and their personal life. What steps did they take to make this happen? What was their professional persona like? What habits did they develop to make this easy for them?

Connecting with Boundaries Intact: The Disciplined Behavior of High Quality Professionalism

Why is professionalism important?

The ability to maintain a professional persona is skill that great managers, supervisors, and other leaders exercise. Not only does keeping a balance between work expectations and outside-work life keep us feeling balanced, it also manifests a consistency in the workplace behavioral expectations.

Good relationships ? Good results.

According to Sarri Gilman’s TED Talk on personal boundaries, people who are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed have trouble making the right decisions for themselves because their judgment is blurred. On the other hand, people who trust themselves, are decisive, and are committed to healthy relationships succeed in both their work and personal life.

Sarri acknowledges that challenges naturally come our way in life, and she suggests that high levels of stress cause need for high amounts of self-care. It can be tempting to neglect the self, and ironically stressful to set personal boundaries; but when you consider the benefits of knowing yourself and knowing the values behind the decisions you make, it makes the little periods of transition simply feel like natural results of working hard. Sarri, in fact, calls the process of communicating boundaries merely “sweating”. Sarri elaborates that she, herself, “sweats” regularly working with others.

Moral of the story: Effective professionalism takes hard work at first, and diligence to maintain, but reaps great rewards in creating positive, productive professional and personal relationships.

*Tips and Tools for strengthening boundaries, as presented by Sarri Gilman, are as follows:

  1. The most essential boundary tool that everyone has – the personal compass.
    1. Visual a compass in your hand with two words on it – yes and no.
    2. Use the compass to decide where your boundaries are, what you say yes and no to, particularly where you need it the most.
    3. Sometimes your compass is clouded over, and you can’t see if something is a yes or a no for you. This is happens if you’ve been ignoring your compass or arguing with it because you don’t like what it’s saying.
    4. Although our compass does not give us the details, you can trust it, because its only purpose is to take care of you. And if you let the compass and boundaries take care of you, it’ll mitigate stress, and stress is a very serious issue.
      1. According to the American Psychological Association, 50-58% of us are suffering from high stress. Big number.
      2. Boundary skills reduce the stress so you can see your compass.
  2. Problem: Setting boundaries is stressful, ironically. But it’s brief stress,or “sweating”.
  3. Remember, the key for recognizing boundaries where you need them the most is “tolerating stormy emotions”. Communicating your boundaries or making decisions based on them can have negative effects on people, especially when emotions are involved.
  4. When functioning under a lot of stress, the key is to ask yourself: Are there ways that you can improve your self-care? The more stress you have, the more you need to do self-care.
  5. We’re all in the middle of a life story, and your story is based on what you’re saying yes and no to. If you shut out the noise and listen, you’re going to find yourself going through life with less stress and profoundly in-tune with your purpose.

Link to TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtsHUeKnkC8