Women in the workplace

Jun 19, 2020 | #blacklivesmatter, #letstalkbias

🚀 Become a #virtualspacehero 

Key takeaways from a #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE
12.06.2020 | 15:00 CET
Women in the Workplace
Virtual Discussion on #BlackWomenInTheWorkplace and #WomenInTheWorkplace

 with Jane Oma Okoro | Upside Africa (Spain), Patricia Malidor-Coleman | A-Z World Connections (USA) & | Barbara Covarrubias Venegas #virtualspacehero (Spain/Austria)

 With the recent movement of #BlackLivesMatter and topics of racism and white privilege being very present throughout all media channels, during our last #linkedin LIVE the topic of black women in the workplace came up through our discussion. Reason why, we chose to address the need for this important discussion.

But, let’s start with the basic question of what is privilege?

The privilege Walk is an activity throughout which some of many social privileges are read by the facilitator and the participants are asked to take a step forward or backward based on their responses. Participants are confronted with the ways in which society privileges some individuals or groups over others. The aim is to understand in which areas of life participants are privileged or not.

Don’t miss watching it on YouTube here! We also used this video at the beginning of our #linkedin live to set the scene.

If the topic is very difficult to speak about, it doesn’t mean you should stay silent. During the last week’s #virtualspacehero LinkedIn live – Jane Oma Okoro (Spain), Patricia Malidor-Coleman (USA) and Barbara Covarrubias Venegas (Spain/Austria) were discussing privilege, racism, the position of women in the workplace & especially black women in the workplace .

🎥 💻 If you want to watch the LinkedIn LIVE recording, here you go 

“We always explain to children that there is no difference, although difference is made in real life.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

This is one of the reasons why the Privilege Walk was created: to experience and visualize what privilege means and how it feels. At the end of the video there is one black woman staying in the last row. She was left behind. For some it is a daily experience and also a reminder to be aware of our own privileges and to reflect on them. It can be used as an activity or a reminder to constantly reflect and look back on who is left behind. In the privilege walk, the black woman at the end stands alone in the back. (Comment from the blog post authors: a bit similar to the stock picture we chose, where the black woman also seems to be a bit outside of the group)

Have YOU ever asked yourself who has less privilege than you and whom you could help with your privilege? 

“People refer to me as a “bridge builder” – It’s always about how can I build bridges with the privileges that I have looking back to the people who don’t’ have the same privileges and also looking ahead of me to see what are the privileges that we can get and then distribute it” (Jane Oma Okoro)

“It reminds us that we need to move forward and hold each other’s hands – I love that holding of hands (…) and then look back sometimes – don’t just go forward and succeed without looking at who else is back there. (…) maybe I have this privilege because of that person that is left behind.” (Patricia Malidor-Coleman)

TAKE ACTION: How can you use your privilege to help those left behind?

💡 Listen. One way of moving forward and looking backward is to actively listen and pay attention.  Listen first and understand the other person’s position. Active listening is hard, you can train yourself, have a read through the following HBR article about “What Great Listeners Actually Do”.
💡 Ask questions and share your own experiences and engage in deep conversations online and offline. How Managers Can Promote Healthy Discussions About Race
💡 Encourage critical thinking. In order to change narratives, reflect on your experiences and shift perspectives A Short HBR Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills
💡 Understand your own privileges and help others. Reflect on it! Be aware and raise awareness that having privileges brings responsibilities to support others who don’t have them. Understand that being privileged doesn’t mean you are better than others, but use your privilege to help others

Women in organizations

“The double Jeopardy effect describes that women are double disadvantaged in the workplace. In my research I found out that women feel more disadvantaged when they get older.” (Barbara Covarrubias Venegas)

There is a lot of intersectionality in the workplace. The gender bias is present and strong. In the workplace women face disadvantages because of their gender, plus other factors such as age, religion, sexual orientation, financial status, educational level and also skin color affect their career possibilities. (Source: Changing Age and Career Concepts in the Austrian Banking Industry. A Case Study of Middle-Aged Non-managerial Employees and Managers, Author: Barbara Covarrubias Venegas, online here).

Flexible working arrangements are important! Both time wise and location wise. Even though women were allowed to work from any location (during the turbulent situation with the pandemics), they seem to have a double burden: both work tasks and house tasks. So, there is a question that was raised post-covid: Is remote work really going to help women if we continue to follow the so-called “the male breadwinner model”?

Though it is clear that on top of these disadvantages black women in the workplace are confronted with an additional challenge. The following are some suggestions on how Patricia Coleman is dealing with discrimination:

💡 Anticipate discrimination
Look at first impression of your competence
Ask: How can I help others? What I can do for you?
Speak your customer’s language. What are they looking for? Prove your trustworthiness and competence 
Build the “bridge” between you and your customers. 
Listen and build relationships. Building relationship means building trust

“We should be grateful for what’s been done, even if we must insist on more being done.” (Jane Oma Okoro)

What should organizations be doing?

Especially recruiters but at the end everybody in Human Resources must step up. They should create a more diverse and inclusive workplace that will address women’s as well as black women’s needs. Organizations should go beyond their view on what a talent should look like, what people should look like but rather evaluate who fits best the job. 

Recruiters and managers should acknowledge their personal biases. A suggestion could be to follow Tayo Rockson, who posts daily on the topic in his #LetsTalkBias challenge. Implementing activities to recognize bias on an organisational level, using bias assessments, organising discussions on the topic, putting racism and bias on the agenda of team meetings are possible starting points.

The “Implicit Association Tests” (IATs) https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit can tap those hidden, or automatic, stereotypes and prejudices that circumvent conscious control. Project Implicit is a collaborative research effort between researchers at Harvard University, the University of Virginia, and University of Washington, offers dozens of such tests.

Rethink and restructure Human Resources, bridge the gap, enable flexibility, connect benefits for both women and organizations!

Be the solution!

Thanks to our amazing discussants!

Jane Oma Okoro

Jane Oma Okoro

What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

“Never forget what your mom said! You are special, you are powerful. Your mom was right. The fact that some people don’t see it does not negate the truth. Do not forget your worth”

Patricia Malidor-Coleman

Patricia Malidor-Coleman

What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

“You are equipped. You have everything. You have the dream; you have the vision. But now, I can tell you – you can make it happen! Make a list of all of the things you heard you cannot do or that you feel that you cannot do and write: I can! Then, find somebody who can help you get to the next step”

💡 Resources 💡

Confronting Racism at Work: A Reading List
Changing Age and Career Concepts in the Austrian Banking Industry. A Case Study of Middle-Aged Non-managerial Employees and Managers, Author: Barbara Covarrubias Venegas
LetsTalkBias by Tayo Rockson

Videos to watch:

Books to read:

Connect with me on LinkedIn  and follow me to be notified about upcoming #virtualspacehero LinkedIn LIVE Events.

Blog Team

Tamara Mladenovic

Tamara Mladenovic





Follow us!


Share This