BREAKING DOWN GENDER AND GENERATIONAL SILOS
For years one of the primary ways to call attention to a diversity issue and to build strength for a specific “minority” group has been to create an “affinity group.” The group would aim to build networks, confidence, and educate both members and other stakeholders outside the group. I believe that once a certain level of awareness is created, the separateness approach stands in the way of, or slows, progress in achieving desired goals. We can achieve much more progress collapsing the gaps reinforced by silos and forming alliances and coalitions to expand true opportunity and equity together
Let’s take serious efforts to break down the silo walls and ally generations, gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ, differently-abled and other identified affinities. That doesn’t mean getting rid of affinity groups entirely, as they still serve useful purposes. I would prefer to see them as collaborators that can plan to ease themselves out of existence as the need declines.
Some corporations have seen the light, particularly around gender.
Here are examples of specific actions toward gender inclusion:
- A consultancy, White Men As Full Diversity Partners LLC, coaches men to shift mindsets and behaviors to achieve a more inclusive work culture. Catalyst’s initiative gets men to recognize the influence of unconscious bias on the workplace and has used this group for their programs.
- National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) included men for the first time at its meeting in December 2014, and men pledged to urge male colleagues to champion women. First actions were around mentoring. Historically men have feared being criticized or stigmatized for helping women get ahead. And even some women resent the help as making them look inferior.
- At Cardinal Health, significant numbers of men have been attending the women’s networking group. The sales manager hopes his active recruitment of internal women for promotions will lead to more sales.
- Rockwell Automation Inc. has developed “change inclusion teams mostly run by white men aimed toward accelerating retention and advancement of women and minorities. These have changed the nature of company socializing events for employees at the company or conferences.
- American Express has instituted a mandatory one-time course for one division’s senior management on how men’s and women’s brains work differently and affect decision-making about going for promotions. Women now get more ongoing support both in seeking and after promotions.
- A Dell male VP now tries to be conscious of how scheduling affects opportunities and has joined the women’s network, encouraging male colleagues to do so also.
These are good steps toward more gender equality. We need to see breaking down the silos between other diverse affinity groups as well. Generational collaboration is a great place to start since different generational attitudes inform and influence attitudes about other aspects of diversity and inclusion and individuals’ worldviews. Generations are the universal affinity.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com