This is a guest post by Joy L. Wiggins
For women to move from sabotage to support, we must engage in a cyclical process that moves from looking at the self, then outward to society and other women, and then back to the self. This is a continued journey of self-examination to examining our society and environment. Women can begin to undo or dismantle these systems by first understanding our feminist cultural history and the key players across racial, class, sexuality, and geographic boundaries. There are many different feminist movements that illustrate the rich tapestry of diverse struggles toward liberation. When all of these movements are taught and incorporated into our collective knowledge of history, solidarity and liberation are more easily attainable. Movements like womanism, black feminism, mujerista, and indigenous (Native and First Nations) are all seeking ways to transform these male-dominated systems. As women, it is our duty to learn our history to better inform the ways we can come together in solidarity across our differences. If we don’t know our history, our current reality can never be changed.
The second way we can start to “smash the patriarchy” is to take a good look at the stories we tell ourselves. We can start with how we view who we are as women and the way we talk to ourselves. Typically, the messages that run rampant through our heads that go unmonitored and unchecked — judgments about our sense of worth and belonging in the world — put us in a negative narrative loop of incorrect assumptions, ideas, and opinions we hold about ourselves and others.
These messages stem from various forms of media like television, movies, news, magazines, websites, social media, and other forms of digital content. Remember movies like The First Wives Club, Mean Girls, Stepmom, The Devil Wears Prada, fairy tales about the younger woman and the older crone or witch, and television shows like The Real Housewives of [Wherever] among many other television shows where women compete for power or the attention of men. What we tell ourselves manifests itself into the world, so when society tells us that we are only valuable based on our body size or beauty and not our brains, we internalize this. This is a vicious cycle that repeats itself: society tells we aren’t worthy, we internalize it, and keep repeating the story to ourselves.
It’s important that we break down the negative messages of our sense of worthiness at work.
● How respected do you feel when sharing new ideas at work?
● Are there allies at work that you can go to when feeling unheard or silenced?
● How are you bringing other women’s voices to the forefront in meetings?
● In what places at work do you have power and how can you use it effectively for other women?
● Do you have affinity or Employee Retarget Groups (ERGs) and how effective are they?
To help you create a workplace of inclusion, ask yourself and your organization these questions around recruiting and retention:
● What can you do to make sure women are applying to upper-level positions?
● Are there opportunities for upward mobility, policies for interrupting potential for bias, training and ongoing support for countering bias?
● Is your organization creating caucus groups and programs specifically aiming at white privilege and creating support for people of color by people of color?
● How might the way you have been socialized along gender, race, class and other differences inform the way you see the potential for bias in your workplace?
● How do you respond when someone says, “There just aren’t enough diverse people applying for these positions?” Can you respond in a way that opens up space for reexamining recruitment efforts and workplace climate?
Accountability Policies and Procedures
What does your organization do in the event of internal conflict? Is there a protocol to help alleviate intergroup tension? When race-based conversations are facilitated skillfully, and the participants can see how they might examine their privileges and marginalizations and find ways to become allies, then real change around racism can occur — but these conversations have to be ongoing and sustainable. We want to emphasize that you may or may not have the ability or access to change some of these situations, but you may know the folks who do and that’s a step in the right direction.
Some questions to think about for your organization:
- When examining hierarchy, how might your organization examine their policies and procedures to actively recruit women, people of color, and people of diverse backgrounds and abilities?
- What are the exact policies and procedures around recruiting a diverse pool of people?
- Does your company prioritize attendance at national, state, and local recruitment fairs in diverse areas to directly seek diversity?
- Are there other ways to check for implicit biases that take someone off the top of the applicant list?
- In what ways are judgments suspended to ensure the applicant’s qualifications so they aren’t being judged on their identity?
- What does “good fit” look like, exactly? And how might you examine potential for bias?
If you build it, they will come…but we have to build it, together.
About the Guest Post Author:
Joy L. Wiggins, PhD, is the founder and executive director of Joy Wiggins, PhD, LLC, a consulting company that focuses on equity, inclusion, and racial and gender justice. She received her doctorate from the Ohio State University in multicultural education. She teaches Culture, Equity and Advocacy in Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University. www.joywiggins.com
Her co-authored book with Kami J. Anderson, “From Sabotage to Support: A New Vision for Feminist Solidarity in the Workplace” published by Berrett Koehler is available now at Amazon and your local book sellers.