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SEASON 1: EPISODE 14

Michelle Penelope King

Author of “The Fix” On Why It’s Not You, It’s Your Workplace

Biases surrounding gender inequality are being pushed to the forefront amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As employees work from home and may have to manage domestic and work responsibilities, or grapple with isolation or illnesses, leaders are being called to reexamine how they practice inclusion.

In this episode of Breaking the Bias, Holly Corbett, Director of Content at Consciously Unbiased, interviews Michelle Penelope King, gender equality expert, Director of Inclusion at Netflix and author of The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work. Michelle shares how the coronavirus has forced us to confront the many ways in which the workplace does not value differences and the many ways we don’t see the whole person.

Michelle sheds a light on the invisible barriers that women face and how, for many women, their work environment is hardwired to overlook them. Michelle also describes her realization that men in the workplace are also held back by inequality, and she offers real-world tips on how companies can create work environments that work for everyone. Listen to the full conversation here for how to make that happen, or read on for some important takeaways from Michelle.


 

RECOGNIZE THE INVISIBLE BARRIERS

“Research finds within the first few years of working life, women’s confidence drops by more than 60%. The reason for that is because women assume working life is going to follow school life; and if they work hard, they’ll advance. That’s not the case. Inequality exists in the workplace because it exists in society; it exists in life.

The first thing we can do is arm ourselves with awareness of what the barriers are and how they play out. When you experience the conformity bind [or the fact that women need to display their competence and leadership capability in a way that conforms to gender stereotypes], you realize there’s no right way to assert yourself or be dominant. Anything that you do that strays from a feminine ideal, you’re going to be less likable and you’re going to be penalized. Women internalize these barriers and start to think it’s them. [Once you’re aware of the invisible barriers], you’re less likely to internalize them, and start to understand that it’s not you, it’s your workplace.”

 

KNOW THAT INCLUSION IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS

“We have work environments that don’t value difference; that actually enable a very limited number of people to succeed and, even then, it’s not without its costs. This is not an environment that’s actually going to serve us in the future world of work. This is not an environment that’s going to enable me to be successful or you to be successful.”

 

GET TO THE CORE OF INEQUALITY

“Yes, you can have policies, processes and practices in terms of the behaviors you address to try to create a more equal work environment, but fundamentally it is all surface-level stuff. What we’re trying to really address here are the core beliefs about women and their value.”

 

INCREASE YOUR AWARENESS

“Something I talk about in my book is a career journey, where you map out your career and think about moments you’ve witnessed or experienced inequality. Really examine your privilege and how it might have made it easier for you [as compared to minorities who stray further from the traditional protocol of what a successful leader looks like]. Really try to understand how this is showing up for you, and maybe where you are in denial or where you lack awareness.”

 

USE YOUR PRIVILEGE FOR GOOD

“There’s great freedom in owning your privilege. You may understand, ‘I didn’t earn this privilege and I can spend it. It does make it that much easier for me to speak up [against inequality]. It does make it that much easier for me to advocate for my female colleagues. So I’m going to do that .’ I think when we confront our privilege in that way and realize there’s something we can do with it, it’s actually a benefit. We can translate that into advocacy. It feels good.”

 

START YOUR JOURNEY

“It is a journey, and there’s no gold star at the end of it. But it’s a worthwhile journey. It’s something I think each of us should undertake, because living a life where you can’t be yourself at work and where people are being devalued is not an environment any of us want. It’s going to take all of us, and I think it’s time we start that journey, together.”

  

SHOW NOTES:

The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work

The Memo by Minda Harts

So You Want to Talk About Race

White Fragility

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