October 14, 2014 — Back in my days as a Catalyst Research Fellow, I had the opportunity to research and write about topics that motivated and inspired me. I was able to work with people who understood that a disruption to the way we’ve been doing things is needed for women to make progress in the workplace—and who shared my passion for helping women advance.
When I left Catalyst to work for a consulting firm, I found myself wondering how best to bridge the gap between researching gender dynamics and living them in an environment where my colleagues might not always be aware of their existence. How could I disrupt the status quo?
Knowledge is power. I had the knowledge from my work at Catalyst, so I capitalized on it in my everyday interactions. For instance, my boss brought up mentorship in one of our team meetings, and I pointed out that mentorship is not enough for women to succeed—we need sponsorship as well. A colleague asked me to be the scribe on the whiteboard for a meeting, when plenty of men were just as close to the board. At first I got up to comply, but then I thought better of it and said, with a smile on my face, “Why is it that women are always asked to take notes during meetings?” After I’d absorbed my share of strange stares and chuckles, a male colleague of mine stood up and started writing with a colored marker.
I also make sure to take an active seat at the table and speak up in group settings, as I know my voice, alongside other diverse voices, is associated with outcomes like improved decision-making and problem-solving abilities.
Interestingly, when I called attention to these issues, I was not pigeonholed as a “crazy feminist.” Instead, I was able to start a dialogue on women and gender issues at work, from using gender-inclusive language to taking a closer look at the limitations on family and medical leave in the United States.
How can you disrupt the current state of affairs for women at work? The answer goes beyond doing it organizationally and politically. We need to disrupt the status quo individually and every day, in one-on-one interactions with colleagues as well as more publicly in the boardroom. Even small moments can add up to big changes.