Approaches to diversity have changed, but there is one constant: a desire to know whether training really changes people. So, we decided to initiate a landmark study to find out with help from two clients—a major health system and a prominent university.
In the workplace, just like society, there is an unconscious bias that favors men. It is not typically the direct fault of leaders today rather it was inherited from those who established corporate America in the past. This is known as ‘second generation bias’—something passed down to us. Because of this phenomenon, hiring quotas alone will never resolve gender inequality in the workplace. Putting a woman in an executive position under these conditions is often just setting her up for failure. The problem is much deeper than simply increasing female representation in senior roles. What needs to change is centuries of brain conditioning—for both men and women.
There’s never been a time when connecting “inclusively” has been more critical for the planet, since so many in our world are now separated. For the first time in history, the vast majority of Americans are following “shelter-in-place” protocols, which are forcing us to physically disconnect from one another. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean we can’t interact in what we might call “virtual” ways—and from a sociological perspective, it is absolutely essential that we do.
First of all, let me express how deeply sympathetic I am towards those who are struggling with anxiety and fear in the current global health crisis (especially those hit the hardest). I am working very hard myself to not give in to profound pessimism, but let me try and make an important distinction. While it is appropriate to have a high level of concern, panic can be both harmful and unhelpful. When you are concerned, that means you judge something to be a matter of importance. Panic refers to uncontrollable fear and anxiety, which can be highly destructive. Stress, fear, and panic produce high levels of cortisol, which not only can trigger depression, high blood pressure, a lowered immune system, ulcers, and migraines, but can also impair cognitive performance. That means just when you need your wits about you, your mental capacities are diminished.
Most of us were already anxious about the state of our world when news of the corona-virus suddenly upped the ante—and the resulting panic has impacted everything from the stock market to the price of sanitizer. This increased anxiety seeps into our workplace, our homes, and our schools and becomes a crisis of its own. It is normal to be nervous when we hear bad news, but people have to be sensible in order to manage stressful times successfully. So, how do we find the right balance between caution and overreacting that will enable us to get through this?
No one who is straight, or who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, knows what it’s like to face misunderstanding, unfairness, and ridicule over their sexual orientation or gender identity – so I don’t pretend to speak for the LGBT community. But I can lend my support by telling how I overcame my own heterosexism and homophobia, in hopes of helping others learn to overcome theirs.