close
close

How to become a co-conspirator at work

Numerous reports have highlighted the increased pressures that working women have been facing due to the pandemic and the negative impact it has had on women’s well-being and career aspirations.

While employers are being urged to embed a more inclusive work culture to advance gender equality, women of color face additional obstacles as they fight against both sexism and racism — as well as the interaction of these forms of inequality in the workplace.

In the Broken Ladders report, published by the Fawcett Society in the UK last month, 76% of women of color said that experiences of racism at work negatively impacted their confidence at work. Additionally, 61% of women of color say they have changed to “fit in”; this includes changing the way they talk, dress or style their hair, and sometimes even change their names.

Overall, 42% of women of color report being passed over for promotions despite a strong track record compared to 27% of white women. Additionally, 28% of women of color say their boss has blocked their progress at work, compared to 19% of white women.

Not surprisingly, 39% of women of color report experiencing negative mental and emotional well-being at work.

While the report finds that more than three-quarters of white employees see themselves as allies of women of color at work, less than half of these white allies speak out against prejudice or support women of color in their advancement. There is clearly a disconnect between the actions white employees believe they are taking to address gender racism and the behaviors they actually engage in.

To fill this gap, Myisha T. Hill, a mental health activist, speaker, and entrepreneur, started the “Check Your Privilege” movement on Instagram. Her work supports all people to understand how to go beyond ally and become a co-conspirator by making anti-racism a daily practice.

Here, Hill shares three actions anyone can take to become a co-conspirator at work.

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE

According to Hill, leaders in particular need to take responsibility to bring about change in their organization and that starts with self-reflection. For example, when leaders see how they gain access to power and privilege as part of the dominant group, they also become aware of their unique position to reduce the inequality that benefits them.

“I encourage leaders to look at their individual journey and how they have perpetuated systemic oppression and bias in their personal lives and role at work. What does microaggression look like to you? How is your relationship with the power dynamic? Many leaders host a workshop and think it’s done, but that’s not something that can be fixed in a meeting. It’s an ongoing, lifelong journey because as systems are duplicated in the world, so are duplicated in the workplace.”

Privilege makes it easy to deny other people’s experiences of inequality, since these challenges typically do not apply to people in privileged positions. Hill believes leaders need to take time to reflect on their privileges, identify their biases and discriminatory beliefs before addressing these challenges within the broader organization.

TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Hill believes we must become co-conspirators to bring about systemic change. Becoming a co-conspirator requires building relationships across differences and channeling voices of color to guide and facilitate cultural change at work.

“It’s not afraid to speak up because what happens in the workplace is that we see harm happening and no one wants to speak up. If you see the damage, say something, but before you say anything, you must go to your colleague and say, “Hey, I noticed this happened in that meeting. How can I speak up for you? Are you ready to comment?” Be genuinely curious about the person who was harmed and their experience before speaking up.”

According to Hill, change requires first trusting leaders from typically underrepresented groups to lead the work, and then demonstrating their support by acting on their recommendations.

GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE

The fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and being labeled racist or sexist can discourage people from addressing these issues, allowing them to persist. This is often due to concerns about the abandonment culture and fear of being called out. However, Hill argues that when done wrong, it provides an opportunity to learn and discover how to do it right.

“Get it wrong and keep doing it wrong because that’s how you learn. There’s no right way or wrong way. You have to move through the fear and the shame. For a lot of white people, there’s this shame, ‘Oh my god gosh, I’m a racist,’ and it’s not like you’re a racist. You just have to unlearn racist behaviors and prejudice.

To become a co-conspirator, Hill says, we must face ourselves and our wrongdoings and look to others to hold us accountable.

Leave a Comment