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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: December 2015

By Ian Dodds – The Inclusion Builder

The principal, and largely unrecognised, cause of workplace exclusion for women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBTs - Microinequities!

Some time ago I led a workshop on diversity and inclusion (D&I) management for the Women’s Foundation of Poland. This is a body that does much good work to promote equal opportunities for women. I was helping them plan how they could increase their influence by promoting D&I management with an emphasis on women’s issues as well as equal opportunities.

We spent some time brainstorming the negative messages that women experienced in organisations with male cultures. After 3 pages of flipcharts we concluded that these patterns of negative, often unintentional messages, ‘microinequities’, are the major reason why some women have their self-esteem and confidence eroded at work with consequential damage to their performance. Examples of these negative messages were:

  • Being interrupted while speaking;

  • A woman having a sentence they are speaking finished for them by a man;

  • A woman having an idea, or an insight, attributed to a man by the Chair of the meeting;

  • Not being listened to;

  • Being spoken to in a patronising manner by a man;

  • A woman finding that they have been excluded from a business decision because it was made in a bar or at a sports venue when they were not there;

  • A male colleague using their smart phone while a woman is talking to him.

The list is endless; but it is experiencing theses behaviours cumulatively that can be damaging. In fact, the effects can be devastating with not only a loss of self-esteem; but also withdrawal and eventually departure from the organisation. An example of this was a senior woman I was coaching in a well-known technology company who rang me up and said she was thinking of leaving it. We met up and she told me that her male colleagues interrupted her when she was speaking and didn’t treat her ideas and opinions as seriously as their own. In fact, she had stopped offering her ideas and opinions. Rather than her leave, I suggested that I should facilitate a meeting with her male colleagues where she would explain her experiences of working with them. They were horrified at the feedback she gave them as they had a great respect for this female, senior manager and had no awareness that they were behaving in this way. In fact, IDC’s women’s focus groups have demonstrated over and over again that microinequities are a principal barrier to women feeling included in business decision-making in organisations which have been historically led by men and, hence, evolving with a male culture.

Microinequities happen because in any organisation the historically dominant culture prevails until action is taken to make it more inclusive. In our society this is usually white male, heterosexual, university educated, middle aged and physically able. As this has been the group that has been in power historically the organisational culture has evolved to suit their needs. This is why those who are not from this group tend to experience far more microinequities than those that are.

IDC does much work in helping organisations foster an inclusive culture and address microinequities and, thereby, improve the motivation, performance and retention of talented women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBTs.

Dr Ian Dodds, 27 Nov 2015





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