Don’t You Dare Recommend Note-Taking as a Career Growth Strategy for Women

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

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Two women taking notes looking at each other with a surprised expression. By #WOCinTechChat

1. Don’t recommend note-taking as a career-growth strategy for women

Former startup investor Chris Sacca tweeted an interesting piece of advice last week (albeit with some grammatical errors):

To which we replied:

Speaking of office housework…

2. Coach frequent volunteers to stop raising their hand

Office housework goes beyond note taking. It’s any undervalued task that needs to get done but don’t impact the bottom line.

Unfortunately, women tend to volunteer for office housework tasks more than men. And when they’re saddled with scheduling follow-up meetings, planning team building activities, cleaning up source code comments, and other administrative duties that are not part of their job description, they may miss out on more visible, impactful tasks. Eventually, they could be perceived as lower-level employees, even if they have high potential.

Allies can change this dynamic. We can look out for coworkers who frequently volunteer for office housework tasks and talk to them in private. Let them know that by spending time on housework tasks, they’ll have less time to spend on more valued projects. On contributions that directly impact the business. On deliverables that count during performance appraisals.

We can coach them to stop raising their hands.

3. Set up rotations for office housework

Not only do women tend to volunteer for office housework tasks more than men, they’re also asked to take them on more than men. And research from the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law indicates that women of color are tasked with office housework even more frequently than their white colleagues.

To disrupt this pattern, set up a rotation schedule for any administrative tasks that aren’t part of someone’s job description. Think scheduling meetings, taking notes, timekeeping, planning monthly birthday lunches, and so on.

That’s enough this week about office housework. Let’s move on to other topics…

4. Ask, “Would I use the same language to describe a white man?”

A study of 88,000 medical student evaluations found them to be riddled with racial and gender bias. For example, men were described as “scientific,” while women were “fabulous” and members of minority groups “pleasant.”

As a UCSF doctor interviewed about the study said, “If I’m trying to write a letter for a white woman or minority, I ask ‘would I use the same language to describe a white man?’ ”

Now that’s something we can all do the next time we’re writing a recommendation letter or a performance evaluation.

Looking for more ideas for how to avoid bias when writing recommendations? Check out this one-pager from the University of Arizona.

5. Say “blank spot” instead of “blind spot”

In everyday conversation, having a “blind spot” tends to imply something negative. As in, if someone were better or more skilled, they wouldn’t have the blind spot. E.g., “You appear to have a blind spot to this emerging competitive threat.” Or “Because of your blind spot, you missed an opportunity.”

Because of this negative connotation, the phrase “blind spot” may be offensive to people with blindness.

Instead, why not describe the person as being “unaware?” Or, substitute the phrase “blank spot?” This suggestion comes from @neethemself on Twitter, who pointed out that it’s, “similar enough to the common ableist term to provoke thought, and occasionally direct discussion/teaching moments simply by using it.”

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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