Meeting Shenanigans — Part 3

Note: This is Part 3 of our series on “Meeting Shenanigans” in the tech industry. We’re exploring challenges that underrepresented groups can face in meetings. And offering approaches for allies to mitigate them. If you missed them, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, we’re exploring yet more challenges women report facing in meetings, including meeting housework, misdirected questions, and even seating arrangements.

1. Meeting Housework

Meetings generate office housework. From taking minutes, to scheduling the follow-up meeting, to even clearing coffee cups from the table before leaving the room. There’s a bunch of administrative tasks that need to get done. And women tend to do these tasks, either because they’re asked or because they simply roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

Make office housework tasks rotating responsibilities for your regular meetings. Set up a schedule for taking minutes, clearing the table, and so forth. And for one-off meetings, consider asking only men to do these tasks to send a strong disrupt-the-status-quo kind of message.

“Hey Joe — could you bring the left-over pizza over to the kitchen on your way out? And stick a note on them that they’re up for grabs.”

2. Misdirected questions

In the Elephant in the Valley Survey of women with at least ten years of experience working in tech, 84% said they had experienced a time when a question was directed at a man versus to them, the most qualified person in the meeting to answer it.

Given 84% of the respondents reported it, chances are it’s happening in meetings at your company. As an ally, step up and redirect the question to the most qualified person. All it takes is a simple, “Deepa is the expert on that topic. Let’s hear from her.”

3. Economy Seating

Enter any conference room, and your eyes typically look to the opposite corner. And that makes the seat diagonally opposite from the door is the power position at any conference room table.

If you watch coworkers in meetings, you’ll likely notice white men sitting in that power seat, as well as in the center seats around the table. Women and other members of underrepresented groups, by contrast, might gravitate toward the opposite end of the table and the edges of the room, away from positions that convey status. In other words, they take seats in Economy.

As allies, we can invite marginalized people to take the power seats. We can go a step further and offer to swap our seats with them. Here’s how:

“Ema, I know you’re going to make some killer points today. Why don’t you take my seat so everyone can hear you better.”

If you have additional suggestions for handling meeting shenanigans, tweet them using the tag @betterallies. We’d like to hear from you.

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