I know nothing in the world that has much power as a word.

(Emily Dickinson)

Yes, we have walked a long road and we have advanced in the path of making the professional world a more equalitarian space. But there are a lot of tracks still to advance. Over the years, I have heard from lots of readers who work in fields where there are relatively few other women, or people from other races, with other ages which makes them unique but not in a good way, they feel —and are—discriminated.

It's frequently presumed that people don't know what they’re talking about simply because they are different. However, to establish credibility, they must talk a lot or assert their credentials upfront, which can come across as verbose, self-important, or domineering. We know how that operates, one feels ignored, so the reaction is to stand out.

The professional ground turns complicated. There are patterns that are difficult to destroy. Some companies keep seeming to hire the same types of people: white men in their mid-forties who are in the professional network of the other white men on a kind of a team. Of course, one can understand this is supremely frustrating. So, what to do? On one side, we must refocus our hiring strategy.

However, that is not enough. We must emphasize specific solutions. Amy Gallo, from Harvard University, offers a toolkit that provides very precise answers that can give some hope to persons that feel discrimination in their workspace. The toolkit outlines tactics leaders can use to prevent and address the patterns of bias within specific business systems, including hiring, access to opportunities, performance evaluations, meetings, family leave policies, and workplace flexibility.

She advocates for a three-step approach which is, as she points out, like what you’d use to solve any business problem:

  1. Use metrics: Businesses already use metrics to assess whether they’ve progressed toward a strategic goal, like sales targets or customer satisfaction. Metrics can also help you pinpoint where bias exists within your organization and assess the effectiveness of the measures you’ve taken to prevent or combat bias.

  2. Implement bias interrupters: Bias interrupters are small adjustments to your existing business systems, such as beginning your performance evaluation process with clear and specific criteria directly related to job requirements or providing a specific work-relevant definition of “culture fit” if using it as a criterion for hiring. These changes should not require you to entirely abandon your current systems.

  3. Repeat as needed: After implementing bias interrupters, return to your metrics. If they have not improved, you will need to ratchet up to stronger bias interrupters.

But of course, Gallo points out that to implement the previous points with a certain degree of success, there must be specific ways to use and analyze metrics. Yes, discrimination is irrational, but professionals are not silly. Differences exist among the majority of men, majority of women, men of color, and women of color. So, to include any other historically excluded group that your organization tracks, such as military veterans, LGBTQ+ people, and individuals with disabilities we have to use arguments and numbers that are objective and cold. So speaking up, has to be to build arguments that can be used to show that we command the issues and the topics and that we have the skills needed to perform the job that we have been hired to do.

If you are one of the many people trying to improve the experience of women of color in your organization, or whether you work in a male-dominated industry or not, it is important that we understand the power of the correct word. Unfortunately, there are opportunities that are being denied to brilliant persons because they are different. The report’s authors, Joan Williams, Rachel Korn, and Asma Ghani, challenge the notion that women of color are underrepresented in tech because of “pipeline issues” and highlight the role that bias plays in women of color leaving the industry —or avoiding it in the first place.

Their analysis goes deep to the point. Discrimination is one of the main reasons why many people around the world do not want to return to the office. It showed that Black, Latin, Asian, Indigenous, and multiracial persons were more likely than white people to experience patterns of bias, including the prove-it-again, tightrope, maternal wall, and tug-of-war biases. So, in order to end these terrible ways at the workplace we have to pay attention to some issues:

  1. Do your performance evaluations show consistent disparities by demographic group?
  2. Do women’s ratings fall after they have children?
  3. Do employees’ ratings fall after they take parental leave or adopt flexible work arrangements?

If we find sincere answers, then we are finding the correct grounds to build our arguments. If we show to our discriminating teamwork that we are efficient, that we can perform way better if we are included, and that we have the qualifications and the competencies that are needed, those arguments will speak up for us. That is the correct way to make us be and feel respected.