The day 20,000+ Google employees walked out in protest over the handling of sexual harassment against women at Google, I happened to be in a training with two Google employees. The topic? Diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the impact of unconscious bias on everything.
No one is immune from unconscious bias. We all hold stereotyping beliefs about groups of people that drive our actions or inaction.
From my lens, the explosive Wall Street Journal story that fueled the Google Walkout, exposed a slew of unconscious biases. These biases are present when a woman, whether junior or executive, reports sexual harassment or a hostile work environment as a result of male leaders or team members’ inappropriate action.
In the workplace, unconscious bias has negative consequences. Its why, for example, few women are in executive leadership or in board seats. An unconscious bias exists that says women are not good leaders. Or why three influential tech companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter) have 1.8% of a combined 41,000 staff who are African American.
Uncovering unconscious bias takes training and awareness. Which brings me to what I saw as 3 wins from the Google Walkout.
Win #1: There are men that care about women’s experiences in the workplace. The pictures of Google employees from 50 global Google offices were filled with men. What I loved about the images is that it speaks to men’s concern and desire for women to be respected and valued. Of course, men caring about the issue of women being sexually harassed must move further. Care must translate to action.
Clear, accountable action by male leaders to address sexual harassment against women in the workplace is the solution.
Men’s Actions Matter
Win #2: Men hold the majority of board, executive, and mid-level leadership roles in companies. Male employees are groomed for leadership roles often fast-tracking men into leadership sooner than women. Men in leadership and aspiring to hold leadership roles have the power to take real action. Real actions interrupt and hold accountable men who sexually harass or create hostile work environments for women. To do this, I believe male leaders must take an important first step. Take action to uncover their own unconscious bias and its impact on leadership and decision-making is a safe and effective action.
Imbedding unconscious bias training into leadership development work is one way our company, DuFresne Solutions Group, helps tackle this issue.
Men’s Voices Matter
Win #3: Getting rid of sexual harassment and hostile work environments affecting women takes courage. The images of the Google Walkout show thousands of men in support of women. Some held signs or raised their fist in solidarity. Some walked alongside women. All powerful steps to interrupt and cause accountability for a harassment-free workplace for women. I believe men’s voices are the powerful ingredient needed to create lasting change. Men who talk with other men when they see inappropriate behavior, words, actions, or inaction are the critical, courageous conversations that matter. Men see and hear the kinds of male behaviors, words, or actions that create inappropriate conduct or sexual harassment.
Men are important and critical to interrupt male behavior that undermines a great workplace for women and men.
The Google Walkout can be a catalyst for leadership development that is proactive in uncovering and bringing awareness to unconscious bias. No one is immune. We all harbor unconscious bias.
Leaders, especially men in leadership roles, have an opportunity to take action and use their voices to end sexual harassment against women in the workplace. It is good business and the key to profitable, stable companies.
Jenny DuFresne, CEO, DuFresne Solutions Group, a training and leadership development firm helping leaders and teams grow people, profit, and impact. Learn more at www.SeekLeadership.com.
Photo Credit: Associated Press