Corporate Life and Personal Health – Is it a Trade-off?

Some time ago, my husband forwarded the following article to me: Half of Millenials and 75% of Gen Zers have left their jobs for mental health issues. The article details a couple reasons they believe this is happening, including increased use of smartphones which decreases face-to-face interactions and increases exposure to negative world events, and an increase in younger folks feeling of being lost.

This came up in our conversation because I had been noticing a trend in my research project. As I spoke to more and more women, I was hearing story after story of women feeling compelled to leave corporate America in order to take control of their health.

The stories I heard were not only to do with mental health; sometimes physical health was the major issue at hand. Regardless, these women did not feel there was a way to solve their individual issues while maintaining their careers. At least, not the way they were going.

I want to be clear – most of these women did not blame their work, their corporate environment, or anything else of that nature. Most often, they took their inability to manage their current health situation on themselves.

One woman, diagnosed with fibromyalgia while at work, described herself as addicted to work. She shared stories of working at all hours of the day, never being off the clock, taking laptop and phone with her on vacations. She was simply unable to stop working, and this was having a negative effect on her ability to deal with her new diagnosis.

She did not necessarily feel that her work demanded this kind of attention from her. In fact, she was sometimes encouraged to take time off, to relax, to not work quite so hard.

Another woman shared a similar story. She was suffering from crippling anxiety, and yet kept pushing and pushing herself at work. In fact, she was working so hard, she was unable to see to the (negative) effect it was having on her work, and in the end was asked to leave a company where previously she had been a fast-tracked star.

Other phrases I have heard: “If I didn’t leave, I was going to lose my mind.” “My health was suffering significantly. If I didn’t change something quick, something bad was going to happen.” “I know I needed to take care of myself, and I just couldn’t figure out how to do that.”

Another woman brought to my attention the idea and research theme of corporate PTSD, or as one author calls it, CTSD (Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder). If you get a chance, look it up. It explains why, among many other things, so many people pass away so quickly after retirement.

What in the world is going on here? I have been in the same situation myself – this is what prompted me to write the blog post Why You Workaholics Should Go Home and Take The Day Off! I was feeling the same types of stress.

While any particular manager may not be asking us to work around the clock (although I have known managers who do – one in particular was notable for saying, “The REAL work doesn’t start until 6pm!”), it must be something in the corporate culture that is asking us to sacrifice in this way.

I realize this is not something particular to women, although I do worry that it might be affecting us to a greater extent. I explored some of the reasons for this recently in my post on the lack of female mentors – successful women have a hard time saying “no.”

It must be that this kind of behavior is rewarded. I know I had a boss at one point who judged everyone on “face time” – or the amount of time they spent in the office. At the very least, he judged people negatively if they weren’t around when he went looking for them. It is fortunate for us all that he retired before we introduced the work-from-home policy!

So how do we fix this? I think all of the corporate HR programs that support mental and physical health are a start. We need to have confidential ways to deal with the stress and anxiety any job can give us. Health insurance incentives to address weight, blood pressure, blood sugar issues can help.

But these will only go so far. What companies really need to do is to change their culture. We need to stop rewarding people for “face time” (I mean really, are people actually more productive just because they are in the office longer? I think not). We need to see our employees as the valuable resources they are, and care about their health as much as their families do.

Only by changing the culture, by rewarding behavior that brings long-term results, will we build companies of physically and mentally strong employees who are willing to help us succeed.

What do think is the cause? How do we change this culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave them here on the blog or wherever you might be reading this.

And as always, keep it positive!

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Boundaryless careers

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘boundaryless’ career?

Perhaps you imagine a special kind of career that defies definition. A career that spans all functions and facets of a business.

Maybe you thought of a career that could take off in any direction, as if the future were going to be without bounds.

Or maybe your mind takes a cynical turn and you thought of theq all-access (boundaryless) careers we have – email, mobile phone, laptop access 24-7.

Turns out that researchers were thinking of something different.

Social scientists give us this definition:

moving away from one single, externally determined view which defined what a good career is”

From Lips-Wiersma, M, McMorland, J. (2006) “Finding meaning and purpose in boundaryless careers: A framework for study and practice.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 46(2), 147-167.

In other words, a boundaryless career is one that is not concerned with climbing a specific career ladder, but is more concerned with ‘the individual’s experience of the career unfolding.’ In otherwords, a boundaryless career is a non-linear career path.

Boundaryless careers ask individuals to take responsibility for their career paths instead of the corporations that employ them. Traditional careers assume the corporation will move individuals up the ladder and reward employees with increased pay as they work hard and accomplish goals. Boundaryless careers are more concerned with meaning and purpose than with simply climbing a ladder.

My guess is that the idea of a lifetime career not being about climbing a ladder and instead about realizing a larger purpose initially strikes people differently based on their generation. My father (a baby boomer) joined a company fully expecting to work there until he retired. When that didn’t work out, he moved to another company expecting much the same thing. And then when again that did not work out, he went to work for himself, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

I (proudly generation X) personally did not expect to work at the same place for more than a few years before going someplace new. I’m not sure why, but I think my generation was told that we would never be happy in one place for long. I proved them wrong, along with many others of my generation, staying at the same company for 17 years and not leaving by my own choosing. Now, however, given the opportunity to explore possibilities in life and work, I find myself deeply drawn to the boundaryless career idea. I now want my work to be grounded in purpose and meaning.

As for the generations behind me, they were supposed to be the generation that put purpose and fulfillment ahead of any other career ambitions. Yet, in my time in corporate America, I saw a pattern much like mine. I saw the desire not to get stuck, and yet person after person sticking around long after any happiness they had in their position had been sucked out of them.

So although the idea might strike the generations differently initially – the Baby Boomers see a boundaryless career as their rewards after a long time spent slogging away in the corporate jungle, the Generation Xers as an idea that comes after disappointment and heartache, and the Millenials as the way it should have been anyway – it seems to me that we all come around to the idea that work would be much more satisfying and worthwhile if it were more focused on our purpose and brought meaning to our lives.

Now the question is: how do we find and/or build these boundaryless careers? How do we free ourselves of the notion of being ‘stuck’? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives without having to relegate it to time spent outside of work?

These are great questions, and unfortunately there aren’t any easy answers. To reach these goals in life, it takes a great deal of self-awareness and introspection. I’ll give you some questions to start with below. At the same time, I’ll let you in on a secret – The short-cut is to get yourself a coach who will help guide you through this. (I can help with this!)

Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you build your own boundaryless career:

  1. What brings you meaning? Write down your answers. Ask yourself this question over and over, answering from different perspectives (work, home, school, community, etc.) until you run out of ideas.
  2. What are your values? Write them down, then go back and circle the 3 most important. Why are these important to you? What do they look like in real life?
  3. If you were guaranteed not to fail, what would you do right now? What would happen if you failed?
  4. What is it that is keeping you from following your dreams? What would it take to allow you this freedom?

If you are moved by the idea of the boundaryless career, and want some help finding your own, I would love to help! Give me a call, leave a comment, or send me an email.

Why is it so hard to find a female mentor?

In the last week, I have had three conversations with three different women who shared a common frustration. All three were desirous of a female mentor from within their company, and all three were unable to find one.

Why is this?

The stories all three women shared were eerily similar. The problem is not what some might immediately suspect. It was not a problem of finding a senior woman in their company. They each had tried to reach several different women.

The problem all three women reported was the inability to get onto the calendars of any of the senior women in their companies. Sometimes they could get an initial meeting, but even these were often rescheduled several times before taking place. Follow-up meetings were nearly impossible to come by.

Again I ask, why is this?

Collectively, we had a few guesses as to why this would be. We had all been in positions of leadership. As such, we had all confronted the conflict of a full calendar and a team that needed guidance and input. We are all busy – both men and women. Here are some theories on what might be going on.

Senior leadership is a tough job in and of itself

Senior leaders, regardless of their gender, are often consumed by meetings, conference calls, updates, presentations, and more meetings. It is possible that there just isn’t time for them to mentor younger leaders, given their jobs.

Successful women are busier than others

Women are good at getting things done. As the saying goes, if you want something done, ask a busy person. So, logically, successful women are going to be asked to do more things.

Add to this the fact that women have a hard time saying no. Oftentimes, the reason we have reached a certain level of leadership is because we never said no on the way up. Challenging assignments, lateral moves, whatever it was, women say yes.

You want that done tomorrow? No problem. You want that completely rewritten? Sure! Now? Of course! You want me to reorganize the entire department and increase revenues by 200% by next quarter? You got it!

In fact, I had a senior leader at my company that preached that the only way to get ahead was to always say yes. You can bet the women took that to heart.

Because of their skill and their willingness to take on more and more, successful women’s plates are filled fuller than most. If you think about it, it makes sense. The more you do right, the more the company is going to want you to handle. And if we never say no, there is very little space left for things not on the agenda, like employee development. Especially those requests for development from women in other areas of the company or other companies.

As is often said, there are only so many hours in the day and sometimes we run out of them.

There just aren’t enough of them

Despite the fact that there are women in senior leadership, it is possible that there just are not enough of them. How many junior associates can one senior leader feasibly mentor?

And if the first theory is true, that senior leaders in general do not have time to mentor, this becomes even more problematic.

It could also be a problem that the senior women work in a different division/section/ department of the company than the women seeking mentors. It can be a challenge to reach out across these lines to make a mentorship relationship work. That senior leader is likely going to spend any time she has for employee development on those employees working under her span of control.

There is no tangible incentive to mentor other women

I list this here because I have heard employees mention this as a potential reason they cannot seem to meet with a mentor. It is largely true that it is very difficult to quantify the value of investing in young women leaders. I have never seen an executive incentive plan that listed ‘mentorship’ as a goal (I’m sure they exist somewhere – I just think it is exceedingly rare).

That said, I believe most of us want to mentor other women. We want to impact their lives in positive ways, help them navigate the corporate world, help them to be successful and reach their dreams. But we work for corporations, and corporations set the priorities.

So what do you do if you are looking for that mentor and she just doesn’t seem to have time for you?

The best suggestion I have is to do what the guys do – find an informal way to connect. Swing by her office, talk to her briefly after a meeting, attend a company function. Don’t be a pest, but find ways to connect that don’t require her to block 30 precious minutes on her calendar.

And if you get that meeting, be prepared! Have specific questions to ask or situations to get her input on. Do not waste that precious time! Follow-up with a thank you and ask for the next meeting right away. Better yet, ask her if you can work with her assistant to put regular (quarterly, perhaps) meetings on her calendar.

I appreciate your thoughts! Have you tried to engage a female mentor? How hard was it to find one and to meet with one? What advice do you have for others looking to do the same?

Good luck! As always, stay positive!

“You’re so strong!” and other ways we talk to our kids

A recent Walk-a-Thon at a local school

Recently I have been working in our public schools. Most of the time I am in primary schools. I love these kids – they are all trying to do their best, learn the rules, and understand where they fit in this world. Hard work!

It is especially tough when they also have to learn their multiplication tables, how to write an essay comparing and contrasting diverse topics, and the history of our country. I don’t know if you remember this time in your life, but this is a lot for kids to handle all at once.

Being around all these kids and all of this potential, I became curious. As many of you may know, my big question is why women are not reaching the same levels in corporate America as men. I wondered if there was anything I could see at this young age that could help to answer the question.

I also did some reading. It turns out that we start conditioning our children for their gender roles at a very young age. In fact, the minute they are born they start receiving messages about the “appropriate” way to act.

There are studies that show that we talk to babies differently the moment we become aware of their assigned gender. For example, an active baby in utero, when known to be a boy, is described as “active” or a “future sports star.” In contrast, we refer to female babies in emotional terms, saying things like “she must be upset” or “she’s feisty today!” And just to be clear, this is a generalization. This is not always the case, but it is generally the case.

This gendered talk continues throughout life. As young children, we talk more to our daughters than we do to our sons. We teach girls that showing emotion is okay, and our son’s that it is not. We caution our girls to be more careful, and tell our boys how strong they are. This ‘conditioning’ continues throughout their lives, often in small, subtle ways.

One day, while working with a group of clever first-graders, I happened upon an interesting and telling situation. I held up a picture that looked something like this:

I asked the kids, “What is this?” The answers, predictably, were almost a unanimous “Man.” The answer in the teacher’s manual agreed with them. I tried to get the students to give me other answers, but about the only other thing they came up with was “boy.”

The next picture looked like this:

And the kids shouted out before I could even ask them, “Mom!” This time the teacher’s manual disagreed (they were looking for the word ‘woman’). No matter what kind of prompting I gave them, the kids continued to insist that the only word for this person was “Mom.”

So already at this young age, we are conditioned to see gender roles. We see men as simply ‘men’ and women are assigned the role of ‘mother.’ Now, this could be just the case in this one class, in this one school, on this one particular day, but I don’t think so. I think this would likely happen over and over again in classrooms across the country – possibly around the world.

Here is something else I got curious about. When do we start making gendered choices about our career paths? I started asking every kid I could, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Here are some of the most common answers I got from the boys:

  • Policeman – grades 2,4,5
  • Fireman – grades 1,2,4
  • Duck – grade 2 (okay, this wasn’t common, but was super cute)
  • Engineer – grade 5
  • NFL Player – grades 4, 5
  • Soccer Player – grades 3, 4, 5
  • NBA Player – grade 5

Here are the most common answers I got from the girls:

  • Unicorn – grades 1, 2 (surprisingly common!)
  • Veterinarian – grade 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Lawyer – grades 4, 5
  • Mermaid – grades 2, 3
  • Shopper – grades 1, 2
  • Teacher – grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Nurse – grade 5

This is clearly a completely unscientific sample. I offer it only as a potential insight into how early some of these ideas take shape. We tell our daughters “You can be anything you want!” Then day after day we present the idea that they should be caretakers and nurturers. We say “Reach for the stars!” while simultaneously cautioning them to be careful, to be polite, to smile.

We tell them we love them inside and out, that they are beautiful regardless of how they look (and we mean it!) but then day after day, we bombard them with ideas about their weight, their demeanor, their skin, their clothes, their smile.

We do our boys similar injustices. We need more male teachers, nurses, and unicorns. We need to teach them that it is okay to show emotions, and that violence is not the answer to everything. Or anything. Again, every day we tell them, “You can be anything you want!” while chastizing them for showing compassion or empathy.

I don’t have any answers for this. I don’t know how to fix this except to encourage everyone to think about the way you talk to children. Consider whether your well-intentioned comments and corrections might be limiting the childs future dreams and ambitions.

And as always, stay positive!

5 Reasons You Need a Coach

Do you need a coach?

The HUB Leadership Consulting Group

Have you been thinking about getting a coach? Perhaps someone has suggested the idea to you. Perhaps you’ve read something somewhere that mentioned coaching. Perhaps you just know you need a little help. This is all good news. It means that you are already looking to grow, to improve, to understand yourself better, and to build new and different skills.

If you aren’t quite sure what a coach might help with or whether a coach is even the right thing for you, let me give you some insight and concrete examples of what a coach can do for you.

Before we get there, note that there are many different “flavors” of coach out there – life coaches, career coaches, executive coaches. Every one of these folks, regardless of their specific label, is here to do one thing – help you to be the best version of yourself. How they go about it may differ considerably, but largely their mission is all the same.

I have worked with several coaches over the years. One executive coach helped me negotiate through some significant personal tragedies while maintaining my career trajectory. She also helped me to deeply consider my future professional path and make some initial changes in how I considered my role in my company.

A life coach I worked with helped me to realize how much I had separated my work-self from my true-self, and how important it was for me to reunite those two parts. She also helped to take some dramatic risks in my life that have helped me to grow significantly and reclaim some joy in my work life.

A business coach I hired helped me to understand what it will take to get my own business off the ground. She gave me support, encouragement and accountability when I needed it most. She also connected me with necessary resources, both human and otherwise that will be important as I continue to build my company.

An outplacement coach helped me considerably when I suddenly found myself without a job. He helped me plan, he held me accountable to the plan, and to this day he continues to connect me with resources and helps me to feel supported and encouraged.

Here are some reasons you should consider hiring a coach:

  1. You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how
  2. You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take
  3. You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss
  4. You feel stuck
  5. You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how

Have you heard the phrase “What got you here won’t get you there?” It is the absolute truth. Every step of a career journey requires a new strategy and a new set of skills. Sometimes, the requirements are obvious. Sometimes, not so much.

A coach can help you deal with the struggle of performing at the highest level in your current role while developing the necessary skill set for the job ahead. She can help you see what steps to take, and when to take them, to help you navigate the crazy world of corporate advancement.

You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take

Sometimes there is something pulling at your heart telling you it is time to make a change. Sometimes is it just a hint, other times it is a roar.

Maybe you are not even sure what change to make, you simply know something needs to be different.

But then what?

A coach can help. She can help you decipher what it is that needs to change. She can help you figure out the first step, the second step, or even the hundredth step. By helping you gain clarity of vision, she can help you along the path, make adjustments along the way, and can help hold you accountable to your goals. She can also help keep you from backsliding into old habits and routines.

A coach can help you find your new, brighter future.

You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss

It is rare that we receive the feedback we need from our bosses today. Managers in every field, at every level, are busy, distracted, and ill equipped to offer the feedback most of us are looking for.

I remember one time receiving my annual review and being upset by all of the high marks. It seemed my boss could find nowhere for me to improve. But I wasn’t running the company yet, so surely there was something I needed to work on!

A coach is a great person to help you with the “what got you here won’t get you there” kind of feedback. She will help you to spot your strengths and your weaknesses and help you to work on both.

A coach can give you honest, objective feedback that will help you to reach your goals. If something doesn’t seem to be working, she can help you figure out a better way to move forward. She might even be able to provide valuable insight into why others respond they way they respond.

If you are looking to understand better how you are doing and strategies for improvement, hire yourself a coach!

You feel stuck

Sometimes you aren’t feeling the pull to change, but you still feel stuck. It could be that you wake up feeling like work has become a struggle. It could be that you used to love what you do, but it just doesn’t inspire you in the same way anymore. It could be that the next step up isn’t the step you want to take, and you don’t know where else to look.

A coach can help you get clarity about why you feel stuck and what next steps are the most appropriate for you to take. She can help you work through things that might be holding you back from being your best self and help you get unstuck.

You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

We all have one life to live, and we ought to enjoy as much of it as we can. If there is some part of your life where joy is hard to find, a coach can help you to find it. Or change it. Or rearrange it. Or uncover it.

Whatever needs to be done to find the joy in your life, a coach will be there to help you uncover what you need to do to find it.

There are many coaches out there. Do your due diligence to be sure you pick one that you trust and that you feel comfortable working with. You’ll be practicing quite a bit of vulnerability with this person, so be sure you are ready and willing to do the hard work and feel safe doing so.

And if you are looking for a coach, start here! Send me an email using the ‘Contact’ button and we will set up an initial call to see how I can help you. I would love to help you no matter what your goals are, and can’t wait to hear from you!

As always, stay positive!

Happy Anniversary

A Year in Review

Normally we think of anniversaries as a time of celebration. Weddings, birthdays, and work anniversaries give us a chance to celebrate another year of accomplishment and (presumably) happiness.

Sometimes we celebrate the anniversaries of terrible events. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or a catastrophic event, an anniversary can bring up difficult emotions and feelings.

Regardless of whether it is a happy or sad event, an anniversary gives us a chance to reflect on something important that has happened in our lives. It is an opportunity to revisit what happened, how it impacted us (whether positively or negatively), and to consider how the passage of time has changed us. It often is a time to thoughtfully consider how we continue to move forward.

One year ago today (this seems unbelievable), I was laid off from my company of 17 years along with 300+ of my colleagues. So to myself and to all of my friends I say

Happy Anniversary.

As I sit and reflect today, I find that I am still struggling to determine whether this was a happy event or a sad event in my life. It certainly has qualities of both.

I am sad because I miss my colleagues. I miss the company where I dedicated 17 years of my life, and I miss the certainty of having a job to go to every morning and a paycheck arriving in my bank account every month. I miss being surrounded by amazing people every single day. I am sad to be detached from an industry I came to love.

On the other side of things, I am so happy about the opportunities I have had since then. I have quite a list that I am going to share here, none of which involve a traditional job. My hope is this will offer some encouragement to others still struggling to land.

I started my own business: The HUB Leadership Consulting Group. As part of this, I have worked with some amazing clients as a career coach. I have done quite a bit of public speaking (coming up next: WiBN Leadership Conference), and I have written 20+ blog posts. I would never have done all of this had I still been working at my previous company.

Through the work with my company, I have come to realize how important diversity is to my mission in life. No matter where I land or who I work for, the desire to continue learning and helping others to learn about critical diversity issues will always be a part of what I do.

I have built my network in all directions. I have met some absolutely amazing women and men all the way from Dayton to Northern Kentucky and across the country. Many of them I now call friends. We meet for coffee, lunch, or attend events together, or connect by phone or through social media. Regardless of when and where we meet, we support, encourage, and inspire each other. I am eternally grateful for these connections!

I have been back on stage, now working on my third show this year. This is one of the most incredible things to me – it seems unbelievable that it took leaving my corporate position for me to feel comfortable getting back on the stage. I believe that no matter where I end up, I will now always keep some connection to this part of my life.

I spent some important quality time with my kids this summer. I will admit, I was pretty scared to spend the entire summer at home with these guys. Having never been a stay-at-home mom, throwing me in the deep end with two teenage boys and a preteen girl seemed downright crazy. Turns out I loved it. I absolutely loved spending time with these spectacular individuals, and the time flew by.

I opened an Etsy shop! I take any anxiety I am feeling over my job search and at the end of the day, channel it into my knitting needles and crochet hooks. And now I sell my creations! This also allows me to share my hobby with my Mom, who also creates items for our shop. We have fun, and I am fairly certain we never would have taken this step if I hadn’t had this freedom to dream.

I know most of my colleagues have landed somewhere new. Some of us, however, are still out here searching. I will admit that I am rather shocked to find myself in that second category. That said, I will continue on my journey, will keep my head up, will continue to stretch myself and grow and do things that scare me. I’ll continue to support those around me and will allow them to support me.

And as always, I will stay positive. You do the same! Happy Anniversary.

“Learning diversity” – Using Fiction as a Tool

As a white woman who grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago I was not exposed to much in the way of diversity throughout my youth. Every so often, a church mission trip would take us places that seemed utterly foreign to me as if we had traveled to a different planet. But these were places that existed ‘elsewhere.’ They were not a part of my world.

One experience in childhood, however, did open my eyes to the fact that others did not enjoy the same privilege I enjoyed. My grandparents took me on a vacation to Mexico, ostensibly to see the amazing tourist attractions – the pyramids, the beaches, the fancy hotels. Instead, what I saw, what I remember as a jolt of electricity in my belly, was women sitting on the streets with their babies. When I asked Grandma why this was, she explained matter-of-factly that they didn’t have a home to go to.

Even college offered me little in the way of exposure to people different from me. In my small, midwestern, academically elite school I rarely had cause to think of experiences beyond my own. I do remember one choir trip to the South where we attended a Southern Baptist church service. I remember the incredible and unbounded joy expressed during this service – out loud! And realized again that my experiences were not universal.

All of this to say, I have had to work hard to “learn diversity.” It has become a passion for me, and I have been taking up any opportunity I can find to learn. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading, attending seminars, participating in conversations and discussions. And every so often, it can get overwhelming. I need a break.

For me, that means reading. Usually cozy mysteries. Always fiction. This time, I decided I would try something different. I went to my library app and searched under popular fiction and the first book I could find that was available right away has led me on a whole new journey. I have now overloaded my library holds with books written from perspectives that differ widely from mine. For now, I am sticking to the ‘female’ perspective (in quotes because the meaning of that word is also under exploration), to contemporary fiction, and if at all possible, to American fiction. I feel like this is where I need to start.

The two books I will share below are simply where I have started. I know there are many, many options out there, and I’d love to hear from you what fiction books have opened your eyes to new ways of understanding this world we live in.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The first book I read was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Not only is this a beautifully written book, it is captivating and such a great read. The story makes personal the bullet points we see in every diversity presentation – the incarceration of black people, especially men, is disproportionally high. In this case, a black man who we know, without doubt, is innocent is sent to jail for committing rape.

The story follows the lives most affected by this conviction – the man himself, his wife, and their best friend. We also hear about the parents of both the husband and the wife and their struggles to deal with this tragedy.

The story is so compelling because it feels so real. It feels like a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story. I felt as though the author allowed me, for the hours it took to read the book, to understand and feel what the impact of this injustice can do to real people. It literally derailed a life, tore apart a marriage, and caused stress, confusion, and chaos in the lives of so many peopled.

The story helped me to get inside the reality of what is happening to so many people, people different from me, in our society today. It helped me to see beyond the bullet point on the PowerPoint slide and to feel the pain of individuals who are faced with this kind of injustice.

I highly encourage everyone to read this book.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

My choices of book to read are dictated by the availability at the public library. That said, I am very pleased that the next book to pop into my queue was Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner. While not a tale of racial diversity, I was pleasantly surprised by the differences introduced by the fact that the family was Jewish, that one of the women was a lesbian, and that the other was childfree by choice.

This story follows the lives of two sisters who’s stories alternate as they move through time, the major events of the decades passing by in the background. As time progresses, the lose themselves, then find themselves again several times, in various ways.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot – I’d love for those reading the book to experience the empathy as these two sisters follow their journey – sometimes experiencing incredible pain, other times overwhelming joy. Suffice it to say, I learned quite a bit from these two characters.

I felt through the story the pain of having to suppress significant parts of your identity simply to fit in, to be seen as “normal.” I learned the difficulties behind the healing after significant personal tragedy. I saw a world where women faced the difficulties of trying to get ahead in a male dominated world decades before the present day.

This book only offers small windows into these different experiences women might face in their lives, and yet it is so well written that you feel strong empathy with each passing challenge the sisters face. I am grateful to have had a peak into this window, and hope it helps me to act with even greater empathy towards others.

……

Fiction gives the authors the latitude to fully explore issues of diversity, to provide a different vantage point to explore the amazing things that make each of us unique. I know I have read many books of this type before – I simply chose these two books because of the incredible quality of writing and because I happened to have read them recently.

What fiction books have you read that have opened your eyes to a new way of thinking about your neighbor? I’d love some suggestions!

As always, stay positive! Pass along a smile!

Women in the Workplace – Lack of Fit

This post is going to require some work on your part. Don’t worry, it won’t be difficult. But before moving on, I’d ask that you open a blank Word document or grab a pen and paper before you read on.

Your first assignment: Picture a CEO. Jot down some of your thoughts regarding the image in your mind. Just a few sentences or adjectives will do. DO NOT overthink this, just go with your first impression. We’ll get back to this later.

Now for a story. Have you heard this? Its an oldie-but-goodie. A man and his son are out one night, driving along a dark, winding road when suddenly a major storm moves in. A deer jumps out of the woods in front of their car, and the father, in an attempt to avoid the deer, swerves and smashes into a tree. The emergency personnel rush to the accident and tragically pronounce the father dead at the scene. The young boy, badly injured, is rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. As he is wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon looks down at the young patient and exclaims, “I cannot operate on this boy. He is my son!”

How can this be? If you are like most people, the first time you heard this story you were confused. Didn’t the dad die at the scene? Does the boy have two dads? No. In fact, the surgeon is the child’s mother.

Why is it that our instinct is to assume that the surgeon is a man?

Back in 1973, an astute social scientist named Virginia Schein was asking questions about why more women were not being promoted into leadership roles. At that time, Dr. Schein worked as a manager for MetLife in New York. The prevailing answer to her question at the time was that women simply did not wish to be leaders. Dr. Schein believed there was more going on below the surface.

In a series of research papers published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Dr. Schein asked research participants to list the most important traits of a successful leader.

Go ahead and do this for yourself. You can simply add to the CEO traits you listed above, or if ‘Leader’ brings to mind something new and different, make a new list.

Next, she asked participants to list the most common traits associated with men.

Do this yourself as well.

Then, she asked participants to list the most common traits associated with women.

Again, jot some ideas down.

Finally, she compared the lists. What she found uncovered an uncomfortable truth – the list of the leadership traits and the male traits were very similar, while the list of the leadership traits and the female traits varied significantly. This led to the ‘Think Manager-Think Male’ theory that has been proven in many studies since then.

One of the interesting parts of the initial research – all of the participants were men. Likely she had a problem similar to the one I faced in my attempt to include women of color in my studies – she just could not find enough female leaders to include in her studies.

But it does highlight another problem – the dominant culture will be the group to define the rules of the game. Research seems to indicate that it isn’t that male qualities are the best leadership qualities, but that since men are in leadership, they will necessarily believe that their qualities make for the best results.

Opinions on the “best” leadership qualities have changed since the 1970s. Back then, words like commanding, or assertive, or even aggressive were common. Nowadays, you likely included something along the lines of collaborative, or even supportive, or perhaps even inclusive.

And yet, even with leadership qualities that are more aligned with the female stereotype, I’d ask you to look back at your description of a CEO. Did you picture a man or a woman? Some of you did, in fact, picture a woman, and you are wonderful for that. Most people, however, pictured a tall, white, older male. If you did, don’t worry – you’ve just uncovered a hidden bias! Now you can work on adjusting it.

The impact of the ‘Think-Manager, Think-Male’ phenomenon is significant. It means that when company leaders are looking to fill a management position, their inherent bias toward picturing men in the position will lead them toward male candidates more readily than female candidates. This is true no matter the gender of the hiring manager.

It means that men will be considered for roles they aspire to while women will only be considered for roles they have already proven themselves in. It means that men will be supported despite failures and a woman’s failure will be seen as inevitable.

The solution to this issue is a catch-22. To get more women (or any other minority, for that matter) into leadership roles we need more women (or other minorities) in leadership roles. If the images we see when the letters CEO are uttered are not just white males, but truly reflect the diversity of our society, then we will disrupt the ‘Think Manager-Think Male’ paradigm. To get there, we need to recognize our inherent biases and actively work against them. When choosing our leaders, we need to ensure we are intentionally looking in all directions for the best candidate, regardless of their personal qualities.

For a final assignment, I encourage you to consider ways in which you might stretch your mind when considering candidates for the next leadership role you will help to fill. Write them down. And then when the time comes, use them.

As always, keep it positive!

Selected further reading:

HBR – Alice Eagly: Women as Leaders. Dr. Eagly is an expert on gender and leadership.

Fast Company – The Gender Divide

Psychology Today: Why Women Make Better Leaders than Men

Inc. Magazine: 7 Traits of True Leaders

Leadership Lessons from the Theater

James and the Giant Peach – Bart’s Bards 2019

I have been having some fun while continuing my job search and slowly but surely putting my consulting business into place. Sometime late last year I made the decision to audition for the theater. It might have been the best decision I have made in the last many months.

We have a super high-quality community theater just down the road from our home and since I am always looking for ways to scare myself, to reach outside my comfort zone, this seemed like a perfect idea. My goal was simply to do the very best I could at the audition. Honestly. I had no true expectation of being cast. I had been out of the theater for at least 15 years. I simply wanted to strap on the tap shoes and go out there and give it my all.

Imagine my surprise when I was cast! I had an amazing time doing the show, met some incredible people, and reaffirmed my personal love for the stage. After that show I did another, and am now collaborating on a youth summer production. My heart is happy when it is in a theater.

Given that I am now spending so much time there, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what it takes to put on a full musical theater production. It is amazing! And truly, it takes leadership at all levels.

I now believe it would be an incredibly powerful exercise to have leaders go through the process of producing some type of live event. There are significant leadership lessons at every step for those in corporate America.

Here are some examples from both on stage and behind the scenes:

Actors: These folks are clearly necessary for a show to go on. Whether they play the leads or are part of the ensemble, there is no show without actors. Imagine the situations they are faced with:

  1. Personal responsibility. There is very little help on stage when lines, blocking (where they move, stand, etc), song lyrics, choreography is forgotten. It is all up to you.
  2. Crisis management. Sometimes your co-star will forget their lines and you have to help cover. Sometimes your costume rips right before you are to go on stage. Sometimes the microphone battery dies right in the middle of your song, or a prop is missing, or the lights don’t come up when you expect them. You have to deal with all of these potential situations.
  3. Communication. As an actor, it is your responsibility to deliver the story. Do it well and the audience comes away inspired and entertained. Fail, and the efforts put forth by everyone involved in the production are for naught.

Crew: The crew is made up of the folks handling the lights, the sound, the props, and moving the scenery during the show, among many, many other things. These folks bring the story to life. Some situations they deal with, many of which are similar to those of the actors:

  1. Personal Responsibility: These folks, and there are rarely enough of them, have to move fast and have to know exactly what they are doing. If someone has to move a piece of furniture, it is up to them to move it. Quickly. Exactly. No one is there to help (they are busy moving other things).
  2. Team Work: Often the crew has to work together to pull off intricate changes in scenery, props or lighting. There has to be a high level of trust on the team to get the whole job done.
  3. Crisis Management: When the batteries of a mic run out, or the spotlighter suddenly calls in sick, or the stage wall that is supposed to open suddenly gets stuck, it lands on the shoulders of the crew to handle it. There is no one to call, no one to hand the problem off to.

Costumer/Hair/Make-up/Props: These folks own their own fiefdoms under the direction of the director. They are all behind the scenes, but their work has a significant impact on the outcome of the show. They deal with:

  1. Limited Resources: These folks have to make the most out of everything they have. A good friend of mine spent money for some expensive fabric for one show exclaiming that she would find a way to use that fabric in every show to follow. And she has! The Props professionals (in community theater certainly) source all of their needs from donations, thrift shop finds, and creative reuses from past shows.
  2. Conflict Management: I can’t tell you how many times, as an actor, as a costumer, as a bystander, I have dealt with conflict over costumes, hair, and make-up. One child wouldn’t go on stage because her “makeup wasn’t as pretty as everyone elses.” In another case, an actor was furious about her wig. Or an actor refused to wear the hat.
  3. Crisis Management: In the last show I worked on, an actor walked right into a tube of red lipstick right before she was to go on stage. It took quick thinking to grab a stole from the back and whip it over her head to hide the stain as she rushed on. Pants rip, suspenders snap, shoes get lost….backstage can become a near war zone during some shows!

Producer/Director/Coreographer/Designers: These are the folks that make up the official leadership of the show. Their challenges are rather clear:

  1. Setting the vision: The director is charged with providing the vision, and the producer and others for supporting that vision and helping to communicate it to the cast and crew.
  2. Creating the culture: Each show has its own vibe. Some shows are packed with more drama behind the scenes than in front of them, and some are extremely uplifting. This can be largely attributed to the culture created by the show leadership. I have been very fortunate to have been involved in the latter in nearly every case, but have heard plenty of horror stories about the former.
  3. Decision making: This oh-so-important quality comes in spades for these folks. From casting the show to determining the look and feel of the stage to the rehearsal schedule and everything in between, these folks are making and communicating hundreds (if not thousands) of decisions before the show opens its curtains.

Pulling off a live production is a monumental feat. It calls for leaders at all levels to do their very best. It challenges each participant, whether on the stage, offstage, or behind the scenes, to exercise their leadership muscles.

It seems to me, every corporation might do well to produce a live show. It would certainly throw many people outside their comfort zone, would help to grow some very necessary leadership skills, and might even expose some leadership gaps that can then be corrected!

It also goes to show that leadership lessons can be found everywhere. As they say in the theater, The Show Must Go On!

As always, keep it positive, and share a smile if you’ve got one!

Girls and Ladies and Guys and Dudes – The Language We Use

Dictionary of the English language

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I remember my mom teaching me that when I was little – I was a very small, physically timid, sensitive kid. I wasn’t aggressively bullied, but I certainly had my share of taunting. And it hurt. I tried to believe my mom, but somehow, I just couldn’t shake the mean things those kids said to me.

In reality, we all know that words DO hurt. While physical pain may heal, the destruction wrought by cruel, demeaning, mocking words can last a lifetime. Sometimes this language comes at us deliberately with the intent to cause harm. I saw this happen way too often between the 4th grade girls my daughter hung out with (or didn’t, because they were mean). And I remember being the same when I was that age. Kids can be cruel.

There is also quite a bit of rhetoric in our current political environment that seems intended to be cruel. This language is overt, deliberate, and is used to gain an advantage.

But there is another side to all of this – the unintentional harm that language can cause. This tends to happen ‘under the radar’ and it happens all the time. Slights, inadvertent uses of words that someone finds offensive, the inappropriate use of a cultural reference…these are sometimes hard to spot and generally result from lack of exposure, lack of understanding of another group’s culture, a simple misunderstanding, or personal preference. The amount of offence taken can vary from person to person, even between those of similar characteristics.

It can sometimes seem that we have become, as a society, overly sensitive to the language we use to refer to each other. And yet, it is important. As the demographics of our country change, as diversity becomes more and more a part of everyone’s lives, the understanding of how to relate to each other becomes an urgent matter. The words others use to define us carry meaning and intent. This is why certain words are offensive when spoken by some, and yet not offensive when used by in-group members.

At a recent diversity workshop I participated in, this question was posed to the people of color in the room: How do you wish to be identified? Each person had a different, personal, response. Some people were passionate about the words used to identify them. Others did not, to a certain point, care. The problem was, how do you know who is who? How in the world do we navigate such an impossible minefield?

This has also come up in several recent conversations I have had with friends and colleagues. In one, a friend referred to me as a “gal.” She quickly added, “…unless you hate being called a ‘gal’. I should have said ‘woman.’” In another longer conversation with several women, one of them referred to us all as “chicks.” She then quickly added that she meant nothing disrespectful by using that word (as far as I know, none of us felt disrespected in the least) – and a long, incredibly interesting conversation ensued, covering many things including the use of ‘girl vs woman vs guys vs dudes’.

During this discussion, we also covered when and where we police our language – where we tend to be more cautious about the words we use. Each of us had a different take on this which led to such a rich collection of thoughts and ideas.

Given my focus on women in the workplace, I thought it would be interesting to share this discussion with a larger audience, and invite my friends in to share their thoughts in their own words.

A word about these friends – we are all women, we are all white, and we all belong to a group that believes in providing non-judgemental support for each other. That is roughly where the similarities end. We are from different states, from coast to coast. Our upbringings differ widely, our educational levels are not the same. Some of us work inside the home, and some outside. Some of us have kids, some do not. Some of us are married (even more than once in some cases), some of us are not. We might have similar political leanings, but we don’t talk about that.

I considered editing their responses, but I love their incredible ways of expressing themselves – I am just going to leave them as is. In order to keep this to a somewhat reasonable length, I have not included all responses, but have tried to be sure all viewpoints are covered as best I can.

Some take-aways:

  • Everyone is different, and kindness and respect dictate that we should recognize this;
  • Our understanding of the world and of ourselves changes over our lifetimes;
  • The words we use matter;
  • As Megan states: “HOW we speak to others about their language usage is just as important as explaining why some terms are outdated or offensive” because we all come from different places, have had different experiences, and really just want to get along.

How do you like to (or usually) refer to groups of women? (girls, chicks, women, guys, ladies, dudes, etc)

Anna: For me, how I refer to a group of women depends on who those women are. When I’m speaking about the group I grew up with – the ones who knew me when I was a skinny, braces-wearing, wannabe cheerleader – that group is my girls. When I’m speaking about my village of soul sisters that I developed in adulthood, they are ladies. And when I am speaking about the larger female and female-identifying group, most often I refer to them as women. These distinctions are not something I think about, but rather are conventions I’ve developed over time based on familiarity, comfort, where I am in my own life, and, in a sense, external standards of political correctness.

Emily: If I’m in a group of only women, I usually use the word “ladies.” But I’m also a major fan of gender-neutral terms like, “folks,” “y’all,” and “friends.” When I refer to myself, I usually say “person” or “human.” Occasionally, when I’m frustrated by someone treating me a child—general infantilizing of women and/or infantilizing of millennials—I’ll refer to myself as a “grown-ass woman.”

Erin: I use “friends” if it’s among friends, “everybody” or “us all” or even “peeps”. “Ladies” in business environments, typically. Trying to work more “them-friendly” language into my life – that’s slow going.

Jill: I have given a great deal of consideration to the words that I use to describe people because I want to be accurate and inclusive in my use of language. When I am consciously thinking about it, I typically use the word “ladies” to refer to a group of women. I landed on this word because I like the slight connotations of formality, sophistication, and respect. To me, the word “women” feels a little impersonal, although I think it is also a perfectly acceptable word to use. “Gals” feels like an old-fashioned word that it is an afterthought to the far more common word “guys.” Occasionally, I will slip into saying “you guys” when I am talking to a group of women, although I am in general trying to remove that expression from my vocabulary because it implies that being male is a default.

On the other hand, I have been calling my close friends (mostly women) “dudes” since the time I was in high school. To me, the word dude is an indicator of inclusion in certain subcultures (i.e. stoners, surfers, skaters, particular music scenes). Often when women use the word, it is a way to subversively express a sense of belonging in those spaces, which are frequently male-dominated. I still use the word “dude” or “dudes” when talking informally to people of all genders, although I have recently come to consider that calling a transwoman a “dude” could be very offensive because it does, on balance, still have male connotations.

Megan: In the past, I’ve usually tried to say ladies or women, but in the last year or so, I’ve been trying to curb my usage of calling women ladies, though I haven’t been entirely successful. As I’ve been reading more feminist books and really evaluating my usage of language, the term “ladies” has begun to represent a group of women who act in accordance of the rules set out by our patriarchal society to me. In my opinion, while there’s nothing wrong with calling a group of women ladies, the majority of women I know and love don’t necessarily ascribe to patriarchal norms and in some cases, are actively trying to shake them up. Thus, ascribing a word that represents “proper femininity” to them doesn’t seem fitting to me. I’ve also heavily used “you guys” as well, which I’ve been trying to break myself from, but it’s proved much harder.

Then the usage of calling a group of women “girls”, by men irritates me to no end. While I understand that often that men don’t mean anything by it, it feels like a term that is diminishing to women. If a woman uses it, I’ll admit I side-eye it unless it’s someone I know well and understand that their usage of it isn’t representative of the way that they respect women. I sometimes use chicks, but that’s rare – I’m more oft to use “dudes”, though I’m much more likely to call a single person “dude” versus a group of people “dudes”. I’ve had conversations with several of my friends who are very active on the use of language in social justice about the usage of “dude” and largely we feel like it is a West Coast generational thing to use it, though we haven’t looked closely into it. However, now that I’m not on the West Coast, it does feel more foreign to me to use the term dude when referring to someone. I only use that term when I know the person (or group) fairly well though.

How do you refer to yourself? Any thoughts on why?

Erin: I used to be adamant about being called a “girl” until recently. Then I grew up. But now I just don’t care. Call me whatever you want, I know who I am and who you’re talking about.

Jill: I think that the times I am actually most offended are when men refer to women as girls because it is infantilizing. I am occasionally bothered when other women refer to me as “honey” or “sweetheart” because I feel like it implies that I am naive, inexperienced, and need to be cared for. I have always looked young, and I am particularly sensitive to people treating me like I am a child.

There are also contexts in which men refer to women as females, bitches, sluts, whores, etc., which are dehumanizing and thus offensive. However, there are ways, where in the proper context, humor can be used to take those words back. I think it is common for women who are very close to each other to call each other bitch, as in a context such as “Hey my bitch, want to go out for lunch?”

One time, while we were waiting in line at a nightclub, a man (boy?) came up to my four friends and I and referred to us as “five vaginas.” I was honestly more baffled by it than offended because there is no context in which that would be an appropriate way to refer to other people.

Megan: I refer to myself as a woman, since that’s how I identify, though I have been known to call myself a badass every once in awhile too. Who knows though, with our language changing, especially around gender, a new term that I love and feel represents me even better may be just around the corner.

Have you ever been offended by a term someone used to describe you? When/where/why?

Anna: Generally, I get offended when someone I don’t know refers to me in a familiar manner. Even though my husband, for example, calls me babe at home, it’s absolutely not acceptable for a stranger, especially a strange man, to call me babe.

There was another specific instance I remember being extremely offended by a reference. I was in law school in Seattle in the mid-2000s and ran into an African-American NFL player in a club in one of the more posh areas of the city. He called me “Candy.” This was the first time I’d ever met him, so he was not a friend, and every Candy I knew of had been a stripper. Interestingly, when I let him know he’d offended me, he did apologize and explained that the term was apparently a common name/nickname in his community. I’m not sure if he was sincere or not, but that instance still sticks out in my mind.

Emily: I have several friends and colleagues who use the word “guys” to refer to any mix of genders. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say this offends me, but I definitely notice it and feel a bit of a sting. The problem is that the person who most regularly does this is one of my supervisors (a woman), and I don’t feel like I necessarily have the power to call her out on it.

Erin: Nope. I honestly just don’t care about that in the least.

Megan: I don’t know if I’d say offended because I understand that language can be generational and regional, but I’ve definitely been annoyed before. Moving from an area in the Pacific Northwest that is pretty conscious of how people refer to one another down to the South has been quite eye-opening for me. Right after we moved, I had an affluent older middle-aged white man call me “sweetheart” and “girl” and I was annoyed. I didn’t know this man at all and it felt presumptuous to call me “sweetheart” and diminishing to call me (a grown woman) “girl”, especially since I was buying bourbon at the liquor store.

When and where do you find yourself policing your language? Any particular reasons for this that you are aware of?

Anna: I definitely police my language around people and groups that I’m not familiar with. Because I don’t like it when people I don’t know take liberties with their references around me, I try to stick with the most common or politically correct terms and then wait for the person/people to correct me or let me know of their own personal preference. For example, I always start with African-American, Native American (or Alaska Native), and/or Mr./Ms./Dr. I have had people who preferred to be called by their first names or referred to as Afro-Cuban or Indian, and I always make an effort to remember their preference and respect that going forward.

Erin: I try not to police myself as it triggers my social anxiety in a big way. If people are offended by me, then so be it. My language tends to be pretty bland and I’m generally okay with that.

Jill: One of the main ways that I have really started trying to police my language is around issues of inclusion for trans-people and non-binary people. I think there is a shift occurring in language (at least in some circles) where we are either removing gendered language or acknowledging that people exist who are not strictly male or female. Still, it is hard to rework your brain to use new linguistic devices such as alternate pronouns. I think this is particularly challenging in situations where I know people before and after their transition. However, even though it may be awkward and result in an occasional blunder, it is still important for everyone to attempt rewiring their brains to include all gender identities. I have been to a few live performances where the introduction includes language such as “ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between and beyond” or “ladies and gentlemen of all genders,” and although that language is still a little bulky, it takes the important step of acknowledging the existence of all people.

How have you seen your ideas on this change over your life?

Anna: Both of my parents were the children of Army officers and were raised in a very formal environment, so they, in turn, raised me to err on the side of formality. My sister and I were some of the only kids who always referred to our friends’ parents as Mr. or Ms., and we always made an effort to refer to people based on more neutral characteristics such as city/state/country of origin rather than race or physical attribute. I have found that beginning from a place of formality, similar to at least trying to speak the native language when in a foreign country, lets people know you’re trying, and starts off the relationship on a more amiable foot.

Emily: I used to use the word “guys” to refer to all humans until I read an argument against it in college. I used to call my female friends “girls” until I read an essay about how we never call grown men “boys.” I think I’ve definitely done some learning and growing, and a lot of that came from being called out.

Erin: See [my response to the previous question] above re: girl. So much that my first husband had to take me as his “girlie” in our vows and not as his wife. That relationship had problems and lots of them were me.

Megan: Absolutely. Before university, how I used language to represent myself and others was never given a second thought, especially since I grew up in a conservative, patriarchal environment. Once I got to my very pretty liberal university and into my field of study, my mind was blown about how language can be used to represent us in both positive and negative lights. And after reading a few of the other responses for this blog post, I’ve realized how my language now may not be best epitomizing how I want to convey meaning and representation.

What else should I be asking/would you like to share?

Anna: The one area of language that I think is talked about less often but is becoming increasingly controversial is the issue of cultural appropriation. The most recent example is the use of “tribe” in the self-improvement community, which is perceived to be appropriated from Native Americans vs. taken from anthropology. Similarly, the use of certain cultural references in sports has also been under scrutiny. While the lines are a little more clear when it comes to whether or not to put a label onto someone else, it seems to be less clear when it’s alright to take a word from someone else and put it on yourself.

Erin: I like it when my current husband calls me “wife” or “wife-cakes”, if that helps. 😀

Jill: In professional settings, I think it is best to default to using more formal and less-gendered language, such as women/ladies or people/folks. Occasionally I think that when gendered language is misused, the intention behind is, ironically, an attempt to create a more friendly or impersonal workplace. However, attempting to imply a more intimate relationship in a professional setting has the potential to violate boundaries. I also think it is important to use the same principle when considering intersectional identities. Often the best course of action is to have thoughtful conversations about the words that people prefer. These conversations do not have to take a lot of time, and yet, they can go a long way in creating a feeling of inclusivity.

Megan: I want to share that I feel like HOW we speak to people about their language usage is just as important as explaining why some terms are outdated or offensive. There are so many regional and generational differences in language, that often people just need to be educated on why certain terms could be construed as offensive. And our language now is evolving around representation and gender at such a quick rate that it can be difficult to keep up if you’re not constantly reading or in academic circles, so not everyone will be up to date in how language is best used.

So, as for me, I feel my language evolving. When I am on social media, I often correct a “Hey girl” to a “Hey Lady,” or even just “Hey!” After reading these responses, I’m going to give the word “Lady” some thought too.

And let me say – I know there are many, many other viewpoints out there. As mentioned above, we are all women/gals/chicks/females, and we are all white. This is a limited sample. I’ve already been asked by some of my editors to pose these same questions to other, more diverse audiences. I hope to do that in later posts.

I am interested in your thoughts and ideas on this. What do you think about the words around identity? Have you seen your ideas shift in recent times? Where do you see yourself policing the language you use? Be sure to share.

As always, keep it positive, and have a great day!