How to Deal With Sexism Due to the Weakness of Your Company
“Your company’s slack is probably sexist,” writes Quartz reporter Leah Fessler. As with other open discourse platforms such as Reddit, chat rooms, and email listings, men tend to dominate the conversation. Slack’s open format may favor masculine models of communication such as harshness and incoherence, feminine models such as using softening words, listening to others, and essentially avoiding bullying. Bias can be insidious, but Fessler finds ways to combat it:
- Set norms. Since sexism in Slack is usually subtle or unintentional, it can be awkward to talk about it. Stanford Gender Research director Caroline Simard suggests that teams set a standard for “airtime sharing” so that if a man tends to end the discussion or dominate the discussion, others can point to politics rather than “call him in.”
- To vouch for the authority of the people. Simard also recommends that people draw attention to the reputation of women and people of color to counteract the unconscious assumption that white men are the most skilled people in the room.
- Use direct correspondence and private groups to speak directly. “The pressure that exists in public channels to preface or soften comments and references disappears in DM and private groups,” many women have told me, ”Fessler says. “I also became more direct, and just on my own, according to DM.”
- Support each other in public channels. Even if a man seems to be rejecting the idea of a woman, other women can step in and revive her. Research on email lists showed that women were more likely to “unite” whether they agreed or disagreed, while men behaved like “lone warriors.”
- Put women in leadership positions. Feminist researcher Dale Spender has found that group discourse can shift towards feminine communication styles – if there are more than 60% of women in the group and if at least one active moderator is a woman.
All of the functionality is in your Instapaper as Fessler talks to peers, experts, and representatives in Slack, linking platform-specific phenomena to larger sexist group dynamics trends in order to diagnose a problem and find a solution.