By Liv Stephens

Have you ever been a part of an organization that proudly announces “we are inclusive” or “this is an inclusive space,” then looked around you and seen no diversity?

But, they just said that they are inclusive! Where’s the diversity? Where’s the equity? If an organization has “inclusive” HR practices, shouldn’t a diverse space logically follow?

Man, it would be great to live in a world where causal logic mattered again.


Quinetta M. Roberson argues that inclusivity practices function as an agent of corporate identity, not as an agent of equity. Her study surveyed HR personnel from 51 publicly traded organizations via email. The survey asked how they define diversity, how they define inclusion, the attributes of a diverse organization, and the attributes of an inclusive organization.

The survey revealed that participants had distinctly different definitions of diversity and inclusivity.

Roberson defines Inclusivity as “the degree to which an employee is accepted and treated as an insider by others in a work system” and in the survey as “the ways an organization configures its systems and structures to value and leverage the potential, and to limit the disadvantages, of differences.” Participant “definitions of diversity focused primarily on heterogeneity and the demographic composition of groups or organizations, whereas definitions of inclusion focused on employee involvement and the integration of diversity into organizational systems and processes.”

What the heck does that mean? Diversity makes an organization look like it is comfortable for minorities, while inclusivity makes it feel that way.


Management of diversity through corporate HR practices is not the same thing as corporate inclusivity, she explains. Inclusivity is an identity-blind practice, meaning there rules are made with an imagined minority in mind.

Inclusive workplace policies are made to include any sort of possible minority the HR department can think of, often without thinking of a specific person or group when making these rules.

Diversity management, on the other hand, is done by hiring and promoting actual people.

Roberson concludes that identity-blind management is not always an effective way to promote the interests of marginalized groups, and states that more research must be done in a quest to strengthen the currently weak link between inclusion and practical diversity.

However, as companies continue to adopt inclusivity policies, many remain non-diverse with milk aisle excuses; all these [white] milks are different types, we swear! Inclusivity is a sanitized corporate practice that feigns relevance and uniqueness, but does not always create diverse spaces or improve the experience of diverse and marginalized identities.

We need to fight for inclusive and diverse workspaces if we want to solve the problem of diversity in the workforce.

What’s wrong with being confident?

By Joey Konrad

When you think about your getting your first job, do you often ask yourself what’s next? You know, what’s involved in creating an actual career?

There’s a wide variety of resources available when it comes to the conversation of job interviews and getting started in a career, but there is simply a much smaller discussion out there for negotiating salaries or promotions within your career field, which is just as vital to your career progress.

Besides lack of experience with this discussion, women at work have an additional hurdle of overcoming gender barriers that have employers promoting women by performance, while those same employers are promoting male coworkers based on potential.


The good news is these barriers are not immovable objects, and can be worked around with a little practice. In 2013, Anett Grant and Amanda Taylor video-recorded interviews of men and women in leadership positions within Fortune 50 companies, and generated a list of strategies for women use to resist sexist attitudes or self-doubt in the workplace and promotional conversations.

They found  that women  constantly self-regulate when talking about their potential and their ideas.  As a result, they hesitate in interviews when responding to questions, which can signal lack of confidence. The men studied would also hesitate—but for less time, and responded confidently to questions asked. Grant and Taylor recommend that women should work on shutting off that regulating voice in their heads, and start responses strong and confident, even at the expense of using “filler words”. Additionally, structuring answers and practicing responses beforehand helps to quiet that regulating voice so you can truly speak your mind.

Grant and Taylor also noted that there was a gender gap in keeping responses succinct. Women would often have longer responses because of multiple hesitations and be perceived as less direct. In fact, on average, women’s answers were longer by almost 30 seconds. The researchers point out that’s enough time for Usain Bolt to win gold in the 100 meter dash—twice.

Further, the researchers argued that women discuss achievement and personal success in abstract terms, which isn’t helpful when communicating with higher-ups that are familiar with traditional promotional language. Taking careful note about the work you have contributed, or creating explicit lists of projects and statistical impacts (i.e. monetary gains) to take credit for provides a much more effective response.


Lastly, through this study Grant and Taylor found that communication styles between genders were different.  Men were significantly more likely to use first-person nouns like “I” when discussing achievements, while women often used nondescript pronouns like “we.” Using  “I”, “my”, and “mines” show your actual contributions much more effectively.

Does this seem a little overwhelming? You’re not alone. Try making these changes in everyday speech so that you can avoid having to filter them out in a job interview or when asking for a promotion, which would only create more hesitations in your speech.

Self-promotion is not a random ability that some people have while others are just out of luck; it is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and deployed successfully. Beyond the strategies here, look to InformHer staff writer Rebekah Peterson’s article on modesty for more tips!

“Thats what she said”

By Bronwyn Neal

Whether Michael Scott is making crazy jokes, leading a Diversity Day discussion, or complaining to the camera about Toby, there is no denying the comedic appeal of The Office.  

Although The Office uses humor to shed light on the issues of white male-dominated Western white-collar workplaces, it also, reinforces gender stereotypes that hinder the success of women and men in these corporate settings.


Now, before you curse my name for criticizing this ever most popular and timeless “reality show”, let me explain.

In 2013, Jessica Birthisel and Jason A. Martin analyzed the first 2 seasons of The Office and assigned gender related incidents into 3 categories: gendered hierarchies, corporative initiatives magnifying gender tension, and informal mixed-gendered interaction. The researchers used real-world workplace research in order to explore the ways in which The Office reinforces these frameworks. As a result they were able to assess if the representation of real life office situations in The Office reinforce or challenge the patriarchy that is American corporate life.


Gendered hierarchies are basically power structures; how men and women, as bosses, are perceived. Women in leadership positions tend to be seen as uptight and aggressive; whereas women in a support role are viewed as sweet and helpful. Men as bosses on the other hand are viewed as in charge, but more feminine due to their “suit” and corporate image when compared to more “manly” blue collar positions. These stereotypical characteristics are carried out by The Offices’ main characters; Jane and Michael. Jane, Michael’s boss, is the HBIC at Dunder Mifflin; she is no-nonsense and aggressive when dealing with problems and coworkers. Michael, on the other hand, would rather be seen as a friend than a boss and would rather be seen as “cool” than authoritative.


When corporate initiatives magnify tensions in the workplace, they usually organize a meeting or workshop similar to the one that Michael facilitate called Diversity Day. These meeting essentially place everyone in a space to talk about uncomfortable issues in an effort to make people feel more comfortable. Sounds like a full proof plan, right? I didn’t think so either. Researchers observed that despite good intentions, these meetings tend to increase racial and gender tensions, as demonstrated through Michael’s inappropriate joke telling and conducting activities.

As a fan myself, it saddens me that I was unable to get through this article without mentioning Jim and Pam’s infamous love story. Although their unspoken attraction and lust for one another brings a little flavor to the show, their romance emphasizes that a white, heteronormative romance is the only spark that excites an otherwise boring office setting.


It’s all just fun and games right?

Well, no. Due to the reality show feel and authentic depiction of everyday office life in corporate America, The Office presents its viewers with a work environment where offensive employees and unfitting behavior is neither punished nor received repercussions. Due to the transparency and the realistic characteristics of the office, the lack of responsibility taken for actions naturalizes the sexualization of women and harassment of people based on gender or sexual orientation.

What can you do? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Do not entertain jokes that repress someone’s identity as an individual. This could be something as simple as walking away or not laughing in order to show your discomfort.


  1. Hold people accountable for behaviors and actions that may be offensive to others. It is never fun to call someone out, so taking them aside instead of talking in front of a group will make you and the person more comfortable when trying to educate them on what they did wrong.
  2. Question policies that seem to create division as opposed to collaboration. Policies can change. Just because it is written down doesn’t mean it is set in stone. If you feel like a policy hurts more than help, talk to HR and figure out how you can improve it.   

Hi, I’m Billy Mays, It’s Billy Mays, Here, Hi

By Liv Stephens

We all know that guy at work who won’t stop talking about himself. I mean, it’s like dude, how many times can you talk about yourself the way Billy Mays (RIP) talks about OxyClean?



Men and women talk about themselves differently at work, it’s true. So it would only make sense that they also talked about themselves differently online on social networking and business networking sites.

In 2012, researchers Eimler, Drapkina, Pfänder, Schliwa and Schawohl restate the long-tested idea that men on social networking services (SNS) emphasize power, occupation or status, and masculinity. Women, on the other hand, stress relationships, communication skills, and feelings. But, these researchers specifically wanted to know if this was also true on business networking services (BNS).

To do this, they looked at 200 BNS profiles on the most popular BNS website in Germany: Xing. They examined 100 male and 100 female profiles quantitatively for number of words, number of contacts, and number of groups they participated in or moderated. The profiles were also analyzed qualitatively for business elements (achievements, descriptions, task-oriented phrasing) and non-business elements (feelings, family and friends, networks, creativity, sports, smiling in the profile photo etc.).

What they found was that women make an effort to appear friendlier by smiling and listed more information about themselves in their profile. Men stressed their seriousness and competence through body language, not smiling in their profile picture, and by using more qualifying adjectives. Men also moderated and participated in more professional groups on the site. There was no difference between men and women when it came to listing awards they had received.

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It’s important to understand that men may be receiving more advertising on BNS sites by being visible as moderators in networking groups and using more qualifying adjectives—but this does not mean that women are actually less qualified. The problem with this is iif an employer is comparing the profile of a man and the profile of a woman, the man will still seem more qualified no matter the actual reality. Crazy!


Here’s how to order!

So women, get in there and write some text about how frickin’ qualified you are. Don’t be afraid to seem impersonal by claiming the work you’ve done and the leadership skills you have—in the end, that’s what the site is for, and clearly men are already doing it.

Can a company’s organizational structure actually be more friendly to women?

By Lauren Thatcher

Companies can be gendered? Wait, what?

Let’s begin with talking about a company’s power—it starts with the organizational structure. If decisions are made only by upper management, the company is hierarchical. If the decisions are divided up among all levels of workers, the company is egalitarian.

Researcher Lynn Gencianeo Chin investigated how a company’s organizational structure, centralized (hierarchical) or decentralized (egalitarian), affects leadership evaluations of men and women regardless of their individual leadership styles.


She did this by having 200 college students read and evaluate profiles of companies asking for Federal loans. All companies were from the healthcare field for many reasons, including it can be seen as a gender-neutral industry. She identified each profile as either a centralized or decentralized company, that was lead by a man or a woman.

After being given brief descriptions of the qualifications of the company’s CEO, CEO gender, organizational structure, and organizational outcomes the students were asked to evaluate the profile. For each profile students evaluated the CEO’s leadership skills, as well as rewarded or punished the CEO for the company’s outcome, success or failure.  

For a woman in a hierarchical company, despite her leadership style not being described, she received “dominance backlash.” It didn’t matter if a woman’s hierarchical company succeeded, because women didn’t receive recognition. However, when men’s companies succeeded, the evaluations of their leadership skills increased.

So basically, women can’t win in hierarchical companies. We get lower ratings than men when we fail and we get lower ratings than men when we succeed. Even a woman’s actual competence was questioned more than a man’s competence when their company failed.


After handling that nice punch in the stomach, let’s look at women in egalitarian companies. This organizational structure offers an equality atmosphere that allows women not be devalued next to their male competition when they succeed, thankfully. However, that does not apply if their company fails. Women receive a much comparatively larger drop in evaluations in competence and leadership skills when this occurs.

It’s like this is never ending. There was almost a light at the end of the tunnel with the egalitarian companies…almost. So what does this mean for women in the workplace? What can organizations do to limit this?

Organizations need to create a consistent criteria for evaluating different levels of success. And further, we need to hire more women to make promotional and company culture decisions.

So though the past and present are dim with a negative bias towards women in leadership, hopefully the future can be bright with women supporting other women and organizations strict criteria diminishing opportunity for penalizing women’s leadership.

The Eeny Meeny Miny Mo Game of Assigning Challenging Job Tasks

By Rebekah Peterson

Senior managers, have you ever had a challenging job assignment and weren’t sure who you wanted to give it to? Something like:

“Eeny meeny miny mo…who should I give this project to? Oh, of course, he would be great for this!”


It seems that managers tend to assign challenging job assignments to their male subordinates over their female subordinates—and academic research proves it.

In 2009, researchers Irene De Pater, Annelies Van Vianen, and Myriam Bechtoldt randomly selected 39 senior level supervisors at a pharmaceutical company to participate in a study about job task allocation behavior.

The supervisors answered a questionnaire that consisted of three parts. Participants were asked to:

  1. Give the initials of six subordinates along with their age, gender, and how long they have worked under their supervision; they were given five descriptions of challenging tasks and asked to rank on a scale 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) the extent they would assign a task to each subordinate.
  2. Answer questions about their subordinates ambition and job performance: they ranked on a scale of 1 (not applicable) to 5 (fully applicable) the extent to statements such as “this employee seek managerial positions” applied to each subordinate.
  3. Additionally answer questions regarding perceived similarity to their subordinates because it would play a major factoring in giving out tasks; on the same 1 to 5 scale, they were asked to rank the extent to statements such as “the things I value in life are similar to the things this employee values.”

As discussed in an earlier post about the first part of this study, the results showed that women do indeed get fewer challenging job tasks than their male co-workers, and now part two shows they aren’t receiving these tasks because of their gender. These results were consistent, even after being examined for whether the subordinates’ gender could explain supervisor’s willingness to assign them challenging tasksbeyond the number of years the subordinate worked under their manager, their ambition, job performance, or even supervisor perception of personal similarity to each subordinate.


So, bosses, before you play eeny meeny miny mo for who should get the next challenging job tasks…

  1. Recognize if there is a problem. Have you been assigning your male employees more challenging tasks?  If not, great! Continue with your equal gender task allocation.
  2. If there seems to be a problem, the hardest part is acknowledging it and putting in a system to help address any bias. So next time you need to assign an employee to a challenging tasks, use a system that can help you track your subordinate’s years at the organization and their levels of ambition and job performance to decided more fairly who should get the task.

Or, another idea: make a list of promising subordinates for this tasks and schedule 5 minute meetings with each. See which subordinate has to right management style and ideas to bring to the project.

Make assigning tasks fair for everyone and come up with your own system to ensure that this happens. So from now on, don’t fall into the eeny meeny miny mo game…pick the right person for the challenging task.

Divorce, the wage gap, and household labor? What?

By Eliana Huffman

What if the way gender is performed in your marriage affects things like how much money you make? And what if your culture affects this even further? Researcher Lynn Prince Cooke sought to answer this question in regards to how couples split household labor in the United States compared to Germany, two different countries and cultures, and how this split affected the wage gap.

The results were pretty surprising. In the United States, equally shared household labor between husbands and wives increased female partners’ salaries, and led to lower chances of divorce. In Germany, however, the women’s salaries were also increased, but they experienced greater chances of divorce.


What Cooke boiled it down to was this: in most cultures, men are prescribed the role of economic production (i.e. “breadwinning) in a relationship with a female partner. Women are prescribed the role of domestic (re)production, an equally important task yet one that is often shunned for being “women’s work.”

“Women’s continued responsibility for the domestic sphere inhibits their ability to attain employment equality with men (Ferree 1990; Hartmann 1981; Hobson 1990). So as an interlocking system, the gendered nature of both paid and unpaid work blocks the ability to achieve gender equality in either domain (Ferree 1990, p. 874).”

While many people believe Europeans to be far more liberal than Americans, Cooke found through analyzing longitudinal survey and interview data from the German and United States governments that in West Germany people believed much more strongly in certain genders being assigned certain household tasks, and Germany’s increasing divorce rates are more likely a result of men resenting the change in power dynamic between genders—rather than actual familial issues caused by women doing less housework and men doing more. In fact, the data said families were equally attended to regardless of who took care of these tasks.

Take that, people who think women who work are abandoning their families.


Germany’s social policies still stem from a post-WWII era where having a male breadwinner was extremely idealized, and its culture still surprisingly reflects that. The United States, in contrast, has a longer standing history of allowing women more equal opportunity to achieve the status men do in a professional context—other cultural norms may contradict the ability for women to achieve success, but our policies take a more hands-off approach to the issue entirely.

Is the solution to address outdated policies that affect women decades later? For sure. But there are many solutions to this problem, and it is a truly a big problem indeed—divorcing your life partner is not only expensive, but upsetting, painful and just plain messy.

One big solution that we can all take on a personal level is to talk out issues of resentment and labor expectations with our partners, and come to that conversation with the knowledge that more work at home means more money in the back for you both.

Another is to only pick partners that are down to share the workload equally in the first place. Choosing to share a life with someone who you know is already on the same page in this regard is a much less frustrating alternative than having to actively work through a problem that could be potentially avoided.

Lastly, of course, be sure to praise men and couples who you see actively working towards this egalitarian goal when you can. Validation is often so meaningful to people, and dishing it out can be good for both an individual relationship as well as society at large.

Women’s politeness: it’s a strategy, not a lifestyle

By Lauren Thatcher

Do you feel that? That’s the tension between professional assertiveness and gender-appropriate politeness for women.

According to Tessa M Pfafman and Bree McEwan (2014), women strategically choose to be polite in order to overcome boundaries set by men in the professional world. How did they learn this? The researchers interviewed 18 women from 15 different types of organizations, and they were asked to describe professional men and women, as well as offering their views on what being a professional means and who influenced those views.

While popular media often depicts successful assertive women, in reality, the women studied described how they were met with a much different scenario. Once women achieved positions in the workplace, they were greeted with negative labels like “bitch” or even the loss of their job because they acted assertively.


This is something that drives me crazy about being a woman—if you try to reach your professional goals, you’re labeled with nasty names. However, men are encourage to do anything and everything to go after their goals. The good news is, in this particular study, the professional women in this study found a subtle way to achieve their goals while avoiding negative labels.

What’s that subtle way you ask? Something we were all taught growing up—being polite. This strategy worked for them because of the way society views women. Because if a woman perceived as nice and friendly, even if she has to demonstrate these behaviors in a greater capacity than her male counterparts, then she can be seen as a good professional in her coworkers’ eyes. I mean if you’re looking for a way to persuade a man in your professional life, make him feel as though he is the superior when trying to persuade him, right?

Not in my book. Do we need to kiss the ground men walk on? Reinforce sexist stereotypes? Ensure that women have to shine less in the workplace in order to make men happy? Nope. Because according to the authors, this is not the case—they argue instead that women are given the opportunity to redefine what assertive means.

Case in point: the women interviewed for this study felt that being strategic and polite was another way to act as an assertive professional. They believed they had the upper hand because they are able to change their communication strategies based on their understanding of the situation and what they wanted the outcome to be. In other words, women felt they were empowering themselves by redefining what “assertive” means for professional women.  


So to the women using politeness as a strategy to outsmart the patriarchy, and it works for you: then you go girl(s).

Calling it like Clinton: hidden gender discrimination

By Rebekah Peterson

Another blog post for all the nasty women out there? You bet.


With the release of Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, a lot of criticism ensued:

“Enough, already”

“Bristling at her unfair loss and cashing in”                    

“Clinton is just playing the ol’ woman card again”

In reality? Clinton is calling out overt and hidden misogyny and sexism that she faced during the 2016 presidential campaign. The fact that Clinton still faced sexist attacks while running for president after decades in the political sphere is a problem—and it’s a problem for all women wanting a career in politics, or, let’s be real, any other field.

Research also shows that the issue of overt and hidden gender discrimination doesn’t just start once women begin their political career. For example, it can even occur when women are trying to pursue higher education in the field, like a PhD.

In 2004 Johanna Kantola surveyed data from PhD candidates in the Political Science department of a Finnish university. A questionnaire was answered by 42 PhD candidates and 13 were interviewed (8 women and 5 men).

Kantola examined the interviews of the women and men in the PhD program.

No overt forms of discrimination (sex-segregated job advertising, gender pay gap, or verbal abuse) were found, but hidden discrimination acts were, and those are much harder to address in an organization.

Many of the women PhD candidates recalled being called “girl” by their advisor, or their area of research not being taken seriously—two behaviors that contribute to women not being perceived as experts in the political field.


Many of the women also said they were not being offered teaching positions by their advisors, while some of the male PhD candidates said they were often encouraged to apply for teaching positions by their advisors. This shows that women are often stalled in the recruiting process while men are recruited through their inner circle.

So, if female PhD candidates and the first female presidential candidate of a major political party are facing hidden discrimination…that means it’s most likely showing up in your workplace too.

And how should women deal with this gender discrimination at work?

Well, we all can’t write a book like Clinton calling people out—most women want to keep their jobs and this prooobably isn’t the best way to do that—but there are other ways to confront the issue. For example:

  1. Recognize the issue
    1. Write down any gender biases you may being facing.
  2. Confront it head on
    1. If it’s a pay gap issue, ask for a raise.
    2. If you aren’t being seen as the expert you are: use your business card to legitimize yourself.
    3. If it’s overt discrimination, like verbal harassment or outwardly sexist comments, know your organization’s zero-tolerance policy and speak with HR.
  3. Look for a female mentor
    1. A female mentor can help advise you on making it to the top as a woman.
    2. A female mentor can also tell you how they may have experienced hidden discrimination and how they dealt with it, or how they wish they dealt with it.


So remember—when you face gender discrimination, it doesn’t have to be overt to be upsetting and constraining. Channel your inner Clinton and call that crap out.

Step Up: All In (For Self-Advocacy)

By Rebekah Peterson

Ladies, do you ever have a feeling that your male co-workers are being given more challenging assignments than you?

You know, that despite your ambition, your male co-workers are being given challenging assignments like managing a project, organizing a company event, or assuming responsibility of a major client?

Well, it’s not just a feeling and scholarly research actually backs this up.


In 2009 researchers Irene De Pater, Annelies Van Vianen, and Myriam Bechtoldt randomly selected 136 employees working at middle job levels at a pharmaceutical company to participate in a study about their job experiences.

First, the employees were asked demographic questions, such as number of years in their current job and the level of their highest education. Next, they were asked to self-rank their ambition level and self-evaluation. Lastly, they were given ten descriptions of challenging job assignments and were asked to rank each on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much) the extent to which they deal with each of the assignment descriptions in their current job.

The results of the employees questionnaire were analyzed only after being controlled for their ambition and self-evaluation and the other demographic variables.

The results?

Women in middle job levels have fewer challenging job assignments than their male co-workers.

Yup—your ambition and desire to develop new skills are overshadowed by your gender.

Not only are assignments being given based on gender unfair, but they can also negatively impact your career.

The ability to tackle challenging job assignments helps lead to promotional opportunities, and if women aren’t being given the chance to prove themselves, it constrains them in reaching new heights in their careers and positions of power.

But just because you may not be assigned a challenging task at work shouldn’t stop you from getting one yourself. Here are some tips for asking your boss for more challenging tasks:

Step 1: Decide what you want out of asking for more tasks

  • More work in your position?
  • Or, a promotion?

Step 2: Come up with a solution

  • If you want more responsibilities in your position, identify tasks you are interested in.
  • If you’re ready for a promotion, identify opportunities within your company you think would be a good fit.

Step 3: Write down your current responsibilities

  • Your boss may not know exactly what you do and you should showcase your ability to complete all your current tasks and then some.

Step 4: Schedule the conversation with your boss

  • Schedule at least 30 minutes with your boss to discuss your current role and your proposal.
  • If you don’t want to schedule a time, bring it up at your annual review.

Step 5: Be honest

  • Be open with your boss. They want to help you and might have different ideas for more assignments.


So, here’s my challenging assignment to you: don’t be afraid to self-advocate, and don’t be timid about asking for what you want.