How can your company move from a ‘2inthepool’ Band-Aid approach (minimum of 2 non-traditional candidates in the interview pool for every open position) to a more holistic culture of overall inclusion to win the competitive talent war and drive better results? In a timely discussion following the recent release of McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report, our guest today is Femily – known widely as Silicon Valley’s gender and inclusion strategist. Tune in to hear the latest stats, understand the first broken rung on the ladder for women, and learn concrete ways your org can be more helpful to LGBTQ+ employees. Is “leaning in” enough? Curious when to use they and them pronouns? Don’t miss this one!


Episode 36: Gender and Inclusion LeaderShift Strategy with Femily

Shani Magosky: Hey LeaderShifters, welcome to another episode of the LeaderShift Show with yours truly, Shani Magosky. Today is a treat of all treats. I would say it’s like inclusion squared or I don’t know like quintupled. Our guest today is Femily who is Silicon Valley’s gender and inclusion strategist. I’ll let her tell you a little bit more about her background in just a second. Please stay with us today because we’ve got two really important topics to discuss. One is LGBTQ in the workplace, and the second which is not unrelated, is women in the workplace, including a study that’s just come out that McKinsey and Lean In have done, and we’ve got some statistics hot off the press. Femily, welcome to the LeaderShift Show.

Femily: Yes. Thank you so much, Shani. It’s so nice to finally join you. I am a super fan of the podcast and I love what you’ve been doing with it. I’m really honored to be joining.

Shani: Thank you so much. I try to tackle LeaderShift subjects that are all over the map because I have been in leadership myself. I have a lot of clients who I coach individually as well as corporate teams and organizations that I coach. They’re all struggling with the same continuum of challenges. My personal favorite just because of my personality is to name the elephants of the room and talk about the hot subjects that maybe in some boardrooms might still be a little bit taboo. Let me go there. [laughs]

Femily: Let’s do that. That’s the only way that my particular work gets done. As a way of introduction, my name is Femily and I help mostly tech companies but all kinds of male majority companies with gender stuff. I do that in a variety of ways. I do public speaking. I come in and give inspirational talks both on how to make your workplace more inclusive for women and for LGBT folks. I do diversity consulting more generally. One of my favorite things that I do right now is I help events and large events and huge conferences get more diverse, so get more friendly for women, for people of color and also for career people. I also host feminist retreats.

On the other side of this, I take boss ladies who are in companies, who are stressed out working hard, and I help them do self-care. I host feminist healthcare retreats. I also do a little bit of one-on-one coaching. It’s so highly involved and so high energy that I only take one or two people at once. I don’t talk about that much, but I do coach executive women who are in male majority cultures who want to see what does the research say about their situation. Is it a real thing they’re going through? What should they do? Et cetera.

Shani: Absolutely. Well, as someone who comes from a very male-dominated industry of Wall Street, investment banking by history, I appreciate what you’re doing. Clearly, in the tech space, the “bro culture” is legendary. I would love one day for there to be a lot more parity in every industry.

Femily: Yes, absolutely. There’s one more thing I will tell you. I started doing this work. I’m sure we’ll get into this a little bit more, but I started doing this work and so many people approached me and said I’m a boss who happens to be female in one of these industries, and what you’re doing is awesome. It’s totally necessary. I might want to help you when I retire. That’s my passion project is being a woman in this field and understanding it and trying to help other companies move forward since I’ve seen it from the inside. I got such a tidal wave of people who are interested in that.

I started a professional organization for people who are curious about becoming gender consultants. There’s enough work for all of us. As you mentioned, bro culture doesn’t escape very many fields. There’s exactly at this point and so much work out there. Anyone who’s interested, I’m helping them figure out the roadmap for jumping into this field and making a difference also.

Shani: That’s genius. I love the abundance mentality. You know what, honestly, that’s part of the cultural shift that is necessary because in a lot of organizations, they’re still this concept of the zero-sum game that if you win, that means I lose and vice versa, which is not necessarily the case.

Femily: Especially not just organizations, the planet, the world. [laughs] In terms of just the world of business and abundance and ideas, there’s enough work out there for all of us. There’s enough fun out there. There’s enough romance out there. There’s enough all the things out there.

Shani: Absolutely. All right. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of LGBTQ. First of all, I think a lot of people don’t even fully understand– this isn’t because they’re bad people. People just don’t know what they don’t know, but the spectrum of sexuality. Can you just do a little bit of 411 for those who falls in that camp?

Femily: Sure. Absolutely. When I go into a company, I usually meet with the senior leadership crew, and they want to do better on LGBT. Maybe the pride group internally has said, “Hey, you need to do a little better,” and they’re like, “We don’t know what to do,” and they’re like, “Here, just have Femily come talk to you and she’ll lay out the land. What I usually start with is, as you said the definition of LBGTQ. There are a lot of different letters that are on there. We’re figuring that out as a community. L is for Lesbian. B is for Bi. G is for Gay. T is for Transgender, and Q can be either questioning or queer. Sometimes there’s an I on there for intersex.

Sometimes there’s an A on there for Allies, or sometimes the A also means Asexual. It basically just means anyone who’s outside of the majority of straight heterosexual person, and then also on the gender side, so transgender is in this LGBTQ.

Shani: It’s an alphabet soup at this point of diversity. Essentially, we can say anyone but a straight White male.

Femily: Yes. [laughs]

Shani: In some ways.

Femily: Basically, the truth is, if you make your org better for LGBTQ people, then it’s better for everyone because it has an emphasis that says like, “All kinds of partners that you might have and all kinds of family constellations that you might have been born from or be creating yourself or be marrying into, those are all welcome here. That certainly means if you have a straight white picket fence family, that you’re also welcome here.

Shani: Of course. Absolutely. I think some of the strides that have been made, we’ve seen more and more companies extend benefits to the non white picket fence family paradigm. What else can companies do on a cultural level that can bring more diversity and inclusion in that arena?

Femily: Sure. Absolutely. Take you one step back just to lay a little bit. Do you mind if I lay a little bit [crosstalk]

Shani: No, no. Please do. Please do.

Femily: Some of the facts that are compelling about LGBT people in the workplace are that, when employees are able to be out in the workplace, like out about their families or even like someone who has a gay brother who feels they have shouldn’t mention it in the workplace. There’s a variety of ways people can be out. Being out in the workplace makes people not only happier but more productive. Knowing that, it’s important to know that four out of ten LGBT employees are not able to be fully out at work. They fear that being fully out at work would put their career prospects in jeopardy or their current job in jeopardy.

As we see, there are three cases right now in front of the Supreme Court. They just heard the arguments last week. They’re going to be deciding later in 2020. If it is possible to fire someone because they’re gay or trans. People are legitimately fearful about losing their job because right now it’s an unknown. 62% of lesbian and gay people have heard anti lesbian or gay jokes at work in some fashion and similar numbers for bi and trans folks. The last fact I’ll give you is that, LGBT folks in tech, and that’s my main field, are more likely to leave their job than other colleagues because of bullying in the workplace.

Those are some of the things that people are experiencing in the workplace that definitely take their mind off the job first of all. Second of all, it’s harder to connect with the workplace and to feel like that’s a safe place for you to be as a worker and as a human.

Shani: I hate to interrupt you but reconcile that for me with the progressive California reputation. Not every Silicon Valley company is actually in Silicon Valley, but a good percentage of them are. How on one hand are the majority of, especially northern Californians, claiming to be progressive and liberal and open, yet those statistics are still prevalent?

Femily: For one thing, I’ll start with the jokes. One is, it’s so cavalier in a lot of these companies. People feel like they’re down enough that they can make a joke, but then maybe their colleagues who are queer or trans don’t understand that the person is in their heart they believe in equity, but they are just casually saying a bad word because they don’t get it fully about how that should be. We talked about the folks aren’t able to be out because they think they might lose their job, because they truly might lose their job.

If there’s no talk of sexuality in the workplace or sex orientation or any of those things, then they might think that they shouldn’t bring it up because people aren’t talking about it because people aren’t friendly to it. Most of the folks that I talked to when I survey the LGBT people at companies, and I say, I asked them, “Are you out?” And then if they are out, I say, “How did you know your manager was a safe person to come out to?” This is about someone who’s saying, “I’m going to be transitioning at work,” or someone who’s saying, “I’m a man and I have a husband. I’m gay,” but all of those roll up to having a manager who’s out about the fact that they’re inclusive.

It doesn’t even have to be about queer and trans or LGBT stuff. It’s just inclusion in general. If the person is saying like– managers who say like, I’m a Christian, but I want to make sure that we have Diwali and Hanukkah and Ramadan on all on the calendar, that kind of inclusive attitude makes people know that they can bring their other things to the table that are in the minority.

Shani: What you’re describing essentially is psychological safety, and not enough companies are creating it in any context, let alone for sexuality.

Femily: Absolutely. The last one is about the bullying one. Bullying can be microaggressions like always being interrupted in a meeting, for example, always assigned the menial tasks or not the juicy projects. It doesn’t necessarily mean like physical bullying or yelling of words, et cetera. It can be that we hear about people being pushed out of organizations. It can be that. LGBT folks, folks of color and women in tech, all three groups are having a hard time because there’s a very pervasive bro culture that affects all three kinds of groups. Of course, all of those three people are in all of each other’s groups all the time, too. It’s not so linear as in three groups.

Shani: God. It’s disconcerting. You expect it from the old school company whose C-Suite is still baby-boomer and not diverse, but it’s disappointing to hear that it’s still a problem in technology companies, which by and large are younger demographic, lot of the C-Suite are millennials even.

Femily: Right. Exactly. There’s a group we haven’t talked about yet that does fit under the umbrella, also which is non-binary folks. Folks who more identify with they and them pronouns who’s maybe it looks and/or identities and/or gender identity doesn’t fit neatly within male or female or always within one of the other or sometimes they fit within both. It’s much more fluid. A workplace where most colleagues don’t use the right pronouns for someone is definitely a workplace someone would want to leave. It’s a kind of bullying to misgender someone, to either refer to them as they’re the old gender or to a gender that’s not theirs.

That’s another thing I help companies with, because for a lot of people, even the most well-meaning people, that is a newer concept. There’s always been gender fluid people in every society around the globe, but the specific use of they in them in the workplace is newer for many people.

Shani: Can we actually pause on that and elaborate a little bit because I think it’s a good– not even a segue. It aligns well with the microaggression thing you were just talking about where some people aren’t even conscious of what they’re doing. Are they interrupted? That’s a common thing that you hear with women, that they get interrupted more, and a lot of times, the other folks aren’t even aware of it. Frankly, women are interrupting other women more than they’re interrupting men.

Femily: Exactly. Exactly.

Shani: It’s all over the place. Let’s talk about the microaggression of not recognizing the non-binary. What should leaders instruct their people to do with they and them? When should they be using it? How should they be using it?

Femily: That’s such a good point. For folks, there’s a couple things. You should just use the pronouns that someone gives you. Somebody uses they/them pronouns either has it in their email usually who’s a co-worker, or they’ll say, “Hi, I’m Femily, I go by they/them pronouns.” From then on, you need to try to use they/them pronouns with the person. Some people say, “Oh, those are plural words. How can I call one person they and them?” But we use it all the time. For example, if I was shipping you a book that I’d read, and I thought you’d really like. I’d be like, “I’m looking on the Amazon. The delivery person is going to be there at noon. They’ll probably leave it on your front porch.” When you don’t know someone’s gender, we already use it as a singular.

Shani: Oh yes. I didn’t even think about that. They’ll deliver it.

Femily: We know how to do it. That’s one thing we should do. Also for trans non-binary, non-gender conforming folks in the workplace, I’m helping a couple tech companies right now get ready.  There are just a lot more non-binary folks who are out and who are in the workplace with they/them pronouns and who are ready to contribute fully to the mission as long as the company is ready for them. Gender neutral bathrooms are, of course, that’s the one everyone’s getting. If people are getting something right, they’re getting that right. Health insurance plans need to include transgender inclusive care. That’s a given that a lot of companies are pretty hip to these days.

Formal nondiscrimination policy is the next one. All the companies have one that talk about the different protected classes, legally protected classes, but what companies can do to position themselves above and beyond other companies is have a specific policy that says, “When we say we’re not going to discriminate on gender, we mean we welcome non-binary folks and transgender folks,” and then some proof points, “by which we mean we have bathrooms that you can use based on what gender you identify with, and you will have health insurance policies that support the kind of care you need.” Even just those two lines are an incredible recruiting tool.

Shani: Interesting. Okay. That’s so good. It’s not even that hard to change the language.

Femily: No.

Shani: It might seem obvious. At the end of the day, who doesn’t just want the best people for the job no matter what is underneath the skin. We’re all the same underneath the skin.

Femily: I know. The funny part is, obviously, the world of tech out here is having a hard time hiring. They’re all fighting for the best talent. They’re always asking me like, “How can I beat the talent war?” Here’s the way that you can beat the talent war.

Transgender people are by and large over educated compared to the jobs they currently have because of discrimination. If you can get past your bias about transgender people, you as a company, as a recruiting force, as an HR team, as hiring managers, then you can hire the best of the best because you could literally scrape off the level, that whole level of people who are trans, who are underemployed, who would be thrilled just like anyone who’s underemployed to have a much better job.

Trans people are much more overpopulated in tech. Those are just two facts that can help people– It’s like if you just get bias out of the way, you can win the talent war, which is the biggest thing for business right now.

Shani: If we just get bias out of the way. What’s the secret formula for that? We could go down a rabbit hole here and I don’t mean to…

Femily: No, let’s.

Shani: It’s subconscious. It’s just based on how you were raised, and you can’t go back and change that. I feel like the best we can do on a day-to-day basis is pay attention to where our biases are showing up and continually ask ourselves the question, “What filter am I looking at this through? What’s another filter? What’s a better filter? What’s a more inclusive filter? What’s a less judgmental filter?” Whatever the case may be because it’s like we can’t get rid of bias just like I can take off my scarf. Scarf gone. You can’t excise a bias out of your–

Femily: The best thing that I’ve seen companies do is, if you give people information about how their biases are showing up in their managerial, in their hiring or in their promoting, then when someone’s aware of a bias, then they can do exactly what you said is. They then see that they do have those lenses on that are bias and while they can’t really remove them, because it’s part of their internal programming from every movie they’ve watched, every human that they’ve ever talked to at their Thanksgiving family table from upbringing.

Shani: Yes, their teachers, their friends, where they work, what heritage they are. There’s a million factors that go in to form those.

Femily: What I think is really powerful is the manager and I’ve told you this before is that when we show the managers in our companies, the ratios for how they’re promoting men versus how they’re promoting women, unfortunately, most companies data doesn’t splice also include non-binary people, I’ll just say that. When you look at men versus women and you share that data with managers, you’ll see that there are some managers and these are not hateful people, these are great people who really want to promote the best, they just have these glasses on.

They are over promoting men or you could say they’re under promoting women, like both, either way it’s the same way to describe the same thing. It means that they have top talent women who are not getting tracked up as quickly as their similarly talented male peers. When managers see this data, they are embarrassed and ashamed, not so much to be paralyzed, but so that they are certainly different next time so that they’re looking a little more closely at their female next in line for promotions next time they go around.

Shani: I like the idea of teaching people how to just question their own biases as a better practice in long term. You know what? I’m sure you see a lot of this too.

Femily: Yes.

Shani: I’m curious, your perspective on how effective it is. What I see in some of my client companies is, for every open requisition, you have to have at least two qualified female candidates and if you don’t, you got to keep recruiting until you do, like blah, blah, blah. It’s like, forcing it, which, I guess, is better than nothing, but it just doesn’t seem like of the right spirit.

Femily: Good. I love this topic. I agree, that clearly we shouldn’t have to say, you got to have a board that’s 50% women, like women are between 46% and 48% of the workforce, so maybe we’re saying that percent on boards or whatever. Some kind of quota, nobody likes a quota. But guess what? Quotas do work. They’re like this multivitamin. They’re like it’s not your favorite horse pill to swallow because it’s not in the right spirit but it does the trick. It does get more women on boards or gets women into the hiring world or wherever we’re trying to populate, we’re trying to diversify in terms of numbers.

The first cast of them, they are like on the border or whatever, everyone knows they got in from a quota, they feel weird because they got in from a quota. They’re talented, but they got in from a quota so that’s not good but what it does is, it inspires the next generation of women to look up and be like, “Lorraine is on the board, this is awesome like I see her, I know her, I can be her, I’ll follow a similar path like it’s inspiring.”

What happens is, the next generation of people of women, even just like five years later, the next cast of them that get into the board or get into the C-Suite or get into the VP ranks or whatever rank you’re trying to populate, they are legitimately there, but it was the quota that was the door opening mechanism.

Shani: They serve a purpose-

Femily: They do.

Shani: -at a point in the evolution of all on this.

Femily: The other thing I will say about those, there’s that policy that you were talking about for recruiting where it’s #2inthepool, you remember it? The interesting thing about that is, if you don’t have two women in the pool, there is statistically no chance you’ll hire a woman if the rest of the candidates are men. If there was no bias out there, we wouldn’t need to say two in the pool, but since there is that hiring bias, clearly, we still do have to say it. There’s a good Harvard Business Review on two in the pool, if you’re a listener, you want to get the data for this because it’s fascinating.

Shani: That’s hysterical, Jesus. I feel like we’ve started to make the shift into talking about women in the workplace, and because, ultimately, and you and I were discussing this before. We even pressed record on the podcast that underlying, whether it’s sexuality or gender or any other otherness, it’s the same philosophy and process to be more inclusive, it’s just fill in the blank. Let’s talk about some of these statistics and what you’re seeing change. I alluded to in the opening this McKinsey and Lean In study that is hot off the press; so what is the latest and greatest there?

Femily: The most interesting thing that we’re seeing five years out on the study that came out recently is that the movements and the efforts and all of the hard work and the women’s initiatives that we’re doing in corporate workspaces, it is working for a certain set of women. It’s the set that we like to refer to, we, all the people doing this gender work with me, as the Lean In contingent. It’s women at the top and its white women, and it’s women in VP and higher rank, so that’s what I mean by the top.

The good news is that all of this work is working somewhere. The other news is, the majority of women are not in the top ranks, and they’re not white women in the top ranks. The rest of women in the workplace, in the corporate workspace, are women of color up and down the entire leadership spine, and they are white women who are below the VP level, and so that’s where companies need to look next.

The other thing that I’m seeing in my work is that companies want to bring me in and they want to bring other people in to help work on gender, which is a good impulse for sure, but they look at the wrong place. They want to bring women into a leadership group and help women lean in more and meaning negotiating, they have negotiation workshops, and women’s confidence workshops and imposter syndrome workshops, which I lead an imposter syndrome workshop. Basically, those are not good if those are the only things that are happening.

Shani: Because it puts the onus just on the women to change that. Fuck that, like, the whole mindset needs to change. I’m so glad we’re going here because I love Sheryl Sandberg, I spend a lot of my year in South Florida, and she’s a North Miami Beach girl and so I root for her. I read Lean In and listen, I’m a woman who was always leaned in; I think that’s why I was successful at Goldman.

I had thick skin; I wasn’t afraid to speak up. I sort of do what she recommends naturally, and that has served me well. I get that a lot of other women have to be more conscientious or intentional about it, but my first thought was, this isn’t enough, just like the same way companies have all these women’s groups and whatever. It’s just like, well, you’re just creating more separation by calling it a women’s group, it’s like why not have a human being group?

Femily: I have seen that women when they get together in the workplace, to sort of lament about the problems that are unique to the kinds of oppression and disrespect they’re getting as women in the workplace and then harnessing that to make policy change within the company, that can work but you’re right. Women’s groups that just get together within the company to have inspiring lunches or–

That’s not enough, because it’s going to make people like people who are running the company and maybe women who are in the group think, we’re doing something, we’re getting together, we’re having an inspiring lunch, but that’s not going to change the landscape for women who are coming behind them. It’s not going to change [crosstalk].

Shani: No, it is just optics.

Femily: Yes, it is just optics. Absolutely.

Shani: I think that’s what people like you and to a similar extent, me, I come at everything from strategy and culture, boom, and to me, part of culture is we have to address all these issues, because, to me, companies are more competitive or better – similar to what you said that folks who are trans or non-binary or whatever, when they’re not out in the workplace, they’re not happy, they’re not as productive. I think that’s true of companies. When companies aren’t honoring the diversity and inviting everyone to bring their best selves to work, then their strategy could fall on its face.

It’s like that on a larger scale. I think the work we’re doing, it’s like we need to help companies lift it up from the bottom as opposed to just– I feel most companies are like, Oh, good, a senior woman is talented, let’s shine a light on her and develop her and then get her into the C-Suite, and then we can say we’ve got more women at the top and again, good, not good enough.

Femily: No, not good enough. Definitely not good enough because what we saw in the largest report on Women in the Workplace that just came out is that there’s, in fact, this thing that they’re calling a broken rung on the career ladder for women. We use this thing when we would look at these all-male C-Suites, or even all-male VP ranks are mostly male, that the rung was broken there.

What we’re seeing is a little more disturbing is that, from the first entry-level job that women have in a corporation, the rung is actually broken in the first step up to manager. The data there is that for every 72 women who make manager, a hundred men do, at the very first rung. This is well before most corporate women in the white-collar world would have children, it’s well before aging parent concerns would come into the place.

It’s well before they’re even married if they’re married to an opposite-sex person where his career would come first, it’s well before any of those kinds of things would be coming in. Women and men are equally represented in the workforce in terms of numbers, at that stage of the game, they both report equal levels of ambition and interest in rising to the top at that point. The only thing that’s holding them back – only thing, I say only jokingly, is that these middle managers or managers who are supposed to promote someone from entry-level to supervisor or to first step into management, they are over promoting men and under promoting women.

The trouble the McKinsey study was showing is that a lot of the work on diversity in companies and the emphasis has been at the C-Suite. For example, I know this firsthand, I’m called in to go talk to the C-Suite. I talk to them, I get them rallied up about LBGT in the workplace or about gender in tech, et cetera and then the idea is they’re going to go back and trickle it down to their forces. That doesn’t work like, trickle-down nothing. Nothing’s been trickling down in any way, shape or form whatsoever, certainly not culture in the workplace and certainly not strategy.

You wouldn’t go to all of your C-Suite people and be like, no, this is the strategy, and have them go tell everyone like you need a full-on change management like organizational awareness getting around it. That’s what they’re realizing now. The data is showing that these lower-level managers need to have both unconscious bias training, for sure and they also need to be enrolled in the diversity enterprise by their senior manager. Their senior managers know that they’re responsible for the diversity of their whole team but these middle managers or these lower managers don’t feel responsible for it. That was the biggest finding this week is that companies need to shift their focus to the middle managers.

Shani: Interesting. I want to take a timeout and just ask LeaderShifters who are listening or watching, do you have a broken rung in your organization? What is your statistic of first-line leaders that you’re promoting from individual contributor? Are you imbalanced at the 72 versus a 100 level or worse? Actually, I’m pleasantly surprised to hear 72, to be honest with you.

Femily: What that ends up meaning though, is by the time you’re up a couple of levels in managers, that it’s like 32% are women and 60 something else percent are men, so it’s like they’re doubled out by then.

Shani: For sure. Then when you get to C-Suite, it’s like, in the teens, and on boards, it’s even less. Then people like Indra Noori retire and you go, “No!!”

Femily: Oh my God. I know. I couldn’t agree more. Oh my gosh.

Shani: She was such a pioneer-

Femily: I know.

Shani: -and a woman of color no less.

Femily: Absolutely. That’s the thing that we’re also seeing in the research. Women of color, they’re much more susceptible to sexual harassment, under promotion and underpayment than their white peers for example. The McKinsey study last year, their major finding was that anyone who’s first only or different kind of person on their team, so that includes lesbian women, other women who are out, trans people, et cetera, we all know at first only different are, but those folks, they’re more sort of out on the limb so there’s just more bullying targeted at them, there’s more jokes targeted at their group of people. Even in the most well-meaning workplaces, it’s just a more raw place to be in the inclusion vernacular.

Shani: Sure. Let me ask you, what’s the line or maybe, is there a line between just good humor and well-meaning like, if it’s not coming from a real biased place, it’s just what someone might think is a funny pop-culture joke, for example, versus what we see at this point, especially after the #MeToo movement is like an overcorrection overly PC, like now you can’t say anything, and men don’t want to mentor women because of the risks and– How do you open your mouth at work without risking offending someone anymore?

Femily: I’m glad you’re asking that because I think I kept that in 90% of the sessions that I teach. Definitely, a lot of people are wondering that and it’s a spectrum too. If you want to be 100% sure you’re not going to offend someone, like if you haven’t known anyone who’s non-binary or gender non-conforming before, and they’re the only one on your team, or it’s your boss or you just want to make real sure you’re not offending them, then focus on things like hobbies, the work, what they have for lunch, how’s the weather, and build a relationship of trust with this individual, and then take their lead and then you can be more cavalier once they’re leading you there.

I have executives ask me if they should be using the word queer because as you have heard, I use it in my presentations, and when I talk on podcasts and when I speak. What I say is, if you have to ask if you’re allowed to use queer, you probably shouldn’t because here’s the thing, I’m in the queer community, the LGBTQAI community, so I can use it. If you have so many queer friends and family members that it just rolls off your tongue, you’re not going to be the one that’s asking, but if you are asking that just means you’re not located in that social nexus where queer is your community, so just don’t use it. Also, I want to loop over to what you were mentioning about #MeToo.

Shani: I know we could talk all day.

Femily: Oh my God, we’ll talk all day. I actually have made three documents specifically for men, good men, like in the workplace who are trying to figure out how to navigate #MeToo, we should do a whole other episode.

Shani: Let’s do that.

Femily: It’s called for the good guys who want to make sure that the women in their office don’t think they’re creeps. This is not for the awful person who doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself. I honestly have no idea how to help that person. My work is towards the good guy who is a total ally of women and queer people who just doesn’t want to make mistake but also wants to tell someone, you have a great dress or you did great in the presentation, like they don’t know where to draw the line.

Shani: We will do another episode just on for the good guys who aren’t creeps and how to thrive in the #MeToo world because I think it’s really important. Some of my best mentors were men and I would hate to think that if I were coming up in the workplace today that they would be afraid to mentor me or travel with me or whatever.

Femily: It’s also extremely disadvantageous to women. Here’s the thing, since we talked about like there’s barely any women in the C-Suite and even if there are three at the best companies right now, the average is three. Those three women are so tapped out by the entire org structure of every other woman who is an ambitious rising star, I don’t have time to mentor.

Shani: Oh, will you be my mentor?

Femily: You have to find a man. If you want anyone with free time, you have to find a man. Also, women have to prove themselves twice or thrice if they’re women of color in the workplace. They don’t have time to mentor you like go find a man. It has to work out. For women in the workplace, it has to work out.

Also, men who want to mentor all the rising stars and some of those rising stars are women and they don’t want to have a weird situation, so there’s a million tips, including, if the only time you can meet even if it’s at lunch like it is at a restaurant or if the only time you can meet or if your industry does drinks with people, you could bring another person or bring a notepad and put that notepad right on the desk, this is for both of you, either of you or both of you.

Put it right on the table and have a pen out and so when the waiter comes over, you’re making a business face and you’re like writing some notes so then they don’t assume it’s a date because it’s really awkward when the waiter thinks it’s a date. He’s like, can I get you some champagne? They add to this weird atmosphere like, they’re going to be in a weird atmosphere when a man and woman are out and people think they’re on a date but you can curb a lot of that surprisingly, by just putting a notebook on the table. It really makes the waiter and the other person who may have a questionable idea, think that it is just a business meeting. There’s a million tips like that that can help.

Shani: I love that. That’s genius, so simple and easy to do. That’s a habit that someone can change because sometimes changing habits is a tall order for people but that’s easy enough. You bring a notepad, scribble some stuff down.

Femily: Or your laptop, whatever you have, like just bring a business thing– a stapler, if you only have a stapler, like bring the business then you have, yes.


Shani: I love it. Okay, let’s call this one and we will definitely get on another podcast to do the #MeToo, how non-creepy men can contribute there another time and whatever else comes up that we think is important for leadership to know because I feel like this has already been incredibly juicy. I’m just going to recap a few of the different things that we talked about today as highlights.

Guys, and girls remember, everybody performs better when they can be themselves at work. They’re happier and more productive and that serves them, it serves the team, it serves the organization and honestly like I don’t know why we wouldn’t want more of that.

Watch the microaggressions and just notice and open up the door for feedback on that stuff to make it safe for someone to just say they noticed it and vice versa because if we don’t at least open the door to those conversations, it’s going to keep happening and let’s not be offended by it like let’s just I mean don’t be offended if someone gives you the feedback that you did it just use it as a learning opportunity and notice if you’re continuing to do it.

For folks who are theythe/m, use the pronouns if folks have introduced themselves to you that way and then it’s totally cool, right? It sounds like if someone is wanting the they or them that they will make that known so you don’t have to guess that right.

Femily: If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, you’re welcome to ask but that’s out of the comfort zone for a lot of people. If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, just refer to them as their name. Just say like, yes, Jamie is going to go get a soda and then I think Jamie also mentioned that they were going to write all of the notes on the board for us during this meeting, just use their name until you hear someone else use their pronouns who’s in their inner circle and you can trust that is the correct use of their pronouns.

Shani: Got it. Okay, perfect. Keep doing the things that you’re already doing because we were talking about this we assume the best right now that most of you, the vast majority of you want to be more inclusive and some of the stuff is just new and there’s no roadmap there, there’s no how to do this 101 because it is new in the workplace. Continue offering benefits in those health care plans, not just for alternative marriage situations, but for gender inclusive healthcare.

Make sure the bathrooms are gender neutral. Quite frankly, as a woman who’s still like, identifies as a she, I think it’s bullshit that there have never been enough bathrooms for women. I’m honest and again, like maybe TMI. I’ve been using men’s bathrooms for years.

Femily: Me too, there’s never a line.

Shani: When there’s a long fucking line at the women’s room. Are you kidding me? They’re a little messier, right? You just have to maybe squat a little higher, but come on. Like, that’s just common sense. Formal non-discrimination policies, just broaden what’s already there, okay? It’s easy enough to just broaden what you already have. Let’s see. If you have to start with some quotas and #2inthepot, better to start there than nowhere and eventually hopefully those things won’t be necessary.

I’ve already called you out to ask what’s your broken rung; is it at the first line leadership level and if we can fix it there, then it gets easier to fix it as we go up the leadership ladder. All of these things folks are not just like selective pick and choose. This is change management at its best and if you don’t know how to do that, call me, call Femily. This is the work that we do we help leaders change cultures. Last but not least, building a relationship of trust and psychological safety really is the key to success, regardless of the issue.

Google’s project Aristotle proved this research years ago-when I say years, I don’t mean decades, like five or six years ago-that the best performing teams have psychological safety as part of the culture of the team and that just means give a shit about people right? Be respectful. Don’t take things personally and make assumptions, have conversations. Be real, be authentic, be transparent, be honest and I know about those words may be easier said than done. Last words on this podcast because there will be a Femily part two.

Femily: Yes. I would just say, I really love your podcast. I love how you do the recap, it really helps me as one of your guests figure out some things. The one last thing I will say is that you can make your organization or podcast or whatever, more friendly to all the listeners, including those that aren’t totally attached to one gender or the other who are gender fluid etcetera. Instead of saying “Welcome ladies and gentlemen”, you can say something like, hello listeners or the team like hello Googlers, that’s what the managers at Google would say.

Therefore, without getting without saying the genders out loud, it’s a really much more inclusive way to welcome everyone of all the different genders in that’s really, that’s not diversity 101, that’s more like diversity 301. It’s pretty advanced, but it’s–

Shani: Well, because the word choice is really powerful and I open up my podcast by saying welcome LeaderShifters, and I also noticed that at some point in this podcast, I was like, okay guys and gals, like, I committed it too and because I’m still like everybody getting used to it.

Femily: Yes, we’re all getting used to it today. Just today someone, a collaborator, I have, she corrected this thing that I was saying, which I was like, “we just have to step it up” and she was telling me that step it up as a phrase is not very kind to those who are not able-bodied. People who have a disability and use a wheelchair, I’d never thought of it. It breaks my heart that I’ve been saying stepping up for 40 years, but now I’m not going to marinate: I’m going to move forward. Okay. No more step it up. Great.

Shani: Okay, I want to begin LeaderShifters, even those of us who do think about this on a daily basis, still make some mistakes and that’s okay because we’re learning, and our intent is good. Thank you for joining us today. Yes, hearts, hearts! Now that we notice like behind me in my new office is the Egyptian goddess of love, Isis.

Femily: I love that piece of art when I first saw you come on here. It’s great.

Shani: I got this in Egypt last year. It’s modern. It’s not an ancient papyrus scroll but the way the artist does this, it’s made to look more ancient and I just fell in love with Isis when I was over there so I had to have this.

Femily: It’s good, you’re cool, Shani.

Shani: So are you, Femily. Okay, next time I’m San Francisco, we’re going to get together because last time we got together it was on my coast on the east coast. Next time we get together it’ll be West Coast, baby.

Femily: Perfect. I love it.

Shani: Thank you and thank you to the LeaderShifters for watching.

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