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Gender, Diversity and Inclusion in CGIAR's Workplaces


September 2020


Five practical tips for people leaders to make the workplace more inclusive

TIP 1: Raise awareness of Gender Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) and why it matters

Build awareness

The journey starts by ensuring everyone understands what GDI is – we can’t change what we are not aware of.

For some, the subject is intuitive but for others it needs some explanation, simple definitions and clear examples.

Build yours and your team’s awareness through the GDI eLearning module. The online 30-minute training  will ensure everyone understands what GDI is. We recommend you share the link with your team and encourage them to take the course.

 Accompanying the module is a People Leaders’ Inclusion Workbook. This has a range of exercises you can use with your team to build their awareness and understanding. Use Activity 1, a short 20-minute team ‘What is inclusion’ activity (pages 11 – 12) in one of your regular team meetings to help individuals understand what inclusion and exclusion feel like.

Share why it matters

Research shows that one of the biggest challenges to building an inclusive workplace is that many people don’t really understand the benefits.

The moral aspect may resonate but they may not understand the organisational imperative. It can become a ‘nice to have’, and for some, especially those from majority groups who rarely experience exclusion, it can be seen as political correctness.

The online 30 minutes training includes a ‘Why it matters’ section. This is also included in the People Leaders’ Inclusion Workbook (pages 13 – 14). Take the time to familiarize yourself with this explanation so you can easily engage with team members who are uncertain.

Use Activity 2 on ‘Why It Matters’ in the People Leaders’ Inclusion Workbook (pages 13 – 14) and hold a short 20-minute discussion in one of your regular team meetings. You can do this after the “What is Inclusion” Activity or on its own.

Share CGIAR’s anti-racism statement, webinar and 10 Point Action Plan with your team. Make the space for safe conversations.

TIP 2: Value diversity

Intentionally seek out diverse people and points of view

All of us like to believe that we are inclusive people who really value diversity but when we step back and take an honest look at ourselves, we may find that our actions and behaviour do not always match our intent.

Who do you have lunch or your coffee break with every day? Who do you go to for advice or feedback? Who do you see on weekends and spend your social time with? When we take a close look, most of us gravitate to the same individuals or groups – and often these are people who look like us or think and behave like us. To be more inclusive, intentionally seek out new groups and individuals.

Reserve 2 -3 times a week to have lunch or coffee (or a virtual catch up) with someone you normally do not spend time with or naturally gravitate towards.

Seek out people who have different points of view to you for feedback, advice or input.

Visibly demonstrate you value diversity

A key success factor for inclusion is modelling the right behaviour to our team members.

Here are some suggested activities – pick one or two to try and set a reminder in your calendar to ensure you do not forget:

Be mindful of who you call on in meetings to contribute and how you react to these contributions. Do you always tend to agree with certain individuals and shut others down? It’s often difficult for us to assess our own behavior, so frequently seek out feedback after meetings to ensure everyone felt equally included and called on.

Think about how you allocate projects or assignments – especially those that are highly visible or linked to career progression. Do you always assign them to the same people who you see as a safe pair of hand? Challenge yourself to offer stretch assignment to a broader group of team members.

Review the workplace pictures, photos and artefacts in your office or for work purposes – do they represent a diverse group?

Produce a rota for who you ask to prepare for and run your meetings to ensure

Make it clear you will hold yourself and your teams accountable for behaving in an inclusive way. Be open and give your team permission to provide you with feedback when you may have inadvertently behaved in a non-inclusive manner. Contract with them to also give them the same feedback. Everyone one on the team is included equally

TIP 3: Ensure fair treatment and equal access to opportunities for all

Be aware of the diverse needs and styles of others and make account for them

Being inclusive does not mean that we necessarily treat everyone exactly the same, as demonstrated in the image below.

Being inclusive is recognising that individuals need different types and levels of support to have equal access to opportunities in order to succeed and thrive in the workplace. The best way to establish the diverse needs and style of your team is to ask them, and then be open and receptive to their feedback. While engagement surveys are great ways to gather insights at an organisational level, at a team level this is best done in facilitated team meetings or one-on-one conversations.

Use Activity 3 from the People Leaders’ Inclusion Workbook, on ‘Accommodating Diversity Team Activity’ (pages 15 – 18) in one of your regular team meetings. Listen carefully to the feedback you are given and think creatively about how you can ensure you are treating everyone equitably.”
Consider when and where you hold meetings and events (e.g. avoiding scheduling meetings before or after normal working hours to ensure those with caring responsibilities can attend easily).
Use inclusive language. We can unintentionally exclude people through our use of language. Here are some simple tips for more inclusive language:

Use person-first constructions that put the person ahead of their characteristics, e.g., instead of “a blind man” or “a female scientist,” use “a man who is blind” or “a woman in our science team.” See the table below for more guidance.

Mention characteristics like gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial group or ability only when relevant to the discussion.

When speaking about disability, avoid phrases that suggest victimhood, g. “afflicted by,” “suffers from,” “confined to a wheelchair”.

When addressing a group of female colleagues avoid calling them ‘girls’ (as they are fully grown women) and also ‘ladies’ (it prescribes women act in accordance to traditional, social acceptable feminine behaviour). The term ‘women’ is fine.

For mixed gender groups, “Guys” is not gender neutral and using it to mean “people” assumes that the normal, default human being is male. Use people, folks, team.

If you aren’t sure, ask and use language that reflects peoples’ choice and style in how they talk about themselves.

Make your own preferred choice of pronouns clear – you can add them to your email sign off – learn more in this GDI Pronoun Guide

Flexible, remote and agile working

Offering different kinds of flexible working creates a more inclusive environment.

Offering different kinds of flexible working creates a more inclusive environment. Employees who are not able to work in traditional 9-5 fixed-location jobs, due to personal or family circumstances, can still become a valued part of the work force. Research shows that implementation of flexible working arrangement increases workplace diversity; while its absence inhibits the development of a diverse workforce. Pre COVID-19 flexible working policies may not have been fully embraced by some managers over concerns that remote or flexi-workers may not deliver on their objectives. Most managers now realise that this is not the case.

Make it clear that you are open and receptive to exploring flexi-working arrangements for all team members as long as it fits with work outcomes (and is in line with your existing HR policies). It is essential you do not make this available to certain groups but not others (i.e. just to working mothers) as this is the opposite of inclusive. This approach also stigmatises flexi-policies thus preventing others who could benefit from them, from taking it up.

Managing a remote team does require some additional considerations. Check out the GDI Wellness in the Workplace People Leaders Guide to learn more about how to manage a remote or flexible working team. Share the GDI Wellness Guide for all Staff with your team

 Note that flexible working has positive outcomes for staff when they feel in control and can decide for themselves – rather than it being a requirement or forced upon them. This means that some employees may have had a negative experience of flexi-working during COVID-19 (perhaps from struggling trying to balance work and extra childcare, or inadequate technology) but this does not mean that they are uninterested in flexi-working

TIP 4: Counteract conscious and unconscious bias

Recognize bias and the role it plays

Bias is a prejudice in favour of or against a person or a group when compared with another person or group, usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair.

There are two types of bias: conscious bias (also known as explicit bias) and unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias). CGIAR does not permit any form of conscious bias, including but not limited to racism, gender bias or homophobia. (Please read CGIAR’s GDI Framework, as well as CGIAR’s Anti-Racism statement for further details). But decades of research shows that even when conscious bias is removed, unconscious bias may still be preventing many organisations from achieving their diversity and inclusion targetsThese are social stereotypes we all hold about certain groups of people that are outside our own conscious awareness. No-one wants to believe they are biased, but it’s very important to know that everyone is – and that means you too! These biases are not reflections of our true beliefs or values, so it is very difficult for any of us to acknowledge that they may be impacting our decision making. Even more frustrating is that there is no cure, you cannot debias yourself or anyone else, because unconscious bias is an essential part of the human brain. It has been shown that such biases can lead to unintentional discrimination and poor decision-making, resulting in an impact on recruitment, mentoring and promotions. This can hamper equal opportunities for women, people of colour, and other diverse groups in terms of selection and progression to a high-level management and leadership role. For example a Yale University study found that male and female scientists, both trained to be objective, were more likely to hire men, and consider them more competent than women, and pay them $4,000 more per year than women.
Don’t believe you have bias? We strongly advise you to take an implicit bias test! The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a free tool to check your unconscious bias levels across a range of diversity dimensions (age, gender, race, religion and disability). Follow this link to take a test.
Watch this 2 minute simple video that explains what unconscious bias is.
Learn more about the types of unconscious bias women in science face in this HBR article.
Look out for our upcoming GDI eLearning module on unconscious bias for practical tips and suggestions

Addressing the impact of bias on diversity & inclusion

Unconscious bias can result in unfair discrimination in many aspects of the workplace – from hiring decisions to performance evaluation, promotions and even how work gets allocated within a team.

Unconscious bias can result in unfair discrimination in many aspects of the workplace – from hiring decisions to performance evaluation, promotions and even how work gets allocated within a team. Addressing bias however is not an easy task. While you can raise awareness of unconscious bias and help people acknowledge and recognise their own bias in action this does little to prevent bias creeping into future decision making. You can put in place mechanisms to de-bias, through the implementation of robust decision making processes, with checks and balances along the way to catch bias in action.

Take the upcoming 30 minute GDI ‘Unconscious Bias for People Leaders’ eLearning module to find out more about how unconscious bias manifests itself in CGIAR’s workplaces and tips on how to help mitigate the impact it has on your people decisions.

Help fight gender imbalance head on with your team in an engaging way using this ‘50 Ways to Fight Bias’ toolkit developed by and Stanford. It includes ready-to-go presentations and workshops, short informative videos and a card-based activity.

TIP 5: Build psychological safety

Make it safe for your team to have conflicting points of views and to make mistakes

Psychological Safety is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.

It’s a term coined by Amy Edmonson from Harvard Business school. Edmondson’s 25 years of pioneering research focused on the small risks people face every day at work when interacting with others. She noted that we all learn from an early age to be ‘impression managers’, in the workplace this means that we do not wish to appear ignorant (by asking stupid questions), disruptive (by challenging other’s decisions or ideas) or incompetent (by making mistakes). However, her research shows that all of these are essential ‘learning behaviour’, which are linked to our ability to solve problems and innovate.

How is this linked to Diversity and Inclusion? The perception of risk and need to impression manage is higher for individuals from different diversity dimensions because they are likely to bring new and different perspectives. If we want to reap the benefits of greater diversity of thought, we need to create team environments where everyone is comfortable expressing their unique point of view. Without this we rob ourselves, our team and our organisation of the unique contribution that diverse talent can bring.

We can’t learn and grow unless we feel comfortable asking questions, seeking help, expressing concerns, experimenting with unproven actions, or seeking feedback. When employees join a new team or workplace, they observe how their manager and peers react and quickly assess the interpersonal risk associated with a given behaviour. So, an action that might be unthinkable in one team, will be readily taken in another.

Much of Edmonson’s research is with medical teams. She found in teams where doctors had created the psychological safety to disagree, nurses would call out questions of uncertainty regarding dosages/combinations of drugs prescribed and far fewer errors occurred. Whereas in those team where there was no psychological safety to disagree with the doctor, due to fear of humiliation or reprimanding by the doctor, the error rate and incidences of the adverse effect of drugs was much higher. Similar results were shown in Google’s massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that their highest-performing teams had one thing in common: psychological safety.

This HBR article outlines six steps to build psychological safety in your team
Encouraging and being open to new ideas and conflicting points of view is central to the idea of Psychological safety. Watch this TED talk by Margaret Heffernan to find out more.
Create open and productive discussions, where people feel safe sharing their experiences and perspectives. Here are some suggestions on how to create open dialogue with your teams.

Being receptive and open to feedback, especially if it challenges your current mindset, requires being skilful at having difficult conversations. Create opportunities for connections by using words that invite different perspectives and help people feel heard and valued.

Want to know more to be an inclusive leader?

In this long but thorough report, Catalyst surveyed over 2,100 employees at large corporations to look deeply at predictors of inclusion. Their findings showed that manager’s behaviour had a direct link to an employee’s experience of inclusion, with almost half of an employee’s experience of inclusion explained by their managers inclusive leadership behaviors. The report provides some very specific tips on being more inclusive.

All the guides in the series