Bill Doherty: We now have much more diverse workforces than we used to in the old days, when they were mostly men, for example—not many women and more white people than people of color—and so here’s a question that’s a little bit riskier, but I think could be an interesting one for people to think about: ask the question, “Are we using all of the people resources we have? Is everybody getting a chance?”
And you could do this at a workshop, you could be asking people to think about whether the diversity we have around the table whether enough voices or all the voices are coming to play.
For example, it’s not uncommon that the larger the group the more men are more apt to speak up than women. I don’t approach that by saying, “Men you should shut up more and women you should talk up more,” but are we accessing the voices, the knowledge and the energy, and the wisdom of everybody here?
So I was in a work setting as a peer and people sort of looked at me as a process person and I began to realize at one point that the three women on the team were not getting a lot of airtime. And I just commented that we seem to have kind of an imbalance in who’s speaking, and I’m just inviting us to consider that as we go forward. I wasn’t putting anybody down. The men were all making useful comments and it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the women, but that’s an example of a process comment you try to make neutrally and descriptively. And then I didn’t end that by saying “Okay Donna, speak up.”
And then what happened was there was a sort of a tilting that occurred, because what I began to notice was that when there was an instantaneous—when the gap opened up there was a man immediately filling it, and that some of the women weren’t like beating him to the punch. And so just that little process comment at the team (it was an all-day kind of retreat) served the purpose of just some rebalancing, with nobody being the bad guy.