In this series, DEI, Esq. is helping individuals who may have experienced or perceived some sort of bias become bias interrupters.
Dear DEI, Esq.,
My manager recently announced that she’s putting together a team of lawyers to assist with a major project. It involves an area in which I have a lot of knowledge and experience. So, I think I’m a good fit for the project team.
My manager asked me to provide her with a written memo outlining my experience in this area to assist her in putting together the team, but my male colleagues have not been asked to do the same. I feel like I’m being singled out to prove my worth and this is bothering me. Any advice?
Can really use your feedback,
Singled-out team member
Dear Singled-out team member,
We understand your frustration. What you are experiencing may be an example of the “prove-it-again” bias pattern, a form of gender or racial bias, where women and minorities must prove time and again that they are competent. Try this:
Schedule a meeting with your manager (try to keep an open mind) to understand the reason you were asked to put together a written memo while others were not. It could be that your manager is not cognizant of the fact that she has asked you to do something that your male colleagues were not asked to do. This enlightenment can be an education opportunity for your manager to be more aware of the requests she is making of the team, which in turn, will require the manager to be more conscious of her biases.
It could also be that your manager wants you to create a written memo to assist with her talking points to advocate for why you should be part of the project team. So, perhaps she doesn’t have ill intent. The written memo could be to serve your best interests, so a meeting to understand the “why” behind the request would be helpful.
The meeting can also be used as an opportunity to find out what objective metrics are important for the role; what qualities your manager is looking for; and to remind your manager of all the experience you have in this area such that a written memo is not necessary.
So, not only are you making your manager aware of the unconscious biases resulting from the request, but it also gives you an opportunity to verbally highlight your accomplishments in this area and hopefully increase your chances of making the team. We consider this a win-win approach!
Lastly, let your male peers know that you are interested in the team and highlight for them your recent experience in this area. They can be advocates for you!
DEI, Esq. is comprised of in-house counsel who share a deep passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. While the members, Jane Howard-Martin, Connie Almond, Olesja Cormney, Jennifer N. Jones, and Meyling Ly Ortiz, work as employment counsel at Toyota Motor North America, Inc., their views and the thought-leadership expressed are their own and not necessarily the views of their employer.