To inspire businesswomen and aspiring entrepreneurs alike, we caught up with Suzanne Doyle-Morris to chat about promoting diversity in the workplace with InclusIQ, how to tackle unconscious bias and the rewards of her culture-changing philosophy.
Could you tell me a bit about your academic background first of all?
I’ve been specializing in diversity and inclusion for the last twenty years. My first degree was in Women’s Studies and Psychology and I did that in the U.S where I’m from, then I did some work in London and did my PhD in Cambridge looking at women working in male dominated fields.
What was it that sparked your interest in pursuing those studies?
I’ve always been interested in how successful women, particularly those who are a minority in their field, were able to make great careers, and what the rest of us can learn from them. I wrote my first book Beyond the Boy’s Club and that helped give me and my readers vital answers. I interviewed a lot of successful women mainly in the UK but in the US as well, all who worked in male dominated fields. My second book was called Female Breadwinners about how they are changing the modern workplace. So many of the women I coach and work with are a main earner for their family. I was interested in that because it’s a big demographic shift we’ve seen since the 70s when it used to be just 4% of married women doing that and now it’s closer to 25%.
What kind of obstacles did you find female breadwinners had in the workplace in male dominated fields, in terms of career advancement?
A lot of them were competing with men who had stay at home wives, which means the life administration gets done much more easily and they are also competing with men for whom they don’t necessarily always think they are as ambitious as they are because they have other earners in the family. If you are the main earner, it helps if your boss knows that. We all make an assumption that a woman is the lesser earner, and that’s part of the reason people are not so quick to give women raises and promotions.
Can you tell me about the sessions you run at InclusIQ?
We go in and look at the data that will help tell the story of what is going on at an organization, and we come up with solutions after that. So what I mean by the data is how many women are employed and at what level, but they might not know how long it is for promotions for women verses men, they may not look at engagement scores, and they won’t necessarily look at the details of who is more likely to get not just promoted but referred for things like additional training or work trips.
Why people can’t recognize this type of unconscious bias?
We are blind to our own biases – all of us. And if you are human with a brain, it’s essentially a mental shortcut that helps us make decisions quickly. But when you’re dealing with people it can be very limiting.
A bias in the workplace is assuming that a working mother is going to be less committed to her job. However, working fathers are deemed to being more committed to their jobs because it’s assumed they need their job much more. For women it’s assumed that children will always come before work; a trade off we don’t make for men.
What’s most rewarding about your work?
When we are able to make a difference in the culture and people talk about these issues much more openly. It’s getting people to talk about intersectionality – all the factors that make us who we are to the outside world. For me I’m not just a woman but I’m a white heterosexual woman. But if I were black gay man I’d have a different set of identities overlapping. Talking about intersectionality is a good move forward for organizations.
What’s been the highlight of your work with InclusIQ?
The response we’ve had to the game events we run. We’ve built video games that challenge you to think about how to deal with a difficult colleague. You know, the person who always makes snide comments. We use interaction to get people to see all the different ways these situations could unfold. It’s also rewarding just seeing companies shift their numbers. A few years ago, one corporate client only had 12% female partners but within a few years they had nearly doubled that number.
Finally, what advice would you give to women struggling for recognition or opportunities in the workplace?
Grow your stakeholder map. Satisfy your boss but realize your next role isn’t necessarily related to your boss, so network and find sponsors and talk to people in other parts of the business and the wider industry.
Keen to use the expertise of InclusIQ in your business or want to see what they’ve been up to? Drop them a line on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.