Bringing the Sugar and Spice

GIRLS.

We were wrapping up a meeting with two male colleagues when it happened.

“Thanks, girls!” one said as they left the meeting room.

We looked at each other silently for about two seconds.

“Do we say something?” One of us whispered.

“I think so, yes.” The other whispered back.

But by then the “boys” were gone. And I have no idea why we were whispering.

Some may cringe at the title of our blog – and we hope they do – but to us, it’s a little reminder of the things we have in common: The drive to prove ourselves. The drive to succeed in spite of obstacles. The drive to work our asses off and still have fun, as girls are famously known to do.  And unfortunately, as is still evidenced by our work experience, we’re subject to  a world that is sometimes stuck in historical patriarchal norms.

Why “girls” in the blog title?  Girls is sometimes seen as a bad word.  Women aren’t supposed to refer to themselves as girls if they’re working professionals: we should call ourselves women we’re told.  And it’s not that we mind being called girls, except for when there’s that patronizing tone as used by our coworker: it was said in a tone as if we were doing his bidding and moreso, he doesn’t see us as capable beings.  It was said in a dismissive tone, as if to say “Oh, your ideas were cute.  Step aside while we go and do the ‘real’ work.”

There’s a common misconception about feminism that implies the reason why men and women still aren’t equal  is because we keep bringing up inequality.  But as soon as we forget that we’re actually different, then we’ve failed–let us explain. Men and women are different in very distinct ways, and our brand of feminism isn’t about equality: it’s about equity.   There’s a key difference between equality and equity: equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities:,” and equity is “the quality of being fair and impartial.”  If we can’t even get to a place of being equitable (simple fairness and impartiality), how can we get to equality? You can’t ignore the fact we are women; yet, we want to be valued as thinkers, problem solvers, and valued for our hard work–just like our male counterparts–just like anyone.  Equity goes both ways: women also need to appreciate differences in men–men are different than women and can be very different from each other; yet, a lot of popular rhetoric we often hear about men in the workplace is denigrating; men are told to “man up,”  or encouraged to not show emotion or empathy.  So what does all of this have to do with Agile?

Agile is contingent on the ability to collaborate, and in Agile, groups are often faced with difference.  Difference in personality, ways of working, priorities, and changing requirements.  Without celebrating difference and learning how to work within the confines of difference, Agile would fall apart.

In a recent WorkLife podcast with Adam Grant, he references how groups are stronger when they have members who practice humility.  Grant says “Humility is having the self-awareness to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at,” and then acting on that knowledge.  You can step aside if you know that someone on your team is better at a skill than you: forexample, let’s say you need someone to meet with an angry client–one team member may be more direct, than another…

Tips to celebrate difference, work towards collaboration, and drive for equity:

1.) If you hear rhetoric that denigrates someone because of their difference, say something.  You may be helping someone develop the self-awareness they need to get better at collaboration.

2) Take the time with your team to explore traits and strengths each of your members have. There are many free personality tests online, and while some can be silly (or disregarded as pop psychology) acknowledging differences in strengths and understanding how to leverage them – together, as a team – can help everyone perform better.

3) Rather than dividing up projects according to individual strengths, take on fewer, shared projects at any one time and ensure each member of the team contributes to the outcome. Not only will projects get done more quickly, but often even better than originally imagined.

(And boy!)

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