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CAREER VOICES CONT’D


and men. Examples include performing ‘invisible’ work, such as resolving problems and bringing teams together, which receives little to no credit; exclusion from key networks necessary for advancement; and being hyper- scrutinized while in leadership roles.”


“Secondary gender bias does not require intent to exclude nor does necessarily produce direct, immediate harm to any individual, rather it creates something like ‘There’s something in the water,’” said Imes. He likened it to traveling to another county, tasting the water and thinking that something is just not right. “You can’t put your finger on it, can’t give it a name, it’s hard to describe, you can’t look it up and Google it on the Internet, but you know it’s real.”


One woman who has ascended the executive ladder gave an example of how things have changed. Earlier in her career while working with a defense contractor, she arranged a meeting with a colonel at the Pentagon. She took along her mentee, who was male and fresh out of college. At the meeting, the colonel turned his back on her and spoke directly to the male.


“It’s not as overt [now] as it was in the ‘80s,” she said. “Still you have to be more prepared. It was obvious then. When it’s under the water, it’s much more difficult to handle the situation.”


Imes related the experience of another woman frustrated with the status quo who said: “My firm has the very best intention when it comes to women but it seems if every time a leadership role opens up women are not on the slate. The claim is made that they just can’t find women with the right skill set and experiences.”


Imes also pointed out that the demographics in America are changing. “However, the workforce is not changing at the same rate,” he said. “We need to open the door if we are going to survive.”


Imes, Pankey and Gupta offer the following advice for women for overcoming barriers and making the workplace better:


• Admit you don’t know what you don’t know • Become open to gaining new knowledge


16 WOMENOFCOLOR | FALL 2014


• Acknowledge your own biases


• Decide if you still believe what you learned as a child about women


• Make a conscious choice to change beliefs you previously held that don’t hold true


• Assess your inner circle and, if necessary, expand it to include different generations and ethnic groups


• Accept that growth is not always comfortable


• Evaluate if you champion other women and, if you don’t, consider doing so • Ask for help from other women


• Leverage employee networks to build new relationships


• Realize the value of mentors and develop a solid relationship with one who can guide and support


Said Imes of building relationships, “There is no GPS for life in corporate America. The best you can do is get someone else’s map and try to navigate based on their experience.”


It was also suggested that women recognize the value of socializing with co-workers after work — whether it’s getting together for happy hour or showing up at a company function.


“It makes a huge difference. It got me very well known in the company,” shared one female executive.


Imes said women fighting against workplace barriers should keep in mind the acronym PIE, which stands for performance, image and exposure.


“Performance, you must be the best,” said Imes. “Image, let’s face it. If they are not comfortable with you, no one will want to bring you onto the team. [Exposure,] so people will know who you are.”


by Gale Horton Gay, ghorton@ccgmag.com


www.womenofcolor.net


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