Getting Women on the Moon and More

July 24, 2019

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“[Race scientists] play on your sense of ethnicity or sense of origin story. They build up this image of you as being a biologically essential person....And this is what ethnic nationalists do. They play on these assumptions and stereotypes and the lack of education that we have around these issues, and they make us believe that identity is biological, when identity is cultural.”—Angela Saini, on how race science has crept into the 21st century.
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THE STORY

Iranian-American chef and food journalist Samin Nosrat has become a household name, thanks to her bestselling book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, and her four-part Netflix docuseries of the same name. In a recent interview with NPR, she discusses what it’s like to be “a woman of color in the upper echelons of the snarky, hypercompetitive food world.” Because the media typically portrays Iranians as either “terrorists or [the reality show] Shahs of Sunset,” Nosrat focuses on representing herself as authentically as possible.

Iranian food

In order to keep opening doors for other women of color in the food industry, she fights back against what she calls “opportunity hoarding”: “My first urge when I get asked to do things is, ‘I'm going to say yes to this, because if you don't ask me, who are you going to get?’ I had to calm down and trust that if I say no this time, it will come around again….it actually doesn't harm me at all to help somebody else.”​

OUR TAKE

What we especially love about this interview with Nosrat is her joke about the meaning of true diversity: “[It’s] not when there's the excellent black person, the excellent Iranian chef or whatever. It's when there's as much black and brown and queer mediocrity as there is white mediocrity.” This point reminds us that the decades-old aphorism that people of marginalized identities need to be “twice as good to get half as much” is still all too true.

How It Affects You

When hiring, you too can push the door open for people of marginalized identities. Employ language that signals inclusion, and avoid applying ambiguous, shifting, or exclusionary criteria to more familiar job candidates.

THE STORY

Sara M. Langston, assistant professor of Spaceflight Operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, argues that we must focus on diversity and inclusion in the space industry as we prepare to return to the moon by 2024 and establish a long-term presence there. She says the return mission will include both men and women astronauts, and will be a collaboration between multiple countries. Right now, women are underrepresented in the space industry. They also face exclusion in the form of equipment that isn’t designed with them in mind. Some industry leaders are creating a more inclusive environment for women by, for example, using the word “humankind” in place of “mankind” and running information campaigns to make women feel more included in the conversation on space exploration.

In reference to the fact that we should soon witness the first woman on the moon, Langston writes, “I think this inclusive vision invokes a refreshingly equitable interpretation toward human footprints on the Moon and the collective role of humanity in space.”

Our Take

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we’re reflecting on the strides we’ve made in women’s inclusion in the workplace since 1969. We can’t wait to see further progress. We want the cultural associations with space exploration to be more gender- and race-inclusive—to see an aspiration historically offered to white men to be offered to all.

How It Affects You

The exclusion women astronauts face resembles that of women in other industries. The gender data gap results in equipment and technologies that are designed exclusively with men in mind, and language across many industries could do with an inclusive tune-up. How do your organization’s goals and aspirations transform when you invite employees and students of all identity groups to achieve them?

THE STORY

A typical performance review tends to weigh individual achievements more than one’s contributions to the team and to workplace culture. When organizations focus only on things like an employee’s technical skills, it can lead to an environment that’s far from inclusive. Atlassian has developed a new type of performance review that aims to acknowledge and reward the often invisible work carried out disproportionately by women and underrepresented people of color. Examples include mentoring, helping others on their projects, and taking on administrative tasks.

Woman of color holds a performance review in her hands.

The review places equal weight on “a “demonstration of values” (looking at behaviors such as transparent and constructive communication and actively seeking opportunities to help others); “delivery on role expectations” (measuring... individual achievements); and “contribution to the team” (focused explicitly on how the employee interacts with and treats others).”

OUR TAKE

From what we know about authentic leadership and the leadership qualities shown to be most effective, we think this new kind of performance review is a great improvement over traditional reviews. Too often, employees who are highly skilled but who are disrespectful and degrade their workplace culture are given accolades and climb their way to the top with ease. With this traditional performance review model, those sent to the top may be the least qualified for the work of building an inclusive culture and being successful leaders.

How It Affects You

Take a look at your performance review process. Who are you sending to the top? Is it the employee who contributes to the team as a whole and builds inclusive culture, or is it the employee who only watches out for themself? If it’s the latter, alter your process to account for the invisible labor of helping others and taking on low-profile tasks. Doing so will be an investment in the leadership of your organization.