Corporate America has made almost no progress improving women’s representation. Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color, and white women.”

The Trusted Ten. No, we are not talking about your top Myspace friends (why did Tom always need to be #1?) but rather a team activity which will shed some light on the way folks think.

The task is simple, all you need to do is take a piece of paper and make 6 columns. You then need to think about your inner circle- the people you really trust, those who act as your “sense check”, your counsellor – who you trust to give you sound advice at work. Now write their names down in column 1.

Now, add the header ‘Gender’ to column 2, then ‘Race/Ethnicity’ to column 3, ‘Education level’ to column 4, ‘Sexual orientation’ to column 5 and ‘Disability statues’ to column 6. Fill in the table with the relevant information. When you step back and look at the table, what patterns do you notice? Are the diversity dimensions similar to your own? If you are male, are most of your top ten male also? Chances are yes. This is because the trusted 10 are very often people very similar to you. People tend to trust those who belong to the same types of in-groups as they do, but this can be incredibly problematic – especially at work.

According to Tomorrow Today Global, management will automatically be drawn to working with individuals that share their affinity bias and will be more inclined to work with people like them – people who they trust. An obvious issue with this is that more uniformed teams are being created at work which a real lack of diversity. “This becomes more problematic when we consider the current context of gender disparate C-suite positions which results in women being ‘single representatives’ in top-level organizational teams.”  According to McKinsey’s 2018 Women in the Workplace report, 20 per cent of women surveyed said they were often the only female in the room or one of very few.

Activities to try in your team

In your next team meeting or all hands. Ask folks to consider who they go to for a sense-check when they’ve come into conflict at work. Are those folks who share similar or different diversity dimensions?

Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Consider a time you were accused of prejudice or bias which made you feel defensive. Who did you reach out to in your network of trusted connections to make sense of the issue? Having done the Trusted Ten exercise, what would you do differently if you were to go back and assess the situation again?

In your next 1:1. Think about the tools and frameworks that help you make more diverse and equitable decisions. How can you create accountability to engage them during your conversations and hold yourselves accountable to them every time you connect and make decisions?

New habits to make a difference

The Trusted Ten activity not only shows us how affinity bias plays out, it also helps us understand how society is designed in a way that continues to segregate us along diversity dimensions like class, gender and sexual orientation. In your close circle of friends challenge each other to complete the Trusted Ten activity to spark conversations about trust and inclusion.

Look around your local community in the context of local geography and consider which voices are most underrepresented, how can you tap into those voices in the media you consume?

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