Critical Listening Guide

Just Because You Always Hear It, Doesn't Mean It's True

Not all approaches to increasing diversity are research-based or effective

This guide is intended to help you identify common misunderstandings that surface when people talk about how to increase the participation of women (and other underrepresented groups) in technology.

Use these tips to help you spot statements that might be "red flags" or a sign that the discussion is headed in a direction that is not research-based

Types of Problem Statements:

All Statements: Lack Intersectional Lens

Note that in addition to the problems identified above, all of the statements in this grid lack an attention to intersectionality – that is, they fail to recognize the ways in which women and men vary in terms of race, class, sexual orientation and other social identities.

Remember that it is always important to ask "which women" or "which men" are involved?

"Women need to learn to be more confident"

"Women bring communication or people skills"

"Hey ladies, we need to stop holding ourselves back"

"Consider infusing hip-hop into your curriculum to better engage students of color"

"Learn to take up space, and toot your own horn"

"So tell me what are the top 5 things we need to do to recruit and retain more Black women? More LGBTQ folks?"

"Women need flexibility in their jobs"

"Men are such linear thinkers"

"Women and men have different leadership styles"

"We need to help our interns from certain areas learn to speak more professionally; otherwise, it’s really going to hold them back"

"A senior leader announces that the Black and Latinx affinity groups should take the lead in developing an inclusion strategy"

"We really need to help our Asian students learn to speak up more"

"Women manage like ____; men manage like____."

"Women won't apply for the job unless they have all the qualifications; but men will apply if they only have a few"

"Women are such great collaborators"

"Women want a family-friendly workplace"

"Don't be afraid to negotiate; just waltz in there, and ask for what you deserve"

"Take charge of your career"

"We really need to hire more ______ (e.g., Black, Latinx, Native American) employees so that we can better understand that market"

"Women usually want/choose to spend more time with their families"

Ideas for Using This Tool

For Yourself:

  • Skim before or after conferences, workshops, or other talks to heighten your ability to recognize and address these concerns.
  • Refer to it when preparing your own talks, panels or workshops.
  • Refer to it when reading information on diversity or whenever you hear something that doesn't sound quite right.

With Others:

  • When using this tool, don't make it about blame. Talk about how we've probably all made these statements from time to time. These are complex topics so it's helpful to think about how to talk about these issues in more accurate and effective ways.
  • Show this to your team or to other colleagues to start a conversation.
  • Debrief with others after conferences or workshops, using this tool for reference.
  • Disseminate as a helpful resource for speakers who are preparing talks.