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How to Fight Sexism on Your Company's Slack
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How to Fight Sexism on Your Company's Slack

Nick Douglas, Gawker Media

"Your company's Slack is probably sexist," writes Quartz reporter Leah Fessler. As on other open-discourse platforms like Reddit, chat rooms, and email listservs, men tend to dominate the conversation. Slack's open format can favor male communication patterns like bluntness and rambling, over female patterns like using cushioning words, listening to others, and basically not being a dick. The bias can be insidious, but Fessler finds some ways to fight it:

  • Set norms. Because sexism on Slack is usually subtle or unintentional, it can feel uncomfortable to call it out. Stanford gender research director Caroline Simard suggests teams set a standard for "sharing airtime," so that if a man tends to shut down or dominate discussion, others can point out the policy rather than "call him out."
  • Vouch for people's authority. Simard also recommends that people call attention to the credentials of women and people of color, to counteract unconscious assumptions that white men are the most qualified people in the room.
  • Use DMs and private groups to speak more directly. "The pressure that exists in public channels to preface or cushion comments and links disappears in DMs and private groups, many women told me," says Fessler. "I, too, become far more direct, and simply myself, over DMs."
  • Support each other in public channels. Even if a man seems to shut down a woman's idea, other women can chime in and revive it. Studies of email listservs showed that women were more likely to "team up" whether or not they agreed on everything, whereas men behaved like "lone warriors."
  • Put women in authority positions. Feminist scholar Dale Spender found that group discourse can shift toward female communication styles-if the group is more than 60% women, and if at least one active moderator is a woman.

The whole feature piece belongs in your Instapaper, as Fessler talks to co-workers, experts, and representatives at Slack, connecting phenomena specific to this platform to larger trends of sexist group dynamics, to diagnose the issue and to find a solution.

Your company's Slack is probably sexist | Quartz

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