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Newsletter Week 22

June 26, 2019

This week: 

  • Disruptive behavior by white boys is often coded as “genius” as early as middle school. Are we setting these kids up to be “brilliant jerks” later on?

  • Case studies can reinforce stereotypes. How is your L&D, marketing and product team making sure their case studies and customer personae are unbiased?

  • Time to put your pronouns in your e-mail signature...but only if the environment is genuinely safe for LGBTQ+ people.

  • A compilation of tech diversity disclosure data in a delightful interactive format.

  • No “woke washing,” please.

Today in D&I In Practice

Do “Genius Boys” Become “Brilliant Jerks”? (D&I Original/Subscribers Only)

Recent research in middle school classrooms showed that white (and to a less extent, Asian) boys got a pass on disruptive behavior. In fact, their behavior was often excused because they were “geniuses.”  The parallel to the “brilliant jerk” phenomenon at work is obvious.

More in News and Research

1. The Stereotypes in MBA Case Studies (Harvard Business Review)

New research from Stanford explores how case studies—one of the core teaching tools in MBA programs— can reinforce racial, national and gender stereotypes. For example: 

“In reality, the culture or a group of people is more nuanced than can be presented in a broad statement. Take these examples. In (the case study) Benihana of Tokyo, the author describes:

'the rapidity with which [Japanese chefs in the U.S.] could rise in the American Benihana operation versus the rather rigid hierarchy based on class, age, and education they would face in Japan.'

This is an assumption based on stereotypes (which also further reinforces those stereotypes) instead of offering relevant examples of “rigid hierarchy” and how they might impact chefs in Japan."

The authors point out that the case study method has crept into many aspects of business life, from case study interviews to L&D organizations. As a former marketer, I especially love their insight about “conflating stereotypes with customer segmentation.” Customer personae have become the cornerstone of marketing and product management. Are your tams reviewing their persona development process to make sure they’re not using stereotypes as shortcuts for customer descriptions?

2. Gender Pronouns in the Workplace Are Not a Passing Trend (Quartz)

I confess: I haven’t added my preferred pronouns to my e-mail signature or LinkedIn profile. After reading this article, I’m going to. But keep in mind, as the article points out, it’s critical to make sure the environment is safe before encouraging people with non-binary gender identities to out themselves.

3. Diversity in Tech: The Visualization (

Although it’s only updated through 2017, it’s the most comprehensive compilation of tech diversity disclosure numbers I’ve seen. Plus, you can drill down and view the underlying data, which is a huge plus.

4. Unilever Says Brands Using “Woke Washing” Destroy Trust (The Guardian)

Research increasingly suggests that both consumers and employees want companies to represent their values. But it’s important that corporate actions have real meaning, beyond meaningless publicity or sales ploys. From the article:

“The younger generation are much more aware that they’re being marketed to. Every brand wants that immediate idea that’s going to lift them above the noise, but the messaging and authenticity – really making a change – isn’t easily achieved in the blink of an eye. We all end up even more cynical.”

We’re Also Reading...

These articles aren’t necessarily directly connected to the workplace, but have interesting insights about diversity and inclusion in society at large. 

We Still Don’t Know How to Navigate the Cultural Legacy of Eugenics (Longreads)

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language (Scientific American)

City Hive Founder Bev Shah: “Neurodiversity is my Super Power” (Financial News)

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