The role of allyship in a post-#MeToo workplace
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Good morning and happy Monday!

If you’re a regular reader of Fearless, you may have noticed an increase in coverage surrounding sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace. That’s because this month marks five years since #MeToo took the world by storm. We know this movement had a tremendous impact on women – and men – in the workplace, so we’ll be continuing to explore its relevance in the coming weeks.  

This week, we’re running a column from Business Record Editor Emily Barske, who talked with Business Publications Corp. Group Publisher Chris Conetzkey about male allyship in a post-#MeToo workplace.

We’re also running a Q&A with the authors of "Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work." One of the authors, Beth Livingston, may be a familiar face to Fearless readers, as she’s a professor at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and does a lot of research with gender issues.

If you missed our Fearless Focus virtual event last week, we’re also running a video replay of that conversation.

Lastly, we’re republishing our profile on Dalia Kyi, who is the founder and owner of Unuhe, an interpreting business that specializes in Karen, Karenni, Burmese and Chin languages. Her story originally ran in 2021 as part of our annual Fearless profile series.

All that and more below! Have a great week.

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

#MeToo and reflections on male allyship  
Photo credit: Getty Images.
The #MeToo movement is often associated with the downfall of powerful men who for too long abused their authority and influence to harass or assault others, often women. But the movement also gave rise to more thoughtful rhetoric on the flip side: how men can and should use their privileges to support women as allies in the workplace.

Ask a group of people to describe an ally and individual answers will diverge. Merriam Webster defines ally as "one that is associated with another as a helper: a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity or struggle."

When it comes to the crusade for gender equity, the shoe fits. Fighting for women’s rights in society, at home and in the workplace is certainly an "ongoing effort" that requires the support of men. While there are systemic changes that would support all women, what individuals need will look different case by case.  

For me, allyship is supporting my dreams and letting me show up authentically. As a young woman in a leadership role, I need male allies who will welcome me to a seat at the table, make me feel like I belong there and create space for my voice when others don’t.

Knowing that this year was the five-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement, I wanted to have a genuine conversation about male allyship in the workplace. My boss, Chris Conetzkey, who is the group publisher of Business Publications Corp., mentored me before I joined the company. I met Chris when I was in college and serving as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily. Having also served as a past editor-in-chief, he was on the publication board.

When I heard Chris at one of our training sessions for the first time, I quickly realized how similar our visions for journalism were. I met with him several times while I was still in college, asking his advice, learning about what he did and sharing my own ideas.

Down the road our paths were able to more formally cross when the Business Record editor position opened and he asked me to join the team to take on the role. This is a topic we talk about often when it is relevant to current situations. But I wanted to have a formal discussion with this topic being the key component. Here’s some of what we reflected on.

New book outlines ways to achieve gender and racial equality at work
Beth Livingston and Tina Opie. Photo courtesy of Beth Livingston.
Right now, only 24 companies in the Fortune 500 are led by women. When you break it down by race, just four of those female CEOs are women of color.

Women as a group make 83 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Asian American/Pacific Islander women are paid 75 cents for every dollar a white man makes. For Black women, it’s 67 cents. Latinas make 49 cents for every dollar.

Notice any common themes? Discrimination exists when you look at gender, but it’s exacerbated when you factor in race and ethnicity.

In their book, "Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work," Tina Opie and Beth Livingston introduce "a philosophy on how to achieve equity across genders and racioethnicity."

Tina Opie is an associate professor of management at Babson College and the founder of Opie Consulting Group. Beth Livingston is an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business.

Opie said she first heard the term "shared sisterhood" at a professional development workshop. It resonated with her, and she decided to develop it further.

"I noticed that women were struggling, but often separately. I asked myself, ‘If feminism is real, why aren’t Black and white women helping each other at work?’" Opie said.

That was when she brought in Livingston, whom she’d known from previous conferences.

"As someone who had been studying diversity and inclusion and gender, I was very excited about this and intrigued by it because I felt like it was an opportunity for us to construct solutions in a field where we're often waiting for other people to tell us what to do," Livingston said.

Throughout the book, Opie and Livingston explore the historical relationship between Black and white women and provide tools to forge authentic connections with people across backgrounds.

The following conversation with the authors has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What is shared sisterhood, and what is it not?

Livingston: We call shared sisterhood our radically optimistic philosophy towards achieving gender and racial equity at work. It’s constructed of three practices: dig, bridge and collective action.

Dig is about being introspective about your identities and the way that they're associated with power or the control over resources. It’s thinking about race and gender and what makes you who you are.

Bridge is about building authentic connections across differences. Authentic connections are those that are empathetic, vulnerable, trusting and trustworthy, and are characterized by risk-taking across these differences. And then the important thing is that all those individual bridges that you're building with your co-workers create this latticework that allows us to work together to achieve equity in the workplace in a way that is stronger and better able to withstand the difficulties to make change in today’s organizations.

It is different from other perspectives in a couple of ways. First of all, we know there's some cynicism around DEI in some places these days. We take a very optimistic approach in that we absolutely can change. It doesn't pretend there's some quick fix towards achieving equity. But it also takes these what’s often seen as dueling perspectives of "Do we need to change hearts and minds, these individual ideas? How do we become less racist, less prejudiced?" And then "How do we change systems and structures by recognizing the systems and structures that are created and maintained and re-created and re-maintained by people, particularly people with power?" We’re able to talk about how we can bridge those two perspectives with a shared sister.

Opie: It's a strategic tool kit to finally do what so many people have talked about doing for so long. It's practical. It synthesizes a lot of research, a lot of lived experience, and a lot of practical experience. This is something that helps organizations close the gap between their espoused values and what they say, and their enacted values for what they do.

Some people may see shared sisterhood as being a form of allyship. In the book, you differentiate between allyship, accomplices and co-conspirators.

Opie: An ally is someone who believes in equity in theory. That looked like in the summer of 2020, where a lot of people ran out and bought "How to Be an Antiracist," and "White Fragility," read the book, highlighted it and wrote notes, but that was pretty much the extent of it. It did not translate into changes in behavior, and at work in particular, or even in their neighborhoods.

Accomplice is the next level, and that is someone who also believes in equity and someone who's willing to act. They're willing to work to dismantle inequity, but the direction of their work, their motivation is based on what they think is best.

A co-conspirator is someone who believes in equity, but not just in theory. Their actions are driven by the voices of historically marginalized people that they're ostensibly helping. For example, when [a co-conspirator] is by himself, he will go into places or spaces where women might not be and he will advocate for [them]. He will use his own political and social capital for the sake of dismantling inequity on the behalf of women and he knows that it also benefits him because when our whole team is treated equitably, the team performs better.

Throughout the book, you refer to the example of the 1913 suffrage parade, where Ida B. Wells-Barnett was told to march at the back with the all-Black delegation, instead of with her state’s delegation. That event is a prime example of a prioritization of white women over women of color. Are there other historical examples of what could be viewed as the opposite of shared sisterhood?

Livingston: In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, there was the Women's March and it ended up becoming a reflection of white feminism. And what I mean by white feminism is one where when we talk about what women need and what women want, the default is what white women need, what white women want, how white women experience the world and the workplace. It does not acknowledge that these experiences of what it means to be a woman differ by race and by gender.

We see it oftentimes with the way in which we see white people through voyeurism into the anti-racist space, which is like, "Oh, yes, I'm an ally. I care about this stuff. And I'm going to … give you all my knowledge and you can do the thing," instead of saying, "There are so many Black women who are already competent, who are already well-trained." I know it comes from a great place to say, "We'll just give more training and more mentoring," as opposed to saying, "We’ll just get out of the way." That is the actual solution that is needed oftentimes.

Opie: One other contemporary example is the phenomenon of [employee resource groups]. Look at the ERGs in organizations. Most of the women's ERGs are full of white women. White women's issues are prioritized. And as a result, people like me, Black women, Asian women, Latinx women, Middle Eastern women, they have to go, typically, to the racial or ethnic affinity groups to feel like they can be fully seen.

Left: Katie Darling. Center: Nicole Mann. Right: Jodi Long.
In the headlines
Katie Darling, a Louisiana mom who is running for U.S. Congress, was shown giving birth in a campaign ad released last week. "We should be putting pregnant women at ease, not putting their lives at risk," she says as she’s wheeled down a hospital hallway, then laboring in bed.

When SpaceX launched its crewed space mission to the International Space Station last week, one woman on board made history. Nicole Mann, the mission’s commander, is the first Native American woman to go to space. "These young women, maybe Natives, maybe people from different backgrounds that realize that they have these opportunities and [that] potentially these barriers that used to be there are starting to be broken down," she told NPR earlier this year.

Former WHO Channel 13 "Today in Iowa" news anchor Jodi Long announced she is leaving the industry to work as the health equity director for Healthy Birth Day Inc. There, Long will advocate for stillbirth prevention, address racial disparities that exist in birth outcomes, and lead efforts to expand conversations about health equity and stillbirth prevention in the U.S.

Country music singer Loretta Lynn died last week in her sleep at age 90. Lynn’s most famous song, "Coal Miner’s Daughter," helped set the foundation for her status as the voice of working-class women. "Women found the champion with Loretta Lynn," country music historian Bill Malone told NBC News. "They could identify with her success but also independence of mind. "I don’t think she ever identified with the women’s rights movement, yet her songs accomplished the same objective."

Former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has donated $3 million to fight abortion bans. The donation marks a new chapter for Sandberg, who is one of the most prominent female business executives in the country.

West Des Moines-based ITA Group has been recognized by Fortune Magazine and Great Place to Work as one of this year’s Best Workplaces for Women. The Best Workplaces for Women list is determined by confidential quantitative and qualitative surveys on how fairly respondents are treated at their workplace. Great Place to Work also analyzes the gender balance of each workplace and how it compares with the industry they’re in.

The Iowa Women’s Foundation has announced the six recipients of its $150,000 Core Grant program. Recipients are: Hawkeye Community College Foundation, Iowa City Sober Living, Iowa’s Jobs for America’s Graduates, Girls Inc. of Sioux City, NewBo City Market and Oakridge Neighborhood Services. Each organization will receive $25,000.

An investigation into the scandals that erupted in the National Women’s Soccer League last season found that emotional abuse and sexual misconduct were systemic in the sport, beginning in youth leagues. "The verbal and emotional abuse players describe in the NWSL is not merely 'tough' coaching. And the players affected are not shrinking violets. They are among the best athletes in the world," former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates wrote in the report.

Casey’s General Stores Inc. is the recipient of Convenience Store News’ first Top Women in Convenience Corporate Empowerment award. The award honors commitment to gender equality and promoting female advancement. Casey’s has 50% representation of women on its board of directors, making the chain one of 6% of Russell 3000 companies with a gender-balanced board.

Worth checking out
Melinda French Gates is investing $1 billion of her own money for women in the United States. Here’s an inside look at her game plan (Fortune). The crisis of men and boys (New York Times). 8 stories, 28 days postpartum (Glamour). Sesame Street's first Black female puppeteer wants to keep inspiration flowing (NPR). Introducing the 50 Most Powerful Women (Fortune). Recipients of Ivy Women in Business Awards share advice at ceremony (Business Record). Teachers, nurses and child care workers have had enough (The Atlantic).
Fearless Focus: Risk-taking and overcoming failure
Did you miss our Fearless Focus virtual event on risk-taking and overcoming failure last week? Catch a full replay of our conversation with Kirsten Anderson, Katie Hoff and Connie Wimer.
DALIA KYI: ‘I want to make a difference in people’s lives’
Photo by Emily Kestel. Illustration by Kate Meyer.
Dalia Kyi is the founder and owner of Unuhe, an interpreting business that specializes in Karen, Karenni, Burmese and Chin languages. She was born in Myanmar (Burma) and moved with her family to the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand to flee the war. Kyi spent 10 years in the camp before moving to the United States. She lives in Des Moines.

The following story has been formatted to be entirely in her own words, and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

We went to the refugee camp when I was 3 years old. I’m the youngest in my family and I’m the only girl. I have four brothers. My dad passed away when I was 6, so I was basically raised by a single mom.

Life at the refugee camp was really challenging. You live in fear. Sometimes you’d hear threats from the Burmese military that they were going to bomb the camp. You don’t have running water or electricity, and the education system is very limited. The houses are made of bamboo and the roofs are made of leaves. We had a kitchen, bedroom and a living room. It wasn’t anything fancy. You receive food, but it’s barely enough.

My first memory of the camp was when my dad and his friends started building our house. We had been living in a house that was not completely finished. I remember looking up at the stars because we didn’t have a roof yet.

Five days a week, we would wake up and go to school from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The school was nothing fancy. You had six to eight people sharing one row of seating. You could barely write because there wasn’t enough space. We had a one-hour lunch break. I would run back home and eat something for lunch. I felt like I was running my whole life because my house and my school were far away from each other. Since we didn’t have electricity, we had to make sure we got our homework done before the sun went down. We couldn’t afford enough candles to study every night.

Create your own AI-generated art
One of the newsletters I make sure to read every day is Iowa Public Radio’s Daily Digest. Last week, they featured an AI tool that renders text into realistic images. The tool, called DALL-E, is available to the public, and I highly encourage you to try it out!

These are the generated artworks that popped up when I typed in "cubist painting of woman with strawberry blond hair and glasses surrounded by plants."

Pretty cool, huh!

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