HANNAH BATES: Welcome to HBR on Leadership, case studies and conversations with the world’s top business and management experts, hand-selected to help you unlock the best in those around you. Do you feel like your true self at work? Or is going to work like putting on a mask? As leaders, we know we’re supposed to be authentic, but all sorts of biases can make that tricky. This conversation explores how leaders can bring their best selves to work — and help others do the same. You’ll learn how to be aware of the attributes you CAN’T control – like your age, gender, and race. AND how to work with what you CAN control – like your communication style and how you express emotion at work – to be a more effective leader. This episode originally aired on Women at Work in February 2018. Here it is.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: It’s a Tuesday morning in early February, and I look pretty much like I usually do at the office.  I’m wearing gray pants and a beige sweater; and because I have a big meeting, I’ve added a navy blazer and pearls.  I even blow-dried my hair.  Usually I just comb it in the car on the drive in and throw it up in a bun.  And makeup? I mean, today I did a coat of black mascara, but honestly some days I feel so busy that I forget to do that.  To be honest, I really hate having to think about what I wear to work.  At the same time, I know that my outward appearance affects whether or not I can have the impact that I want to at work.  Tina Opie knows what I’m talking about.

TINA OPIE:  Substance should absolutely be the thing that you focus on the most.  But what you don’t want is an appearance that detracts or distracts from your substance.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  She’s an assistant professor of management at Babson College and she researches and writes about how organizations can help or hurt employees attempts to be themselves at work.

NICOLE TORRES: Authenticity is what it feels like when you can bring your whole self to work when your behavior matches your intentions. And researchers have found that feeling authentic at the office has been linked to higher engagement, higher workplace satisfaction, better performance and better overall wellbeing.  That’s why authentic leadership has become something of a gold standard at many companies today.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  But there’s a challenge for women who want to be authentic at work. We’re daughters, mothers, sisters, bosses; and all these different roles can be tough to reconcile. So, while authentic leadership is often viewed as geared toward a single true norm, as women we live in a multi-polar world.  How can we be true to ourselves when there are so many competing selves?

NICOLE TORRES:  You are listening to Women at Work from Harvard Business Review.  I’m Nicole Torres, associate editor.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  I’m Sarah Green Carmichael, executive editor.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  I’m Amy Bernstein, editor of HBR.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  In this episode, you’ll hear from Tina Opie, a Babson professor who studies authentic leadership.

NICOLE TORRES: Then I talked to Candice Morgan about how she’s making Pinterest a workplace where employees style, whether it’s dress or communication, doesn’t count against them. After that, Sarah, Amy and I look back on the times when we wanted to fit in at work and when we wanted to stand out.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  We sat down with Tina to talk about what feels authentic to us, what doesn’t.  We dug into how we show or hide anger.

NICOLE TORRES:  We swapped so many stories about ourselves, women we’ve worked with, even our mothers. Here, Sarah starts us off.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL: I’ve worked with a woman once who was pulled aside by our boss and the boss said, You know, you have a lot of potential.  I can see you moving into management.  But if you want to do that, you need to dress differently and you should start wearing makeup.  Everyone in this case was a woman, but my peer who’d been given this advice was furious and was, like, that is so sexist.  I can’t believe she would say that I have to wear makeup to get ahead in this company.  How do you think about that?  I mean, is it sexist to give someone that kind of advice?

TINA OPIE:  Here’s the thing.  We have to sort of differentiate between how we want the world to be and how the world actually is.  So would I like that advice to never be heard or never be uttered because if this is the way you want to go to work, you’re completely fine as long as you’re doing an amazing job at your work?  That’s the kind of world I want to live in, that’s the kind of world that I’ve dedicated my research and teaching towards building.  But unfortunately, that is not the world in which we live.  We live in a world where impressions matter, where appearance is highly connected to impressions.  Unfortunately, fortunately or unfortunately, and the bottom line is you all have done a lot of research here at HBR on sort of the way that humans automatically categorize other people.  It’s instantaneous.  You see something and you categorize it.  And because of those types of connections, we automatically think, OK.  This kind of person is going to be more professional.  This kind of person is not going to be.  If you happen to fall into the latter category, you may have some additional work that you have to do to demonstrate that you are in fact fierce, professional, amazing.  But that may come after the fact, after that initial impression that you are not those things.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  My brilliant and wise mother who was an advertising executive when I graduated from college with a wardrobe that consisted of two pairs of blue jeans and three button-down shirts, she took me shopping before I started my first job.  And she made me buy a straight skirt and a nice jacket and a nice blouse.  And these were,you know, if you had dressed me in a Superman outfit, I could not have felt more uncomfortable in the sense and less authentic.  And her advice to me was if you want to be the vice president eventually, dress like the vice president.  And I still, all these years later I think about that.  Because I think that that was excellent advice to someone who didn’t understand what being authentic in the new context would be.  What do you think of that?

TINA OPIE:  Well, Amy what your mother did was provide you with a uniform, right?  So we don’t like to think of ourselves as professionals having to wear uniforms.  We sort, this is, it’s classist a little bit.  In our minds, we’re like we’re above that, we’re more professional.  That’s for other people to have to have to wear uniforms.  But the business suit is in fact a uniform and I have done some research which talks about sort of the origins of the business suit, which is very Euro-centric.  It comes from royal court; it was very masculine, right?  It was actually done as a way to sort of differentiate the classes from each other and to show a certain level of modesty.  Because initially while the suits were super brilliant in color reds and purples and et cetera, eventually they had toned down to what we now have — navies, blacks, grays, very subdued subtle colors because that conveyed and communicated a certain level of professionalism and trustworthiness.  So your mother was literally extending to you the same kind of advice.  She was offering to you to wear a uniform and what I think is important is again, going back to the earlier point.  We, that she was introducing you, or hoping to socialize you into a new world. The corporate world, the workforce was new for you, you had no idea.  If you had shown up with those jeans and one of those button-down shirts, you probably would’ve been flabbergasted and embarrassed when you got there because no one else would’ve been attired in that way.  Now, I will also say that one of my goals is, I mean right now I have one jeggings, a nice floral top, some cute earrings, my hair is up in a puff.  I hope to run a corporation where I can be the CEO and be dressed exactly this way.  And I dare anybody to come in there and tell me I’m unprofessional.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Can I sit and watch?


TINA OPIE:  Now, I also want to have a corporation though where if someone is more comfortable in a business suit, they feel comfortable wearing that.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  So your students come to you for advice all the time.  Can you walk us through a conversation when a student has come asking for advice about how to dress for the job interview?  How to wear her hair, something like that?

TINA OPIE:  Right.  So I actually have, so I can use the students name because she has gone on the record telling this same story.  So I have a former student who has now graduated from Babson, her name is Nadia.  And I was actually doing a workshop on authenticity in the workplace at Babson.  And she said I see that you wear your hair natural; do you think it’s OK if I wear my hair natural to the workplace?  And what I did was walk her through.  I said listen, do you want, do you like your natural hair?  Yes, I feel good about it.  It makes me feel good as a black, Latina woman, that’s really what I’d like to do.  Great, so that’s, we’re establishing the fact that that is connected to her authenticity and her identity.

Then I said, where are you interested in going?  I want to go into law.  OK.  So Nadia, describe for me the kind of context or environment you think you’re going to confront in the legal profession.  Well, they’re very conservative, tailored suits.  And when she said they, she was describing the men.  And then we quickly into the women, it was very similar.  And I don’t think we can escape the fact that initially, women’s business attire was very much created to replicate or duplicate men’s business attire.  Women were,  women’s uniforms in the workplace were designed to cover up their femininity and their differences.  So the first thing is I established with the student, Nadia, what her authentic identity was.  Then we established the legal context.  And here comes a difficult part.  People would like there to be a clear-cut answer, there is not.  I told her that she has to weigh the consequences.  So if your hair is authentic to you, if you feel like you’re giving up, you’re selling yourself out, you’re conforming to a point where it just makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps that’s not the best decision.  But do understand that if you walk into this particular context, it may mean that you don’t get the job interview.  You don’t get a job, you don’t get the assignments.  The alternative you conform and you straighten your hair.  Because for many people of African descent, when we say conform what we mean when it comes to their hair is we mean cover it, which is to straighten it, to get rid of any visible evidence of your African-ness, of your blackness.  You can do that, but if that is going to make you feel bad about yourself, then maybe that’s not the best place for you to be.  Now, that is a very privileged comment to make, because if you have to pay your bills, you’re straightening your hair.  You’re going to cover up the tattoo, you’re going to get rid of the piercings, you’re going to.  Now, there are some things people might say well that being more, we would like her more if she was a little whiter.  I can’t do anything with my skin color.  I guess you can, but I’m not willing to go the cost of that is so high that most people are not willing to do that.  But we do have instances of people who are willing to change their names, right?  We’ve seen that quite a bit, specifically in the Asian community.  They will change their name, they, I saw an example.  I have many students who will say just call me Amy.  But I want to actually call them by the name that’s on their birth certificate but for them that is uncomfortable because it calls out their Asian-ness.  And what I want to get to is a place in the workforce where we are all able to bring who we authentically identify and describe ourselves as to the workforce and our colleagues and classmates embrace that.  Rather than trying to get us to conform.

NICOLE TORRES:  So aside from appearance, how else do we think about authenticity in the workplace?

TINA OPIE:  Well, it could be the way that you communicate.  I was once told that I was too ethnic because I speak with my hands.  But what was interesting is the clients loved me.  They thought you’re such a great story teller.  So the way that you communicate, your accent, the way that you even articulate anger, disagreement, conflict.  Some people will avoid it at all costs.  Other people will dive right in.  For me it is authentic to convey anger.  That is considered unprofessional in some settings.  If you can imagine a setting where you go in and you’re direct with your supervisor or with your subordinate or your colleague and you say listen.  That was my idea in the meeting.  We talked about it.  Explain to me why you took credit for it.

NICOLE TORRES:  I could never imagine saying that.

TINA OPIE:  Right.  But ask yourself why.  So some of it’s about personality, but I think in many professional contexts, you’re going to be considered bad if you actually advocate for yourself, especially if you do that in front of the group.  So does that help, Nicole?  In terms of, because it’s not just about appearance, appearance is one of the, because we immediately categorize people based on appearance.  Appearance is one of the, I’d say gateways of the conversation about authenticity.  And hair, some of the research I’ve done is something that most people can relate to.  Which is why and it’s actually sort of me search.  I’m studying myself a little bit because I was really curious to answer some of these questions.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  So I want to talk a little bit more about anger because I think when we talk about leaders being authentic, it seems like a lot of what we talk about is we want to invite in happy feelings to the workplace.  We say we want people to bring their whole selves to work and we just really mean those parts of themselves that are shiny and happy and we don’t usually mean anger especially for women.  I’m curious to know more of your thoughts on kind of authenticity and anger.

TINA OPIE:  You’re absolutely right.  Women experience significant backlash when they express anger in the workplace.  I think Tori Brescoll’s done some work on that.  But then Ashleigh Shelby Rosette and Robert Livingston and some other folks have done some research for example which shows that this may have to do with intersectionality because black women don’t receive as much backlash as white women do when black women express anger in the workforce.  And so I have never understood sort of the visceral, negative reaction to anger in the workplace.  Now, I’m not talking about someone being a stark raving lunatic going up and down the aisles yelling at people, cursing people out, physical violence or throwing things around.  That’s not what I mean.  Anger means displeasure, annoyance.  It’s a signal that something is awry.  That something is unjust, that some, why is it bad to express that?  Now, of course we have to think about the way that we channel that emotion and the way that we communicate those ideas in the workplace.  And I think women in particular have to be mindful of that  I think women who can figure out how to use their anger in a productive way may find themselves potentially at an advantage.  And I guess the question I have for you –  Have you all been angry in the workplace?  And what have you done?  Have you gone to your cube?  Have you called or your office, have you called your friend?  Have you gone into the bathroom and cried?  What have you all done and I’d be curious to know if you all have seen examples of when anger has been successfully used.  I have some examples, but I really want to hear from you all.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  That’s a really interesting question because you just made me think about the instances when I’ve been angry and when I’ve cried.  And that certainly has happened, but there’s two kinds of anger as I experienced them.  One of them is the hurt anger.  I can’t believe you just did that to me.  And that is really difficult for me.  I always sort of question whether or not this is justified and how much of it is my fault and I go through that sort of checklist of reasons not to deal with it if you know what I mean.  And when I have dealt with it, it’s brought change that I needed.  But There’s another kind of anger that I have had more frequently, which is when things aren’t done the way I’ve asked for them to be done.  And I run a team, and I run an operation, I’m trying to bring about change.  I’m also trying not to bring about change.  I mean, I understand what I’m trying to do here and if I believe that my requests have been countermanded, I get angry and I will say so.  And I’ll call people out for it, but I’ll do it privately, usually.  If it is impeding progress for the organization, that will make me quite angry and I can be articulate about it.  The other one, holy cow I just go up in flames, so.

TINA OPIE:  Well, what’s interesting, Amy, is that when it’s about you in that way, it’s personal, versus it’s about the task, and I think we give ourselves permission.  This is about the work, so I have permission to be angry because if I don’t say something, the organization suffers.  And here we are as women who want to save the organization potentially.  So we’re willing to go to bat for that kind of anger.  But when it comes to someone who’s done something unjust to us, and I would say you may be more willing to articulate your anger.  Or we as women may be more willing to articulate our anger if someone has been unjust to someone else.  So if we cease someone’s training one of our subordinates unfairly, oh—Here I am, angry woman.  I will, yeah, hands on hips, head to the side, what are you doing?  But if they had done the same thing to us, we for some reason, I mean we know the reasons — we can get into those.  We don’t give ourselves permission to articulate that anger and to address the injustices that are personal.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  So I’ve spent almost my whole career in HBR, so I don’t have a lot of experiences with other company cultures.  My experience of our company culture is that visible displays of anger are not welcome at HBR.  Even to the point where sometimes normal sort of healthy conflict feels like whoa, that was some conflict.  The whole corporate culture that I’ve grown up with is very anti-anger.  Which on the whole, works for me because I’m a conflict-avoidant person.  That said, I think there have been times when I have felt angry at work.  I think the older I have gotten, the more I have both been willing to call it anger and also the more I’ve been able to kind of decide what to do with it as opposed to just feeling it.

NICOLE TORRES:  Well It seems related to women being expected not to show too much emotion at work and even being passionate about something can be misinterpreted as being too emotional.  I feel like that line gets put on women much more often than it gets placed on men.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  I also think it’s connected to our fear of directness.  I get called out on that occasionally.  I’m looking at someone who I bet also gets called out on that occasionally, Sarah, which, and it’s something I really respect in the way you communicate.  But in a polite culture, like ours, being direct can be misinterpreted as being angry or being rude when all you’re really trying to do is be clear, because a lack of clarity in my view leads to all kinds of problems.  Plus I’m a New Yorker.  It’s in my DNA.  So what are your thoughts about that?

TINA OPIE:  I absolutely agree.  Fear of directness, a polite culture.  I mean you’re still getting at, there’s this organizational cultural notions of what is and isn’t professional.  How you express yourself in the workplace is connected to authenticity.  Amy, if you’re from New York and you’re, I’m very direct.  Come from a very direct family.  We’re from the south and people think that southern gentility, but we’re a black, southern family and let me tell you.  If somebody comes to the house and they’re rude, we might not say it in front of them, but we will talk about it for days.  And the interesting thing is that as I grew older, I was known as the one who was direct, who was forthright, so my mother would say, go get ‘em, Tina.  Go tell him what the deal is.  Because that was my personality and so I absolutely think as a woman in the workplace, I have been slapped on the wrist for being too direct.  But I’ve also tried to figure out how to work around that, right?  So I look at it as I will say to someone when they come to me and ask a question, do you want to hear the truth?  Do you want to hear what I really think?  Or do you want me to just say something to sort of appease the situation?  If you ask me and you tell me you really want to hear what I think, I’m going to be super direct and they know that now, people know that about me and for some reason people like that.  Because I actually think if we could adjust the culture and workplaces to where direct with kindness was valued as opposed to indirect which doesn’t necessarily have a kind intention behind it.  They don’t necessarily want you to understand, they don’t want to hurt your feelings, but they also may not want to give you the direct critical feedback that would help you evolve into a better employee.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  My background is a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, New Englander, and my family is not direct.  Like, nothing is ever spoken directly.  And in fact it makes it really hard to even make plans at the holidays because no one will just say what they would prefer to do.  So I have always in the workplace struggled with how can I be indirect but clear and nice versus what feels to me like being direct and clear but mean?  And I think —

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Just add an exclamation point to the email.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  Right.  And a smiley face.

TINA OPIE:  Exactly.  Smile, I smile. (LAUGHTER)  We’re not going to do it that way, guys.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  No.  So, yeah, dealing with that tension has always been an issue for me.  Nicole, I’m curious on where your thoughts are on that.  What does your family do?

NICOLE TORRES:  Background? Very indirect. We’re suppressors of emotion.  We seethe if we’re sad or angry. It was not a very emotional household, and I think that I am not a super emotional person. And when I come into work, I don’t consider myself very indirect, but I think I’m very polite in my emails, asking for things can be kind of a challenge.  I’m like this will be a great idea; this is great for both of us —

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  You are maybe the most polite person in our office.

NICOLE TORRES:  I’m very polite.  I love exclamation points! I want people to feel my positive energy going to them.  I think that’s internalized from growing up and not really getting to be angry or getting to show anger or even be direct, ask for things directly.

TINA OPIE:  So I’m putting you on the spot, Nicole.  Do you identify as Asian?


TINA OPIE:  From what country?

NICOLE TORRES:  Philippines.

TINA OPIE:  OK.  You speak Tagalog?


TINA OPIE:  OK.  I wasn’t assuming that.  That’s not, so my mother makes lumpia and all that so she knows how to cook Filipino food.  She’s an amazing cook.  So, I asked Nicole if you identified as Asian because there are stereotypes.  And in the workplace, one of the things that’s interesting so Asian people are known as model minorities.  Super polite, will get the work done, focus on the task, but they’re not leaders.  Have you heard that stereotype before?

NICOLE TORRES:  Oh, yeah.  We published research on that.

TINA OPIE:  I know.  So, I’ve sort seen that research and read that research and actually counseled some of my students of Asian descent.  And that is something that they counter, and I guess the question is, when you said you’re not super emotional, is it that you don’t feel the emotions?  Or that you don’t want to express the emotion?

NICOLE TORRES:  I feel these emotions.  Not knowing how to express them or not knowing what’s appropriate to express is probably a big question that I think about subconsciously.  I think it is cultural, that norms of my household growing up and the expectations, the trajectory that was laid out for me is very different than the expectations and path that I envision for myself now.  Trying to advance in the workplace, trying to lead and be heard.  That’s very different than the norms, the role I was expected to play growing up: do really well in school, don’t talk back, get good grades, get a good job, don’t cause a fuss, and then that’s doing good.  And then now I feel very differently.

TINA OPIE:  We all have our cultural upbringing.  We go into a workplace context, right?  Where do we as authentic individuals reside?  How do we navigate those spaces?  Because if you want to express your emotion but you feel like you don’t know how to, that’s one thing.  But if you feel like you have to express emotion because the workplace is forcing you to do that, then that’s still inauthentic.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  But you know Herminia Ibarra wrote this great article, “The Authenticity Paradox.”  And one of the points she made that really resonated for me was that when you think about authenticity, particularly someone who’s closer to the beginning of her career than the end of the career like you, Nicole, you have to try on different personas to see which one feels comfortable.  Because the person who graduated from college a few years ago probably isn’t going to be the one who thrives in any work place, right?  You learn, you grow, you figure it out.  You bump into a few things; you find the right way forward for yourself.  Does that resonate for you?

NICOLE TORRES:  Yeah.  So I liked that article too.  I think she said in there you don’t want to have too rigid a definition of authenticity.  What I think about though, or I would love to know what you all think about is what’s the difference between being inauthentic and then just being pushed out of your comfort zone?  Because the latter one, you do need to evolve in the workplace and as a leader.

TINA OPIE:  So for me, authenticity is about being your best self, right?  It’s not necessarily — there’s some research which has said, keep your authentic self at home.  Nobody wants to see your authentic self; your authentic self is nasty.  Well, that’s not the authentic self that I’m talking about.  So it’s one thing to be driving and to see someone make you angry and you give them the finger.  Some people would say that that was me being authentic.  But I would say it’s not.  That is me being under stress, under duress.  If I had time to reflect and stop and allow my emotion to get away with me, I wouldn’t do that.  Because that’s not what I value; that doesn’t align with the values that I authentically hold.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  I think a work example that was one we’ve talked about in a previous episode, we talked about how women can be heard more in meetings and that included, instead of saying well how about this? saying, my strong recommendation is this.  And one of the conversations we had is does that feel inauthentic when you are consciously trying to change the way that you talk in order to be heard?

TINA OPIE:  So what’s interesting is is when we encourage and counsel women to say, my strong recommendation is, are we fundamentally shifting the way that some women and men may feel more comfortable voicing their opinion?  So I always, it’s difficult to know because some of it is career counseling and career advice that will help women or men or everyone.  Others of it really are subtle cues to conform, to speak more loudly, to speak with more declarative statements, to be more emphatic, to stand up and spread yourself out and possess the room, to really get in there and command the space.  I mean, are we talking about football or are we talking about a conference room?  I mean really. So because what if you have someone who has a softer voice, who is not as, who is very brilliant but can argue both sides and can present both sides.  Don’t we have value at the conference table or in the workplace for that kind of voice as well?  And I think we can quickly go down a road where we’re trying; we’re advising women, speak in a deeper voice.  We hate, I don’t like it when people, especially women have that question at the end.  My name is Tina?  Get rid of that.  Speak from a deeper, is that really necessary?  If they’re communicating the ideas, do they need to communicate in a particular way?

AMY BERNSTEIN:  How is that different from how you dress?  Getting rid of the up speak, is that different from dressing in a way that takes the way you look off the table in your career?

TINA OPIE:  Well, see that’s the question. I don’t know.  Because we’re trying to figure the boundary lines, right?  We’re trying to figure out how can this person be authentic and excel in the workplace?  And there may be some things that you, for example.  I’m from the south.  I do not have much of a southern accent unless I’m angry or if I’m really tired.  And that is because my parents raised us to not have a southern accent because they recognized that that might be inhibiting to our academic as well as career success.  Should I have done that?  Would I be more authentic if I still had my southern accent given that I was raised by two people from the south?  I don’t know.  I was willing to give that up.  I’m not willing to relax my hair though.  That’s the line for me.  So for some people who are speaking when they have that lilt at the end, most of the time it’s unconscious which is why I would say it might not be as connected to their authenticity, right?  They’re not even aware that they’re doing that, it’s a bad habit as opposed to a critical component of their authentic identity.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  I also wonder how much of it is generational.  The way I think vocal fry is generational.  But I think that’s generational and I wonder how much of it is about conformity to generational norms.

TINA OPIE:  It is.  Some of it is.  And I’ve had to check myself because there was someone who I thought, I didn’t enjoy the way that he spoke.  He’s an amazing entrepreneur and then I pause and said why am I trying to get him to speak proper English?  In the way that he speaks, he’s communicating, he’s passionate, he’s articulate, he’s brilliant.  Why do I need him to not have that kind of accent?

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Yeah.  I mean, I’ve found myself in conversations being too distracted by the fry or the up speak to pay attention but then I sort of remind myself that it’s my job to pay attention to listen to the substance.  So it takes a certain amount of discipline.  I mean, it’s a challenge.

TINA OPIE:  So is that because we stereotype people who speak with this deeper, gravelly voice — the fry, as we call it.  We stereotype them as lazy, incompetent?  Sort of beach bum people who don’t, is that, is that what — I think we have to unpack that when we have an interaction. And I would say for women who are at work, for women who are supervising other women, for men who are supervising women, when you’re across from someone and you’re finding yourself being distracted by something — the Afro, the hand gestures, the fry and the voice, the cleavage, the lipstick or the lack thereof, the hairstyle — ask yourself what is really happening?  Is it because this person is not comporting with your ideal professional?

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  One of the things I want to know more about is how authenticity and the expectations of authenticity are different for different women of different races.  What does your research tell you about that?

TINA OPIE:  So I have done some research with Kathy Phillips in particular on hair in the workplace.  Hair penalties in particular and the reason why I studied hair is because it’s a mutable trait that you can alter and it’s very relevant to identity.  And as a black woman in corporate America, I had been advised not to wear my hair in particular styles because the clients might not like it, or et cetera, et cetera.  And when we conducted our experimental research, what we found was that Afro-centric hair, meaning hair of, textured hair and I want to say also, not all women of African descent have the same textured hair.  I just really want to be careful that it doesn’t sound like I’m stereotyping or lumping people together.  But what we found was that people with Afros or dreadlocks in their hair were rated as less professional than the same images of women when they were portrayed as having straight relaxed hair.  And that was across the board, that was by black and white people.  What was interesting was that we found that while Afro-centric hair was denigrated across the board, it was most denigrated by people of African descent.  There was an in-group bias that we found.  And we still have to do follow-up research exactly to examine that, because some people immediately said that’s because black people hate themselves.  And I was, like, OK.  I don’t hate myself.  That’s not necessarily the case.  There could be some kind of internalized racism, but it could also be that black people are keenly aware of the impression management techniques that are necessary to successfully navigate the workplace.  So when we asked questions like, what advice would you give to this candidate, no one mentioned anything to the, they didn’t mention hair at all to the people with straight hair.  But when black people in particular were raiding these black images with Afros or dreadlocks, they would say things like, she might need to change her hairstyle; she might need to straighten her hair; she might need to relax her hair.  And I think the reason they were emphasizing that is because that’s probably advice that they received both in and outside of the workplace.  People have no idea how much time it takes to groom your hair if it is naturally textured and every day you’re having to figure out how to make it straight.  That’s a lot of shadow work, a lot of uncompensated work that you’re having to do outside of the workplace.  There’s a lot of thinking that goes into how I’m going to do this.  Wouldn’t we rather have employees who are focused on their work?  And this is not to say again that people of African descent are distracted at work.  It’s just that they’re having to put in extra for the same thing.  And really, is it even related to the work?  What does it have to do with the job?  It is simply a cultural understanding of what is and is not professional, and that’s what I want the take-away to be, which is organizations really and truly need to check themselves.  There have been instances, lawsuits of people being hired and then having job offers reneged upon because they wouldn’t cut off their dreadlocks.  I mean really, what are we even talking about?  So you’re telling me that as an organization, you’re so concerned that your clientele is going to be offended by this hairstyle that you would fire someone that you thought was highly qualified to perform this role?  Now, maybe we have things like you need to be clean.  But even that, believe it or not, can be debatable.  In terms of what is clean and what is not.  We really need to wrestle with our cultural understanding of what is professional.  I can hear some people saying, what do you mean being clean is debatable?  Well, in certain cultures, people do not shower every day.  They might shower once a week.  They come to a meeting in a place where people are accustomed to showering once or twice.  They may have an odor.  Are they clean?  According to their culture they are.  According to our culture they might not be.  What do we expect from that individual? What’s the kind of conversation that we would have around that particular example?  And I’m, I don’t know what the answer is.  But I guess what I’m saying is it is no longer OK to just keep these things on the books without questioning them.  And thinking about how they affect employees.

NICOLE TORRES:  I just think about when I got my nose pierced and I told my mom, she almost fainted.  She flipped out and she’s like you’re never going to get a job with that.  And my thinking was well, I don’t want to work anywhere where that’s not OK.  Is that a millennial attitude? I know that’s kind of a privilege attitude.  I can pick where I’m going to go.  But I wonder if that is a different mentality associated with younger generations.

TINA OPIE:  I think every generation has had the desire to rebel.  It might have been, well I have on this pinstriped suit, but I have on yellow socks.  Or I have on this tailored suit, but I have tattoos on my arm that they’ll never see.  Or my hair is in a bun, but really it’s dreadlocks.  Who knows?  I think that it is human nature to rebel against conformity.  I think every generation thinks that they’re the most rebellious; I will agree with that.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  I also think that as a non-millennial by many years, it makes me really happy that you feel comfortable coming in.  I actually had forgotten that you have a pierced nose.

NICOLE TORRES: It’s so tiny.

AMY BERNSTEIN: It is teeny.  But I guess what I’m saying is that that breakthrough is not just your breakthrough.

TINA OPIE:  I do wonder though, if you were a black woman with dreadlocks and a pierced nose and pink hair, if it would be acceptable.  Because it’s sort of, like, maybe we can venture out in one or two ways but don’t come in here totally non-conformist.  That’s not going to be accepted.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  That’s sort of a nice segue into something else I wanted to ask you about, which is a working paper that you’ve been working on called Shared Sisterhood.  It sort of looks back at the history of specifically black and white women in the workplace.  Why do that project?  Why are you interested in examining that history?

TINA OPIE:  I’m a black woman.  But also because historically in this country, those were the modalities upon which this society was based.  It was black and white.  And I’m interested in studying why black and white women have not made more progress as a collective in the workplace.  And why when I talk to, I’m having an internal dialogue with how authentic I’m going to be.  But when I talk to many black women, they don’t trust white women.  Just point blank.  That has to do with I think when you look back historically at opportunities for advancement in the workplace, statistically white women have been in positions of power much more so than black women.  There will be a conversation, we’re going to move, this organization is going to move forward.  We’re going to have these corporate initiatives.  Who gets into the boardroom to negotiate?  It’s typically white women, leaving black women behind.  And I think we have to be super honest about that.  And stop acting as though feminism is feminism is feminism.  I have, I didn’t identify as a feminist until I was an adult.  Because of these issues, because I had felt like my issues were ignored.  For example, one of the big points of feminism, second wave feminism, was for women to be able to work.  Well, black women have had to work outside of the home for centuries.  So I don’t want to wear a bra.  OK.  Then don’t wear it.  I mean think of, seriously if you think about what the key messages were, we’re really clamoring for this intersectional approach, Kimberle Crenshaw and Angela Davis and they’ve done some amazing work on intersectionality.  And I think we need to bring that into the workplace.  So the reason I’m doing that project is because I want to shake women and to actually provide some specific actions that we can take to advance as a collective.  I hope that that’s possible.  I do not know if it’s possible.  It may be that there may have to be some kind of civil rights movement too where black women and Latina women and Asian women really focus because believe it or not, we’re all confronting a lot.  There’s some differences between white women and women of color.  And maybe women of color need to unite and figure out how to advance without white women.  And now I know that’s going to cause some negative reaction, but let’s just be very honest.  One of the papers I just had that came out with Laura Morgan Roberts on Black Lives Matter in the workplace was perspective taking.  That that’s a critical skill that I think organizations need to instill in their employees.  And I would ask white women, since we’re talking to Women at Work, to really put yourself in the shoes of women of color.  And ask yourself if you’d be willing to stick with you.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  One of the things I’ve struggled with as a white feminist is I think a lot of white women assume a sisterhood with black women, that black women do not feel.  And I think learning that that, first you have to learn that that’s the case, right?  And then you have to kind of figure out how to listen and how to take that perspective and how to find out what you don’t know.

TINA OPIE:  But see and see this is the thing that’s frustrating to me.  Because that’s part of the reason, another reason I’m doing the shared sisterhood papers because I hear that white women don’t know that’s the issue.  And I’m like wait a minute.


TINA OPIE: People have heard about racism.  You’ve heard about cancer.  If you get diagnosed with cancer, you all of a sudden do all this research.  You figure out what you should be eating, where you need to go, where the best hospitals are.  You mean to tell me for centuries we’ve been dealing with this issue with racism and lack of feminism and you don’t know that there’s an issue?  That’s tired.  That’s played.  Sorry I’m not trying to be, that’s my directness, but it’s just, this is the conversation that people, black women are often having behind closed doors.  I don’t believe it.  I do not believe that white women don’t get that there’s an issue.  It’s, what are you doing at work?  Are you, how many black women work here at HBR and are in positions of leadership?  How many articles are published by and about black women or Latino women or women of color?  Let’s just look at the statistics and we often, oh the pipeline’s not good.  That’s bull.  There are so many qualified talented more than qualified women of color who could blow the roof off this place.  Get y’alls membership and readership over the top.  Because we I think, when you are a woman and you’re a black woman, in particular, you are at the intersection and you see things that other people cannot see.  They’re blind to it.  We need our voices to be heard and I think what’s happening is we’re beginning to stop asking permission.  We’re beginning to stop saying listen to our voices and we’re just going to create our own platforms where we can voice our opinions there.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  You raised an important point about how many black women are contributing to HBR, and I want to attempt to address that.  And the answer is not enough.  And this is part of a bigger struggle that we are dealing with to bring in new voices and new perspectives because it’s very easy for us to go to the usual suspects, and we have that open channel.  And we are consciously dealing with that.  We recognize it, we talk about it, we’re not good enough yet at it.  And it’s not just black women.  It’s just getting outside the usual pool of contributors.  But I want to thank you for raising it because it is an important thing for us to keep thinking about.

So you mentioned Laura Morgan Roberts.  She’s written a paper based on a study of black women graduates of Harvard Business School.  And she found that there were three kind of attributes that they identified as critical to their success.  One of them was EQ.  And I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how EQ plays into these gaps you’ve identified and these sort of unacknowledged conflicts that must present themselves every single day.

TINA OPIE:  So emotional intelligence.  You have the self-aspect, so how self-aware are you, how well do you manage yourself.  And you have the social awareness and you have the social management of relationships.  And what I’d say the way that EQ relates to this is you first have to be self-aware that you don’t know.  Or at least that you haven’t been willing to pick up the resources to identify these gaps.  And then be honest enough, empathy is a big part of EQ as well.  And it’s connected to perspective taking, which is what I talked about a little earlier.  If you have high EQ, then hopefully you can take the perspective of other long enough and set aside your own biases so that you can really understand the world and their world view.  I’m not saying that you fully understand it, but you’re at least willing to acknowledge, I don’t fully get this.  I don’t understand why they would be upset.  I don’t understand why black women wouldn’t want to have a sisterhood with white women.  We’re all sisters.  I want to learn more, I want to educate, I want to become more aware of their experience.  I want to educate myself.  There are so many resources that are out there.  Is this the kind of answer you were looking for for your, because I really think it is incumbent upon women, all of us, to educate ourselves about each other’s experiences.  And I do put the onus on because white women have been in positions of power, if black women were in positions of power, I’d be saying that black women need to do this about white women.  This is about power dynamics.  I think what women want is equity in the workplace.  We want to know that if we put in eight hours, we’re going to get out the same output that a man who puts in eight hours is doing if we’re doing the same quality of work.  Emotional intelligence enables you to be able to recognize that that is an issue and that your sister, the woman across from you, may not be seeing life the same way.  The other thing I’d say, a blind spot that I have, and this is where my emotions, is about class.  So we’ve pretty much, this whole conversation has been about salary people.  We don’t talk about hourly wage earners at all very much.  In HBR, in my research, et cetera we talk about people who are professional and I get it but the majority of people, many women are hourly workers.  What are we doing to help them?  How do we help them?  People who are close to the poverty line, how are we helping them?  They work every day.  You want to talk about having to be inauthentic?  One of the groups of people who is perhaps subjected to having to conform and the me-too movement are domestic workers.  Think about that.  You’re going in to someone else’s house, someone who has money, who gives you hours.  If they don’t give you hours, you can’t pay your bills.  Sexual assault, sexual harassment, let’s not even begin to get into that conversation.  So I think that’s what emotional intelligence allows you to do.  It allows you to sit and to get out of your own bubble and think about the world from other people’s perspectives.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  To sort of put a point on it, do you think that it is possible for a woman to be a truly authentic leader?  And if it is possible, is it only true for some women?

TINA OPIE:  I do think it’s possible for women to be authentic leaders.  And that is a person who is expressing themselves, who is reflected on the kind of person, the values that they want to bring to the workplace and who is willing to offer that and share that, pros and cons with the people who are following them?  Now, what I’m struggling with is authentic leadership.  The definition of it can shift depending upon what you’re talking about.  Do we mean someone who’s honest and transparent?  Or do we mean someone who is pursuing their best self?  I mean someone who is pursuing their best self, who is working to take the perspectives of the people who follow them so that they can take that into consideration when they’re making decisions.  I mean someone who, if I decide to wear my Afro or, I’m going to bring all of that to the table.  Yes, I think it’s possible for women to be authentic and to be leaders in that way.  I do not think it’s necessarily limited to certain kinds of women, I do think it’s harder for women.  The less power you have, I think the more challenging it can be to be authentic, period.  If you’re a person, as we just mentioned before who is an hourly worker who is really dependent upon your employer, if they tell you to wear an apron and straighten your hair, you may be more inclined to do that than if you are the CEO of an organization.  So I think we have to be sensitive to the fact that it’s not as easy for everyone and I think power, again rears its ugly head or maybe it’s not ugly, it just rears its head and impacts women and men’s ability to be authentic in the workplace and authentic leaders.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  Tina, thank you for coming in.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Yeah.  This was great.

NICOLE TORRES:  Thank you.

TINA OPIE:  Thank you all for having me.

NICOLE TORRES:  Candice Morgan used to work for a global non-profit whose mission was to improve work for women.  But she left in January of 2016 to join Pinterest as their head of inclusion and diversity.  When she got to Silicon Valley, she started wondering whether her style was too corporate for the tech industry.

CANDICE MORGAN:  So I had a lot of questions myself in terms of is the way that I currently present myself at work going to transfer in my new environment?

NICOLE TORRES:  As an expert in identity and interpersonal relationships, she knew what that feeling was.  That new employee fear of not fitting in, it’s called belonging uncertainty.

CANDICE MORGAN:  We often find in tech that women have higher belonging uncertainty in the first few weeks of their new job than men

NICOLE TORRES:  Part of their belonging uncertainty can come from being underrepresented.  That’s why she’s helping the company improve its diversity rates.  But she says that the culture she’s pushing for has to go beyond hiring more female engineers and people from underrepresented ethnic groups.  So I asked Candice to tell me more about what she’s doing to promote authenticity at Pinterest, particularly for women.

CANDICE MORGAN:  First I had mentioned that belonging uncertainty that people often feel in the beginning and by the way, that’s a pretty universal feeling.  So even though we find that women are more likely to report belonging uncertainty, men experience it too.  Anytime whether it’s your first job or your tenth job, you’re going to wonder if you share the values of the organization around you.  So we actually within people’s first week in the company as part of their orientation have a couple of times that we highlight belonging uncertainty.  And we normalize it.  So we have a session on unconscious bias that’s usually on your fourth or so day at the company.  And in that we introduce how to create feelings of belonging more broadly and we acknowledge to the people around the table that perhaps you are feeling some uncertainty and that’s OK.  Imposter syndrome, feelings like that are completely validated and normal.  Another way that we think about being authentic though is certainly the evaluation process.  The performance review process and so we want to make sure that people of different styles have a fair shot at becoming a leader and having their accomplishments recognized.  And when we evaluate people that’s when we can see the most variation in terms of people wondering do I need to be a certain type of person to be successful at this company?  And so one way that my team designed a way to mitigate the potential effects of things like styles or whether you’re an introvert or extrovert impacting your ability to be successful as we created within that performance discussion a moment where we actually talk about potential biases.  We talk about for example types of words that tend to be used differently.  For example based on gender, helpful can be something that people view differently.  If a woman is helpful it’s expected.  If a man is helpful, it could be seen as an extra, a something special about that individual even though they’re demonstrating the same behavior and that goes back to gender stereotypes.  And so we call out those words as people are talking about performance.  Similarly, aggressive that word can be viewed very differently, not only along gender lines, but along racial lines.  And so we call that out and say if we’re giving feedback, especially if it’s stylistic feedback, is that feedback actually valid?  And so that being part of every discussion allows people with different styles to be themselves.

NICOLE TORRES:  So another thing I wanted to ask you about is one way that women can be authentic at work.  One way that women can be themselves is letting them be mothers at work.  What is Pinterest’s parental leave policy?

CANDICE MORGAN:  So we have a leave policy of 16 weeks for parents.  After that four months that you’re out, your fifth month is actually a transition month.  So you gradually come back to work, so working just a couple of days a week until you’re fully back on board.  One thing that I’m proud of is that we also have embraced different types of families and so we had an employee who with his partner was looking for a surrogate and that’s a very costly process.  So we added a generous benefit in terms of surrogacy and adoption benefits.  So surrogacy benefits of up to $20,000 post-tax so that people can invest in their families.  And then this year we added egg-freezing and additional family resources to show that your family’s an important part of your life and your community.

NICOLE TORRES:  So one of the things you’re focusing on now is how to train managers to be more inclusive.  Can you tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing with managers specifically?

CANDICE MORGAN:  Yes.  We did an internal study where we looked at our managers and we tried to understand managers that were scoring the highest as rated by their employees in terms of inclusion.  So we looked at a number of things around my manager values my ideas, even if they are different from their own.  That’s something that we measure employees on as part of inclusion and diversity.  And so managers that were scoring exceptionally high on a number of areas, we interviewed them.  And we also looked at a match sample of managers that were getting very average scores and we tried to understand what the differences were.  And so there were a number of things that those exceptionally inclusive managers were doing.  They were more humble, they were more willing to admit their mistakes and that creates a safety in risk-taking and a safety in being able to grow and learn and make a prediction or make a mistake that doesn’t pan out and come back from it.  Those managers spent more time soliciting feedback from their employees around what they actually want to work on and trying to find ways to give some part of their passions to them as part of their roles.  They invested more in structured socializing and making sure that that socializing is inclusive so that it’s not after work with a beer, but much more broad and intentional.  So these exceptionally inclusive managers just did these things naturally.  They had a humility to them and this takes me back to this theme of being authentic.  Because if you can admit your mistakes, you signal a type of trust and authenticity to your employees so what we did was decide to create a playbook based on those inclusive behaviors and we now have all new managers go through this inclusive manager training and have that playbook as a resource.

NICOLE TORRES:  So it sounds like by training managers to be more aware of themselves and to be more authentic themselves, that helps employees also feel like they can be their real selves at work.

CANDICE MORGAN:  Yes.  And sometimes leaders will ask what’s the most important thing that I can do?  And it’s that very same characteristic.  It’s modeling that authenticity.  It’s being able to talk about times you made a wrong call, what you learned from it, and then that encourages other employees to do the same.

NICOLE TORRES:  One thing that always comes up when we talk about women in tech is this issue of a leaky pipeline.  So how women tend to leave the field at each career stage and especially at the higher levels but 45 percent of Pinterest work force are women so what are you doing to keep these female employees engaged?

CANDICE MORGAN:  One of the things we do is we actually look at retention.  So in terms of a metric and in terms of an outcome, we can pair the retention rates of women of certain underrepresented ethnic minority groups.  Even across things like age, we look at retention to see if there are gaps or differentials.  But by the time you’re looking at that metric, you’re quite far down the line and so what are the things that engage people the most?  Well, interestingly enough, it goes back to belonging.  So we added an element to our employee survey around I feel like I belong at Pinterest.  And it turns out the way people respond to that question is one of the biggest indicators of their engagement at the company.

NICOLE TORRES:  So have you figured out the women in authenticity question in your own life then?

CANDICE MORGAN:  I think it’s a work in progress if I’m being honest.  I think I feel that on a very local level, there are small ways all the time that I’m being more authentic than I ever have been at work.  So for example, even in my personal style, I’m certainly working in a more casual work environment.  I am a huge fan of natural hairstyles although my execution isn’t always perfect.  And so I’m finding myself experimenting with different hairstyles at work and that’s actually really powerful because recently a woman joined a team adjacent to me who also has natural hair and had previously worked in an environment where she didn’t feel she could wear her hair natural.  So I think even those small things are part of being authentic.  Thinking about code switching at work, being able to speak in different types of vernaculars and that being OK, I’ve seen more of that happen.  For me personally, I’m also a very warm personality.  I’m smiley and not everyone has that personality and that’s absolutely fine.  I kind of love working with different personalities, but I think I used to cover a little bit of that in order to be effective.  And I find that I can be effective either way.

NICOLE TORRES:  Candice, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today.

CANDICE MORGAN:  Absolutely.  It’s been my pleasure.

NICOLE TORRES:  So Amy, Sarah, when I got off the phone with Candice, I couldn’t help but think about this idea of belonging uncertainty.  How it’s something everyone experiences when they join a company for the first time.  And I thought about when I started at HBR, I definitely felt that fear of whether I would fit in or not.  I moved here from New York.  I was much younger than many people that I was going to be working with; I was the youngest person on my team.  I used to wear crazy trousers all the time at work and I got here and there were no crazy trousers.  So I stopped doing that.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  Oh, no.  I’m sorry to interrupt, but I miss your crazy trousers, I love them.

NICOLE TORRES:  So it was just something that I was thinking about because as many women at work, this sense of do I belong here in this organization definitely struck a chord for me.  And I was wondering if either of you have had that experience and how, what you did to get more comfortable.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Never, ever.  No, I have had it everywhere I’ve ever worked and that’s been a lot of places.  And when I joined HBR, I came in as the editor and I had that kind of blinding moment of panic.  Oh my God, what if they don’t like me, what if I don’t fit in, what if this is a terrible mistake.  Then I realized it was an act of will to make sure that didn’t happen.  So much of what goes on in that moment is that, is a feeling of desperation.  Please like me.  And there’s very little to like about please like me in desperation.  And that’s the act of will, is just sort of finding a way to put that out of your head and bringing yourself, your best self to work and figure out who that is.  I remember sitting at, you’ll remember.  I don’t know if you remember this, Sarah.  This was a big moment for me.  So it’s my first day and Adi, our boss, sort of calls this big meeting and I walk into the biggest conference room in the office and I’m introduced to it seemed like about 90 people and they were all named Sarah or Jeff.  That’s how it seemed to me.  And Adi sort of interviewed me and there was a moment when I thought I don’t even remember my name.  And then I just again, I just had to find a way to put that out of my brain and just be there.  It just sort of, shutting down that stupid voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy.  Tell that jerk to shut up and be yourself.  And that has always worked for me.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  I’ve always felt super at home in this organization.  Maybe that’s also why I’ve been here for so long but and there have been other times when maybe I have been put on notice that I don’t belong before I joined HBR I was a sportswriter and I was one of a few lady sportswriters in Boston and there were lots of people who were totally willing to tell me that I did not belong.  And I just thought well, those people are full of it.  And they’d write me profane emails and I’d write them back an email saying you kiss your mother with that mouth?  I guess.  I feel like it’s mark of my privilege to say while there have been times I have been sometimes daunted by the challenges, I don’t feel like I have looked around and sort of wondered if I belong at this company.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  But you have the gift of not believing all the negative stuff that comes your way and a lot of people don’t have that.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  I believe the negative stuff I tell myself about myself.  But I have a very good gift at not believing the crappy things other people say to me about myself.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Do not underestimate the value of that gift.  It’s huge.

NICOLE TORRES:  So I’ve been here for four years now and I’m less worried about whether I fit in or not, but I started thinking more about this other inflection point that Candice touched on which is you’re starting to worry less about fitting in and you’re thinking more about do I stand out enough to be a leader, to get to the next level of my career?  Is this a point that either of you have experienced?

AMY BERNSTEIN:  So I remember when someone first said to me something about my executive presence and I just started laughing.  I just thought that was such a weird idea and then I kind of understood what she was talking about.  You’ve sort of been elevated recently.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  I made a terrible face when Amy was like, you’ve been elevated.  I was like no, I’m not better than anyone else.  But I did get a nice promotion which is great.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  Part of the reason I think, part of what part of the package that Sarah Green Carmichael is that you show up.  You are a strong presence.  You have great ideas, you make them heard.  You’re impossible to ignore and I think that’s part of what we’re talking about here.  And that’s something that at least in my experience, you have to grow into.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  Yeah.  I guess I almost feel like there’s an arc here.  And in the beginning, you worry about fitting in and blending in and then you realize that you have to stand out to some degree to get the credit for your work to make sure that people see you as someone with the potential to be in a leadership role.  But then once in you’re in the leadership role, you almost have to kind of go back to not necessarily blending in because now you can’t.  But you have to worry more about making it safe for other people to speak to giving credit to the right people and to sort of standing back.  This is the thing I worry about now when we’re in meetings is am I talking too much?  Am I controlling the meeting too much?  When really what I should be doing is asking questions and pulling more people in.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  And as a manager, if I knew that you were worried about fitting in, I would start working to create an environment where you didn’t even worry about that where you would feel that your differences were a credit to you so to me that says something more about the environment than it says about you.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  So I do think it’s important to talk about how managers can make more authentic inclusive workplaces.  But I also feel like despite our best efforts at HBR, there is still lots of bad bosses out there.  Do we have to be given authenticity from on high?  Or is there a way we can claim it for ourselves?

AMY BERNSTEIN:  No.  You bring your authenticity.  It’s not the gift that someone gives you.  It’s the thing you develop in yourself.  And it’s an act of wills.  I was saying before, I think that it’s in your moral compass somewhere that you have to understand what you stand for and make sure that that compass is guiding you.  That’s what authenticity is to me.

NICOLE TORRES:   Yeah.  And I think also being authentic means for me also being open about what I still need to learn.

AMY BERNSTEIN:  That’s such a great point.  And I think one way to handle that is instead of writhing in the agony of what you don’t know, figure out what to learn and go talk to your boss.  And say here, I realize there’s a lot I have to learn here, I’m thinking of starting with this.  What do you think?  Get some feedback and get some guidance.

SARAH GREEN CARMICHAEL:  Yeah.  I think one of the things that I’ve said to myself and those moments to keep me focused on learning is instead of saying in a moment when I don’t really feel like myself, oh, this just isn’t me.  I try to say this just isn’t me yet.  And that keeps me focused on getting better, not on being perfect.

HANNAH BATES: That was Tina Opie, associate professor of management at Babson College, and Candice Morgan, former head of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest – in conversation with Amy Bernstein, Sarah Green Carmichael, and Nicole Torres on Women at Work.  That episode was produced by Amanda Kersey and edited by Curt Nickish and Maureen Hoch. If you liked this episode and you want to hear more about how gender shapes our careers, check out Women at Work wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back next Wednesday with another hand-picked conversation about leadership from the Harvard Business Review. If you found this episode helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues, and follow our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, be sure to leave us a review. If you’re looking for another weekly dose of hand-curated business and management expertise, check out HBR On Strategy to help you unlock new ways of doing business. We’re a production of the Harvard Business Review – if you want more articles, case studies, books, and videos like this, be sure to subscribe to HBR at HBR.org. This episode was created and produced by Anne Saini, Ian Fox, and me, Hannah Bates. Special thanks to Maureen Hoch, Adi Ignatius, Karen Player, Ramsey Khabbaz, Nicole Smith, Anne Bartholomew, and you – our listener. See you next week.

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