By Sapna Sopori, Founder & Owner of Sapna Strategies, LLC.
Vocabulary used: Womxn – inclusive of transgender womxn, womxn of color, and all self-distinguishing womxn.
I have big feet. Always have. Many stores don’t even carry my size (women’s 11), so for most of my life I had to buy men’s shoes instead. This was hard as a kid because my feet had a growth spurt way before my body did. I vividly remember having to buy sneakers in the boys’ department when all the other girls had on cute high tops with sparkly designs and pretty laces. As I got older, I got better at buying men’s shoes that worked for my style, but because my feet are also really narrow (my brother used to say I skied everywhere I went), I had to adapt the generally wider men’s shoes by using inserts and thick socks. In the end, I made the men’s shoes fit my fashion life.
And then internet shopping was invented, and everything changed! I was opened up to a new world of foot fashions IN MY SIZE!!! Pretty shoes for long skinny feet! Since then, I’ve never looked back at the old days of making the best out of shoes that were not meant for me.
And this got me thinking about being a woman of color in the workplace. Business, and especially entrepreneurship, is very male dominated, therefore the resources are generally by and for men, and white men in particular. As a business professional, I’m always on the hunt for new strategies, theories, approaches, and methodologies that will make me a better manager, leader, coworker, and entrepreneur. Throughout my career, I adapted many resources on “general” management to fit me and my workplaces. Just like with my shoes, I made them work. So, when I finally found resources that were by and for womxn in business, I felt just like I did when I tried on my first pair of size W11 narrow shoes: a whole new world had opened up for me! (Cue Aladdin music here.) I didn’t have to translate or adapt the strategies. The womxn authors were speaking to me about issues that directly impact me and my business! The resources fit!
And, unlike a shoe, these resources not only speak to my current “size” but are also meant to help me grow in new areas. For example: as a cis-hetero woman, I am working to improve my knowledge and support of LGBTQ-friendly work cultures and policies. Many of these resources exposed my own internalized biases and inherent systemic privileges that I often take for granted. By raising my awareness and providing tangible actions, I can be a better ally and not allow my ignorance to unintentionally undermine my LGBTQ colleagues and friends. Another example: as a childless by choice woman, I don’t have personal experience with the challenges of motherhood (though I was raised by a single working mom and omg, so much respect!!!). I’ve learned about HR strategies to support family leave, flexible work schedules, and compensation policies that center the experience of new parents. And all of this is from the perspective of womxn career professionals. Fits like a glove!
“If we want womxn to compete on even footing in business, we’re gonna need shoes that fit!”
So, here are a few of my favorite resources, and I hope they speak to you* as they did to me. Because let’s face it: if we want womxn to compete on even footing in business, we’re gonna need shoes that fit!
|Why I love it: (These are mostly podcasts because I’m a podcast junky! #sorrynotsorry #yourwelcome)
|Women at Work (by Harvard Business Review)
|This was the first womxn-in-business podcast I found, and it opened my eyes to how much resource-adapting I was doing to make the “general” business resources fit my identity and needs. This is a broad-range but in-depth look at issues regularly faced by womxn in the workplace, and the discussions and interviews are very insightful. As I mentioned, I am working to understand my cis-hetero privilege and make workspaces more LGBTQ-friendly, so I especially appreciated Season 3 Episode 7 “There’s more to gender than ‘man’ and ‘woman.’”
|Lean the F*ck Out: a podcast for fempreneurs
|I love rebels, and the hosts, Gretchen and Tera, rebelliously designed this podcast to challenge the notion that womxn can succeed if they just “lean in” more at work. There are so few resources out there specific to womxn entrepreneurs, so this niche podcast is a goldmine for me, and the hosts do a great job of interviewing racially diverse womxn. I especially loved Episode 110 on “Badass Budgeting.” Yaaaa$$$$!!!
|Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace
|What I love about Battle Tactics is the hosts, Jeannie and Eula, are a racially diverse pair who bring their personal lives into their analysis of the strategies they recommend to womxn. Just listening to these two is like hanging out with super savvy and skilled friends, and they also bring in very racially diverse womxn to interview. As an entrepreneur, I especially enjoyed the September 10th Episode titled, “I’m the best boss I ever had: lessons from Celeste Headlee on freelancing.” I’ve listened to this one on repeat and never got bored!
|Scene on Radio: Series 3 – Men
|This podcast is actually hosted by a white man, John Biewen, but his work is incredibly applicable for all of us because he examines in-depth the source and evolution of the sexism and misogyny in our culture. Why is this important for womxn to understand? Well, just because we are oppressed by it doesn’t mean that we see it or know how to dismantle it. And this podcast definitely helps raise critical awareness. One of the episodes I found most impactful was #53 on Himpathy (warning: this particular episode examines a sexual assault). Celeste Headlee (mentioned above) is the cohost of this series and deepens the conversation from her perspective as a womxn of color.
|Future for Us
|I’ve called out Future for Us before but it bears amplifying, esp. on this blog. Founders Aparna and Sage (also featured on Episode #108 of Lean the F*ck Out) have created a supportive, dynamic, and inspiring space and I have reveled in it. Events include: Salary Negotiations as Womxn of Color; Using Data Like You Give a Damn; and The State of Womxn of Color Summits.
*BTW, if don’t identify as a womxn, you can still learn from these resources because you likely share a workspace with us! These resources expose issues that womxn are grappling with in professional spheres, and the discussions are often very open and vulnerable. Listening to these podcasts gives you the opportunity to be a woke fly on the wall. 😉
How I can help: It is hard work uprooting sexism in the workplace, but I am here to help! I work with leadership teams to set and achieve their diversity goals, so check out my website for more information on what I offer and contact me at Sapna@SapnaStrategies.com to start the conversation!