Getting Action-Oriented About Gender and Racial Equity at Work

Three recent books explore how and why sexism and racism persist in workplaces and suggest ways to create sustainable change.

Reading Time: 4 min 


Although the overall unemployment rate is hovering at a historically low level in the United States, that statistic obscures the uneven experience of women, especially women of color, since the beginning of the pandemic. Recent data shows that over 200,000 Black and Latina women have left the workforce since 2020. These losses to the pipeline of women leaders are exacerbated by the fact that sexism and racism still persist in the workplace. Several recent books tackle these issues and offer actionable steps to create a more equitable workplace.

In their book Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022), Tina Opie and Beth A. Livingston point out that gender equity can’t happen without a concurrent effort to achieve racial equity. They define Shared Sisterhood as a “philosophy that emphasizes collective action toward dismantling racial and gender inequity at work, grounded in deep introspection and authentic emotional connections.” Authentic connections, according to Opie and Livingston, are ones characterized by four components: empathy, vulnerability, trust, and risk-taking.

The authors emphasize that diversity training focused on individual bias alone often ignores issues of interpersonal microaggressions and organizational culture and power, thereby minimizing true organizational change. Opie and Livingston offer an actionable model for people of all genders to audit individual assumptions around racioethnicity, gender, and power. They suggest building authentic interpersonal connections to bridge divides and work together to create systemic change using collective action.

Organizations are uniquely positioned to help society become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive — if they can move beyond mere platitudes and create actionable and transparent action plans to improve.

Tina Opie and Beth A. Livingston

Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work

In her new book Building a New Leadership Ladder: Transforming Male-Dominated Organizations to Support Women on the Rise (MIT Press, 2023), Carol J. Geffner, director of the Executive Master of Leadership Program at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, draws on her experience as both a researcher and a former C-suite executive to explore why women still face challenges moving into leadership roles. Geffner argues that in order for women to succeed, male-dominated organizations must be transformed to support women’s rise.


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