A Lesson on Feedback

April 05, 2021 HERdacity Season 2 Episode 43
A Lesson on Feedback
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Importance of Giving and Receiving Feedback

In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Stacey Rudnick about effectively giving and receiving feedback in the workplace. Feedback is an informative tool to have in our professional development toolbox, as such, Stacey spills the beans, or more applicably, the Oreos, on how feedback underscores the strengths and weaknesses necessary to improving our career performance. From being more specific when offering feedback to bulldozing those stubborn defensive walls, Stacey reminds us that feedback does not equate to judgement, instead, it mirrors the truth of our abilities. It’s only with an accurate reflection of ourselves that we can collect the information needed to become the confident, assertive leaders we are meant to be! 

Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Stacey Rudnick

Stacey Rudnick serves as the director of the Center for Leadership and Ethics at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. In her role, Stacey provides MBA students with the tools to become the effective leaders necessary to business’ success. Prior to overseeing operations at the Center for Leadership & Ethics, Stacey served as director for MBA Career Management at UT Austin where she led 530 full-time and 600 executive working professional MBA students. She graduated with an MBA in Marketing from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Duke University. 

Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):  

  • Healthy feedback 1:42
  • Challenges and solutions 3:25
  • Oreos belong everywhere...except in feedback 7:40 
  • Gender-bias and performance 11:32
  • Building trust between managers and employees 15:00
  • Deterring defensiveness 17:00
  • Fixed vs. Growth Mindset 23:24
  • Femme fact: Women in Comics 30:20

Resources mentioned in this episode:  

Episode sponsors:  

Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “5 Ways to Create Space for Feedback” by Leanna Sauerlender 

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Sponsor: Today's episode is brought to you by HERdacity. HERdacity is a non-profit inspiring confidence in women to achieve their professional goals. For resources, networking opportunities, and a strong community of women. Visit herdacity.org to learn more.


Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. Welcome back to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make some career moves on their journey forward and HERdacious is here to help. My name is Lorelei Gonzales, and I am happy you chose to tune in today because we are gonna be talking about the importance of giving and receiving feedback in a professional setting. To support me in this conversation, I have executive coach and resume whisper, the director of the Center for Leadership and Ethics at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. Stacey Rudnick. Hi Stacey. It is a pleasure to have you today.


Stacey: Excited to be here.


Lorelei: Excited to be anywhere these days, really... Now, tell me, why did you think it was important to develop your ability to both give and receive professional feedback?


Stacey: Great question. I really wanted to share this information 'cause there are so many barriers to both giving and receiving feedback, almost all the barriers are fear-based. It's really important in our careers to get good at both aspects, but the giving and the receiving, not only to advance ourselves, but also to effectively mentor others.


Lorelei: So what are our goals in giving feedback and more specifically, how do we provide feedback in a healthy professional manner?


Stacey: I think if we want to be great at giving feedback to others, our job is to be someone who holds up the mirror to help that person have a much clearer picture of himself. Now we wanna fix the problem that someone's having, but not try to fix the person.


Lorelei: That's a good distinction.


Stacey: Yeah, the intent is what matters a lot if you're the person who's delivering the feedback, so we want people who are giving feedback to really prepare well and think before they talk, and think about how are you trying to help that person, how are you trying to coach them and mentor them. Ideally, you want to lift, not lecture.


Lorelei: Epic epic statement. I think that's really hard for a lot of people, because we live in a society of constant negative messaging, and it's hammered home pretty early on. How many of us can recall back to childhood where we have that parental figure who's just like, "meh meh meh meh meh."


Stacey: Yes. Everyone has that mother or father, and when we get into a professional setting, certainly all of those insecurities come into play and we all have blind spots. But it's important to think, what is your job in that role as a feedback giver. We want people to be successful. And so if you're in a mentor role, if you're in a supervisor role, it's not just about how can I make this person more productive, or how can I fix this issue, it's also how can I be supportive of them of their goals, of their professional development, so that's really the goal of giving feedback is to help people along their path.


Lorelei: Share with us the main challenges in giving good feedback.


Stacey: I think one of the biggest challenges in giving feedback is first, that we're scared to be really direct, we're terrified that we're gonna send the other person and we think that they're gonna feel awful towards us, and that holds us back, and that protective hesitation, which is what it's called is something that prevents us from having a candid conversation because we're really scared, particularly around difficult topics or challenging topics.


Lorelei: When you said that, I kinda got the feeling that was somewhat of a gender-specific challenge... Tell us a little bit more.


Stacey: Well, there are a lot of gender-specific challenges. First, you need to de-personalize the feedback, women have a tendency to get more emotional, more personalized in their feedback, and it's important to be extremely clear and very direct, so state the issues don't focus on the person state what is the business issue. And what is the impact to the business. And if you can make it about the business problem or the task, not the person, one, it's easier to give that feedback, and two, it's much easier to receive 'cause women also have a tendency to take feedback more personally. I really love this quote from Brene Brown, and she talks about Clear is kind... Unclear is unkind. So don't muddy the waters. Get to the point.


Lorelei: What about constructive criticism?


Stacey: Well, constructive criticism is in the end, still criticism, and because it's criticism, we take it that way. We're gonna perceive it as negative feedback, and negative feedback can be incredibly threatening, and it takes all of our defense mechanisms and puts them on high alert, and because we're threatened that can oftentimes get a feedback, I can reproduce motivation, and so it's important that negative feedback be again, about how can we work to resolve this problem so that performance can be better in the future, as opposed to making it about "You did a bad thing."


Lorelei: Alright, well, lead us into some potential solutions for the sharing of effective feedback.


Stacey: One of the best things to remember is that you need to get the persons buy in before you start, so starting with a question of... You know, how am I gonna open this session? And when am I gonna do it? So making sure that one, you're hitting somebody when they're in a good mood, they're in a good place. Maybe not immediately after something happened, that may not be the right time to bring it up. So make sure they're in a good mood and also just a simple consent can make it easier. "Do you have a minute, love a second to talk to you," or "can I talk to you about how that just went?" Their ability to just say that quick yes, opens up the ability for you to have that candid conversation, so the opening really matters a lot.


Lorelei: Great tactic.


Stacey: The second thing is just preparation and rehearsal, so you need to be prepared, and that means if you are about to give somebody feedback, have you been thoughtful about it? Do you know what the specific issues are? So what are the specific behaviors and tasks and actions... It is important to show that you care about the person, but that at the same time, you're willing to challenge them directly about whatever the issue is that needs to be resolved. That means make it objective, make it observable, make sure that you are factual and accurate, focus a behavior, not the person.


Lorelei: I really like that because I think many of our tendencies is to react very quickly to give that feedback immediately, so you feel like you're helping them or you don't want it to happen again, and you're worried about that. What you're saying is to be really intentional to plan out the whole thing. Know why you're sharing it. Not just like that, you need to share it.


Stacey: Right, because oftentimes in that moment when you're reacting to something that just happened, it's not just their emotions that are heightened, yours are too, and you're probably not going to do the best job in that moment. One important point is no Oreo cookie feedback.


Lorelei: Oh! The book ended good thing, bad thing. Oh yes.


Stacey: Good, bad, good. So let's be perfectly clear about that, nobody is fooled, nobody is fooled by you. It doesn't work, it's universally despised by the receiver, and I think the more important point is that this sugar coating, you know, this sort of Susie sunshine at the front end and the back end, it weakens your message. If you have something that you need to say to someone directly about something that's gone wrong, you need to say it directly. The other stuff is not helpful and it muddies the message and it makes you seem less direct and less sure of what it is that you're saying in the first place.


Lorelei: Because clear is kind.


Stacey: Clear is kind... Exactly.


Lorelei: Anything else?


Another thing is just to recognize that people seem to think that feedback is always negative. All of these rules also apply to positive feedback, right, so that's something else to remember and also regaining that even your best employees, the ones that you just think, the sun, the moon and the stars are all about that person, that person also constructive feedback. The best employees don't just need constant pats on the back, they also need to know, where's the opportunity for professional development? Where is the opportunity for them to grow? So looking for those things and giving them a place to go is an important part of being a good supervisor, and that leads me to identifying the specific impact, so once you've given somebody feedback about whatever their behavior or action is, you also need to help them to understand what was the impact to other people, the teamwork, the efficiency of the team, and once you've identified the specific impact, it's important that you be really precise with your words, and that goes to positive feedback as well. So sometimes people will be like, "Oh, you know, Stacy you're so great with the numbers," or "your comments were really exceptional today." That's nice to hear, but it's really un-specific and it doesn't give me anything to go off of in terms of being able to repeat that behavior, but if instead you say something like, "Hey Lorelei, I thank you for being so incredibly well prepared for today's meeting, your calculations really clarified our budget and helped us to make a far better decision, you gave us places where we could trim and not impact the quality of what we're doing, thank you."


Lorelei: Those comments are diametrically opposite, just... Yeah, the first one you said nothing to me.


Stacey: Right, I just said good job.


Lorelei: Good job-ish, I think.


Stacey: Exactly, and so giving very specific feedback is really important, and I think the final thing, particularly if you're giving critical feedback is recognizing it's a dialogue. You can say things to people about their job and their performance, but you also need to listen, so when you give that feedback, you also need to get their point of view and ask... "That's how I saw it. What did you see?"


Lorelei: You just gave us a lot of solutions, can you go back and just bullet point those real quick so that they can stick in our listeners minds.


Stacey: I would love to do that. So a couple of things are, one, if you're starting off, remember, have a strong opening and pick your time to prepare and rehearse what it is that you're gonna say. Two, no Oreo cookie feedback.


Lorelei: Good bad good.


Stacey: Exactly. Identify the specific impact and make sure that it's a dialogue with your people.


Lorelei: Excellent. Now, where do you see gender bias impacting women in terms of their performance and the feedback that they can receive or how it's given?


Stacey: Absolutely, and this is really well studied by a number of different people, Harvard Business Review has done this, there's a number of institutes that have done a lot of research on this, and so we know some things from the research, one is that women get less critical feedback, than men. There's a number of reasons for that, one, they're perceived as thin-skinned, and because the deliverer doesn't want to hurt them, doesn't want to offend them in any way, then that means that women aren't getting the direct feedback that they need on their performance in order to improve. So that's one. We also know, and this was from a study that was done about in the tech field, specifically out in California, that men were more likely to be praised for their technical skills then their equally skilled female counterparts, so it's also important if you're a woman and you're getting feedback, if you're not getting the specific feedback that you need or the technical feedback that you need, that you ask for it, because that person may not be willing to give it to you unless you specifically ask for it.


Lorelei: So women aren't getting constructive criticism as well as positive feedback? For whatever reason.


Stacey: Yes. They're not getting specific positive feedback. So that's going to be a challenge. Two other things that I think are important in this gender bias is one, an interpretation of style, and we've heard a lot of things like this before. And certain styles differ between women and men, but one of the big issues is that confident and assertive, if those are descriptors of how a leader should act, whether you're a man or a woman. For women, confident and assertive got translated specifically in women to bossy, emotional and abrasive.


Lorelei: Abrasive!


Stacey: And none of those terms are ever used with men, so it's totally fine to be confident, assertive if you're a man, but if you're perceived as confident and sort of as a woman, it comes with a host of negative traits that are also associated with that, so we need to get to a place where there's less bias associated with that about women being confident and assertive in their leadership skills. And I think that that plays into a research study that Stanford's Clayman Institute, which does gender research did, and they talk about what are the barriers to women advancing, and one of the biggest things is that women are perceived as being much better at teams or team-based skills. They collaborate better, they are more social, so they are looking for those group dynamics and thinking that women are gonna be really greatest team leaders. Men, on the other hand, are seen as leaders for the company, the vision, the strategy, so pretty early in their careers, men and women actually get tracked differently, not because of skill, but because of perception. And so in order to correct that, we need both managers and women themselves, to vouch for the skills and the knowledge and the ability of individuals so that they're getting tracked appropriately, and women also need to ask for, if not demand, the leadership positions that they want and the training that they need in order to get into those positions.


Lorelei: Amen to that sister. So let's say we have a manager, director, what have you, who is willing to give people feedback, good professional, descriptive specific feedback. What's the positive outcome of that?


Stacey: You know, the greatest positive outcome from giving feedback is exactly what we want in any supervisor-employee relationship, which is trust. A really strong trusting relationship, one in which you really believe that that person has your best interest at heart, your promotion at heart, that they wanna see you grow and develop, so if you're giving people good feedback, both one-on-one or even for your group, you will see an improvement in team dynamics, you're gonna see an improvement in professional development, we see increased retention among employees in companies. Because people don't leave companies, they leave managers.


Lorelei: Yes.


Stacey: And also that feedback can help to bring in different points of us, so a supervisor that's very responsive to feedback from their employees 'cause it goes in both directions, they will engender the trust of their employees and they will know that... "Oh, okay. Different points of view are welcomed here."


Lorelei: Excellent. Well, you all trust me when I say, we'll be right back.


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Lorelei: And we're back with Stacey Rudnick, talking about the importance of giving and receiving feedback. Stacey, I want to transition the conversation to receiving feedback, like you kind of touched on it earlier, and our initial inclination is to get a little defensive. Let's talk about it.


Stacey: Yeah, receiving feedback. It's a bear. Yeah, it's an absolute bear because we feel threatened and we feel judged and instinctively, we're gonna get defensive, that is the natural response to that, and it's called protective defensiveness for a reason. Because every part of our body wants to protect us, and so we work really hard to avoid criticism, to avoid judgment. And that's understandable, but the problem with that is then we're not getting really important information that we need.


Lorelei: So how can we take down some of those walls to receive that important information that will usually benefit us in the long term?


Stacey: Such a great question. And it is exactly that, it's like dismantling this wall of defensiveness that we have, and there's some great skills that we can use to help to dismantle that, the first is listening. And it's an under-utilized skill, but you really have to put yourself in a space where "Okay, I'm gonna sit here, I'm going to really listen, I'm gonna listen to every word that somebody is saying to me, and I'm gonna ask questions, and I'm gonna seek to actually understand what they're saying." Because if you're asking questions, if you're engaged in the conversation, then one, that's gonna bring down some of the emotion that both parties are feeling, because then the person who's giving you the feedback says, "Okay. They're listening to me, they understand what I'm saying, they're asking questions, this is going well," and that takes a lot of the emotion out. Another thing that you can do is as you're listening, repeat it back, summarize what you've heard, so that the person who's giving the feedback feels listened to, and so that they also know that what they're saying is being heard correctly, and if it's not being heard correctly, then they have an opportunity to adjust and say, "Oh, that's not exactly what I meant."


Lorelei: And that's a component of active listening where we're reflecting back what we think we heard.


Stacey: Precisely that.


Lorelei: Which we totally have an episode on specifically that y'all...


Stacey: Okay, the last thing is this idea that I assume that there's a kernel of truth in most feedback. Indeed, embrace the idea that there is probably more than a kernel of truth in most of the feedback that you're getting, because if our instinct is to reject all of that information, we can understand what that's coming from and why that is. But really the importance of getting that truth into your head is so that you can understand something about yourself. Again, we're coming back to if somebody's holding up the mirror and saying, Hey, take a look here, it's because there's probably something that you could be doing better, and we have to really watch our ego and our egos are awesome, they serve this incredibly important job, which is to protect ourselves, but in the process of doing that, they can drown out some really important advice and some really important information that would help us to do our jobs better.


Lorelei: Let's hone in on that defensiveness, that instinctual reaction to say, no. Hard no. No thank you. Obviously that's a protection mechanism, but there has to be some bias in there somewhere.


Stacey: There's a lot of bias in there, and so there's some particular terms around this. So the first is something called confirmation bias, and that's whether it's in feedback or even in the political arena or in the news feeds that we get, confirmation bias is about seeking information that supports our existing beliefs. But if you're getting feedback that supports your belief about yourself, you're like, Great, and if you are getting information that doesn't support that belief, you're gonna process it totally differently, it becomes really easy to discount.


Lorelei: Fake news.


Stacey: Exactly that. The other is a little more specific, and that's called self-serving bias, and that's where we really readily accept the evidence that is to our benefit. So if somebody tells me, "Wow, you're a great cook." Like, "Yes. Yes, I am a great cook." But if somebody tells us something that we don't like so much, then we're gonna reject that evidence out of hand because that doesn't fit with our self-concept. Then the final one is that we've touched on a little bit in terms of gender bias, that women are less likely to push back on critical feedback, and they are also less likely to advocate for themselves. So that creates some problems in that feedback loop. We also wanna talk about gender bias more broadly, because women are less likely to advocate for themselves, so in feedback, in receiving feedback, it's important that if you don't agree with the feedback that you're getting, that you use facts to refute it. That's a really important thing that women are more likely to classically take negative feedback or critical feedback that they're being given and not argue with it. And there may be reasons to refute that, so that's an important thing, you need to be able to advocate for yourself and stick up for yourself.


The second is that when we think about gender bias as it relates to promotion and your ability to get promotion. Women are a lot less likely to ask for, if not demand jobs. So one of the things that women need to do is to ask for the feedback that they need, ask for the training that they need to get the promotions that they deserve.


Lorelei: And I think it's important to remind us all that feedback is a two-way street.


Stacey: Absolutely, feedback doesn't just go from the supervisor to the employee, goes from the employee back to the supervisor. And so as a manager, if you're getting feedback from your team, from your individual employees, how you react to that feedback is critical. How are you reacting to it in the moment, are you a good listener? Are you someone who's modeling that? Are you taking actionable steps when somebody gives you the feedback, can they see that you've taken the feedback that you've been given and that it meant enough to you that you were going to go do something about it. Doing that shows employees that you welcome feedback and that they can trust you.


Lorelei: So hopefully you started dismantling a bit of that wall of defensiveness in regard to critical feedback, and we are coming to understand that giving and receiving feedback is critical for our professional growth. Stacey share with us a little bit more about embracing a growth mindset?


Stacey: Absolutely. A lot of people may be very familiar with fixed versus growth mindset, but I thought I'd give a run down for our listeners who may not know as much about that. So a growth mindset is about knowing that your personal qualities, your knowledge, your skills, your abilities can all be cultivated can be learned, and it's a direct result of your efforts. So intelligence is not fixed. It can be malleable, it can be changed, can be increased. Learning is something that requires hard work and effort, and all of us can learn and improve. A fixed mindset is exactly the opposite. It says, your intelligence is what your intelligence is, that the scores on your test measure potential, and most of us have had the fun of having those fixed scores that we got in grade school all the way through college.


Lorelei: And you thought, "Oh, does this just mean that's I'm done, I'm doomed, I'm stupid."


Stacey: Exactly, and those natural abilities can't be increased, which isn't true. The other thing that's important about that fixed mindset is how it relates directly to how you're going to take in feedback because the fixed mindset, that person thinks that failure or a mistake is a reflection of them or their lack of ability, their lack of intelligence, which is really not a great place to come from.


So we want people who have a growth mindset and this idea that I can improve, I can improve my intelligence, I can improve my abilities, and when you're giving or receiving feedback that matters a lot. So if you're giving feedback, then you wanna create an atmosphere for your whole team, for everybody who's in your charge, where it's okay to try new things, it's okay to fail, it's okay to make mistakes, because if we're all capable of learning, then in an environment where there's innovation and new and growth, there are going to be mistakes.


Lorelei: What you just said sounds to me like how we approach parenting with children.


Stacey: Absolutely, yeah, they have to fall down a lot before they walk, you gotta crawl before we walk before we run. And the same is true with all the new things that we learn, so you wanna be that kind of person. You can absolutely do that. And when you're receiving feedback, you wanna be the type of person who can show that you're persistent and that you're resilient and that you are willing to embrace a new challenge even if it's really difficult, as opposed to somebody who's like, "Oh, I'm not sure I wanna do that that seems scary."


Lorelei: I can fail.


Stacey: Exactly.


Lorelei: Fear, right? From what you said from the beginning is it's fear-based. We're back to fear.


Stacey: That's right. And we don't want fear to prevent us from doing the very things that could lead us in a new direction or even help us find out something about ourselves that may take our career in an entirely new path.


Lorelei: Fear is the mind killer y'all...


Stacey: Absolutely. One of the things that's also important about that growth mindset, we know that for the people who have a growth mindset, that they are six times more likely to give written feedback and written feedback is really important because it tends to be much more specific and actionable than the verbal feedback.


Lorelei: What do you mean on written feedback?


Stacey: Written feedback as you would receive in a formal review or in a sit-down of the meeting where someone is trying to give you, "This is where I think you are, this is how I think you're doing." And the written feedback for growth mindset, they wanna be really specific, they wanna be very actionable, they wanna say, "This is where I'd like you to get to my next quarter or next year." So growth mindset, people are predisposed to give more feedback and to give more specific feedback, and we found that the feedback from people who have a growth mindset is actually 13% more specific, encouraging and supportive of women.


Lorelei: What about with the fixed mindset?


Stacey: Fixed mindset, if you are in the receiving mode, are more likely to feel depressed and de-motivated and to take that feedback personally, which can leave you in a place of feeling really helpless, like there's nothing I can do about this.


Lorelei: Could you give us another professional example?


Stacey: Absolutely. So let's just say if you're the manager who's delivering that feedback and you're a fixed mindset, you might just say, "You're terrible at presenting, you just did an awful job and I'm never putting you in front of a client again."


Lorelei: Well, I will never wanna present again in my life...


Stacey: Exactly, and that's the problem. You're not giving you an opportunity to correct, they're not being supportive, they're not being encouraging, they're just saying you are bad, and the growth mindset and manager on the other hand, might look into employees having difficulty presenting. Yes, they would come to you, they would have a direct conversation with you, but it would be in the sense of you, I'd really like you to get better at this. It seemed like you were struggling a little bit, and I think we have some resources that could really help you with that. So they're gonna offer a resource for you to use, and in all likelihood, they'll also say, "Okay, we have the similar presentation with a different client next month. I want you to take the lead on that, and I want you to take this next 30 days to get better to prepare."


Lorelei: I love that. Well, on the topic of resources, Stacey, share with us some continuing education opportunities and options for any of our listeners who wanna continue learning about the giving and receiving of quality feedback.


Stacey: I would love to do that. So first of all, because I work at UT, Ethics Unwrapped is one of my absolute favorite resources, it's free and available to everyone to use. Some of the biases that I talked about, there are great videos on that website that will teach you about things like confirmation bias or self-serving bias, so please check that out on Ethics Unwrapped. The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University has all types of research that's available for people to look up about gender bias and how that plays out. So if you're interested in a more detailed or academic approach to gender bias, that's a great place to look. I love LeeAnn Renninger, giving feedback talk on TED Talk, you can look her up, it's really short, it's really quick, and it literally walks you through step-by step the best ways of giving feedback. There are also a number of other TED Talks on receiving feedback that you can look up. And finally, Harvard Business Review has some amazing articles on how gender bias corrupts the performance reviews of women.


Lorelei: We will be sure to link all of those excellent resources in our show notes, you all make sure to go on to the inter-webs for our website and download these amazing resources. Now to wrap our episode today, of course, I'm sharing a femme fact with you. I know it's been a while from most of us, but the other day, I was reminiscing on what it felt like to go to the theater and feel inspired by a film and also stuff my face with popcorn. If you're anything like me, you might have cried into your wildly expensive bucket of popcorn when Wonder Woman first hit theaters back in 2017, do you remember when she went over that trench wall and just went fighting like a total champion? That scene still gives me chills, and to me and so many other women around the world, it was so empowering to see a woman on the silver screen in the role of super hero or super heroine, a role that has been predominantly held by male characters, not only in comics, but throughout literature in general. Back in the day, and unfortunately, much of today, female heroines and comics have not been super common, the typical image of a woman in general in a comic book was usually boiled down to an over-sexualized, not so much a fully developed character, which was plastered on the front pages of comics to appeal to a predominantly male readership. Either that or they were simply used as an accessory piece, a love interest that never really contributed to the plot, these female characters existed for the sole purpose of elevating the male lead into the hero arc of the story line. Does the term damsel in distress ring any bells? Anybody seen a Disney princess movie?


In addition to the limited number of women consuming comics, there was an even lesser number of women writing comics. Of course, naturally, the representation of women in comic books would be skewed as a result, since these stories have been told through the eyes of men, so let's get some perspective on this. First off, only 25% of all comic book characters are female, we're 51% of the population and 25% of characters in comic books, that's because comic books are predominantly written by men who feature predominantly white male characters who are also predominantly drawn by white men, people tend to write what they know. Fortunately the two biggest comic producing companies in the industry, DC and Marvel, have recently recognized the prevalent gender bias in the industry and are making some efforts to diversify both character and content creators, which is good because when you look at the DC Marvel universes specifically, only 27% of their characters are female, and while diversifying their content is an obvious marketing tactic to gain the attention of a wider audience, which we're good with, 'cause let's be clear, ladies got dollars to spend, and we drive a majority of consumer purchasing by nearly 80%.


So for putting money into these industries, why shouldn't we see characters that we can identify with? It's also definitely not a secret, that representation matters. A major survey back in 2019 revealed that 61% of men were fans of the superhero movie genre compared to 53% of women who said the same, but when we look at the numbers from the original Wonder Woman movie release, 52% of audience viewership were women compared to 48% of men. Now imagine that if women see women on screen, they watch it! These diversifying efforts have gotten some big changes, like Thor's Jane Foster wielding the hammer in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, and the ground-breaking Muslim identified lead in the newest Ms. Marvel series, Kamala Khan. As well as massive anticipation of the character Shuri Black Panther throne, after the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. Now we're headed in the right direction. But the question stands, is it enough? Well, I mean, you know the answer to that. No, not by a long shot. While there's a clear lack of female representation in the genre, we're fortunate to have many women taking the reins in the world of comics. One of the notable trailblazers in the industry who was actively re-writing the narrative for female characters within comic storylines is Kelly Sue DeConnick, a series writer for Aquaman and Captain Marvel, a self-proclaimed feminist and starch advocate of comic accessibility to women, trans and non-binary creators. DeConnick started a social media movement called Visible Women, whereby women submitted their work on social media to increase their visibility in the comic book industry.


Beyond advocacy for behind the scenes creators, DeConnick also calls for immense reform to those living within the pages. In fact, DeConnick identified the thought experiment of the sexy lamp test, which is similar to the film industry Bechtel test, designed to gauge a female character's importance to the plot, so if a female character can be replaced with a sexy lamp, like the one in the Christmas story, and the storyline still works, it's a pretty solid indicator that said female character needs some major reconsideration. On the bright side, character diversity is on the uptick and progress is happening in real time, thanks to creative heroines like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie Liu, Gail Simone, Fiona Staples, Mariko Tamaki, Sara Gomez Woolley, and many, many others. So to all my prejudice fighting, female friends and allies out there, be a super hero. Whether it's behind the scenes using pen and paper, on social media, amongst our families and our friends or in our communities. We must keep fighting for gender parity and equal representation and literature on screen and everywhere else decisions are made, and messages are shaping young minds, because young ladies can't be what they can't see. With that, my closing message to you is don't be a sexy lamp, be a mother effing super hero. And own that Wonder Woman power stance. You know the one. Stacey, thank you so much for your time and effort today. I know that talking about giving and receiving feedback is an interesting conversation and you made it fantastic for us.


Stacey: Thank you so much Lorelei, it's been an absolute pleasure being here on HERdacious.


Lorelei: If you like this episode, please share it with a friend, and if you haven't already, please please subscribe. You can even leave a review and send us an email at [email protected] And I will link that in the show notes as well, 'cause I don't expect you to spell that. So until next time, go out there and practice your Wonder Woman stance in the mirror.

Healthy feedback
Challenges and solutions
Oreos belong everywhere...but in feedback
Gender-bias and performance
Building trust between managers and employees
Deterring defensiveness
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Femme fact: Women in Comics