February 08, 2016

Mary Rowe on Microinequities and Ombuds

Rowe, the retired MIT Ombuds and adjunct professor at MIT Sloan, was interviewed by the on-campus newsletter about systems for mitigating discrimination and conflict in organizations. In the conversation, she explains how Ombuds are a critical part of a broad approach to microinequities:

What are effective ways to improve gender equity and racial equity in organizations?I believe that no one initiative can be shown to work on its own. Instead there is a set of actions, taken together, that appear to make a measurable difference: Top management backing and a senior champion for diversity and inclusion who never gives up; one-on-one recruitment of the best candidates; an explicit mentoring framework; peer networks and affinity groups; an integrated conflict management system; flexible hours and other work/family supports; and consistent training for managers.
Dealing with micro-inequities requires our understanding of what makes us all behave in little ways that injure and are unfair. I believe microaffirmations can help all of us to prevent and also remediate micro-inequities—including microaggressions.

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You have said effective conflict management systems usually need a “zero barrier” office—an organizational ombudsman. How do ombuds serve organizations and their people?I believe it is often hard for managers and employees to decide what to do about unacceptable behavior. In real life many people are afraid to act much of the time. Many are afraid even to take note of exemplary behavior. It helps to talk with an ombud who offers nearly complete confidentiality. In addition, an ombud can offer sustained, unflagging attention to ever-recurring problems like racism, gender discrimination, abuse, and retaliation.
Rowe's current research is being funded by an MIT alumni donation that established the Mary Rowe Fund for Conflict Management. (MIT Newsroom.) 

Related posts: Mary Rowe, MIT Ombuds, to Retire; Mary Rowe Article in Negotiation Journal; Year-Long Study of U.S. Federal Ombuds Launches; Other Posts About Mary Rowe;

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