The Cost of Code Switching and Masking


At our next National Webinar, we explore the ways in which we can create work environments where our colleagues and team members can bring their authentic selves to work and not have to adjust their language, behaviour and/or appearance to feel 'normal' or safe.    

Save this date to join us to identify the practical actions you take for you and your team. More information coming soon, but registrations are now open if you'd like to secure your spot!

1 PM - 2 PM AEDT


  • NAWO Events

Code-switching or masking involves adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behaviour, and mannerisms in order to accommodate others. It is experienced in many workplaces by women whose intersectionalities have been marginalised (e.g., social class, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, identity as a First Nations woman, or racial and/or cultural identities).

Sometimes, the ability to mask and code switch can be a strength (e.g., in social or linguistic domains) but constant code-switching or masking can be mentally and emotionally depleting, particularly when it is shaped by the need to receive equitable treatment (e.g., quality service, employment / promotion opportunities) in a dominant culture. It means that you’re never truly yourself and can never let your guard down at work, which can be become a significant psychological stressor.

Many women in operations have also found themselves modifying their personality, appearances, and behaviours to align with the dominant traits valued in a particular organisational or professional setting. This can result in women masking their perceived differences to negate stereotypes of gender, ability, race or culture. The experience of masking or code-switching is a nuanced one and reflects individuals’ unique lived experiences of intersectionality.  This can include being less willing to share emotions at work, communicating in a style that feels unnatural, and being reluctant to raise issues because of the threat of being disadvantaged in treatment.

So what can we do to prevent chronic code-switching and masking in the workplace, and to avoid its negative consequences on an individual’s mental health and well-being?
We’re going to explore some practical actions you can take to create a truly inclusive workplace where your team members won’t need to rely on masking or code-switching to fit in, with Alexandra Helens, Specialist Cybernetics Engineer and two NAWO IAC members, Anita Tan (Psychologist, Communications Intermediary and Board Advisor) and Emma Dellar (Principal Geophysicist at Fortescue Metals Group Ltd).

Be part of the conversation. Join us for an interactive discussion around this important topic – we’ll see you there.