Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

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Interviewing while white and male

Photo credit www.amtec.us.com CC BY-SA 2.0

Recently, we got this question from Steve Tannock:

“Perfectly selfishly: I’m a middle-aged white guy who generally only wants to work with/for orgs doing good diversity work. But hiring me is almost the opposite of that. Suggestions for reconciling/approaching this?”

Many of us feel the same way, Steve. And here are some suggestions, not only to help land that next job but also further the discussion of diversity and inclusion along the way.

1. Emphasize what you’ve done to build and support diverse teams

Kristen Pressner, a global HR exec who speaks about the power of #FlipItToTestIt, had this advice for Steve and others in positions of privilege, because of their race, gender, or other factors:

“Flip it from assuming that you don’t have a ‘diversity value’ to what value you can add. Emphasize what you’ve done in the past to build diverse teams and how you’ve supported them to be successful.”

We love this advice. Not only does it allow a candidate shine a positive light on their past experience, it could also give the interviewer an idea or two about how they could be better allies. Win win!

Be sure check out Kristen’s TEDx talk for more about the power of #FlipItToTestIt. And follow @FlipItToTestIt for ongoing inspiration.

2. Talk about your dedication to mentoring women

David Smith, co-author of Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, shared this advice with Steve.

“Gender inclusion is not a women’s issue to solve — it is the organization’s issue. Share how you’ve mentored and sponsored women and how you’ll continue to do so in your next role.”

This is especially important given the #MeToo movement. Men shouldn’t retreat from mentoring women. Ditto for mentoring members of underrepresented groups. We need everyone working in support of diversity and inclusion.

3. Know your diversity adversity story

Even though we may check lots of privilege checkboxes, we’ve all faced adversity. Jennifer Brown recommends, “Identify your diversity story — about a time you faced the sting of exclusion. Be vulnerable. Share it to model the value you place on inclusive workplace practices.”

One example is a senior leader who had been covering up the fact that he didn’t hold a college degree. Once he started sharing this story, he became more approachable and was a role model for alternative education paths for his employees.

Want to find your diversity story? Read more on Jennifer’s blog.

4. Ask what they’re doing to create an inclusive workplace

Interviewing is a two-way street. Be sure to ask the interview team about why diversity and inclusion are important to them, and what they’re doing to make it better.

One of our followers, Cath Jones, tweeted, “I always find it valuable to ask what policies and processes they have in place, if they are heading down the right track they will be thinking about things like inclusion, the gender pay gap, physical accessibility of the office etc. If not you can normally gauge by [their] response how open they are to improvement. We need people at the top to to guide the way and advocate for others. A good organisation won’t have an issue that you aren’t a minority but they will want to know that you share there values.”

Right on.

5. Be vulnerable and share a mistake you made on your journey to become a better ally (and what you learned from it)

We’ve all been there. Wanting to show our support for diversity, but saying the wrong thing. Or writing a quick message, using gendered language by mistake. Or laughing at an off-color joke. You know what we’re talking about.

Perhaps we’ve been a bystander who ignored some sexist or offensive behavior. In hindsight, we know we should have called it out.

Turns out there’s a growing number of veterans using #IWasWrong to share how they were complicit in the culture of misogyny in the US Armed Forces. (Thanks to David Smith for telling us about it.)

As you prep for your next interview, think about your #IWasWrong story. And what you learned about how to be a better ally.

One last thing

For those of you on the other side of the interview table, be sure to ask candidates about how they’ve contributed to a more inclusive workplace. And if you’re interviewing them for a management role, ask about prior experience building and leading diverse teams.

Photo credit: The Jopwell Collection

Becoming an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.