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The Job of an Ally is to Change Culture, Not Encourage Others to Lean In

5 Ally Actions | Dec 7, 2018

Photo by Dom J from Pexels

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and become a better ally.

1. Don’t “avoid women at all costs”

Bloomberg reported on a disturbing trend over on Wall Street that risks isolating women even further: Avoid women at all costs.

“No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.”

It’s the Mike Pence rule on steroids.

Allies, let’s not become part of this trend. No one should be excluded from workplace activities where colleagues get to know each other, share ideas, and learn from each other.

2. Believe stories of harassment, with or without wearable tech as proof

An ad agency recently created a “smart dress” to prove women get groped at clubs. Three women wore the dress to a nightclub, and in just under four hours were groped a total of 157 times. Surprised? We weren’t.

Harassment and assault happens. Both in nightclubs and in our workplaces. As allies, the onus is on us to listen to these stories and believe them. With or without wearable tech as proof.

3. Nudge people to go for a promotion, assignment, or award

In his book Work Rules, Laszlo Bock describes a problem Google was facing: its female employees were less likely to nominate themselves for promotions, despite a policy that allowed all employees to do so. The company found that a small nudge made a huge difference. All it took was senior vice president Alan Eustace sending an email to employees citing research about classroom dynamics, where boys tend to raise their hand to answer any question, where girls tend to wait to be certain. With that nudge, not only did application rates from women soar, the volume of their promotions even surpassed those of their male counterparts.

Other companies may be in a similar situation. When Indeed surveyed 1000 women working in tech, they uncovered that a lack of career growth is the most common reason women leave tech jobs. And that women want their companies to empower them to ask for promotions.

Let’s all think about how we can support career growth for coworkers from all marginalized groups. Whether it’s related to a promotion, volunteering for a plum assignment, or even nominating themselves for an award, a simple nudge could make a huge difference.

4. Cast a wider net when hiring

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled, Every Company is Now a Tech Company. Great. Now it’s going to get even harder to hire tech talent.

While many of us support diversity and inclusion efforts because it feels like the right thing to do (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), we can also think about D&I as a way to help address hiring shortfalls. And start casting a wider net to recruit people with different backgrounds and experiences.

What does this mean for allies? Here’s one idea for the next time you’re writing a job description: Remove any requirements that aren’t truly necessary for the roles they describe.

You’ve probably heard about a now-famous internal Hewlett-Packard study that found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job, while men applied when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. And HP’s findings have been validated by other research.

So, if a strong candidate came along with only two years experience working with Java, would you hire them even if your job posting says you require three to five years? If your answer is yes, you shouldn’t list a required number of years at all. Likewise, cut the “nice to have” and “preferred” requirements unless you truly need this experience (in which case, call them out as “full” requirements).

5. Realize the job of an ally is to change culture, not encourage others to lean in

Watch this interview of our founder, Karen Catlin, to hear her thoughts on how to change workplace cultures to be more inclusive. So that members of underrepresented groups, and frankly, everyone, can do their best work and thrive.

Photo of Karen Catlin with quote, ‘Women can lean in all they want and all they can, but until we start changing our workplaces so that things that have always been done a certain way change, the women aren’t going to be successful. We really need to start looking at our workplaces and changing them.’

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

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

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