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5 Ally Actions - Aug 14, 2020

Better allyship starts here. Each week, Karen Catlin shares 5 simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace.

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Break with white solidarity

If you’re a white person working in a primarily white organization, you are most likely benefiting from white solidarity. I recently learned how prevalent and toxic this concept is from Dr. Robin Diangelo in a Living Corporate podcast interview with Amy C. Waninger.

Here’s what white solidarity in the workplace can look like:

  • Not speaking up when someone makes a racist comment.
  • Using vague terms. E.g., saying “equity” when the topic is actually “racial equity.”
  • Pushing back on change because it might take away from something white people have come to expect.
  • Tiptoeing around conversations on race to make white people comfortable.

Now I’m going to embarrass myself: I had a moment of white solidarity as I determined the order of the five actions in today’s newsletter. Concerned that the concept of white solidarity might alienate some of my white readers, I originally put this action at the end. But, I caught myself and decided to lead with it. Because…

With white solidarity, we can’t have inclusive workplaces. Full stop.

So, let’s all reflect on our workplaces and the meetings we attend, the all-company emails we receive, the task forces we contribute to, the casual conversations we have, and, yes, the newsletters we write. Look out for white solidarity, in ourselves or others. Then break with it.


Have her back

Last Friday, a group of women leaders sent an open letter to news outlets, warning them to pay attention to “stereotypes and tropes” in their coverage of the soon-to-be-named US democratic vice presidential candidate. In their “We Have Her Back” letter, they wrote:

  • “Women have been subject to stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership, looks, relationships and experience. Those stereotypes are often amplified and weaponized for Black and Brown women.”
  • “Attempts at legitimate investigations of a candidate have repeatedly turned into misguided stories that perpetuate impressions of women as inadequate leaders, and Black and Brown women as worse.”
  • “We believe it is your job to, not just pay attention to these stereotypes, but to actively work to be anti-racist and anti-sexist.”

Each of these points applies to the workplace as well. We should all pay attention to “stereotypes and tropes” when discussing women, especially Black and Brown women, during interview debriefs, promotion calibration meetings, and reorganization planning.

We should have her back.

(By the way, congratulations to Sen. Kamala Harris on being selected as Joe Biden’s 's running mate!)


Use CamelCaps

If you post on social media, you probably use hashtags to help others find your posts. (I certainly do.) And, as I’ve shared before, we should capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag so that screen readers can announce each word separately.

This “CamelCaps” technique is such a simple way to make social media posts more understandable and accessible to everyone. It’s something we all can do.

By the way, there’s one popular social media site that autocompletes hashtags to be all lower case. If you happen to work at this company, can you please advocate for changing the algorithm to use CamelCaps? (Not sure if it’s your company? Simply create a post and type in #InclusionMatters. You’ll find out soon enough.)


Ask about pay equity

Yesterday, August 13, 2020, was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day here in the U.S. That’s the day that the average Black woman must work into the current year to make the same amount that a white man earned last year.

If you find yourself thinking, “Okay, but that doesn’t happen at my company,” keep reading.

Did you know that women and employees of color receive less compensation than white men even when they receive equal scores on performance evaluations? I wish I had known this back when I was an executive leading large software engineering teams. While I like to think that I awarded increases equitably, regardless of race and gender, this statistic makes me wonder.

Then there’s this week’s lawsuit against Pinterest by their former COO Francoise Brougher. One of her claims is that her stock grant vested at a less favorable rate than all the other executives.

If your company hasn’t already instituted a pay equity review, you’ve got work to do. Do you have the power to make this happen for your team—or, better yet, for your larger function or business unit? If not, consider at least asking about it at your next all-hands meeting.

(Interested in understanding the wage gap for working moms and other underrepresented demographics? Check out the Equal Pay Today site.)


Don’t claim your ally badge

Last week, as I was scrolling through LinkedIn posts, one person’s job title caught my attention. He’s a vice president at a large tech company, and he appended “Ally” to his title. For example, “VP of Sales, Ally.”

Making this claim doesn’t sit right with me. It feels performative. It also goes against my slogan that “being an ally is a journey.” We shouldn’t ever claim we’re done. We shouldn’t ever reward ourselves with a proverbial ally badge or cookie. Instead, we should keep listening, learning, and taking action.

When I posted about this on Twitter, someone asked, “But is there a way he could communicate that he will help others??”

To which I replied, “Maybe ‘Aspiring Ally’ or ‘Ally-in-Training’?”

That’s all for this week. I wish you strength as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

Mark Your Calendar

I’m excited about my upcoming virtual talks for groups including DocuSign, EDUCAUSE, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Lumentum, Nutanix, and Women in STEMM Australia.

If you’ve seen me speak, you know how much I love sharing the Better Allies® approach. Interested in having me speak at your virtual event or “zoom” in for a book club discussion? Simply reply to this email to start the conversation. It’s that easy.

Haven’t seen me speak yet? Here’s an interview with Power To Fly, a recruiting platform for women.

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

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Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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