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5 Ally Actions - Apr 9, 2021

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

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Don’t dismiss racism against AAPI employees

Last Friday, I attended “Tech for AAPI Rally,” a virtual event to understand violence and racism against tech employees of Asian and Pacific Island descent. During a panel discussion of how allies can lead change, Bloomberg tech journalist Tom Giles shared the following:

“There is a tendency and a temptation to minimize the problems that are faced by the Asian community … that ‘they’re doing fine.’ It gets back to the model minority myth. … When you think about oppressed groups, we immediately go to immigrants, we go to Latino immigrants, we go to Black Lives Matter. Obviously, all of those things are tremendously important, and there is a tendency to minimize, because of things related to the model minority myth, instances of harassment and oppression [against people in the Asian community].”

Let’s all realize that racism against people of Asian and Pacific Island descent is real and that the violence against this community is growing. As allies, we can push back if we hear someone saying, “They’ll be fine,” or otherwise minimizing reports of harassment against employees of AAPI descent. As allies, we need to treat this racism as a threat to the inclusive culture we’re working to create.

(To read about the model minority myth, check out this story from NBC News.)


Ask, “What makes you say that?”

Novall Swift, a software engineer at Apple, recently tweeted:

“It sucks attending an engineering meeting with all dudes and someone assumes you’re in the wrong room.”

This is an example of an all-too-common microaggression in the workplace, where people assume that those from underrepresented groups couldn’t possibly hold technical roles. Or treat patients. Or represent clients in a court of law. Or be in leadership roles.

For some individuals, microaggressions are harder to bear than more overt bigotry because they’re subtle but ever-present, small but ongoing. They wear a person down slowly over time, like dripping water on a stone, gradually convincing them that they’re less-than, through barely noticeable social cues and offhand remarks.

As allies, we need to accept that microaggressions are real. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of this behavior, you may feel like the people describing it are “exaggerating” its effects. They’re not. Denying the existence and power of microaggressions is counterproductive. Believe people when they say they’re being adversely affected.

When you witness a microaggression like this, consider responding with, “What makes you say that?” Show support for the individual impacted, and force the other person to examine their motives and mental connections.


Add your pronouns

LinkedIn is releasing features to be more inclusive and allow users to show their authentic selves. One of the new features gives you the ability to add pronouns to your profile. As Pride Publishing reported, “the vast majority of job seekers (70%) believe it’s important that recruiters and hiring managers know their pronouns and 72% of hiring managers believe having clarity about a candidate’s gender pronouns is beneficial and helps others be respectful of their identity.”

Even if you aren’t searching for a new job, consider adding your pronouns to your profile. We can normalize the practice by sharing pronouns in social media profiles, email signatures, and on-screen video conference names. This is helpful to genderfluid, transgender, or nonbinary folks, who can get loads of pushback on the pronoun issue overall. Plus, there are plenty of people for whom it is impossible to know what pronouns to use just by looking at them.

LinkedIn started rolling it out in late March; If it’s not yet available to you, check again soon. By the way, they also allow you to record the pronunciation of your name. Keep reading for another way to do this in email signatures.


Record your name

In last week’s newsletter, one of the actions was to ask, “Can you say your name for me? I don’t want to mispronounce it.” In other words, instead of calling attention to someone’s name being hard for you to say, ask them to pronounce it for you.

I have since learned about NameDrop, a name pronunciation service. From their website:

“We believe that no one should have to hear a broken version of their name. So we made it easy for you to share your name with the world, in your own voice. Simply record your name as it’s meant to be said and get your personal name recording link.”

Love it! I recorded my name and immediately added it to my email signature:
Karen Catlin (she/her) - click to hear my name

(Thanks to Katie MacDonald of Calgary Foundation for bringing this tool to my attention.)


Understand a candidate’s journey

As I learned from Minda Harts in her book, The Memo, counselors across the U.S. steer high school students of color to junior colleges instead of four-year institutions. For those students who are also the first generation in their family to attend college, they lack guidance in navigating the options. They tend to default to following their counselor’s advice.

Here’s why this can be a problem. During the hiring process, many people make huge assumptions about candidates who didn’t attend name-brand schools, without ever asking why.

That’s not all. As Austen Allred, CEO of Lambda School (a coding boot camp), pointed out in this recent interview: “The hiring process is not just a filter for skills, it’s also a filter for class.”

Allred shared several challenges that students from lower economic backgrounds can face during job searches. For example, they may have not yet learned:

  • Protocols like thanking someone for an introduction and moving them to bcc to “spare their inbox”
  • How to use online calendars to set up meetings
  • That a company will provide them with a laptop and mobile device if needed for the job
  • That they need a bank account for direct deposit

Allies, instead of excluding someone because they didn’t hit some mark or because they made some classist faux pas, let’s work to understand their journey. And look to set them up for success.

(Many thanks to Noel Galaga, who told me about this interview.)

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

— Karen Catlin (she/her), Founder and Author of Better Allies®

click to hear my name

Mark Your Calendar

I’m excited about my upcoming keynotes and fireside chats at Constellation Brands, Fortive, Indeed Interactive, POWER Engineers, Professional BusinessWomen of California (PBWC), SAS, and WELCOA. I’m also co-hosting a Better Allies Spring Book Club with Dr. Nika White on April 22 & 29, which is open to all.

If you’ve seen me speak, you know how much I love sharing the Better Allies® approach. Interested in having me talk at your virtual event? Simply reply to this email to start the conversation. It’s that easy.

Haven’t heard me speak yet? Catch this podcast with Michelle Redfern of Lead to Soar.

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