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5 Ally Actions - Jan 4, 2019

Better allyship starts here. Each week, we share 5 simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace.

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Diversify your list of “experts”

At the end of 2018, journalist Ben Bartenstein‏ described how he learned to be more mindful of the diversity of the experts he interviews and quotes. He wrote, “Half of the sources I quoted this year for @business were women. That’s 337 in total, or about one a day. Unfortunately, it’s an anomaly in journalism & something I’ve failed at miserably in the past.” Ben went on to admit that, in 2017, he quoted only 62 women, or 13%.

Ben also shared the strategies he and his colleagues employed to identify new, more diverse sources.

As Scott Hanselman replied, “This whole thread is excellent, and also applies to sourcing podcast guests or technical speakers.”

Allies, let’s all think about the experts we tend to consult, quote, or invite to give presentations. If they tend to be “like you,” why not set a goal to diversify your sources in the coming year. Like Ben Bartenstein did‏.


Tap people to speak about subject matter expertise, not about their demographic

Last week, we noticed a Twitter thread by some women in tech expressing their frustration about being asked to speak about being women in tech (and not on their technical expertise). It was a good reminder to not force or guilt-trip anyone to speak on behalf of their demographic. Women don’t have to speak about being women in tech, people of color don’t have to speak about being people of color in tech, and so on.

Instead, let’s tap people to speak about their subject matter expertise.


Give constructive feedback, even to those who are different than you

In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott explores why it may be harder for men to be radically candid with women. She writes, “Most men are trained from birth to be ‘gentler’ with women than with men. Sometimes this can be very bad for the women who work for them.” In other words, men might hold back from criticizing female employees because they’re afraid they might cry.

Unfortunately, it’s not only men who might hold back from giving criticism. In 2016, McKinsey and LeanIn.Org performed a survey and found that women are less likely than men to receive difficult feedback—almost 20 percent less likely. One reason is because it can be uncomfortable to give feedback to someone who is different from us—not just another gender, but a different race, sexual orientation, or educational background. We might think, “If I point out how Mei, a graduate of a coding bootcamp, could have done a better job fixing that bug, she might think I’m biased against people who don’t hold college degrees in computer science.” To avoid this perception, we might soften the feedback.

Criticism is a gift. Allies, let's give it out equally.


Remember that “ally” is a verb

Caroline Forsey of HubSpot compiled How to Be An Ally: 23 Resources That Can Help. The list of 23 books, videos, and podcasts is great — be sure to check them out.

Caroline also includes eight suggestions for how to be an ally. Our favorite? “Remember, ally is a verb – you need to do the work, every day. There will be instances that make you uncomfortable to speak up, but you can’t be a part-time ally.”

Right on.

p.s. If you happen to know Caroline, please pass along that we’d love to be included in a future update of the list of resources for allies. 🤗


Be inclusive during the hiring process (without lowering the bar)

Karen Catlin (founder of Better Allies) was featured on a recent episode of the Hanselminutes podcast. She shared everyday actions to be more inclusive during the hiring process in order to meet business needs. And how to do so without lowering the bar. Given the talent shortfall across tech and other domains, we bet many of you will find this advice helpful and relevant.

Screen shot of Hanselminutes podcast, Fresh Talk and Tech For Developers, featuring Karen Catlin, titled "Better Allies and Better Hiring with Karen Catlin"

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

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

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