For every great example of allyship, it’s safe to say there are 10 examples of performative allyship – being an ally for show.
Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. It’s a key component in building a sustainable and diverse culture in your organization. It is not tweeting once a year or just adding a rainbow to your logo for a month.
In this talk, B. talks about why diversity and allyship matter and shares five pointers to help you approach it in a way that makes a difference.
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It’s currently very early in the morning for me, but I’m totally ready to be alive for all of you. I woke up early, had coffee. So this is really working out well. Yeah, thank you, Mark for having me back. You know, I told Mark when we were coming up to this, that my first talk at BoS, in 2018, was one of my favourite talks I’ve ever done. And it was the best talk I’d ever done up to that point. So yeah, you guys really got me going.
But today, we’re going to talk about how to be allies to gender diverse people, essentially. And a little bit of background for me, just to give you a little context of why I might be a good person to have this conversation. So first and foremost, I am a trans, non binary human, my pronouns are they/them/theirs. But also, before I got into tech, I actually was a historian. So that’s why I trained as a trans-historian. I spent the majority of my life in nonprofits, specifically nonprofits that do LGBTQ+ work. And so this work has always been something that’s super fascinating, and interesting to me. A passion of mine is to teach people a little bit more about gender diverse identities.
So today we’re going to start off and we’re going to talk a little bit about the goals of this talk, which is really just to give you a little bit more context, to help you understand a little bit more what allyship might look like. But then also specifically, how you can actually be a great ally in your workplace. I know that all of us are business people, we have companies, so how do we actually do this? So we’re gonna go through a bit of history, we’re gonna debunk some gender assumptions, we’re gonna talk about intersectionality, we’re going to talk about how to actually be an ally, and how to make your workplace great for TGNB people.
So one of my main goals for this talk, is to understand why this particular screen is terrible. It’s totally terrible. So it’s actually really funny. I have been a product manager for the majority of my career. And I was working in a company called cars.com. And at cars.com, one of my particular ownership areas was this idea of buyer personalization. And so as a part of buyer personalization, we started having these conversations about: what do we actually need to know about humans to be able to personalise for the personalised information for them? And so one of the categories that we came up with was this idea of gender. And the first screen that my designer came up with was this screen that simply says, male, female or other. And I remember at the time, you know, being a trans, non binary person and being like, well, that doesn’t really make sense. And so then, you know, after a bunch of conversations, a bunch of research, we actually came up with this list, right? And so this list is much more comprehensive, of the different gender identities that actually exists in the world, right? You have female, you have male, transgender, female, and transgender male, gender nonconforming, not listed.
And that not listed – by the way – it’s super important, because on top of all of these identities, current research actually tells us that there’s about 25 “currently documented” genders. And when I say in quotes “currently documented”, that is very significant, because the gender diverse community is one of the least researched areas in the world, when you think about gender. So there are a bunch of different fluctuating numbers. I know, even as someone who’s a part of this community, I read so many interesting articles and posts by gender diverse people every single day, where I’m just like, “Oh, that’s like a slightly nuanced way to perceive your gender, that I don’t think is on this list yet.” But at the same time, I also know that 25 different types of genders is completely intimidating, right? So you know, one of the things that I always like to remember when I think about this huge spectrum of gender identities is that people are born every single solitary day, who are genetic anomalies, right? So these are people who are not just XX chromosome or XY chromosome, they can be XXY chromosome, it could be XYY chromosome. So we know that this is a naturally occurring phenomenon that allows for a very large spectrum of humans and how they actually have their gender or how they actually have their sex exist in our world.
So where does this all come from? So there’s actually this really, really great gender researcher named Gregory Bullock. And he talked about the fact that this notion of gender that we currently have – which is primarily man and woman – is a very, very recent phenomenon. So this quote here is talking about the fact that before there was actually implementation of European binaries, you have examples of the Dagomba tribe in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, where they actually determined the gender identity differently. What they would actually do is they would look at the energy of the person. And then based on the energy of the person, they would say, “Well, that’s, you know, a man or this is a woman,” or some other term that I’m sure has been lost to memory at this point.
And in fact some people would wait until a child was of the age of five, before they would think about any specific gender. And in fact, this is a very common concept, right? So you have these examples through history, for instance, in Sumerian and Akkadian texts, 4500 years ago, they documented what researchers later called transgender or transvestite priests named ‘gala’. And in Sumerian culture, the gala were actually considered some of the most important, most sacred beings in their community. Also, 4500 years ago, there’s a grave of the first transgender person in Europe. There are depictions of art in the Mediterranean from 9000 to 3700 years ago, in ancient Greece, in Rome, in Phrygia of these priests who existed. You even have this Roman emperor, Elagabalus, in 222, who actually preferred to be called a lady, and this particular Emperor actually tried to have sex reassignment surgery. In 222 AD, I don’t think that really worked that well. But hey.
In Indian culture, you have these people call it hijras. And in Thailand, you have the kathoeys that all existed hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And in fact, it’s really interesting that obviously, throughout American indigenous culture, there are so many indigenous tribes and communities that have this notion of a third gender. And it’s actually really, really fascinating. Because in 1906, and 1917, in 1936, in 1946, we actually have proof of individuals who had female to male sex reassignment surgeries. And so we actually have had this like notion of gender diverse people, since almost the beginning of time, essentially.
So then the question becomes: how the heck did it become such a controversial and confusing topic? So there’s actually a German book called Transsexualism, that was written in 1923. And that book by itself, is probably the reason why there’s so many complicated feelings about the trans community. So that book actually made the notion of gender diverse people into a psychological disorder. And it wasn’t until 1965, when J. Alden actually originated the term transgender. And he actually looked at that and said, “Actually, this is a point of evolution this is actually not based on someone’s sexuality. This is literally the fact that these individuals have different gender representations, outside of what is currently typical.” And I’d love to provide a few additional examples. So this particular image in the early 1900s, is of a Two Spirit person from the indigenous community. And again showing that folks have always been here.
Then this particular image is actually an image of the town of Salinas in the Dominican Republic. So in this town,every child is born as – what we call it – assigned female at birth. But at some point, usually around puberty, some of those individuals who are assigned female at birth actually become boys. It’s one of the things that scientists have been researching for years, they don’t know exactly why it happens. But the physical bodies of these children change, and their gender representation changes to be the opposite of the gender that they were assigned at birth.
And I love this story, because this is actually a very common story, but this is one of the most famous stories. So this is the story of Albert Cashier. So Albert Cashier was a person who was assigned female at birth, who decided that they wanted to go fight in the Civil War. I’m not sure why because fighting is not my thing. I’m definitely a lover, not a fighter. But they decided to go through and fight in the Civil War. And after the Civil War, they decided to live their life as a man for the rest of their lives. And it actually wasn’t until they got into a car wreck in 1911, that it was discovered that this individual was not born as a man. And in fact, they were so brave in their fighting for the Civil War, that their fellow soldiers band together to bury them once they died. And provided them this amazing, amazing tribute. Because they were like, “Well, we don’t really care. What biology he had, all we care about is that he saved our lives.” Right? So another example of the fact that people are gender diverse have lived throughout time.
So I’d love for you to take a moment and think about: how were you taught about gender as a kid. And the reason I ask this is because, if you were to meet me – and Mark and some others have actually met me, I am the number one person who’s in a dapper suit like outfit at all times, I got on my loafers, I got all my amazingly tailored buttoned down shirt. And if you were to meet me, you would go “B is masculine and that has to be how they always were.” But that’s actually not necessarily true. Just like any person, I evolved as time went on. I can tell you, I’d love just as much when I was a little kid, being the person who was in the frilly dress, on the playground, with my penny loafers outrunning every boy at recess. My mom would yell at me, because she was like, “You’re messing up your shoes, by having these races every day at school.” And she was like “Why don’t you just wear different shoes.” I was like, “I like these shoes, right?”
So again, it’s this interesting nuance about how you can be taught as a kid to perform certain aspects of gender. You know, it was very typical for my mother to put me in dresses. I also kind of like dresses, because they’re comfortable, I mean look at all the rappers who wear skirts now. You know, sometimes it’s very comfortable to have a skirt or a dress on, right? But at the same time, I also even knew as a child, that I was not typical, because of how I liked to fight with the boys. I liked to do all these other types of things. And so the way I performed my gender was very complex.
And even to this day, it’s very complex. My wife’s a six foot tall Amazon, and I tell her every single day, “The reason I married you is because you’re handy and you can get things off the top shelf. But I do not, I do not fix things, I do not build things, I will make the cocktails.” We don’t have to worry about performing gender in our household.
So then, let’s talk about what these attributes look like. So what we’ve really come down to in society is that if you’re male, you know people tell you “You’re a man, you’re manliness, you have a chest.” If you’re female, “You’re a woman, you’re womanliness, you have breasts.” But the reality is, is that the WHO organisation, or the World Health Organisation, actually tells us that at the very minimum, we actually are more like male, female and intersex. So male, you’re XY, female, you’re XX, if you’re intersex, you’d be XYY, XXY, XXX, XO. And then my alma mater Northwestern University – I have to call them out, it was a great experience for me – actually has this other diagram of what they call ‘the gender diverse community’. So there are these notions of masculinity. And again, I described myself as masculine-of-centre. And there’s also these ideas of femininity, and then you have these people who are both. So on the masculine side, you can have a transgender man, you can have a butch, you can have a drag queen, you can have drag king on the feminine side, you can have a high femme, a lipstick lesbian, a cisgender woman. And then under both you have gender non-conforming, androgynous, gender queer, agender, all of these other types of gender identities. And again, it goes into that picture of the fact that there’s 25 or more different gender identities that we know of, in this exact moment. And if you start actually mapping them out, it actually makes a lot of sense, right? Because I think all of us have met someone where you’re like, “Huh, that person definitely does not perform gender in the way that I do. But they’re awesome, right?” So it’s a little bit of that interesting context there.
And so then there’s this other idea. One of the things that I always like to remind people of is that even within gender diverse communities, even though it might feel like gender diverse communities, or people who are part of diverse communities are different than you, there’s still that idea of intersectionality. So intersectionality, is a concept originated by Kimberly Crenshaw, which essentially says that there are a lot of different aspects of a human that allow them to exist in the world. And in fact, if you look at my intersectionality, I identify as lesbian, I identify as non binary, I identify as black, I identify as transgender. I also identify as someone who’s married, and I also identify as a sneakerhead. So if you’re thinking about those ideas of intersectionality, when you’re actually starting to think about how to engage someone from a gender diverse community. If you don’t understand the gender diverse part of it, maybe you understand that they went to the same university as you, maybe they’re from the same town as you, maybe they like the same food as you. So there’s always other aspects of people’s personalities that allow you this opportunity to connect with them to understand them better. So you can start your journey into allyship.
And so having said that, what is an ally? So this is the textbook definition of an ally. So it says: it’s an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and reevaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalised group. So the first thing I want to say here is that I also have to practice being an ally. Right? So I am now a person, especially working in tech, especially working in the type of tech that I do. I have more economic ability, I have more social capital than many people who I’m friends with. And so this is something that happens to everyone. Everyone has some sense of allyship that they need to participate and practice at a given time. And so it’s a responsibility that we all have to to unlearn and to reevaluate, especially, part of this allyship.
Secondly, allyshipping an identity is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalised individuals in our groups of people. So this is one of the things that I hear all the time – especially for people who aren’t really internalising what it means to be an ally – the first thing they’ll say is, “I’m an ally.” And I’m like, “Okay, cool, but who told you you were an ally, I need to see the document, or the text, or the video that someone said, ‘You were an ally,’ because until I see that, I can’t believe you.” Because someone else has to give you that, it’s just like earning that promotion. You can only be an ally of someone else who is an expert at this thing, that person gives you that title. And so again, it’s not self defined.
So one of the groups of individuals that I’m really working to be a great ally to are neurodivergent people, right? It’s something that’s super important to me. I work in tech, I work with a lot of people who are on the various spectrums of autism, of ADHD, and all these other types of classifications. And so one of the things I love is when I can be that person who goes, “Hey, you weren’t really giving X person enough credit, because you don’t really understand the nuance of their neurodiversity. Let me explain what they were trying to say. And then let’s work together to kind of accommodate them.” And so having people say, “B you helped me. Thank you so much for being my advocate there. Because they really weren’t understanding what I was doing.”
And so it’s also important when you’re trying to be an ally, to be intentional with how you frame the work you do. So for instance you can use language like “we’re showing support for” or “we’re showing our commitment to ending a system of oppression by” or “we’re using our privilege to help by.” That type of language is very different. Things that you should never say: “My friend is blah, so this is why I know about this,” you don’t actually, you don’t necessarily know, you’re not that human, you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. But being able to say “one of my friends is a part of this diverse group and as a part of that, I have learned a lot and this is what I’ve been doing in my practice, to actually help be an ally to that group of people.” That is the type of terminology that you should be using.
So, allyship in action. So it’s really corny to say this, but if you see something, say something. It is actually so important.
So my pronouns again, are they/them/theirs. And it’s been so great for me at my current company. My peers, my manager, my directors, my VPs have literally stopped a meeting to go, “Hey, by the way, B’s pronouns are they/them/theirs, you just misgendered them.” That type of allyship is exactly what you should be doing. And it’s more representative of the type of world and the type of community that actually would be great for a diverse person, you have to also challenge those around you.
Like I said in that previous example, I have a lot of neurodivergent colleagues. And I also have a lot of not neurodivergent colleagues. And so it’s very important for a person like me, who understands or who is working to understand the nuances there to actually say, “Hey, it’s not okay for you to be to prejudge or dismiss that person, just because they’re different than you.” You need to take some time to think about that. And think about what they said, and actually provide them feedback in context so they can be successful as well.
And then speak up in front of those you wish to be an ally to. This is something that’s super important. I can’t tell you, when I first came out as trans and non binary, people will be like, “Oh, by the way, I did reach out to Edward, I know he said the wrong thing. But like, whatever.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but in the meeting, you didn’t say anything. So no one knows that you told Edward, that’s not actually the principles that we have at our company. And so you know, the next time this happens, like, they’re gonna make the mistake, and they’re gonna think it’s okay, because no one else said something.” So it’s super important to speak up in front of other people. That’s great, not only for the community and your organisation as a whole, it’s also great for that person. I can’t tell you, it supercharges me to have someone, show their allyship to me in real time. And to continue to be an ally even when it’s hard.
So one of the things that I do at my current company is I’m also the lead of Trans Star. So Trans Star is our trans employee resource group. And it’s really interesting, because I’m trans non binary. So I don’t really know anything about what it means to be a trans woman, or to be a trans man, or to be agender, or any of that. And so sometimes, one of the trans women will come up to me and say, “Hey, the insurance benefits isn’t doing this thing, and blah, blah, blah.” And I actually have to go over there and explained, “This is not okay if this is not happening.” And it took me like six months for the last thing that happened to actually help get that benefit covered. But it was very frustrating. But it was something I had to do, because I want to be a great ally, to all of my colleagues. And especially my colleagues who are unjustly suffering, just because of a policy.
So how do you prepare a seat at the table? So this is the part that I think is super important, because we’re all business people here. And we’re trying to think about how can we make our business better. And we know that every statistic tells us diverse companies are more successful companies. So first and foremost, pronouns in your signatures don’t count. I can’t tell you how many times someone has been like, “oh, yeah, like I’m doing great. Like I put pronouns in my signature.” And I’m like, “well, first of all, that’s cute, but that’s literally, like beyond the most basic level of things that you can do.” So ERGs, employee resource groups, are helpful, but only when they are well funded with advocates and leadership. So it’s great to create employee resource groups, or some kind of organisation within your organisation that advocates for different types of people, but you actually have to make sure that there are leaders within the organisation who are going to support those ERGs and help them be successful.
Then the next thing is you have to make sure that once the employees are there, that they have equal opportunities. So this is one of the things that, I think is kind of an interesting nuance, because it’s just the same phenomena that happens in the black community. For instance, whenever you are actually inviting people into the door, if you have not done that work, and due diligence to understand what your own blind spots are, you may end up with a situation where those people feel like they’re not being valued. They don’t have the same opportunities. They don’t get promotions, things like that. And so they end up leaving anyway. And I know this has been my actual experience where I worked at a company where they loved me, they thought I was great. And then one of the senior directors took me to the side and said, “Hey, just so you know, you’re never probably gonna get promoted here. Because a lot of people are uncomfortable with the fact that you’re different.” And I was like, “Thank you for giving me that context. I’m gonna leave.” But it was an actual true story of something that happened to me. So ensure all the leaders in the company understand the importance of getting it right.
So again, this goes back to this idea of alignment, right? How can you have a company be successful if there’s misalignment in any aspects of the business. And so if you want to be great allies in a place that ensures that people feel comfortable working for you. That’s another one of those aspects. In addition to knowing what KPIs that you want, and what ROI you need, you also have to understand what kind of organisation and community you’re going to be creating, for your employees as a whole.
In terms of job description, the career sites make clear support for diverse people, I can’t tell you how many times I look at a job description, and I’m just like, “Okay, great. You want me to do all this stuff, but I just did some digging, your benefits don’t cover anything that I need. And you don’t even have a place for me to reach out if something doesn’t work out. I’m not interested in that company.” So again, it’s a little nuanced type thing, but it’s super important. And then do your research into your policies and health plans, cover gender diverse people – I’ve been to so many companies where they just don’t. In fact, my former company, Apple, I was very surprised at what they didn’t cover. And I spent the majority of my time at Apple actually working with the benefits team to update their benefits to actually cover gender diverse people because they really didn’t cover them at all.
So then, lastly, why is this all important? So the percentage of people who identify as LGBTQ by age group is 12%. If you break down that group of people, for 18-34 year olds, it’s 20%. For 35-51 year olds, it’s 12% and 50-71 year olds, it’s 7%. And for 72+, it’s 5%. And so for the majority of us that 18-34 group, that’s the group that we’re trying to recruit or hire, or who’s going to be the future of our business. And so the fact that 20% of this generation of people identify as LGBTQ means that it’s kind of our responsibility to ensure our companies are ready for them, because they’re not going to work for us, right. And we need that talent, to be able to move forward and be successful in what we’re going to do.
So I gave you 30 minutes of all of that, and I’m just gonna say gender is given too much importance, we should be able to see humans just as humans – it’s my favourite quote. And in fact, if you listen to me talk, like 99% of time, I just call people, humans, like you’re a good human, or you’re bad human. That’s all I need to know about you. I don’t need to know anything else about you besides that, but it’s a really good way to think about it. So if nothing else, you could take yourself out of that spectrum of how does this person relate to me? And instead think this person is just a human, and I’m just a human. And how can we work together? So thank you so much for that, folks.
Great. So thank you, I don’t really know what to say. So much to take on board. Let’s open this up to the immediate questions.
Question from Audience
She raised her hand politely. You can go.
No, go ahead. Go ahead. I can go next.
Okay, I thought this was really good. I love the history. I really like the way these things were defined. I thought this was really, really good. So I grew up in quite a conservative background in Central Europe, and lots of people are finding this a little bit imposed on them, like “you need to think about all this stuff.” And it feels that this is pushed on them very actively, aggressively. You know, “Oh, you just misgendered someone,” you know? And it just feels harsh, like, when you look at it from that single standpoint. So I wonder how to connect with these kind of people better? I also employ a couple conservative people. And I’m just trying to figure out how do I bridge because a lot of these things when we talk about it, it just keeps feeling like I keep imposing something on these people.
Yeah, so first and foremost, I grew up in a very conservative background, too. So I’m from Mississippi, which in the United States is the people who don’t really believe in science, who believe in the church. My dad is a minister. So I totally get what you’re saying. Soone of the things I think that people struggle with is trying to change people’s minds, right? So the move is, “Oh, you’re wrong, I need to change your mind.” So instead, I like to focus on, “hey, you don’t have to, you don’t have to be perfect at this,” that’s the first thing I tell people, you do not have to be perfect. Because the idea of perfection is where shame and fear come from. And you don’t want to trigger shame and fear for individuals, right? Because if you do that, that’s when they start curling up as a turtle, they don’t listen to you, they don’t really acknowledge what you’re trying to say. So instead, what I really like to focus on is saying, “Hey, look at this person in front of you, this person in front of you saying they are non binary, they want you to use they them theirs. Or this is a person who is a trans woman or trans man, who is changing their pronouns from he him to see her or vice versa. And you don’t have to believe that you don’t have to understand that. But just like you open the door for a pregnant woman, right? Who has too many groceries in their hand, why wouldn’t you do the same thing and be polite to this person?”
Right. So I like to start from there, right? Start there, and get them acclimated to: this is about being respectful and courteous, because being from conservative communities, we usually like to be respectful and courteous of other people. And then after that, you can start getting into the other things. And again, none of this is actually being imposed on you. This is about being a good, courteous human, which many of us care about, right? We don’t want to be seen as jerks or jackasses or anything like that, right. And that’s usually where I start from. I was at home this past weekend, and I can’t tell you how many people came up to me, they were like, “B we know, we’re supposed to be doing this. But I literally just don’t get it.” And I was just like, “I understand that you don’t get it. But you should do thi because when you do this, it makes me feel great. Right? This makes me feel like a whole human. And one less thing I have to fight.” And that’s a really good way to kind of help people start their journey on understanding, because it starts there. And then eventually they get curious, because they’re just like, “oh, well, that wasn’t that hard to be nice. So let me go look at a little bit more and figure out other things that I should be thinking about.”
Yeah, I really like that. So it’s much less about, I lash out at you. And shame you. If you don’t do it. It’s much more like, “Oh, you just make me feel great. No, thank you very nicely formatted.
I really like it. Thanks.
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Thank you for the talk. I was just curious, do you think that there should be a bridge between, for example, people that just know about gender? How do we introduce the subject to people that don’t know about it? Because in my experience, I’ve read about trans and non binary, it’s a super interesting topic. But it’s very steep to start introducing yourself in that subject. If you don’t know anything about it, do you think that we could help by kind of introducing people to it?
In what context are you talking about? Are you talking about a professional or you’re talking about in the personal?
Oh, yeah. So I like to come up with statistics about who’s going to be applying for jobs, right? So usually, how I would start is saying, “Hey, folks I’m thinking about how many roles we have to fill this year, and what those people may look like. And so I wanted to mention the fact that we might actually be getting our first gender diverse people or there might be gender diverse people who are going to apply. And so I would love to spend some time educating a few of you – especially the people who are going to be interviewing people – to think about how to make people comfortable. Because if we don’t figure this out, before someone gets here, we end up with a bad reputation because we didn’t do a good job.” And this example, I think, is very, very important because there’s this company I worked at called Sprout Social. At Sprout Social, they trained every single one of their interviewers and hiring managers on how to be great interviewers for gender diverse people. So as soon as I came in, the receptionist asked me, “Oh, we noticed that you didn’t fill out your pronouns. We were just wondering, do you have alternative pronouns?” I was like, “Oh, yeah, I do. My pronouns are they/them/theirs.” And she happened to make sure every single person knew beforehand. You know, when I got a tour of the office, the person who gave me the tour was like, “Oh, by the way, that’s our gender neutral bathroom,” then after I got into a space, every single one of those people knew which pronouns to use, and also came up with interesting personal questions. Because, part of the interviewing process is that you want to have something personal, that you can talk to someone about. And so for instance, they were like, “Oh, how’s your significant other?” And the person who interviewed me afterwards was like, “well, when we found out that you were non binary, we weren’t sure if you might be married to a man or a woman or someone who’s non binary. And so like, I wanted to make sure I asked a question that was inclusive of all of your experiences.” And so it just becomes a part of the business, right? Like, this is just a part of the strategy to have a successful business by creating an experience for those folks, that is tailor made to them, right? Otherwise, you’re gonna end up in a situation where I actually interviewed with a company two years ago. And so again, I’m masculine-of-center, I wear a full suit, like, my suit is poppin when I go on interviews. And this guy who interviewed me goes, “Oh, so how’s your husband?” And I was just like, “just because I was born a female does not mean I have a husband? Like, how far off of the reservation that that was the first question that you think about that?”
So it’s about business value, right. So if you’re in a workplace, it’s always start with business value. And then separately, obviously, that’s about recruiting people. But then on the second part of that, depending on your business, you got gender diverse people, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent in feedback on forms and documents and things like that saying, “your form sucks.” Half the companies who collect gender, I have no idea why they collect gender, because it literally doesn’t apply. Secondly, it’s very limited. And I’m like, if you really do need this information, to personalise something for me, your information doesn’t work, right> And so you can actually turn off a lot of people because of that. Are you actually generating revenue, are you losing revenue, because of the lack of diverse thought, when it comes to the different ways that people participate in gender? And I should also say there’s also people who have gender diverse identities, who look and live in exactly the way that you would expect them to live based on their assigned gender at birth. Right? You know, I have a colleague they go by she/they pronouns, and one of the most beautiful, feminine women I’ve ever met in my entire life. But if you have a form that just says, ‘female or male’, they will not do any business with you period. Like, 100%, they’re done with you. So that’s the complexity of this, right? It’s about proactively thinking about either: a) how is this going to hurt your ability to recruit and retain talent, or b) how is this going to hurt your ability to create, maintain or create revenue, and create an experience that people want to work with for your company?
Also Nick, your question. So, Sprout Social is a very interesting company. So basically Sprout Social, they’ve been around for 10 or 15 years, and just from the very beginning, they wanted to be a company that was great with DEI topics. And as they continue to grow their DEI practice. It started off with race, ethnicity is one of the main things they wanted to focus on. And then it was about gender. And then it became about, we have gender but what’s gender diverse, what’s LGBTQ plus, things like that. So they’re just one of those companies where the doing good part was part of their mission in addition to the making the money. And honestly, it worked out for them because they went public early last year, and they already have a $5 billion market cap, like they’ve exceeded every expectation. So, there’s a part of me that thinks that it’s probably because they did such a good job of thinking about how they could help the world and then built products that looked like that and people really enjoyed it.
That’s incredible. For companies that maybe are earlier on their path towards this, what was the spark that got them moving forward on the conversations? And thank you for the the answer B.
Yeah, it’s actually really funny to me because, I currently work at Netflix. And actually Netflix only really started hiring their entire DEI organisation three years ago. So technically you would consider them to be earlier on their path than Sprout Social, because Sprout Social started off with that. And one of the things that I think is interesting about Netflix is that one of the core values of Netflix that they started springing up was this idea of entertaining the world. And so as a part of this idea of entertaining the world, it just became more readily apparent that they actually didn’t have enough context or diversity to actually do that. And then especially as the company continues to push internationally, they have to have more people who are competent in that area. For instance, in many areas of Europe, you actually have to create content that is created in Europe, right? But how can you have an American executive who has no context on what France likes? Or what Italy likes? Or what Turkey likes? You have to have that type of diversity in your talent pool. And then once you have that talent, it’s like, oh, wait, but now our culture may not fit the culture of the individual who’s there. So how do you actually mash these points? And that’s when the AI became one of the huge points of Netflix.
So it goes to this idea of: how do you create an environment where anyone can be successful in your organisation, because ultimately, your organisation is going to be appealing to so many different types of people who are probably outside of the paradigm of what you started with, right? Even if I started a company right now, the only things that I know a lot about are being black, being trans non binary, being Southern, and being a product manager. So those are the things I’m an expert in, I’m not an expert in a whole bunch of other stuff, right? Like everything else, I have to figure that stuff out. And so I need to hire a whole bunch of people who don’t look like me who don’t love like me, who don’t have my background, in order to augment that, so that I can be more successful too.
You suggested making sure that ERG groups are well-funded and have representation in leadership. Can you give some examples of concrete examples of how you’ve seen both of those play out? Example: We have a women/trans/femme ERG at our growing company, and I’m curious what funding and executive support could look like for our little group
Yeah, I use Netflix again. So Netflix is kind of interesting, because one, Netflix is kind of willy nilly about their budget anyway. But one of the things that’s interesting about Netflix is, is that they made a conscious decision to allocate every ERG a certain budget to create to events and opportunities, learning opportunities, bring speakers in, and things like that for their ERGs. And also, as a part of that the ERG is bringing those speakers who then speak to the whole company, right? So that the company learns more about that particular group, or how to be an ally to that particular group. So I think that’s super important, because I’ve also been at cars.com, where there was no budget whatsoever. You have to, like, legitimately beg to even have a meeting room, right? You had to actually beg for that. And we were meeting after hours, right? So it just didn’t really feel like they actually cared from that perspective.
And then secondly, every ERG should be matched up with some kind of executive who actually has the ability to move something forward. So for instance at Netflix, I’m the ERG leader for Black@, and I’m also the ERG leader for Trans. And both of those ERGs have at least two VPs are assigned to them. And they have different backgrounds completely. For instance, with the Trans VP, one of the VPs is actually an HR person, because HR and benefits are one of the biggest issues that challenge trans communities. And so it’s important that we have an advocate who is actually in benefits, who can actually help us explain to them what the issue is. For Black@ the main areas are content, and legal. So we have four VPS over there. And so again, content and legal are two things that the black community cares most about, because, making sure people get good contracts, we want to make sure that creators are being treated equally and also that we tell stories that represent black people, right? So you want to make sure that there’s people who have the ability to understand what the challenges are in that community, and then goes out to the rest of the leadership team and goes, “Hey, this thing sucks. We have to fix it.” Right? And that’s the thing that’s super important. That’s exactly what happens with my interview, the benefits stuff that’s happened.
You know, for instance, Netflix used to record all of our pregnancy information as male and female. So: you’re male, you took this much time off/ you’re female, you took this much time off. That’s actually not true, we actually have trans males who have given birth at Netflix. So if you just put male that’s not actually representative at all of this. So we actually changed all those terms for gestational versus non gestational parents. We also had surrogates, surrogacy and things like that. And the great thing about that is it completely makes our data better, because our data now actually represents exactly what’s going on with the humans that work at our company, and how they use our benefits.
So I’m really talking about the fact that, you know, there needs to be economic power, I’m not saying that everyone has to give every ERG like $100,000. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that you need to, come up with a number that you feel comfortable with, to allow them to actually create opportunities for them to impact the business. The speakers that I bring in for Trans* and Black@, I can’t tell you how many times afterwards people, especially our allies, who join, they’re just like, “oh my gosh, I learned so much like I don’t even know if y’all learned from them. But like, this was such a great experience. For me, this was so impactful. For me, this was so helpful.” And then secondly, making sure that there are leaders who really believe and who are bought in who will support those organisations, so they can be successful and advocate for what they need in the business.
Could you please expand a bit about what you said about job postings, and the mistakes you see in them?
So, first and foremost, obviously, the job description has to be complete, and explain what the job is. But let’s put that to the side, on the career site on the job description. It should have some idea about what your values are, about accepting diverse people, what benefits you have, things like that. So for instance, I love ones that are like, “Hey, we believe in bla bla, bla bla bla.” And usually it’s something like “We believe in DEI, we believe in supporting different people we believe in blah, blah, blah. And then we also have these benefits to support those beliefs.” It’s usually pretty straightforward. It’s like: “you come here, we’ll do all this other stuff to make sure that you’re taken care of.”
So Sprout Social has this page on their careers page, which I think is great. And I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on that from people. And then if you look at their job descriptions, there’s a section in every job description that talks about diversity in collaboration, essentially. Right. And I think that that’s super important. One of the things that I think that people don’t do is set expectations. Well, from job descriptions. And every single one at Sprout tells you exactly what you’re expected to do within a certain period of time. And so what’s great about that is I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I knew where I could hold you accountable to. Because we often think about what we hold employees accountable to, but it’s really great to be able to think about what you as an employee can hold your employer accountable to because it’s so clear, it’s so set in their expectations. And it’s makes you feel very comfortable, that you can move forward and be successful at that company. And of course, the belt section on these job descriptions are also great. Because it tells you, “We really, really care about these different aspects.” And so that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about job descriptions that basically leave no doubt, I feel comfortable, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll be safe there. Because they’re already thinking about and explaining to me what types of benefits, what types of things I’m going to have access to, so that I know I’m going to be great.
I was pretty satisfied at Apple. I could have stayed at Apple for a couple more years, I would have been fine. But one of the reasons I decided to move to Netflix was because, one, my manager was awesome. He reached out to me one night, and he was like, “Hey, I would love to bring you over.” But he also was like, “oh, so I was looking at your website and things like that. I know that you’re trans non binary so your pronouns are they/them/theirs?” And then he took me to a Black@ event and then he also connected me with someone from Trans*. And so I had half a dozen conversations, before I started with people who either did my job, who had my same gender identity, who had my same ethnicity or my same racial makeup. And so I was so comfortable when they actually gave me the job. Even though Netflix has this reputation of firing people. I was like, it’s cool, you can fire me, I was like, I’m cool taking that four months severance, because you guys have done such a great job of making me feel comfortable that I was like, “if I get fired, like, I can’t even be mad, like you guys did such a great job of really making me feel comfortable here.”
And so that’s the type of onboarding, right? Like, it’s a job posting. It’s making sure that you show on your career site, how you care about diverse people, and then actually showing up in that interview process like that, too. I think it’s that combination, that’s really, really, really important. And when I talk about mistakes, the mistakes are, super easy, because you’ll go to career sites, and they don’t say anything about it, right. And if you’re a diverse person that’s the first thing you look for because to be truthful, it’s really just not worth wasting the time to go through interview processes, or even taking a job, and then having to leave in six months.
So that was my experience at cars.com by the way. I took the job, because I was younger, I didn’t really have that understanding of what it means. And so now I teach people all the time, these are the red flags. But I actually left cars.com six months afterwards, because of my experience there, because of the fact that I realised I was not going to be successful there based on my gender identity, based on my race. And it was the best decision I ever made. Because I actually did go to Sprout Social, and then Sprout Social was my springboard into everything else that I did. I get to coach people, and I tell them all the time, “If it doesn’t have that, in the job description, doesn’t have that on the career site, it’s a red flag, chances are, it’s not gonna work out too well, for you.”
Thank you, B. I have a follow up question, which is something that we struggle with, because we are a 30 person company. And so we’re actually quite proud of how welcoming we are and we already have a few people who are LGBT. And my concern is that I don’t want to tokenize them, you know,what I mean? You know, I see Sprout Social has a BI report. If you’d make a BI report with 30 people, it’s like you’re putting them on the spot? Or also the experience you had in Netflix, right? If I asked my gay employees to interview every… that’s not their job. In a way, yes, I’m helping the company. But maybe that person after a while, doesn’t want to do that so much. So help me out here?
Well, first and foremost, ask questions. Right? I don’t know if you’ve talked to your employees. But I would be very curious if you ask them how they felt about this. They don’t have to be the person to interview, they could just be the person who is the point person to be available for questions, right? You know, they could just be that person. And then they don’t actually have to interview that person to be on every interview panel. Because that’s another way that this works. But I would ask my employees what they think. For instance, within my organisation, we’d love to be the people who get featured on stuff and explain why you should come work at Netflix, because we love the fact that we feel so safe. Right? This is an organisation that we’re passionate about. Because for many of us, it’s the first time we’ve ever worked at a place that cares about us in this way. And so you might actually be surprised that your employees might actually say, “Oh, yeah boss, like sure. Put out that report. Like, I know that I’m the only one of this particular category, but I’m okay with that because I’m so happy that I get to be here. And I feel so grateful that this place exists for me and I would love to bring other people on who have my similar background.”
I like that approach where it’s opt in. It’s not I’m asking you to do this to help recruit more people, but if you’re available, and want to speak up about this, here’s how it will help.
It’s just like representing your country, right? A lot of people have national pride, right? And so it’s cool to have company pride and a lot of people do actually. You’d be pretty surprised once you ask people.
I have a question as well, please? Yeah, like, I kind of struggle a little bit because I fully support all your efforts and everything but I have this thing, it’s RSI, right? It’s like clicking keyboards and mice, it causes me untold pain if I use a normal keyboard and mouse. And for over 25 years or 30 years of my career, there’s never been the diversity in any organisation to support people who have RSI. And I kind of feel angry that I’m still in this place where I’m fighting. And I suppose that’s where you were coming from, I think disability and race and gender diversity and all these kinds of topics. I think they’re interrelated. Or I get the sense that they are. And it just seems like our workplaces don’t really care about the edges of society. It’s like democracy is two wools voting with a lamb about what to eat for lunch kind of thing. And so I kind of feel like we still need to do more. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, no, I agree. So one, it sucks, right? I totally agree with you. I’ve been a product manager my entire career. And the first thing they tell us to make the product for the 95% use case, but I’m one of those product managers who really likes to focus on the 5% use case. And that’s because the 5% use case is actually the interesting thing, like, how do you actually accommodate that? And so I definitely know that when you have unique differences, it’s very difficult for other people to understand. So a great example is like, my wife has ADHD, right. So my wife has severe ADHD. And so she can’t be overstimulated. And so working from home has been like the best thing ever for her. Because she can control her environment. And so she actually is more productive at home than she ever was at work. And one of the things that she’s super anxious about is when we actually work again and she has to go in, because she’s like, am I going to be as productive? Right. And so the thing is, is that ADHD is something that we know exists, but people don’t really think they have to accommodate it, right? They don’t really think about what it actually means to accommodate someone with differences. And so I agree with you, that’s the thing that’s frustrating about all of this, is that, companies are starting to think about it, and are starting to get slightly better. But the reality is, is that people like you, people like me, we’ve always existed, we’ve always had these different issues, these different problems. And we’ve always wanted an environment where we were respected, and people considered those types of things. And you know, the great thing about this is that you can be an ally to me, I can be an ally to you, because I didn’t know about RSI before this, but now I’m gonna go look it up. And I’m gonna figure that out and see if there’s anyone who works at my company.
I spent literally 20 years of my life building a voice recognition system that enables me to operate computers. I’m doing okay now but it’s been a battle and I fully sympathise with the cause of the marginalised. Yeah, and I think our society at large, still has a long way to go. I think there was a talk at BoS about four or five years ago or something. There was a blind man, I forget his name, but he came up in the BoS Boston conference.
He told us a story about how when he was going around with the stick, when he came to pavements, there was kind of bumps on the pavement, to help them detect where the road is going to start. And he said, “Well, this has the advantage for all the other people who are walking around the city with trolley bags on their way to the airport or whatever.” And he said, “In designing the system to help accommodate the blind people, we enhance the overall environment for all the other people.” I just love that point. I’ve thought about it many, many times ever since that conference, and I think that’s something that we forget. By trying to help each other or feel comfortable and do our best and aspire to be better than, it helps everyone else. And we’re in such a mess right now, globally, we need something to happen. So well done on whatever efforts you’ve been able to get across the goal line.
Yeah, yeah, I agree. Tim, I think I saw your hand go up first.
Yeah. So I had a question about, as an employer, something that we’ve struggled with is, we’ve made some progress deliberately, some progress sort of by accident. And then there’s communities that we just haven’t been able to engage with. And I figured that for folks, particularly, folks with disabilities, being able to work from home or work in a dedicated setup would be something that would be really appealing to them, we just never seem to be able to send the right signals. So we can get people of colour, we can get people with different genders. And we’ve got a pretty good story for them, you know, we provide a pretty good workplace for them. But it’s engaging with the community that you don’t have contact with, if that makes sense? You know, like, that starting point. And I see that sometimes with other companies where they’re trying to become more diverse, but they’re all white men. And they just don’t have the first clue in terms of how to engage. And now I feel sort of as we peel the onion, there’s more layers of groups that we would like to be a good employer for. It’s just hard to work out how to send the signals without already being tapped into that community, if that makes sense.
Yeah. So the really great thing about this is that there’s almost always a nonprofit that is related to a given community, right. So what I would do is, I would look into that. So locally, in your area, or even nationally, in your country, there’s usually an organisation that focuses on those different things. For instance, I was at a conference a few months ago, and it was actually a National Disabled group who actually partnered with Microsoft, for instance. And they were partnering with Microsoft to help them get candidates who qualify, similar to what you’re talking about working from home. One of the people on my panel was one of the people who went through that programme, who ended up working at Microsoft.
So I know that there’s organisations out there that exist for these types of categories, just like if you wanted to find LGBTQ people in it to work at your company, there’s, you know, things like Lesbians Who Tech. There’s like all these different organisations that exist. And so what I would do is, I will just reach out to them, because they’re always desperately looking for people to partner with, and then they will help promote your stuff for you. And they also will help you give you context. So for instance, if you’re thinking about, “Oh, how can I make my job posting appeal more to people who have disabilities?” I’m sure they could also even review your job postings to help you create keywords that will make it more likely for someone to find your job posting. I’m sure there’s terms that are in that community that I’m not personally aware of, that people might be doing a search for. Right? Because just like I do, I do a search for product manager, LGBTQ+ or HRC approved or something like that. So I’m sure that those things exist. And so I highly recommend working in your local communities. I’m on the board of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. And YWCA actually has both tech programmes for young women. They have incubators for entrepreneurs and a bunch of other stuff. And so people come to them all the time for help with their employment strategies, because the YWCA always has people, they just don’t always have the connection to the companies, they can hire those people.
I really liked what you said about the 95% versus the 5%. And I’m just thinking, how do you convince people to let you focus on the 5%? The 95% in the tech industry by now is like a mantra, and arguably often for good reasons. In an early stage of the company, as we try to get maximum effect for absolutely minimum amount of effort. That’s why deploy the Pareto principle to focus on the easiest people, right. So how do you argue there?
Yeah, so I think Austin already mentioned it, right. If you programme for the scenario that is less likely, chances are it’s going to enhance the scenario that’s most likely, right? You know, when I’m thinking about those edge cases, like Sprout Social is a great example. So one of the things I started off on listening to Sprout Social, and then I ended up being a part of their research board. And so we’re trying to research, what types of integrations, what types of products that, you know, we should be building to get the next group of billion dollar accounts into Sprout Social. And what was really funny about that is that I realised that there were these nuanced integrations that companies actually were looking for, you know, so like Yelp, right? Like, a Yelp review can exist for any business now, right. But it wasn’t something that was on the roadmap, and folks were like, well, well, how much does it cost to integrate Yelp and I’m like, actually, it’s super cheap, integrate Yelp. And we will be giving insights that no other business possibly could give our customers, right. And so the move was made to integrate Yelp.
And so it’s about business value, right? It’s like, what type of nuance can you create that creates an experience and insight, a dynamic with your business that is so unique, that it helps you retain and create experience that it delights people, right? I’m, so I’ve worked at Apple and Netflix. So delighting the customers like the huge it’s our principles in both of those companies. And so it’s something that’s super important. But if you think about it, like even like right now, I was I’ve been trying to use this product recently. So my name is literally B. That’s literally my legal name. And so many companies, for instance, do not have a notion of being able to enter a first name that is less than two letters. So legitimately, I cannot register with like, 70% of the companies that are out there. So that means every single one, those companies lose business with me, until I can potentially contact customer service and say, “Hey, by the way, I really want to do business with you. But by the way, I can’t even create an account because it says that my name doesn’t exist.” How can we fix this, like E trade was an example of this, I had to legitimately have my vice president of stock at Netflix, contact E trade, to help convince them to change my name on E trade so I could do business with them. And so again, I am a very rare use case. But I also happen to be someone who has a lot of economic power, right? And so it’s like you’re literally losing business for me, because you didn’t contemplate what it might look like, for someone to have a nuanced name. Well, and also think about it from this perspective, so many of the businesses that are out there that we most often use are coming from an English centric space, right? A place where it’s either, you know, whether it’s the United Kingdom, whether it’s, you know, Europe, whether it’s America, they’re thinking about it from, you know, an English into space. But if you think about the number of characters, if if someone wants to put in a character’s, you know, a Chinese citizen, you know, you know, someone who’s using Cyrillic, someone who’s using Arabic, like, they should be able to put in just one character, and have their name because one character happens to represent an entire name, right? And so it also goes back to this nuance of, are you thinking diverse enough to accommodate the growth of your business? Like, you know, when I thought about Sprout Social Sprout Social, when I first started, it was an American centric company. But it was very obvious that they would want to go to South America and Europe. And so it’s like, oh, no, we need to go ahead and enhance all of our databases to deal with all these different languages that we’re going to have to accommodate. And so what that meant is, is as soon as they were ready to go into the next country, they are all set up, right? Like, that’s the type of nuanced like, so it’s about that strategy of saying, how do you want to grow? Right? Because growth is not going to just happen in one place. If you do it right. Growth can happen everywhere. And so how do you actually want to actually enable that to happen? And the 5% case is often the how that actually happens?
Question from Audience
Yeah, I love it. So argument one is, these people are not on the edges, it’s an opportunity, they’re the easiest to delight actually. And the other thing is that by not thinking about this stuff, which will hit you later.
It’s 100% true, it is. I take that as my as my worst nightmare. I prefer to. I prefer to try to hit as many use cases as possible to start off with so I don’t have to deal with all that other stuff later.
You’re the engineer’s dream.
Oh, yeah, actually. One of my core attributes is I tell people all the time: “if you don’t want to work for me later then I know I failed as a person.” I’ve been very lucky that only one person didn’t want to work with me again but I also didn’t want to work with him again, because he was terrible. So it worked out.
Thanks, B. Before I ask my question, I just want to say I just so appreciate your practical and pragmatic advice around a topic that isn’t easy, it’s not easy for me. And I think, given some of the questions, it’s not easy for some of the other folks just in like, how do you engage? I’m gonna ask you a question and I think I know what your answer is going to be, but I’d really love to hear it anyway. And so I think the one thing that I’m struggling with a little bit is, to what extent is it sufficient or acceptable to, to look at your business to look at it harder and go, “Actually, how do we make it globally acceptable for people of diverse gender, or different race groups or whatever, right? Treat humans as humans, and make sure that we’ve already done that. And we’ve really thought about ourselves and our policies and our processes from that perspective.” Versus going “Actually, that’s not enough. That we need to explicitly reach out here. And we need to explicitly accommodate.” I think I heard you talking about some of that earlier, being explicit on your website, because actually, otherwise, it doesn’t send the right message. And yeah, so just really love to, to hear some of your thoughts on that. And I hope I’ve articulated my struggle, or my question well enough.
Yeah. So I think this also goes back to how do you know if you’re an ally. And if you recall, I said that you can’t give yourself that title, like someone else has to give it to you. And so, you know, one of the things about struggle is that, you know, you could take on partners, right, there are other individuals who may be better experts at something than you do than you are. And so sometimes it’ll be for internal people, but sometimes it’s not. And so there’s a lot of organisations that also can just help you, you know, provide helpful context about that, you know, like I mentioned, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. So one of the things that whatever we see today, it does for a lot of businesses in Chicago, is actually provide them additional context about how they can be better at, you know, programmes for diverse people, everything from diverse people from an economic level, from a training level, from race, from gender, etc. They also do a lot of work to help people understand where their blind spots are. And I’m not saying necessarily to spend millions of dollars on this stuff. That’s not what I’m saying. But there’s usually local organisations that are it could be really good partners to you, to help you, you know, deal with this struggle. There’s two things happen, either people are like, “Oh, we did some stuff. And so we feel like we checked our boxes, right?” And I’m gonna be truthful, I’m a check your box’s person, because whenever you check boxes, it’s very easy to just throw that over into the bin, and then not go back to it for a very long time. And that’s not really the strategy I take. But then separately, there’s like these long term partnerships that you can create, that these people become huge partners to you who help you form and reform and continue to grow your business by being that that those people who can tell you, you have blinders on. And I think there’s a really interesting strategy in that, because that is where you can get that long term growth that people are looking for. Yeah, and again, because even like with your job descriptions, you might update your job descriptions once. And you’re like, oh, I have this great about section it says, I’m really great with like, diversity issues, but maybe that you’re not great with accessibility, you just didn’t think about it, because like, accessibility wasn’t on your radar at that time. So like, you know, it’s also great to have those partners because they’re going to keep pushing you to think more strategically, because that’s exactly what they do.
Yeah, I mean, that’s super advice. And I think that’s what I’m struggling with. My business is in a country with 11 official languages, right. So there’s language, there’s big penetration of different religious groups. There are lots of different racial groups. It’s South Africa that I’m talking about. If I’ve got to go and become an expert, each one of those areas of diversity, I’ll do nothing else.
So it’s impossible to be an expert. It’s impossible to be an expert, right? Because again, I tell you, I am a black person. I am a trans non binary person. I’m southern. I’m a product manager.
I’m also I’m also Alissa’s wife. So those are the five things I know about. I don’t know anything about like, like I read about other stuff. I’m very fascinated by it, but I cannot tell you the nuances of those things. And so the point is, is that never try to be the expert of all things. Instead find people who are experts in those things. And South Africa, especially, you know, it’s definitely, it’s definitely a very diverse, very well established company. So I’m sure that there’s organisations there that have different expertise in these different things that you can reach out to.
Any other comments? There’ve been so many, so many things that have come up here, my mind is racing. If you want to promote this stuff, whether that is a clearly defined, ‘how can we be allies for a particular group, but we have no experience.’ How do you start, if you have no DNA of something? I know, that’s a really difficult question. But I mean, I’m kind of trying to think about the reality of so many of the organisations that I know, that are in that situation and probably want to change, and it’s less about how do they make something of the very little resource they have? And the people within their own organisations. It’s more about, they just have no idea where to start. But is there? Yeah.
So I mean, it goes back to be making friends, right? You know, if you don’t have a certain expertise, go out there and find something, someone who has an expertise, right. I mean, like, right now, everyone on this call now knows who I am, right? So in theory, you could reach out to me and say, “Hey, B, I have more questions, you know, would you be willing to talk to my company?” And I’d be like, “Sure, why not?”
No one has everything that is necessary in the world to know the answers to every question. Like, it’s just literally impossible, right? I mean, presidents, prime ministers, they have cabinets, of people who are experts in certain things, build out your own cabinet. Like, how do you do that, you know, just go out there in the world, find people talk to them, bring them in, make the note, you know, make them trusted partners, and vet your ideas through them. I think that the problem is, is that too many people, too many organisations try to figure this out on their own. But there’s already lots of people who already care about these things. Who can actually help? You know, that’s a huge thing. Let’s be truthful, you can have someone who’s a part of a certain diverse group, in your particular company, but they only know their experience. Right? So like, for instance, I mentioned, you know, even though I’m the leader of you know, a Trans* ERG I don’t really know that much about trans men, and I don’t really know that much about trans women, right? I just don’t, I’m not right. So, you know, you still have to complement my experience with someone else anyway. Right? So there’s, there’s no way to really check all all those boxes off. Instead, it’s like, you know, go out there and find things, you know, find people. I mean, even for myself, like I love listening, like, again, neurodiversity is something I’m very interested in right now. And so I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts about that. And then, you know, every resource that they mentioned, I’m like, “Okay, cool, that resource is cool. Maybe I should go through and read this resource too, because that’s going to help me understand a little bit better.” So again, find things find people who can help educate you
So I one of the things that I’ve sort of struggled with a little bit is I’m in a situation now where I’ve got a company we’ve merged with a larger group and there’s been some some push for me to get involved in diversity and inclusion and I feel like the last thing that is needed is for another middle aged white guy to be trying to get in on an area where, where my voice isn’t, it just isn’t that important. But I’m also conscious that maybe I can push for action in some ways that people with more at stake, more to lose, maybe might not have that ability.
Yeah, so the first thing I’m gonna tell you is that diverse people don’t want to be the people at the table, making the rules and trying to enforce the rules anymore, right? Like, that’s a huge thing. Like, in fact, that’s, that’s one of the big, big things that everyone’s talking about is like, I do not want to be the DEI person for my company, just because I am a diverse person. So actually, I think there’s an argument that say that we actually would prefer, if you know, sis, white, middle aged white man, we’re the ones who are at the table, learning about what needs to be done, and then actually enforcing those rules. So I actually think is the inverse of what she said.
Also, the emotional, and mental labour it takes to do this work is a lot, right. And so if you think about that, from that perspective, you know, it’s also about spreading it out. If other people take a little bit of this loan on, then it’s a little bit less for me to have to deal with too. So, you know, and then it sounds like also, you may have a little bit more power and authority than some other people at the company. And so from that perspective, we’re going back to the whole point of, you know, don’t have an erg unless they have leadership who can help them enforce these ideas, you’re uniquely situated, actually, in terms of actually making sure that stuff happens. So again, you know, diverse, people don’t want to be the people who have to advocate and push these things forward. They don’t necessarily want to have to go through that mental and emotional fatigue, and you have power. So I would actually say that you, you’re, you know, again, I think that there’ll be people who would say, Yeah, I would really like you to actually be that person, and help get these things done. Okay, so thank you.
Alright. Are there any other just final comments? This has been a fascinating thing. Are there any things that you’d like to leave us with B?
Yeah, the only thing I would say is, definitely take on partners. Make sure you take on partners in this journey. Because you know, it is hard work. It’s nuanced work. And you’re not going to get it all right. But if you take on partners, at the very least, you will get it more right than you’ll get it wrong. And I’m also a product manager. So I have no problem with experimentation. As long as the the desire is for good stuff to happen.
Amazing. Thank you. I’m not sure if we’re all on mute or not. But if not,
I’m not now! Thank you!
Do some clapping. Thank you so much. Bye.
B. has built their career around building great products for amazing brands whilst also working to enrich the community around them.
A native of Mississippi who relocated to the Silicon Valley in 2018 from Chicago, B. is an enthusiast for anything technology related, as well as random and obscure trivia facts. They spend far too much time scouring the latest financial, footwear, and technology news for new additions for their collection.
B. loves product development and improving the processes of developing successful products and has worked with small and large companies, including Apple and Netflix, to increase product adoption, improve product experience and evolve product vision.
B. has spoken at BoS before as they discussed understanding agile development through the medium of cake.