Learn to Pronounce Their Names, Don’t Hold Interviews in Hotel Rooms, and Other Actions for Allies

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

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Photo of a door opening to a hotel room, by Pixabay via Pexels.

1. Learn how to pronounce their names

While mispronouncing a colleague’s name may not seem like a big deal, it can be one more reminder that they are different from the norm. Doing so might make them feel they don’t belong, or that they’re less important than their peers.

In an article for KQED, reporter Gail Cornwall shared tips collected from educators for remembering students’ names. Things like:

  • Tell someone, “I don’t know how to say your name yet, can you explain it to me? I’m working on learning it, and it’s important to me to say it the way it’s meant to be said.”
  • Keep saying it until you get it right.
  • Use names as much as possible, almost as obnoxiously as a telemarketer would, until they sink in.

She also shared what may be a secret weapon for those of us who struggle with pronouncing unfamiliar names: pronouncenames.com. It’s a super helpful site. Bookmark it now.

2. Say “We don’t do that here” to help set culture

A few years back, Aja Hammerly, a developer advocate at Google, wrote a blog post with the following story:

“The college I attended was small and very LGBT friendly. One day someone came to visit and used the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative, as was common in the early 2000s. A current student looked at the visitor and flatly said, ‘we don’t do that here.’ The guest started getting defensive and explaining that they weren’t homophobic and didn’t mean anything by it. The student replied, ‘I’m sure that’s true, but all you need to know is we don’t do that here.’ The interaction ended at that point, and everyone moved on to different topics. ‘We don’t do that here’ was a polite but firm way to educate the newcomer about our culture.”

Sounds like the perfect phrase to use in a workplace as well.

3. Call out creepy behavior

When someone claimed software developer advocate Chloe Condon was stalking him — at an event she didn’t attend, using a photo she had published over a year earlier — an impressive number of people stood up for her.

Friends, acquaintances, and random nice people across the internet jumped in to help. As Chloe explained, “The amount of folks, many complete strangers, who helped do all this detective work, commented words of support, and DMed me to check-in on my personal safety and mental health has been amazing and I am thankful.”

Her article reveals other examples of online harassment, and it’s a good reminder of how awful it can be for women on the internet.

Allies, let’s all keep our eyes open and call out creepy behavior when we see it.

4. Hold interviews in hotel rooms only as a last resort

Economist Anna Stansbury tweeted about job interviews being held in hotel rooms, and why that’s a problem for women and LGBTQ individuals. TLDR: It could be uncomfortable and could potentially put a candidate in a dangerous situation. For a sexual assault victim, it could be triggering. Plus, there’s stereotype threat; Female candidates going to an interview in a hotel bedroom with mostly or all male interviewers may find the gender gap more apparent, which may impede their performance.

Allies, let’s hold interviews in hotel rooms only when there’s no other viable option. And make sure there are enough chairs so that no one has to sit on the bed.

5. Take action when you hear these “red flag” phrases

There are phrases that should raise red flags for anyone who wants inclusive workplaces. Phrases like:

  • That candidate wouldn’t be a culture fit.
  • That candidate doesn’t have [some qualification that doesn’t exist on the job description but that more privileged candidates meet].
  • They wouldn’t want [cool new role] because of the travel.
  • I’d like to see them prove they can handle [responsibility they’ve already done] before promoting them.
  • I don’t want to lower the bar.
  • There’s not enough pipeline to hire more women or people of color.
  • [To the only woman in the room] Can you take notes?
  • I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but [some derogatory comment].
  • Well, we’re different [when hearing about workplace challenges faced by underrepresented groups].
  • I’ve never seen [some form of harassment just reported], so I don’t think it could happen here.
  • I’m sure they didn’t mean to offend anyone.

When you hear one of those phrases, pay attention and be ready to take action. And consider downloading our Better Allies mini-poster of these phrases. Print it, share it, start a conversation.

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Thumbnail of the mini-poster

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

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

Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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