On Redesigning Your Dude Walls, Speaker Lineups, and Persona Names

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

Photo of a wall of oil paintings of white men
Photo of a wall of oil paintings of white men
“DSC_0833” by kim(ber) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1. Redesign your “dude walls”

As we learned in this NPR article, TV celebrity Rachel Maddow made a zinger of a comment when visiting a university to hand out a prize for a prominent female scientist. She was overheard saying, “What is up with the dude wall?”

We’ve all seen them. Walls covered with portraits of the male and pale who have made a significant contribution to their field or the institution.

Do you have a “dude wall” at your office or institution? Think about the message it sends. Of who is valued. Of who looks like success. Then consider how you can redesign the wall to acknowledge and celebrate contributions by more than just white men. And maybe relocate some of those oil paintings to a museum.

Remember that “dude walls” aren’t limited to framed oil paintings. They can be virtual. Like on the “about” page on your website.

2. Insist on diversity in speaker lineups

This week, tech conference phpCE was cancelled after being called out for their lack of speaker diversity. As announced on their web site, “The conference has been canceled and won’t be continued.” As an explanation, they cited three tweets. Two were from speakers who declined their invitations because of the lack of diversity. And one from another speaker who summed up the situation well:

“This year’s @phpce_eu conference seems to have gone with the ‘White Males Only’ conference lineup 😬 Shame. It’s 2019, we can do better.”

If you see an all-male speaker lineup, call it out. Your voice can make a difference.

3. Question the cost of employing workers with disabilities

In Corporate Diversity Efforts Often Leave Out an Important Group: People With Disabilities, we learned some interesting statistics:

  • It’s a sizable workforce of 20 million people.
  • Employers might assume that employing people with disabilities will be costly, but the median cost for providing substantial accommodations is about $500 per person.
  • The majority of the time, it costs nothing to provide accommodations.

So, if you ever hear, “Employing someone with disabilities will be costly,” push back with those last two points. And encourage your company to reach out to this large labor market.

4. Use gender-neutral names

Do you create user personas when designing products? Or write hypothetical scenarios for training material? When thinking of a name to use, you have a choice to make. One that reinforces the gender bias of the described person’s role, or one that’s gender neutral.

Looking for names to use? Check out this treasure trove of English and non-English unisex names on Wikipedia.

5. Talk about the quality and impact of someone’s work

As journalist Sherrell Dorsey shared in an interview with CNBC,

“My best opportunities have come at the hands of white males referring to the quality and impact of my work in rooms I have never stepped into.”

That, my friends, is a critical role for any ally to play.

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

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

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

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