Rewarding Affinity Group Leaders, and Other Actions for Allies

Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Image by Jopwell

1. Reward affinity group leaders

Last week, I attended a webinar with Lionel Lee, Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow, and Melinda Briana Epler, Founder and CEO of Change Catalyst. They explored many topics about equity and belonging, including the crucial role of affinity networks for underrepresented members of the workforce.

Earlier that same day, I happened to read Women are drowning in unpaid labor at home. Stop making them do it at work in Fast Company. Minda Harts, Sarah Lacy, and Eve Rodsky make a compelling case that companies should reward women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) for their unpaid labor in employee affinity groups that help make their workplaces more inclusive. They recommend a slew of ideas, including paying annual bonuses and considering affinity group leadership as part of promotion discussions.

So, I asked Lionel if they compensated or rewarded their affinity network leaders at Zillow. His answer was, “No, we don’t yet.” He then explained that they do get a certain amount of time away from their day job to work on these initiatives and that they have dedicated staff supporting them. He also acknowledged the hard work these leaders are doing and that Zillow wants to provide them with more time or compensation.

Now think about your organization. If you have affinity networks or employee resource groups, do you know if the leaders are rewarded for the important work they’re doing? Do they get bonuses? Is their role valued during promotion discussions? If not, consider asking about it at your next all-hands meeting.

2. Interview women candidates because of their experience, not their gender

In Nature Research, I read If you want more women in your workforce, here’s how to recruit by Emma Pierson, Elissa M. Redmiles, Leilani Battle, and Jessica Hullman. The authors distilled a set of recommendations from their experience over the past five years applying for faculty positions in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, information science, cognitive science, public health, public policy, and statistics.

Their insight and helpful advice applies to both university settings and workplaces beyond academia. I recommend reading the full article.

That said, I wish we didn’t need some of their advice. For example,

“Do not tell the person you’re interviewing that you’re very excited about them because they’re a woman, or that they were selected for an interview because of their gender identity.” 🤦‍♀️

If we’re interviewing candidates from underrepresented groups because of their race, gender, etc., we’re not doing them or our organization any favors.

Instead, we should be interviewing these candidates because of their experience, their expertise, and what they’d be bringing to our team. And that’s precisely what we should tell them during the interview.

(Thank you Dr. Patty Lopez for bringing this article to my attention.)

3. Share the median salary with job candidates

About two years ago, career marketplace made a simple change to the form for candidates: The box asking about desired pay went from an empty field to one pre-loaded with the median salary for a candidate’s desired role.

Turns out this was a game changer for pay equity.

According to a study by UC Berkeley as reported in Bloomberg, two things happened:

“Before the change, women solicited an average of $4,032 less than men with comparable resumes. After, the discrepancy disappeared, mostly because women raised their asks, though some men lowered theirs, too. The study of more than 120,000 candidates and 6,700 companies controlled for location, resume characteristics and experience.”

Makes me wonder why more companies don’t share the median salary with their candidates. Of course, then pay them equitably, too.

(Hat tip to Bernadette Smith, who shared this article in her weekly Equality Institute newsletter.)

4. Ask these “What” questions when witnessing racism

In a previous newsletter, I suggested asking “Why did you say that?” when witnessing racist comments or acts. One of my readers, Anna Maria Pellizzari, replied with this feedback

“I appreciate your weekly Better Allies newsletter as I always learn something valuable from each issue. For this week’s issue, though, I slightly disagree with your advice in Action #4: Ask “Why did you say that?” when witnessing racism. As a professional coach, I’m keenly aware that how you word a question can either invite open dialogue or hinder it. Asking with the word “why” — regardless of your intent or tone of voice — can unwittingly put the responder on the defense. I suggest people ask “What made you say that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?” as more powerful questions that can elicit more information and insight from the responder, prompting them to examine the motives behind their actions without feeling criticized. Then, depending on the situation and explanation the potential offender gives, you can call out the offensive impact of their actions.”

Thank you Anna Maria. I’ll remember to ask one of these questions the next time someone makes a racist comment:

  • What made you say that?
  • What led you to that conclusion?

I deeply appreciate this feedback. 🙏 Being an ally is a journey, and one that I’m on myself. I make mistakes, learn, and pledge to do better. This is just one of the many times I’ve stumbled and learned from the experience.

5. Call out “Make it simple enough so my wife can understand”

On Twitter, I came across yet another anecdote of bias at work:

“I was just on a call with 4 men discussing a new sales deck. Ages range from probably late 50s to late 20s. The older guy says to the younger one: you ended to make this pitch easy enough for … Say is your wife technical … silence …um well mine’s not so you need to make it so simple that she gets it.”

Allies, if we hear someone say “You need to make it so simple that your wife could understand” (or mother or grandmother), respond with a simple “What made you say that?”

See what I did there?

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

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies®

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