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The Challenges of Company Diversity Programs: Life Within the Overton Window

The Challenges of Company Diversity Programs: Life Within the Overton Window

Many of us know what we want ideal diversity programs to look like within companies. But how do we work within a company where we don't have ultimate control over how diversity efforts function? Can we build genuine support structures for ourselves and others without having them diluted and appropriated as company PR? I'll talk about the ups and downs, compromises, and successes of working to build support for diversity programs within an organization as it shifts, grows, and changes. This talk will include tips for working within your own company, warnings of common failure modes, and the ultimate disclaimer that every person decides for themselves each day if it's worth their limited energy.

Video is here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnjaQDvOoyQ

B9371330cad1f8da5d346d3ee090a98d?s=128

Kara Sowles

November 04, 2017
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Transcript

  1. the challenges of company diversity programs Life within the Overton

    Window
  2. Kara Sowles Kara Sowles Community Team Manager Tech Co. Inc.

  3. Kara Sowles Tech Co. Inc. 75 → 550 employees in

    my 5.5 years Actively pro-diversity
  4. Kara Sowles Beware Advice This is just my experience All

    experiences and situations are different
  5. Thoughts on Effective Ways to Change Things Silencing and Derailment

    ? or
  6. What is the Overton Window?

  7. the overton window radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular policy popular

    unthinkable radical acceptable sensible more freedom? less freedom?
  8. the overton window radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular policy popular

    unthinkable radical acceptable sensible left? right?
  9. the overton window radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular policy popular

    unthinkable radical acceptable sensible left? right?
  10. the overton window radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular policy popular

    unthinkable radical acceptable sensible Me at work :/ Actual Me
  11. radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular policy popular unthinkable radical acceptable

    sensible Do your “lite” ideas scale?
  12. unscalable examples join our women’s club! the eXXcellent women are

    better managers because they’re better at communication!
  13. when do you press for change?

  14. a leader made a mistake...

  15. a leader made a mistake...

  16. a leader made a mistake...

  17. a leader made a mistake...

  18. a leader made a mistake...

  19. a leader made a mistake...

  20. a leader made a mistake...

  21. after something unacceptable happens Good timing because…. ★ many colleagues

    may be mobilizing ★ you might have clear data/evidence Bad timing because.... ★ leadership may be on the defensive
  22. after something unacceptable happens… ...somewhere else in the industry. Good

    timing because…. ★ Capitalize on the shock/sadness ★ “Let’s make sure nothing like that happens here” ★ The “enemy” is conceptually elsewhere, minimizing defensiveness and maximizing ally-ness
  23. It has happened here It hasn’t happened here It has

    happened elsewhere - it could happen here Let’s prevent it with best practices Defensiveness and denial So why change? balancing reactive and pre-emptive You say... ...they respond.
  24. how do you prioritize?

  25. prioritize make a list of what you want to change

    prioritize by what you can affect keep shelving and rearranging as things fail allow yourself to focus on few things
  26. 201-level projects may arrive before 101-level projects

  27. ideas don’t come prioritized

  28. idea 1) Ensure transgender-inclusive healthcare 2) Hiring team has one-sheet

    on healthcare offerings 3) Build internal page on transgender employee support 4) Add pronoun etiquette to hiring training 5) hhh 6) Have pronoun buttons available at front desk for interviews
  29. the list 1) Ensure transgender-inclusive healthcare 2) Hiring team has

    one-sheet on healthcare offerings 3) Build internal page on transgender and non-binary employee support 4) Add pronoun etiquette to hiring training 5) Put info about healthcare offerings on the hiring site 6) Have pronoun buttons available at front desk for interviews
  30. collaborating with HR

  31. HR may not be your friend... ...but you can be

    their friend HR is mostly well-meaning people working within an imbalanced, poorly built system that enables great good or evil.
  32. chances are, you’re going through HR... ★ Hiring practices ★

    Firing practices ★ Employee review practices ★ Pay equity ★ Diversity programs ★ Sponsorship/Philanthropy ★ Employee manual
  33. what is HR measuring themselves against? If a company takes

    government contracts, they’re required to measure and report back on certain diversity metrics.
  34. “wtf why do we do this?” there’s always a reason.

    find the reason. the fact that it’s a mistake isn’t enough to fix it.
  35. Learn to articulate the R.O.I. of diversity programs even if

    it feels disgusting to have to
  36. working with your colleagues

  37. the best work is coordinated work ★ coordinate privately with

    others you trust ★ everyone will have different visibility and power ★ let the right person handle the issue ★ don’t indicate that you’re working in tandem ★ many wins will be private/unseen/uncelebrated
  38. use affinity groups for broad effect

  39. working across different company experiences This place is incredible -

    let’s keep it that way This place is terrible - let’s make it better Time at company Opinion of company
  40. Chat room caveats Any space that is sufficiently random, accessible,

    or inclusive will mirror the conversation of a main room or public channel. essentially… Any space that isn’t small and curated, will mirror the Overton Window.
  41. don’t drag down the new recruits They bring a fresh

    hope. They can solve present problems - but don’t need your old scars.
  42. other people will grow, too That woman who called you

    the “PC police” on week 1 might be pushing change forward on year 2. Tech changes people -- and they might still be bound for their wake-up call.
  43. managing fragility

  44. - Luke Kanies, When It Comes to Culture, You Can

    Be Right, or You Can Be Successful, NewCo Shift
  45. “hearing it directly from them hurt”

  46. the overton window of fragility? radical unthinkable acceptable sensible popular

    policy popular unthinkable radical acceptable sensible Change Defensive Disgusted
  47. Building allies necessitates being gentle.

  48. Only ask for help if it’s something they can impact.

    Be understanding if they can’t help.
  49. If you’re trying to get something through upper management, have

    a high-level sponsor take it on. Make the pitch fit the executive’s goals.
  50. Make Complaints So Productive It Hurts “These people are just

    complaining, they don’t have any productive solutions.” - Real Actual Humans
  51. “yes, and...”

  52. one of the rules of comedy is never say “no.”

    only say “yes, and...”
  53. “You know, we’re doing a better job than most companies

    at this kind of stuff.” - Anyone, to me, constantly
  54. THE BAR IS A SPIKE PIT FILLED WITH VIPERS -

    Me, screaming into the void
  55. “yes, and...here’s what we can do now that would really

    make us industry-leading” - Me, smiling inexplicably
  56. “Those incidents you mentioned aren’t how we do things here.”

  57. YOU CAN’T ERASE REALITY WITH YOUR WISHES, YOU MONSTER

  58. “yes, and...here’s how we can ensure that for the future.”

  59. celebrate wins, even imperfect ones If you don’t celebrate their

    current efforts, they’re not going to let you work on new ones. (all this smiling is getting exhausting)
  60. you live in the window you are cramped there’s not

    a lot of air to breathe you can never stop smiling everyone can see you through the glass
  61. you live in the window you are miserable, here, in

    the window everything changes very slowly, or not at all everything you do is held against you everything you don’t do you hold against yourself
  62. you live in the window get out of the window

    let someone else take a shift do some frowning
  63. Life in the Overton Window

  64. See Julie Pagano’s slides from prior AlterConf: Mid-Career Survival for

    People Who Don't Want to be an Attrition Statistic When They Grow Up You don’t need to do any “diversity work”, and it’s definitely bad for you.
  65. a happy ending for now My company built a Diversity

    & Inclusion role full-time, and hired a woman of color who had been working at the company for many years. She’s awesome. I can rest up a little on my “second shift”.
  66. Additional Resources: Liz Fong-Jones’ excellent talk “How to Change Tech

    Company Policy By Organizing Tech Workers” Project Include - for leaders and executives interested in how they can improve the company
  67. Kara Sowles Thank you! Kara Sowles @feynudibranch Special thanks to

    Tiffany Longworth who helped edit this talk!