I was at a conference recently that had a women and allies breakfast one morning. After the breakfast, I was talking to one of my male colleagues.
He told me he was thinking about attending the breakfast but decided against it. When I asked him why, he said that he didn’t really feel like the event was for him.
The rest of the day, as I sat in rooms filled almost entirely with men, that phrase echoed in my head: “not for me”.
I went from talk to talk and saw only a few women in the audience.
I couldn’t help but think, if the women and allies brunch isn’t for him, maybe this conference isn’t for me.
I began to think about the times that I knew that I was welcome somewhere.
One of those times was when I joined my first Pluralsight dev team.
For the first time in my career as a developer, I was on a team with another woman. She was smart, articulate and well established at the company.
I had never had that before.
She was someone I could look to as an example.
Having her on the team made me immediately feel welcome.
I find myself wondering how welcome someone from a group that is not represented or underrepresented feels joining Pluralsight right now.
Would they have the experience I had joining Pluralsight or the experience I had at the conference?
Only about half of our development teams have at least one woman, and that number is even lower for people of color.
We are working to build more diverse teams. We also need to do the work to make sure they are supported once they are here.
For each team, this looks different, but the general rule of thumb is make sure that each person we bring in the door has everything they need to hit the ground running from day one.
Company onboarding, product development specific workshops, one-on-one mentorship and regular check-ins with leadership are all tools that we have to help people feel connected to their team and the company as a whole from the moment they start their journey at Pluralsight.
This journey continues as each person is then seen and heard and considered equitably in opportunities for recognition, acknowledgment, and development.
In engineering, we have defined our practices clearly to include that, “we maintain a culture of psychological safety.”
We recognize that teams with high levels of trust perform better.
At the end of the day, we want to create an environment where all people feel welcome.
We must proactively create an environment where people from all backgrounds feel welcome and are given the trust they need to feel comfortable and the support they need to grow.
This isn’t a platitude.
It’s a process, a practice, and a promise.
To get to a place where diversity isn’t a goal, but part of the very fabric of our organization.
So as an ally and advocate, what do you do if you want to make your team feel welcome?
First and foremost, look at your team.
Are there groups that don’t look or act like the rest of the team.
Talk to them about their experience and ask if they feel included.
If you have the opportunity to hire someone, be clear with your team about your intentions to contribute to the diversity of the team, and commit to those intentions.
The best way to make underrepresented groups feel welcome is to make them less underrepresented.
Look at your funnel, notice points of exclusion where diversity is lost, and commit to changing the demographics of your funnel.
Notice who is in the interviews.
Our cognitive biases cause us to favor people like ourselves.
Change your processes and your decisions making frameworks to set yourself up for success.
It takes work.
It takes tradeoffs.
We need to do the work if we want to see the results.