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Humu at GHC—and How Anyone Can Be an Ally

October 16, 2019 — Written by Liz Fosslien
Meet Aleatha, Kat, Vanessa, and Annie!

In early October, four members of our team flew to Orlando, Florida to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), where they joined more than 26,000 women technologists and allies from different backgrounds to share ideas, gain new perspectives, and get to know each other.

Though we’re still a small organization, we quickly decided it was worth the investment to head to this year’s celebration. Since day one, we’ve made it a priority to do our part to increase representation in the tech industry—and to elevate the voices of the amazing women who work here. 

So many women technologists!

Here are the facts: despite an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, women—and especially women of color—are still severely underrepresented and under-supported in tech. At GHC, our team learned that a third of surveyed women in the industry feel they do not have enough training or support to reach the next step in their careers, and almost half admit they would not recommend their companies to other female colleagues.

At Humu, our mission is to make work better for everyone. We know that to achieve that goal, we have to bring together a diverse team (it’s also just the right thing to do). And while focusing on diversity and inclusion when you’re a startup sometimes comes at a short-term cost—each person who works here spends a lot of time sourcing and interviewing underrepresented candidates—we know it’s the only way to be successful in the long-term. Our team’s differing viewpoints mean we come up with much better ideas, and the wealth of perspectives and experiences each person brings to the table allows us to better align with a wide range of customers.

Of course, pursuing a serious mission has never stopped us from having a ton of fun along the way. Our GHC contingent heard from happy Humu customers, hosted 1:1 chats with folks interested in learning more about working here, bonded over cracking crab legs at Red Lobster, and closed out the conference by dancing to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls).”

The team passed out Humu bookmarks, nudge included
Getting excited for crab legs

They also learned from incredible speakers and panelists, who shared a similar message: change doesn’t have to be radical—long-lasting shifts can start with small steps. As a company that drives organization-wide behavioral change with nudges, we couldn’t agree more. Here are a few steps organizations can take to hire employees from a broader range of backgrounds, and to create an environment in which all people feel empowered to succeed. 

Revisit interview questions

The best way to hire is to ask each candidate the same behavioral questions. Have your team reflect on your existing interview process: Do you have a consistent set of questions, and clear criteria to assess the quality of responses? Are the prompts designed to give you an accurate signal of how well someone can do a specific job? Too often, technical interviews contain a series of crazy (and intimidating) one-off algorithmic questions that no one has ever encountered in their day-to-day. 

Give useful feedback

Learning what you need to improve, and how to make positive changes, is critical to getting promoted. Unfortunately, research shows that women are much more likely to get vague, unhelpful feedback than men. To give useful feedback, make it specific and actionable. Instead of throwing out an anxiety-inducing generalization like “Your comments missed the mark,” outline a clear path forward. For example: “Your third slide repeated most of the content on the second, and should be deleted.”

Pull others up behind you

To create equitable and diverse workforces, we all need to lift as we climb. Often, one of the most valuable resources you can offer others—especially those who might not feel comfortable raising their voices—is a connection to an influential expert in your network. If there is someone on your team who is doing great work but seems hesitant to speak up or who might be feeling isolated, connect them with a potential new ally. When you make the introduction, be sure to provide context. Describe why you think these two individuals would enjoy meeting, and what interests they have in common. 

These intentional actions can pave the path for broader changes––and help to create a workforce that is more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. And finally, if you’re passionate about making work better but weren’t able to make it to this year’s GHC, we’d love to hear from you!

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