During my many conversations on bridging the gender and racial gap in technology, a re-occurring theme is, “Hey, I want to hire a diverse workforce, but we have a hard time finding people who fit into our corporate culture.
OK… I’m going to stop you right there and ask, “What you talking about Willis? (You would only get this if you watched the TV Show Different Strokes, and yes I think I’m pretty funny.) More times than not, my question is met with a blank face, a stumble in words, or a look of embarrassment. My solution: Don’t get uptight, don’t become defensive, I come in peace…Let’s talk about it.
Often time the corporate executives I consult with aren’t consciously excluding people, however the ” culture fit” statement and reaction to my question, suggest an unconscious bias. That statement is a covert way of saying,: “Uh, you don’t look or act like anyone who works here, or for that matter anyone in my circle. So, you may be qualified, but it’s not gonna work here.”
Openly and strategically discussing the “they don’t fit into the culture” statement, has actually lead to great conversations, challenging beliefs, uncovering fear, and hiring great people who help propel the organization to new heights with a wealth of diverse thoughts, talents, and creativity.
When you speak about fitting into the culture do you mean: The candidate is certain race or gender, they’re too old, have a percieved socio-economic status, don’t look”cool” enough, can’t speak the jargon, don’t like sports, will be the “only” at the company picnic, and the reasoning goes on.
I know the reasons listed may seem a little outlandish, but speaking from experience some of the conversations, I’ve had around corporate culture have been over the top. I worked at a corporation where my peer, an executive pointed and said, “We treat colored people equally.” Now, you can’t tell me that he did not have a wild definition of what a cultural fit would be and I’m grateful he didn’t have a decision on hiring me as I would still be embalming people (long story…)
I’m not implying that company culture and values aren’t important, but I’m asking you to pause and ask yourself are you using it as an “excuse” to exclude amazing candidates from the field of technology.
Bottom-line: I’m suggesting you call a meeting with yourself and then your staff to talk about “this culture fit”…what does it REALLY mean? Next time you say, “they don’t fit into the culture,” someone might call you on it. What will your answer be?
Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology. Marlin serves as speaker for Microsoft’s global DigiGirlz Program and has been invited to present at SXSW, Techonomy, Meeting of the Minds, and more. Marlin also serves as a media contributor on various outlets. Marlin’s Book and Music Single empowers girls to love and believe in themselves.
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