PREVIEW: Don’t make it different, make inclusive

As part of our series on frankSTORIES, we interviewed Valentina Coco (Switzerland based, Finance and Business Analyst professional) on her career experiences transitioning and integrating different organizations and in different roles.

Besides her advise to proactively manage your onboarding yourself, not to have it imposed on you, and actively involve other, she also addressed her perspective on how today’s onboarding practices impact diversity in leadership positions.

Please enjoy this pre-read or read the  full STORY.

Q: How are current recruitment and onboarding practices impacting diversity in leadership positions?

Based on my own experience and having coached many women in their professional development, in case you desire diversity in leadership – the difference can be made in the job-advertisement, during the job-interview but also during the onboarding.

The job advertisement

Presenting a long-list of job-requirements in explicit charismatic terms is assumed to be gender neutral. But they are not! The default for reading them is ‘for men’. Most women are assertive and don’t recognize themselves in such charismatic, strong words. There is evidence of specific words used in job-descriptions that put off women from applying.

Of course, women applying can be coached on to focus on being evaluated on their potential, not on career-achievements only. And, if you miss any quality or requested experience: develop it, educate yourself but avoid doubting yourself.

But, we also need to educate hiring organizations not to rely on the fact that women will suddenly start thinking like men and say ‘I can fix the last 30% so I will apply.’ More is needed.

The interview process

Let me first compliment men who commonly showcase a Can-Do attitude: I’m great, I’m awesome, I can learn this, I’ve done it once five years ago, I know how to do it. They want to see if the company is good-enough for them – culturally or financially. Typically, man are not afraid to ask the critical questions that will help them to do their due diligence on whether this opportunity is right of wrong for them.

When women being interviewed are challenged on technical skills, or previous experiences they ‘more factually’ answer with ‘no’ or ’not done before’. Men are more confident to say ‘sure’ if they knowing how to bridge any knowledge or experience gap.

Hiring organizations need to be more aware on this. As interviewer might think: ‘she does not know the answer’, ideally he (or she) should be aware that this causes many female applicants to refrain from asking further and deeper questioning on culture, politics as they do not want to be seen as a difficult candidate.

As a result, the candidate lacks insight if she is able to leverage her strengths to do what is needed to successfully deliver in the job; is there is a culture-fit or other conditions that make me and the hiring organization the best match possible.  Unfortunately, it stimulates women to only look at jobs where they technically fit for 80 to 90% assuming that with a 60% fit, they will not qualify anyway.

The onboarding

In some working cultures being perceived as difficult or critical in the early stage of employment endangers your job-continuity. Keeping a low profile in first 6-12 months, doing what is said (or common) is for many the safest onboarding strategy to avoid being ‘let-go’ without having to provide any real reasoning. Women easier accept to be later confronted with feedback on having failed to demonstrate their strengths or being offered coaching or guidance to repair that. It is the price to pay for ‘to prevent being perceived difficult’.

I think that during my career until now, I can count the number of men that hold back to prevent being seen as difficult on one hand only.

Q: Do you believe diversity requires a different onboarding approach for women?

Not necessarily as that would not express equality of opportunity and professionals, but it would be great to have some elements ‘design-in’ that are not default early-behavior by woman. Like ‘active feedback’. Where man – out of confidence and lack of fear – will ask and give feedback more naturally from the first day onwards, women will only do so if they are asked and a context where trust and confidence (not fear) is being created.

“Don’t make it different, make it inclusive!”

One could include in an onboarding checklist (online, app, etc.) reflective questions on feeling welcome, making progress. It is best to avoid language that emphasizes gaps or failures, but that stimulates thinking or prepares a conversation on improvement, activating strengths. Invite the women that by nature are less to speak out loud. Don’t make it different, make it inclusive!


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