Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In this episode of Le Podcast, I had the pleasure to receive Ally Kouao, Developer Advocate and Solution Architect at Red Hat. We discussed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Allyship to me means acknowledging, accepting and embracing our similarities and differences. Where differences are present; this branches out to being open to listening, avoiding complacency, and making an effort to understand and be proactive where helpful, while continuously educating ourselves and others – with empathy, respect and kindness – in areas where we may fall short. Allyship means understanding that at the end of the day, we are all human, and even if you can’t do everything perfectly, you’re wholeheartedly making an effort to do what it is you do to the best of your ability.

We covered a lot of different topics around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Among those:

  • What ally-ship means,
  • Do you know why you are so curious about the origins of people,
  • The importance of learning about our recent history from diverse perspectives,
  • The challenges of 1st, 2nd and so on, generations of immigrants,
  • Unconscious biases at play,
  • Improving hiring practices (and it is not compromising on quality to increase representation),
  • Celebrating successes of people from diverse background to show our willingness to see more of that,
  • Doing the right thing is not obvious, looking around us in our team reveals that, even if we are not conscious of it, we tend to exclude people who are not like us,
  • Will you hire yourself for the first job you took in your current company?
  • Be open to learning to know other people is a great first step on the journey.

A book recommended by Ally:

Another one mentioned during the episode:

Drop a comment or an email with your feedback or just to say hello! And until next time to find better ways of Changing Your Team!

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Below is the transcript of the podcast:

Ally Kouao:

In that moment when you’re asking that question, you’re really prioritizing your curiosity over their feelings.

Alexis Monville:

That’s Ally Kouao, developer advocate and solution architect at Red Hat.

Ally Kouao:

Honestly, allyship means something different to everyone, and I think just having that shared understanding and that shared motivation to listen and to be there for the people who want their voices heard.

Alexis Monville:

Ally Kouao explaining what allyship means. Diversity, equality and inclusion are what we explore in this new episode of Le Podcast. Le Podcast equips you to make a positive change in your organization. Each episode turns insight into actions that you can use straight away to build momentum and create lasting change from yourself to your team, from your team to other teams, and from other teams to the entire organization. I’m your host, Alexis Monville, and I believe in the ability of people and teams to find better ways to increase their impact and satisfaction.

Alexis Monville:

Let’s jump right into the conversation with Ally to learn more about what it means. Hey, Ally. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and your background?

Ally Kouao:

Yeah, so first of all, thank you for having me on this podcast. I joined Red Hat back in 2019. Prior to that, I was actually a software engineering student in a university in Wales. In terms of my personal background, I actually grew up in London. I’ve lived in London my whole life, and I moved to Wales for university when I was 19. The rest is history. I’ve been at Red Hat for just over a year now. I’m a solution architect on the Red Hat graduate program, and yeah, it’s been a really good experience so far.

Alexis Monville:

Excellent. I think I first heard about you because you ran a 14-day program, To a More Knowledgeable You. And it was fantastic. Each day resonated with me big time. Could you tell us the motivation behind the program?

Ally Kouao:

Yeah, sure. I feel like the main reason this program came about was aside from the fluctuating levels of COVID globally, it felt like there was definitely a bark to highlight the continued civil unrest that’s been magnified and brought back to the surface after the brutalities and documented injustice that has been going on in the US. What I thought was important to do alongside one of my colleagues was to make a point of the fact that not only is it possible for black people located outside of the US to be affected by what’s going on, but there are experiences shared by black people and some other minorities in their everyday lives that have been frequently glazed over, or not much attention’s been paid to it.

Ally Kouao:

Yeah, so as a result, some Red Hatters and I came together and created an initiative that we now know as 14 Days To a More Knowledgeable You, that provides the safe space to offer daily insight, be it through an article or podcast episode or a personal story, into the realities of their fellow black colleagues, friends and family in the UK and Ireland.

Alexis Monville:

What would you say are the main aspects of the program?

Ally Kouao:

That’s a really good question. I feel like what really brings the program to life I would say are people’s personal stories. I think we had a total of three personal stories from three different people who contributed to the initiative. I felt like it really brought things closer to home. I think it definitely helped make people realize that there definitely is another person behind the screen, or another person at Red Hat who can relate to this sort of thing. I think it makes it even more significant that it’s personal stories in the UK.

Ally Kouao:

Something that I’ve definitely heard throughout my life really, even until now, just the fact that … not the fact, but just people’s opinions that black people here don’t have it as hard as in the US, I would say it’s definitely true to an extent in regards to the brutalities, but I feel like in the UK, that there’s so much more that happens under the surface such as microaggressions, that I feel would be really beneficial for people to keep an eye out for and be conscious of.

Alexis Monville:

It made me think a lot. It’s really comfortable for me to say that at Red Hat, we are an open, inclusive meritocracy, and I can repeat that every day, and I’m really comfortable with that, and I think it’s really good and so on. There’s no question about that. But one thing that made me realize, and I will draw a parallel with, I have three kids. I have two daughters. The youngest one is 18, so they are not really young any more. I bought from a charity organization feminism T-shirts, that were really … I thought they were really fun, and I wore one, and I offered the others to the girls and to everybody in the family in reality. The message was fun, because I thought it was fun. That will not work with everybody. And it was written, “Girls just want to have fun.” Then under that, it said, “Fundamental rights.” So it’s a good joke from my perspective.

Alexis Monville:

Once, I remember one of the girls saying, “Oh, and you are doing that and you’re saying you are a feminist.” I was puzzled because I thought there was no necessary connection between what she was observing and the fact that I thought I would want to consider a woman as equal, and there was no question about that in my mind. But I realized that the connection was not obvious.

Alexis Monville:

During the program … That was a long intro to that. During the program, I realized that in my young age, I was actively involved in anti-racism organizations, and I was demonstrating about that. And after some time, it faded away. All that introduction to ask a question. I thought I was an ally, and I wonder if I am really an ally, and I wonder even if being an ally is enough. What do you think?

Ally Kouao:

That was such a lovely intro to that question. I would honestly say that well, at least from my personal experience and from my personal opinion, that to just say that you’re an ally probably isn’t enough. It’s more so what you do. So obviously going back to your personal examples, it’s really good that you were active in terms of being feminist, so wearing the T-shirt supporting them … I think it’s quite hard, because quite a lot of people compare what their standards of being an ally is to what other people’s standards of being an ally is. I would say overall there is no real checklist of what it takes to be an ally, because everyone has their own interpretation of the term, and there’s no one way to do it.

Ally Kouao:

But something that I would say is the gist of being an ally, personally, is listening and amplifying the voice of marginalized groups, so like you said when you did it before, people who did experience racism or advocating women’s rights. I do have an extract with me of my input of what allyship means to me in one of my colleagues’ blogs on the importance of allies. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just quickly go through it.

Ally Kouao:

On the blog, I said, “Personally, allyship to me means acknowledging, accepting and embracing our similarities and differences. Where are differences are present, this branches out to being open to listening, avoiding complacency, and making an effort to understand and be proactive where helpful, while continuously educating ourselves and others with empathy, respect and kindness in areas where we may fall short. Allyship means understanding that at the end of the day, we are all human, and even if you can’t do everything perfectly, you’re wholeheartedly making an effort to do what it is you do to the best of your ability.”

Ally Kouao:

That’s just a little sneak peek of my input. For anyone who is listening to this who also works at Red Hat, I would also recommend that you check out part two of the Diversity and Inclusion: the Importance of Allies series blog post, where you’ll see a bit more about what I have to say about allyship in more detail, and hear from all the other wonderful diversity and inclusion leaders at Red Hat.

Ally Kouao:

Just to sum up everything that I’ve said in just one sentence, I would say honestly, allyship means something different to everyone, and I think just having that shared understanding and that shared motivation to listen, and to be there for the people who want their voices heard.

Alexis Monville:

Yeah, it’s beautifully written. I need to copy/paste the extract in the blog post that will be a companion to this podcast. It’s really beautiful, and it really resonates with me. It really says, “Being human,” and being your whole self and being human is something really important. I wonder if it’s suddenly that I’m getting old, and I realize more things now, but I feel I’ve learned a lot during those past years, and I continue to learn. I feel the more I learn about that, the more I have to learn and to understand.

Alexis Monville:

I will give you another example. I spent 15 hours with Laurence Fishburne, the American actor, and he told me the story of Malcolm X. Of course, I did not really spend 15 hours with Laurence Fishburne. It’s an audio book, and it’s the autobiography of Malcolm X, and the narrator is Laurence Fishburne. But I had that feeling, and that’s always the feeling with audio book, that you have someone who is telling you a story.

Alexis Monville:

All that to say that at some point, Malcolm X described the fact that he is considering the people from New York, fighting for social rights, going into Alabama, and he’s saying they are totally wrong. They should not do that, and when I read that, I said, “No, no, no, no. That’s … What is wrong with that?” He said, “They should fight for civil rights in New York, because there’s a lot to do there.” I realized that yeah, I did in a way the same thing. I was demonstrating against apartheid in Strasbourg while apartheid was in South Africa, and I hope it had an impact, but I’m not really sure about that. But what was I doing in Strasbourg?

Alexis Monville:

I remember one of my friends at that time coming from Algeria. He was French, but he was born in Algeria. That’s the kind of thing that you will wear all your life on your face. And he was telling me, “I’m considered a stranger, a foreigner, by everybody in there.” And I have to admit that at that time, I hope it changed, foreigners were not necessarily welcome in small cities in the country. And he told me, “I tried to back to Algeria, to say, ‘Okay, I will end my study there, and I will continue my study in Algeria.'” And he told me, “It’s not possible, because over there, they are calling me the French guy, and so I have nowhere to go.”

Alexis Monville:

I was horrified by that, and I didn’t know what I could do for that person. How would you say we can deal with our past as a country, and we can have people that … I don’t really know how to formulate the question, but how to deal with that kind of situation for people?

Ally Kouao:

Yeah. Honestly, I would say that that’s probably not the first time I’ve heard a story where someone’s recounted their experiences of going to one place and feeling like they don’t belong, and then going to place that people say they belong, and then not belonging there either. I think that’s something that is experienced by quite a lot of people, but also I can’t put a number to it. But in terms of addressing that … Sorry, could you remind me of your question?

Alexis Monville:

In a way, it’s addressing our colonial past, or addressing the fact that we have people that are coming from probably the … They are the second- or third-generation immigrants from another country.

Ally Kouao:

Yeah. Okay, brilliant. That’s put me back on track. I was just going off on a tangent forgetting what the question was. So yeah, in terms of second- and third-generation immigrants or people who’ve moved to a country because their parents did or family did, I would say in order to educate people who are already in that country, or probably not even educate people, because everyone is accountable for their own learning, I think it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that it’s important to surround yourself with people who you know are open to learning. You can’t really force it down anyone’s throat. You have to be open to the fact that people probably don’t want to change the way they want to think, or be open to the fact that people are really interested in learning more, like learning about ways that they can become closer to you or learn more about an ethnicity or a culture in more detail.

Ally Kouao:

I think if I had to give advice to younger generations out there, I would honestly say it’s important to educate yourselves as well, even if some people say that they belong to generations of immigrants or anything. We don’t know everything, right? There’s always something more to learn, and especially in terms of the educational curriculum, it can’t cover completely everything. And that was definitely another topic that was touched on in the 14 Days to a More Knowledgeable You initiative. Something that we noted was that in the British education curriculum, they don’t really cover all aspects of slavery or all aspects of the things that happened in the past or things that happened that wasn’t quite so English or quite so European-centric.

Ally Kouao:

Obviously, it’s something … In terms of the world’s history, it’s quite hard to encapsulate that all into one history lesson and one history curriculum. So I would advise younger generations of immigrants and other people who would like to learn more, to just go out and educate yourselves. The internet is very much free. There’s probably a lot of sources, a lot of stories, a lot of recounts of things that have happened in the past, and there’s no such thing as knowing it all or knowing too much, because there’s always some sort of learning that you can do.

Ally Kouao:

My main point here is education, that where there is knowledge there is power, and as long as more people are … I feel like the younger generation’s definitely becoming … From what I’ve seen from the Black Lives Matter protests and not even protests, but the Black Lives Matter movement, people are taking a stance on what’s going on, and people are realizing that it’s wrong, people are taking this opportunity to educate themselves a lot more, or in greater depth. I think that’s definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s definitely a lot more education or self-education that needs to be taught and given to oneself, for there to be that good amount of change and to avoid more recounts of experiences, as you’ve previously mentioned with your Algerian friend.

Alexis Monville:

Yeah, I love the advice of learning more about history, and especially the recent history. That’s definitely something I did not learn in school, and I had to learn that by myself, and there was a really good series in France about … It was Behind the Maps, and that was fascinating, about our recent history and all the things that we don’t know, but in a way we think we know, and in reality, we absolutely don’t know. We don’t know why it happens and when it happens, really, and all the reasons behind. And when we know something, we know only one perspective of it, and that perspective is of course biased. It’s only one perspective. So that’s a very, very good advice.

Alexis Monville:

I think connected to that question, there’s that question that I love to ask to people, and I realize that it’s not a good question. I love to ask a question that is, “Where are you from?” I love to ask that question, because in some contexts, people answer, “Oh, I’m from the finance department,” or, “I’m from Alabama.” And I love that, because it was a question that could open so many doors, and so many different doors, because based on what the people are thinking at the moment, they answer something different. So I love that question.

Alexis Monville:

I realized that that question was not so good when we moved to the US with my family a few years back, and of course, my accent, people are able to catch that I’m not from Boston, even if I just say hello or thank you. The next question from people, “Where are you from?”, and I realized it was not a good question because my wife was a little bit offended by that question, and she was systematically answering, “We are from …”, and the town where we lived at that time. So I had that discussion with her, and she was saying, “Yeah, why are people asking me where I’m from like if I don’t belong? I live here. That’s where I live. That’s my home.” She was really sensitive with that. What do you think is happening in that situation?

Ally Kouao:

I don’t know. I think that sort of question is a matter of people not really saying what they want to say, but not wanting to be impolite. But either way, they come out … I guess the interpretation of the receiver of that question can vary so widely, so yes, there’d be some people who wouldn’t take offense, and there would be some people who … like you mentioned with your wife, would take offense because it’s just like, “What do you really want to know from that question?” It’s not … If I give you an answer would you be like, “Where am I really from?”, or would you keep pushing until you get the answer, like you want that validation, that confirmation, that you had in your mind?

Ally Kouao:

This is definitely something that we touched on in the 14 Days to a More Knowledgeable You initiative, where that’s a question that’s commonly asked, and it’s not just asked of people of color, but it’s also asked of people in places where people … I don’t know. I guess it’s sometimes seen as a conversation starter, and I can see why it is, but I think it’s the way in which the question’s asked. It also depends on what answer the person who’s asking the question is willing to settle for in front of the person they’re asking it to.

Ally Kouao:

In terms of the initiative, we really tackled the “Where are you really from?” question, because an experience that many other black associates have been able to relate to, and I’m sure many other people would be able to relate to, being at a party or something or just meeting someone in a formal professional context, and people asking where you’re from. So if I had to give a personal example, so for example if I went to someone and they asked me, “Where are you from?”, I would naturally say, “Oh, I’m from London.” A response that I do often get is, “Oh, okay,” and then there’d be that really awkward pause, and then they’d be like, “But where are you really from? I know you’re from London, but where are your parents from?” And it’s like, well, I could do … I think it’s quite important that people are very specific in their questions.

Ally Kouao:

I’ve had friends who have been even more vague about their answer to make a point out of it. So someone would be like, “Oh, where you from?”, and they’d be like, “Oh, I’m from a very specific area about where they’re living at the moment,” and they’d be like, “Oh, but where are you really from?”, and they’d be like, “Oh, I’m from Britain.” And they’d be like, “Oh, but where are you from?” They’d be like, “Oh, I’m from Europe.” Like, just making a point to show that it’s just a really silly question to ask if you just keep digging it at.

Ally Kouao:

Yeah, I just feel like in regards to the “Where are you really from?” question, it’s often the case that people want confirmation that the person isn’t British or isn’t from wherever the location is they are, or if their location sounds completely … their country of origin sounds completely different to where’d they’d typically think they’re from … I’m not quite sure if I formulated that correctly.

Ally Kouao:

But one of my colleagues, he was born in Zimbabwe, I believe. He was just saying that when he asked people where they’re from who have a Zimbabwean accent, it’s because he recognizes that accent, and that’s why he asks them where they’re from, just for confirmation of where they’re from. So like I said, it’s definitely the intent behind the question. I think it’s definitely worth clarifying with the person before asking, but I think when people do ask that question, something that they do do and should keep in mind is that it’s really important to approach the question towards the person you want to ask it to with sensitivity and clarity.

Ally Kouao:

If you approach the question “Where are you from?” or “Where are you really from?”, in that moment when you’re asking that question, you’re really prioritizing your curiosity over their feelings. You’re prioritizing your curiosity over how comfortable they feel or how much they belong in that moment in time, so you may receive a really guarded response. So someone giving a really vague answer like, “Oh, I’m from this really specific area,” because it’s a really silly question, honestly, I don’t really think you need to ask where people are from. Then again, I can also understand the conversation. It’s like, for example, we go to one of the Red Hat events. Well, from last year, we went to a Red Hat event called RHTE (Red Hat Tech Exchange), I met so many different people, and people are asking where you’re from because they’re curious to know which office you’re located in or where your accent is from. I can see how that can take a turn for the worst, depending on the motives of the person who is asking the question or the way in which they ask it.

Alexis Monville:

Yeah, I think it’s a very precious … I like the point about prioritizing curiosity over feelings. It’s a really important point. Whatever is your intent or the motivation behind the question, we need to realize that it’s not a good question, that adding “really” to it will not really help. That’s an horrible question in reality. If people want to share about where they are coming from and if they are from Scotland and their grandfather were coming from Ireland or whatever, that’s their problem. If they want to share that with you at some point, maybe they will, and that’s good. But why are you asking that? Yeah.

Ally Kouao:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. It’s such an odd question. There’s always that awkward pause after someone’s asked it, because when people ask me, in my mind I’m just like, “Are they trying to ask what I think they’re trying to ask, or are they genuinely curious on where I grew up and my accent?” Because I often get the question about where my accent’s from, because I’ve just moved from London to Wales, and somehow that’s just messed up my accent and people are just like, “Oh, where are you from?” So I think definitely it depends on the intent behind the question, but I would just say try and avoid it, like you said. You don’t have to know. If you did happen to know the person, and if you became a lot more close to the person or seemed to be chatting with them on a more regular basis, then you’d probably have that space or that comfort to be able to ask that question, or them be able to tell you themselves.

Ally Kouao:

I think it’s definitely an interesting question to ask upon first meeting someone. Some people just can’t really think on their feet off the bat, or it’s probably just to fill in the awkward silence when you first meet people.

Alexis Monville:

I did a training about hiring, improving your hiring practices. It reminds me something, because I was pushing some managers to say that maybe they have some biases in their hiring practices, and this is dangerous territory, and usually people are convinced they have absolutely no biases, and they are doing the right thing. What I was saying is that it’s not easy to do the right thing.

Alexis Monville:

There is a lot of biases that we have, and you need to admit that you are able to judge someone in the first 15 seconds you are seeing them. The problem is if you are not conscious of that, you will just use your intellect to confirm your first impression. This is exactly how the biases are working, so you need to be conscious of that. That’s why you need to write down all the questions you will ask in an interview beforehand. Then you are forced to go through those questions. You cannot escape that path and ask other questions that will confirm your first impression. So it’s really challenging.

Alexis Monville:

I told them I worked with a small system integrators in Paris a long time ago. It’s probably more than 10 years ago, and in the first gathering of the whole company in Paris, there was probably 150 people or something. There was something that was visibly different from other system integrators I worked with at that time. There was a lot more women, and a lot more people coming from various diversities that we have in France. France is at the crossroads of a lot of different countries, so of course there’s a lot of diversity present in the population, not necessarily in all the companies. But in that company, that was obvious that it was different from the others.

Alexis Monville:

I inquired about their hiring practices. That’s something our HR person is doing. She’s changing all the resumes, and stripping out all the information about the location where the people live, their first names, where they did their studies, and to keep only the things that we are supposed to make assumptions on. She’s rewriting all the resumes so they are all in the same format, so there’s no way to know things about that. And I said, “But you don’t judge people from where they live,” and they say, “Yeah, we also think that.” But the result is in our resume selection, we are selecting different people for the interview, and the result is when we see people, that we interview them and we hire them, people we would have probably never selected because they are coming from whatever, Saint Denis or whatever. Do you think that example is just an example, just a point in time? Do you think we have a problem in our hiring practices, and do you think there’s ways to fix that?

Ally Kouao:

That’s a really good question. I would just like to say off the bat that that hiring process or that process of hiring in regards to hiding people’s information, I think that sounds brilliant. It definitely strips back the identity that’s behind it, because there’s so much that people who’d probably be unconsciously biased on, such as the person’s name or where they studied or even their home address, like you said. So I think it’s really good that that recruiter definitely took time out of her day to put their main information into the resume, but present it in a similar format so there was no space for deviation. I think that’s definitely a good way to go about it.

Ally Kouao:

But in terms of general hiring processes, that’s definitely quite a tricky question, because different organizations can tackle hiring differently. It’s a double-edged sword. It depends on how you want to recruit different individuals. Overall, I think that’s important that there’s representation in a company, and a frequent argument that I tend to hear in response to that is, “Are you compromising on the quality of the candidates in favor of representation?” The answer to that can be, “We don’t have to compromise on anything.” I think there are very much skilled people of different ethnicities from different locations everywhere, and I think it’s just putting that extra effort into scouting them out and finding them.

Ally Kouao:

Something that I do tend to frequently see on LinkedIn is … I think I signed up to this girls’ page. I’m not quite sure where it is, but I think it’s a women’s empowerment page, and they tend to give empowering quotes or showing people who’ve started to rise into more senior positions, like women rising into more senior positions in companies, because you’re definitely seeing more of it today. You’re definitely seeing people in companies or industries where it used to be traditionally male-dominated. You’re seeing more women come through and excel in their fields and prove themselves.

Ally Kouao:

Something that I have seen quite a lot of, those pages highlighting women of color who are pushing those boundaries, reaching really cool careers or reaching a new level of success, and they thought it’s a really good idea to praise them, and I completely agree. Something that I did frequently see in the comments is people going, “Ah, we shouldn’t be pointing out their race at all. It should just be about their motivation. It should just be about their successes.”

Ally Kouao:

Something that I think is really important to note from these posts or posts that do celebrate women and women of color, is that sometimes this attention does need to be paid to them. For now, we do need to pay this attention so that it becomes something we do naturally. The reason why we are highlighting it is because it’s not something you see often, and when we do see it, we want to celebrate it because it’s something we should see more of, and I think we all want that shared goal of not having to think about race any more or think about the location that someone comes from or think about what their history was, in favor of getting that perfect candidate.

Ally Kouao:

But I feel like where we are at the moment, where people are still growing and learning and learning to overcome their unconscious bias, I think it’s really important we do make a point of celebrating those people who are reaching new levels that it’s not so common to see, and wasn’t so common to see before. Yeah, I think there are different ways to go about it.

Ally Kouao:

Going back to your question regarding the hiring process, I would honestly say … Just to link it to that little … I can’t even describe it. Just to link it back to what I said regarding highlighting women of color who are doing really well or people of color who are doing really well, I think it’s really important that we … Or I think it would be really beneficial if we did take that stance in hiring as well, so yeah, even though we are paying more attention to the fact that we are trying to have a more diverse or representative workforce, the end goal is that hopefully we won’t need think about this when we’re hiring. Hopefully it’s something that comes naturally to people and it’s something that … We hire them for what their talents are, and we don’t hire them because they don’t look like us or they don’t have qualifications that we’re also familiar with.

Ally Kouao:

So yeah, I think that’s my overall answer in terms of hiring. I think it’s important to pay extra attention, especially now, so that … If we pay attention now and don’t continuously stall, I feel like that will just help us to get to that end goal so much faster, and we won’t need to strip back the information like the woman you were talking about did. You could just present that person’s information, and they’d be treated just as equally as all the other candidates.

Ally Kouao:

I think that would definitely be the ultimate goal, definitely an approach that I think more organizations should take. I think Red Hat is definitely going in the right direction from even offering that sort of training to begin with in terms of right for Red Hat, and having unconscious biases, because it’s something that’s very real, and it’s something … Like the title says, it’s unconscious. People aren’t aware that they do have their biases until they realize that their whole team is not really representative, but there’s so much diversity and representation in the UK and Ireland, at least from my personal experience. Yeah, sorry for the long-winded answer, but that’s what I was getting at.

Alexis Monville:

Yeah, and I really appreciate all the details you shared. This is exactly the problem I think we have. I think it’s not easy to handle that problem, because we would like to do the right thing. We would like to think that we are doing the right thing, and it’s uncomfortable to realize sometimes that we are not. I had that conversation with the team, and at some point I stopped them and said, “Okay, so we are doing the right thing. That’s absolutely perfect, and we are all white, all male, in that leadership team. So that’s totally representative of the population of the world. You’re absolutely right, all of you. All of us are absolutely right.” And so even if we are not consciously doing something wrong, we are not helping. So there was a lot of things around that, the fact that the job description could push away categories of people directly because there was too many requirements or too many …

Alexis Monville:

That was fascinating to me, learning about those studies that are real studies. That’s not one idea of someone. It’s real studies that have been proven. It’s fascinating to me. I have a friend who is … His first name is Samir. He told me that when he was sending his resume, if he was stripping the “ir” at the end of his first name, he was called back for an appointment immediately.

Ally Kouao:

Oh. Interesting.

Alexis Monville:

But if he was leaving his first name like this, he had no appointment. He told me he tried that several times. Of course, he told me, “The problem is, when I’m going to the appointment, usually people who would have struck me from the selection in first place are not necessarily taking me there seriously.” But it’s fascinating.

Ally Kouao:

Yeah, I think it’s definitely more common than we think, that people are feeling the need to change their traditional names, because it doesn’t sound quite like what they think the recruiters would want. So for example, in Britain, some people would change their cultural or their traditional names to make it sound more European or more British, and I think that’s definitely a shame. I feel like unless someone really wants to do it because they really liked a name, I feel like the people who do do it because they feel like they’d have better chances of getting recruited, I think that’s definitely part of the problem. It’s just a shame that people would have their names changed, and it just makes it really awkward, because they get hired, they get recruited, and it’s like they don’t feel like they were able to put their original best self forward to begin with.

Ally Kouao:

Like I said before, it is very common where people do tend to alter their name or completely change it and strip back what they are originally just to appeal to recruiters. Yeah, like I said, that’s definitely a shame. I also saw a post … Just browsing the internet, I did see there was a post on … I think it was a recruiter talking about how there were some people in her company … Not her company, the company that she worked in, interviewing candidates, and she realized that they were being really tough on the candidates.

Ally Kouao:

She thought she’d play a little trick on them and give them their own resumes from when they first applied to their jobs, because obviously they’d been in their jobs for a long time. And they all rejected themselves, and it was so crazy, because I was just like … The fact that they said the people weren’t qualified enough, I thought this was just quite interesting, because I was like, “The fact that you’d … I understand that you were in a better position than where you were when you first began with, but everyone has that beginning of their journey. Everyone has a starting point.” And it was just so interesting to see that they wouldn’t even give themselves a chance if they were in that hiring seat.

Ally Kouao:

I feel that was definitely a good takeaway lesson, in regards to the fact that you might not see something that you see in yourself where you are now, but I think it’s definitely important to give everyone that chance, that starting point, where they’d be able to grow and excel, because that’s where they are now, and it definitely made me chuckle seeing that, because I was just like … It’s crazy, because if you can’t accept yourself from your starting point, how much harder it would be if you don’t see yourself in the person who you’re interviewing, or you don’t feel that they’re the right fit because they’re so different to what you have in mind? So I think that’s definitely something that hiring managers or people involved in the interview process should definitely keep in mind.

Alexis Monville:

It’s a very, very good one. I love that experiment. It’s really important to work on our biases and the way we handle our emotional system and our intellectual system, and we use it to confirm the other and so on. Ally, it was really great to have you on the show today.

Ally Kouao:

Thank you for having me.

Alexis Monville:

What would be the first thing you would recommend to people who want to improve?

Ally Kouao:

Ooh. Ooh. Ooh, that’s quite a good question. I’ve really enjoyed reading the book Girl, Woman, Other. That focuses on perspectives of different women of color, different ages, from different generations. I think it’s quite an interesting insight into how they grew up, how they lived life differently in Britain, in Europe. That definitely could not be the starting point for everyone, but if someone did want a source to have a little read of and become a little bit more of a knowledgeable version of themselves, then yeah, I think that’s definitely a good book to read.

Ally Kouao:

But at the end of the day, I can’t really tell you where to start. Everyone’s on their own journey, and everyone can consume material differently. But I’d say definitely just make use of the internet. It’s very much free, like I said before, and you can find so many good resources. Have conversations with your loved ones, have conversations with people who you might not speak to too often, and get to know them, because we’re all living different timelines, and it’s important to be aware of that, and be open to others. But yeah, that’s all from me.

Alexis Monville:

Excellent. Thank you very much, Ally. It was really a pleasure to have you on the show today.

Ally Kouao:

Thank you.

Alexis Monville:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Le Podcast. Go to alexis.monville.com for the references mentioned in the episode, and to find more to increase your impact and satisfaction at work. Drop a comment or an email with your feedback, or just to say hello, and until next time, to find better ways of changing your team.

The music is Funkorama by Kevin MacLeod (Creative Commons CC BY 4.0)

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