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Diversity in Science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

Discover how aging brain research benefits from diversity in science. And help address disparities in health by taking the MindCrowd online test.

When we learned about Dr. Huentelman’s MindCrowd project and his team of scientists, two things caught our attention. First, he achieved diversity in science. His team consists of more women than men with a variety of backgrounds. Next, his cognitive function and aging brain research study was designed to allow everybody to participate.

Achieving diversity in science is no simple feat. Science can benefit from the varied perspectives brought about by a diverse team. Each team member contributes different approaches to problem-solving and research analysis.

Not only has this team achieved diversity in science in their workplace, they also want to engage the largest and most diverse group of people to take part in the MindCrowd study. Many demographic groups (including women and Latinos) are often absent from clinical trials and scientific research studies. Minorities’ lifestyles, genetics and environmental factors are not studied or taken into account. This lack of representation has serious consequences like inaccurate findings and/or healthcare disparities.

Table of Contents

MindCrowd is the largest online scientific research of the aging process. Backed by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in collaboration with the Universities of Arizona, Miami, Emory and John Hopkins.

Its goal is to find out how to extend quality of life by helping people keep their cognitive abilities in old age. In simple terms, they are trying to help us keep our thinking, learning, understanding skills and working memory for as long as we live.

Given the impact of the study, we sat down with Dr. Matt Huentelman, TGen’s Professor of Neurogenomics and Dr. Carol Barnes, Regents Professor and Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona, to learn about this powerful project and to listen to some of their insights on achieving diversity in science.

Bonus for those who read to the very end. These two scientists share their recommendations on dealing with COVID-19.

If you want to take part in the study, grab your laptop, desktop or tablet and visit mindcrowd.org. The test takes about 10 minutes, it’s like a video game and you will find out how your brain compares to others like you.

MindCrowd, the Most Diverse Aging Brain Research Online Study

Dr. Matt Huentelman envisions a future where successful aging prevents age-related disease. Discover how aging brain research benefits from diversity in science. And help address disparities in health by taking the MindCrowd online test.

Dr. Matt Huentelman envisions a future where successful aging prevents age-related disease.

RSM – Matt, what led you to study the aging brain?

MH – Aging has always fascinated me because of its complexity. Our differences in aging are due to our genetics, our lifestyle choices, the diseases we have, and even diseases we may have had and recovered from. The long-time frame of aging in the human being is such a tough thing to study… and I have always been attracted to that. The process of time – aging – amplifies our individual differences, which is both interesting and difficult to study at the same time.

RSM – Carol, are there similarities between the animals you have studied and the human aging brain?

CB – Yes, there are actually many similarities between them. I have been studying memory and the aging brain for over 4 decades in rats and monkeys. And there is one kind of memory we can test across animals – spatial memory.

That’s the kind of memory that allows you to remember your way home or where an object is in relation to another. Something you may have noticed people with Alzheimer’s dementia have trouble with.

Spatial memory worsens with age across every examined species, including humans. Of course, a rat is old at 2 years of age, monkeys at 22, and  humans at 65. So far, the fundamental biological process of “brain aging” is similar across species, but sped up in other animals compared to humans.

RSM – What is the difference between normal brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease?

CB – Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias are not part of normal aging. Furthermore, only humans develop Alzheimer’s disease – other animals do not. Thanks to this difference we are able to use these other animals to define what to expect for normal aging.

There are two consistent changes in normal brain aging. A lower number and reduced function of connections between brain cells or synapses. And a reduced ability to strengthen the connections made between cells that are thought to be the biological basis of memory.

So, in normal brain aging you may forget which word to use, you may lose things or make a bad decision once in a while. You may even forget what day it is but remember it later.

While Alzheimer’s usually occurs in an aging brain, its changes happen in a cell type that is well preserved in normal aging. Some warning signs of dementia are life disrupting memory loss, confusion with time and place, difficulty having a conversation or completing familiar tasks. The good new for us is that, only 14% of people over 70 have dementia symptoms.

Latinos are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. And they are severely under represented in scientific research studies for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Taking the MindCrowd memory and reaction time test can help scientists find out how to slow down brain aging.

And they are severely under represented in scientific research studies for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Help scientists learn more about the aging brain by taking a short memory game at MindCrowd.org

The MindCrowd Project: A Scientific Study of the Aging Brain

RSM – What is MindCrowd and what is it trying to achieve?

MH – MindCrowd is an online scientific research study of the brain whose ultimate goal is to learn how to slow down brain aging. That way, people can preserve their memory for their entire life. And by doing so, avoid diseases of learning and memory like Alzheimer’s.

To achieve this goal we need to engage one million participants with the most diverse backgrounds in the United States and the world.

RSM – Who should take the MindCrowd memory and attention test? Why?

MH – Everybody who wants to be represented in scientific research or is curious and would like to know how their brain compares to others like them. All they need to take the memory and reaction time test is to visit mindcrowd.org on a laptop, desktop or tablet.

Lack of representation in medical research often translates into health care disparities. Quite often, scientific research is done in person. That is not convenient for those who work full-time jobs, have more than one job, or live far away from a University. This results in a lack of scientific and medical information for these underrepresented groups of people. This can then translate into poorer medical care.

In short – the discoveries made in science and medicine are most specific for those groups who take part in scientific studies. We recognize that this is a problem, that some groups of our United States “melting pot” are being left out of research.

We hope that by conducting a study online, we can encourage everybody to be part of our human brain research and help end disparities in healthcare.

Participating in scientific research is a step towards addressing disparities in healthcare. Test your brain and be counted!

Participating in scientific research is a step towards addressing disparities in healthcare. Test your brain and be counted!

CB – We want to expand MindCrowd to include studies of people across the United States that are representative of the population. Most studies of cognitive health in aging have been small, cross-sectional, and geographically and ethnically constrained. We need to study more people so we can understand what groups will benefit most from what types of treatments.

A so-called Precision Medicine approach such as used in cancer research, is a must to understand how to avoid age related cognitive decline. We want to be in a position to guide public policy and health decisions, and to take the next steps to personalize intervention strategies. When we apply these approaches to the process of aging we call it Precision Aging.

How to Achieve Diversity in Science

RSM – What do you believe it takes to achieve diversity in science?

MH – I strongly believe that diversity in science is driven by actions that encourage participation by young students. We have to begin to encourage grade and high schoolers to consider science as a career. Help them understand that they can be leaders in high tech fields. So, I believe it starts with a focus on the young minds out there.

It is critical to develop and support programs that have a focus on the recruitment of diversity into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math-based fields). Support the teachers who foster and represent diversity in the grades and high schools. Help students of all types understand that their future is their own and that they can overcome any perceived pre-destiny.

I admit that it is a tall order. That our society for all of its opportunities has competing stereotypes that serve to push certain groups away from some careers. However, in science, we thrive on creativity and differing viewpoints and world views… so I really view a lack of diversity as a disservice to science and medicine.

CB – I served in many service capacities at the Society for Neuroscience, including President. One of the working groups I was involved in was tasked to try to figure out why there are so few female Full Professors in Neuroscience. At that time it was about 11%. While there are about 50% women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, somewhere after that we start to lose women – the classic “leaky pipeline.”

No one has a good answer, of course – other than active mentoring, and developing support groups.

The situation is even more severe with respect to achieving ethnic diversity in science – where the numbers are even more extreme. Most now think we need to start at early ages to show kids how amazing STEM can be. Getting them to actively participate and realize they can be ‘good at science.’ But first, we need to tackle as a nation health and wealth disparities that need not exist.

Diversity in science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

Diversity in science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

RSM – What would be your message for women who are considering a career into STEM?

CB – Find out what really keeps your attention – find something you are passionate about – and, if it is in the STEM field – I say go for it!! There will be challenges to overcome as in any area of life – but I believe the key is to follow your heart with respect to where your passion is.

Every day I feel lucky to be in a position to ‘go in and learn and discover something new.’ My determination to understand brain aging and memory so that I can help people maintain their brain health is truly sustaining. To be sure, there are obstacles to overcome for women in STEM – but if we don’t fight to do and excel at what we love – we all lose.

I’ve gotten many awards for my work and have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. But the award I treasure most is the Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award for mentoring women in neuroscience. So, a final word – once you find your stride in STEM – encourage others.

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers

RSM – What are your recommendations for people who live and care for others with age related memory issues during this quarantine?

MH – For the caregivers, life during stay-at-home orders and quarantine can be especially challenging. Here are some suggestions that are important to consider.

Keep yourself well: This is the time for the caregiver to pay special attention to themselves. Follow the basic precautions, such as hand washing, physical distancing, don’t touch your face, and clean high touch surfaces (like doorknobs) frequently, and follow the guidelines about face coverings.

Keep others well: Remember that you can carry the virus and not show symptoms. So, when you are in public you should wear a mask.

Think of others, think of the people those you encounter will be in contact with and make sure you protect them. After all, it’s not only about you. This is a pandemic.

Keep physical distance but don’t socially isolate: It is critical to protect the most vulnerable by observing physical distancing guidelines, but we cannot let this slip into social isolation. We know that a lack of social interactions has a negative effect on the brain. Humans, by nature, are social animals and this aspect of the pandemic is perhaps one of the most significant.

Be creative about ways to keep in touch with loved ones. Each case is different, but consider video visits, phone calls, and writing letters. There are many games that can be played online with a loved one. And sometimes listening to music together or sharing a meal on a video call can be calming.

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers: Keep physical distance but don't socially isolate

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers.

Carol A. Barnes, Ph.D.

Regents Professor, Psychology, Neurology and Neuroscience
Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging
Director, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
Director, Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging
University of Arizona

Matt Huentelman Ph.D.

Professor, Neurogenomics Division
Scientific Director, Center for Rare Childhood Disorders
Head, Neurobehavioral Research Unit
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

Microaggressions: Those Pesky Slights That Damage Workplaces

When someone asked Carol, (not her real name) “Have you eaten dog?” she felt deeply offended. As she spoke up and let her feelings be known, she was furthered hurt by having her feelings minimized. How do we stop this kind of microaggressions that permeate our organizations and society? Here are some key insights.

The woman in the story is an Asian – New Zealander who lives in New Zealand, a country where 74 % of the population is of European descent, 14.9% of Maori descent, 11.8% of Asian descent and 7.4% are non-Maori Pacific Islanders. But this kind of microaggressions based on cultural differences and, I pose, on power differences, happen all the time around the world.

What are microaggressions?

Comments, questions and behaviors such as the one Carol shared with us are commonly referred to as microaggressions. This is a term coined in the 70s by psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce and borrowed more recently by Teachers College, Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD.

Here’s Dr. Sue’s definition: “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

I believe that when some people are faced with any sort of difference they don’t clearly understand (or admit,) they may perpetrate microaggressions. And although microaggressions are often unintended that doesn’t minimize their impact.

In the workplace today many people suffer microaggressions on a daily basis as a result of their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, a disability or any number of reasons. It makes diverse talent feel unwelcomed and pushes them out the door.

What are microaggressions? A definition

What are microaggressions? A definition

Now, in most microaggression situations there are at least two forces at play:

1The aggressor is someone in an ethnocentric stage of intercultural sensitivity. (Read my post, What is cultural sensitivity? for a full understanding of Milton Bennett’s theory of intercultural sensitivity.) And although Bennett’s theory refers to intercultural sensitivity, I believe the stages he described apply equally well to sensitivity towards other people’s gender, sexual orientation, etc.

So, being in an ethnocentric stage means being in one of the following stages:

Denial—people don’t recognize cultural differences and experiences.

Defense— people recognize some differences, but see them as negative because they assume their own culture is the most evolved, the best one. Equally, I pose, they may feel their gender or their sexual orientation is superior.

Minimization—Individuals at this stage of cultural sensitivity are unaware that they are projecting their own cultural values. They see their own values as superior. They think that the mere awareness of cultural differences is enough.

2In the context of the microaggression, the aggressor has more power than the person on the receiving end of it. And this is what I’d like to focus on here, as I believe many microaggressions experienced by women are due to their low power in organizations and society.

Power balance and microaggressions

As social psychologist Adam Galinsky’s research has demonstrated, when it comes to women, many of the differences in performance attributed to gender can be traced back to power differences.

In most of our societies, women have less power than men. And, as most people with less power, they are expected to behave in a certain way: Be nurturing, conciliatory, submissive, etc. So when women show ambition, assertiveness, confidence, competitiveness, and so on they are often penalized. (And this happens despite current efforts to get more women into leadership roles.) In other words, they are subject to a double bind. Otherwise known as: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

What I’m posing here is that many of the microaggressions directed to women in the workplace come not from the fact that they are women but from the fact that they have less power in the company. The same can be said for all the other non-majority groups. It’s always been easier to prey on the weaker members of society, hasn’t it?

Having a diverse leadership team should lead to an increase in acceptance of others and a reduction of microaggressions

Having a diverse leadership team should lead to an increase in acceptance of others and a reduction of microaggressions

Microaggressions directed to people with less power

So let’s look at a couple of examples.

You are in a team meeting with 10 people, 8 men and 2 women. Julie, a manager and the person with least seniority in the meeting, voices her opposition to a new strategy and is interrupted several times while doing so.

When 2 of her male colleagues speak, everyone listens attentively even though they take much more time than Julie to explain their points of view. These interruptions are the kind of frequent microaggressions people like Julie experience daily. Now, my question is, Was Julie interrupted because she was a woman or because she had less power than anyone else, therefore they felt entitled to interrupt her?

Another example. In Latin America, women say that if they seek career sponsors they are perceived in their company as seeking special favors. Yet men don’t have the same issue with seeking sponsors. Is the perception connected to women seeking sponsors due to the fact that they are women or because they have less power and fewer connections in the organization? So if a woman is sponsored to a leadership level, people in the organization feel that the only way for someone with such low power to get to that position were through favors?

Microaggression are damaging to our workplace environment

Microaggression are damaging to our workplace environment

How to help your team move away from microaggressions and embrace a more inclusive culture?

There are two good ways to stop microaggressions.

1Educating your team members to help them move to an ethno relative stage of cultural sensitivity. As follows:

Acceptance — People are able to shift perspectives to understand that the same “ordinary” behavior can have different meanings in different cultures. They are able to identify how experiences are influenced by one’s culture, background, gender.

Adaptation— People become more competent in their ability to communicate with people who are different.

Integration— People are able to shift easily from one frame of reference to another. They develop empathy for people who are different.

2Having a diverse and inclusive leadership team. One that is made up of similar parts of men, women, people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, with different levels of ability, who come from a variety of schools of thought, socio-economic backgrounds, and so on.

When everyone feels represented, the workplace becomes more welcoming of differences and as people become more curious about each other, the threat of the unknown starts to disappear and so do microaggressions. The best part is that your talent feels valued which in turn helps improve engagement, retention, and promotion.  A win-win all around. Ready to try it?

 

 

3 Reasons to Sign up for More Business Trips

Business trips may not be as glamorous as you imagine, but they offer a great chance to network with colleagues and vendors from other areas and to help you develop some critical skills. Read on and you’ll be signing up for the next business trip before you finish this post!

The impact of business trips on professional development

Business trips are on the rise, especially among Millenials. While most people take 6.8 business trips a year, Millenials take 7.4 trips and plan to increase their travels. This is according to a study conducted in 2016 by MMGY Global among 1,007 U.S. residents who took at least one domestic or international business trip in the previous 12 months.

What’s driving the desire to travel more for work? For some, it’s the perception that business trips are just an all-expense paid trip for a couple of meetings, leaving ample time for sightseeing. The reality, however, is that most business trips are filled with meetings leaving you with little personal time. But the true value of a business trip goes beyond the immediate perks and it’s much longer lasting than a day tour of the city you are visiting.

Business trips increase cultural intelligence

Business trips increase cultural intelligence

1Business trips help to increase your cultural intelligence, particularly international ones

Cultural intelligence means having the ability to recognize and respond to cultural diversity and to make better decisions based on that understanding. My experience in traveling globally and domestically for work has raised my cultural intelligence and ability to connect with people. It will do the same for you, regardless of the number of trips you take each year.

Think about the business trips you have taken and make a note of what you recall were the differences and similarities of the intercultural exchange. Keep in mind intercultural exchange does not only happen when you travel abroad. It also applies to when you travel domestically. It’s very likely that the vibe, energy and culture of your office in LA is very different than the ones in your office in Dallas or New York.

Possessing cultural intelligence today is more important than ever as globalization has made companies more complex and competitive. So make the most out of your business trips by increasing your cultural EQ. Employees who have a high level of cultural intelligence play an important role in bridging divides and knowledge gaps in an organization: educating their peers about different cultures.

Taking a business trip on your own can build your confidence.

Taking a business trip on your own can build your confidence.

2Traveling for work will help you breakout of your comfort zone

Business trips will help you break you out of your comfort zone, leading to personal and professional growth. When you travel for work, for the most part you will be traveling alone and navigating through a new city or country on your own. That means, learning to use a public transportation system, figuring out certain customs, perhaps learning a few words in a different language, and a million other little details that have likely become second nature to you at home. Having to manage these new experiences on your own may be hard at first but they’ll make you stronger. So regardless of where you travel or how long the business trip is, the experience will leave you feeling more confident.

On the other hand, you will also be representing your company and team, so you have to present the best version of you. Which means that you’ll do your best not to appear insecure, or tentative in this new environment. Even keeping your composure in a new circumstance will build your character and stretch you out of your comfort zone.

Business trip inspirational quote

Business trip inspirational quote

3Business trips lead to stronger working relationships

Every business trip that I’ve taken has led to improved working relationships with old and new colleagues. It’s an opportunity to nurture relationships with business partners (suppliers, clients, etc.) or colleagues you’re traveling with. It’s a particularly good chance to have some face time with partners with whom you collaborate remotely to fine tune any challenges you’re confronted with when working in different locations.

As you prepare for your business trip set up time to connect with your partners outside of business meetings. For example, schedule coffee, lunch or dinner, if possible. A former boss gave me the best piece of advice, “Teresa, during your next business trip your days need to be spent having face time with local suppliers, insight partners, and marketing partners.” She was completely right and taking her approach helped me establish strong relationships. I still keep in touch with some of the former business partners in other countries and we don’t even work in the same company any more!

Each business trip is an opportunity to gain cultural intelligence, to break out out of your comfort zone and to nurture relationships within your business ecosystem. To make sure you take advantage of all that a business trip has to offer you must do your part. This means, you must go beyond making logistic preparations for your trip and being present at the scheduled meetings. You should go with an open mind, ready to listen to people who might be very different from those in your own office, and seek to learn from everyone you meet.

How To Hire Culturally Diverse Employees: The Top Diversity Hiring Practices

If you are looking to hire culturally diverse employees, here are five diversity hiring practices that have been proven to work. Try them out.

When looking to hire culturally diverse employees many discover that it’s not that simple. Standard hiring practices may leave a recruiting pool dry and leave you empty-handed. But don’t despair, here are five surefire diversity hiring practices you can implement right away.

5 Diversity Hiring Practices Proven to Help You Hire Culturally Diverse Employees

If you’re reading this, you are probably well aware that companies that do not hire culturally diverse employees are missing out on top talent. Test run these top diversity-hiring practices on your organization. Measure your results. And remember, if you need help, I am just a stone throw away.

Top hiring practices: Should you consider cultural fit? Click to keep on reading!

Top hiring practices: Should you consider cultural fit?

1Avoid Unconscious Biases Using Blind Resumes

Research has shown that resumes with white sounding and male names command more attention and hiring rates than black-sounding or female names on the exact, same resume.

Researchers from the University of Chi­cago and M.I.T. landmark study showed that “Those with ‘‘white’’ names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than those with ‘‘black’’ names.” – NY Times.

You’ve probably witnessed this phenomenon in your recruiting career, right?

The same happens with top tier universities and with certain revered organizations. Undoubtedly, despite all good intentions to hire culturally diverse employees, unconscious biases are at play here.

Why?

Because we tend to feel more comfortable with people who are like us.

This is one of the main reasons why your company keeps hiring people who look and sound alike. They grew up in the same area of the country, went to similar schools, worked in organizations with a similar culture.

But if you want to attract employees that are more culturally diverse you have to be more vigilant of your biases towards specific backgrounds. You have to do whatever it takes to hire different people from the ones that currently populate your office.

Here is where this top diversity hiring practice comes in. Grab the bull by the horns and blind all resumes.

How?

  • Request applicants to submit resumes without the name of the university they graduated from.
  • Assign numbers to everyone who applies so that you can’t tell whether they are male or female.
  • Put everyone through the interview process and select the winning candidate regardless of background or gender.

But you must watch out for pitfalls here. An HR executive – client of mine from a large multinational company – wanted to eliminate a prevalent cultural bias as most of her workers were recruited out of the same three elite universities. She followed this exact process to increase the hiring of culturally diverse employees.

5 Diversity Hiring Practices Proven to Help You Hire Culturally Diverse Employees. Role of unconscious bias.

5 Diversity Hiring Practices Proven to Help You Hire Culturally Diverse Employees. Role of unconscious bias.

At the end of 5 rounds of interviews, when the top three finalists were selected, she revealed to the hiring committee the schools they had graduated from. None of them were from these three prestigious schools. The committee suggested to scrap that search and to start all over again because the candidates would not be “a cultural fit.”

This could be one of the challenges that you may have to overcome if you’re committed to hiring culturally diverse talent. Make sure everyone in your organization is aligned with your good intentions.

How did the story of the HR executive’s intervention end? She stuck to her guns and hired the top three finalists.

The result?

20 years later all of them had built stellar careers within her organization.

These culturally diverse employees are a clear example that blinding resumes is a sound diversity hiring practice. It enables recruiters to hire the best people for the job keeping unconscious biases at bay.

Bundle Job Searches to Increase Your Diverse Hires. Discover other top recruiting practices to hire culturally diverse employees.

Bundle Job Searches to Increase Your Diverse Hires.

2Forget Cultural Fit. Create Structured Interviews.

Businesses have long glorified the cultural fit. Unfortunately, that’s often code for “the candidate we hire must be white” or “male” or “white male.”

This insistence on cultural fit – in spite of what research shows – is one of the reasons organizations are so slow to reach gender parity and inclusion at the highest levels of decision-making.

“Why do we stick with a method that so clearly does not work, when decision aids, including tests, structured interviews, and a combination of mechanical predictors, substantially reduce error in predicting employee performance? The organizational psychologist Scott Highhouse called this resistance “the greatest failure of I-O [industrial and organizational] psychology.” – Harvard Business Review

Structured interviews will help overcome this bias and build a more robust and culturally diverse institution

Here is how to implement this hiring practice:

  1. Establish a set of relevant questions for the roles you are looking to fill and always ask every candidate these same questions in the exact same order.
  2. Assign a value to each question. For example: You can rate each answer on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being unacceptable/inappropriate/no match to position/absence of skill, and 10 being optimal/perfect match of requirements for position.
  3. Have one person conduct the interview and rate each question answered by the candidate as the interview takes place.
  4. At the end of all interviews, pass on all the interviews with their rated answers to a second person. Perhaps your assistant. Have them calculate the best performing candidate and tell you who the finalist is.

This eliminates potential hiring mistakes that are frequently made when employees get selected because the hiring manager “connected” with them over things such as having played the same sport in school or supporting the same non-profit organization. Therefore, it helps you decide more objectively who gets the job.

This simple act allows your good intention of hiring more culturally diverse talent to win over your unconscious biases.

3Bundle Job Searches to Increase Your Diverse Hires

It’s easy to hire the same type of person over and over again when you hire for one position at a time.

Hiring managers may unconsciously believe that a man or a woman or someone from a specific ethnic background would be better suited for a specific role, perpetuating imbalances by continuing to hire according to the stereotype for said position. For example, hiring Asian employees for tech positions and Hispanics for customer service.

How do we work around this particular bias?

Research has shown that by grouping or bundling all searches for similar roles it’s easier to notice the mix of people you’re hiring and whether you’re embracing culturally diverse employees.

There is a similar research that shows that when people are asked to pick a snack and they do so day after day, they tend to eat more sweets and junk food than when asked to choose all of their snacks for an entire week. The selection then becomes more diverse and it includes healthier options.

The solution here is simple and self-evident. Rather than hiring for one position at a time, survey the different business units or departments in your organization for other positions to fill. Then, conduct a larger search to hire for multiple positions at once. You will notice a pool of hires that is much more culturally diverse.

Discover how to hire culturally diverse employees.

Discover how to hire culturally diverse employees.

4Encourage Your Current Diverse Talent to Provide Referrals

Have you noticed how in an area where there were no Ecuadorians or Chinese people at all, suddenly there’s a whole community of them?

It’s human nature. Those who have already settled in a town tell their families and friends about current job opportunities and quality of life. Consequently, the new immigrants settle where they can find jobs and they already have a support system via a group of people who share their culture.

You can replicate this timeless phenomenon to attract more culturally diverse employees.

Here’s how: Ask your current staff to refer qualified candidates for any current open positions.

You are likely to see your culturally diverse recruiting pool increase substantially within a short period of time. The added advantage is that those who already work for your organization will collaborate with the on ramping of their colleagues. They will introduce them to their networks and share company policies and any unwritten rules.

It’s pretty common practice for companies to ask their employees to refer others for open positions. Just cast a wider net and enjoy the benefits of a more culturally diverse workforce.

Mariela Dabbah reveals the secrets to hiring culturally diverse employees.

Mariela Dabbah reveals the secrets to hiring culturally diverse employees.

5Retention of Your Current Diverse Talent Is Priority One

Now, for the final diversity hiring practice and a big bonus if correctly implemented:

Having a good retention plan in place before you hire substantial numbers of culturally diverse employees is a must.

Why?

First, because you don’t want to lose the talent you so painstakingly acquired. But also because diverse talent tends to feel more comfortable working for organizations that value inclusion. They are more likely to check out your reputation before they apply. If you have lackluster numbers and a reputation for not offering true career paths to women or culturally diverse employees, you’re less likely to succeed in attracting top diverse talent.

So, put your house in order before you venture out to hire new staff.

  • Make sure that you walk the talk
  • Offer stretch assignments and opportunities for relevant exposure to women and diverse talent
  • Align their interests with the type of work they do for your organization
  • Use transparency in your compensation and promotion practices
  • Make all your talent feel respected

We hope these top diversity-hiring practices help you hire culturally diverse employees. Put them in practice and always remember I am here to support your efforts.

Book a 1-hour consultation with me and get unbiased D&I, Career Development & Leadership advice. Ask all the questions you have!

5 Easy Ways to Eliminate Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threats are real. They affects performance and morale. Luckily, research shows you can drastically reduce their impact with pretty simple interventions. Read on!

Defined as “a situational predicament in which individuals are at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their group,” stereotype threats have a harmful effect on women in the workplace.

Red Shoe Movement’s Principle #7 Addresses Stereotype Threat

Labels refer to any word or expression we use (even tongue-in-cheek) that has an overt or subtle derogatory undertone: Bitch, bossy, competitive, etc. These labels reflect deep-held beliefs we contribute to perpetuate every time we use them. So when women don’t conform to the social norm expected of them and are interested in power, or when they are decisive and have a strong will to carry out their vision, we collectively bring them down a notch or two by calling them names.

In other words, certain expressions can have very detrimental —even if unintended— consequences. Identifying this effect goes a long way to changing our choice of words.

Principle 7 of the Red Shoe Movement deals with stereotype threat

Principle 7 of the Red Shoe Movement deals with stereotype threat

With the help of a nuanced infographic created by Catalyst, we review how to flip five common labels used on women to reduce stereotype threat.

1She’s Too Abrasive or She’s Too Aggressive

This is a case of damn if you do, damn if you don’t, if there ever was one. Women are told that they need to be assertive and express themselves and what they want clearly. Yet, when they do, they are penalized for not being warm and fuzzy. Finding the sweet spot can be quite hard.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than focusing on their style you should focus on their work performance.

In addition: Some research shows that when it comes to feedback, women get more negative personality criticism than men. Things like: “You can come across as aggressive sometimes.” So may I also suggest that you think twice before providing this kind of feedback? Would you say the same thing to Tom that you’re about to say to Lisa? That’s an easy way to assess if you’re about to fall into a stereotype threat.

Knowing the stereotype threat definition helps you guard off any words that may lead to it

Knowing the stereotype threat definition helps you guard off any words that may lead to it

2She’s So Helpful

One of the ways in which organizations can facilitate the promotion of women to positions of more responsibility is by creating opportunities for exposure. Those seldom lie in a support position. When women are viewed as part of the “back office” or the support team, they are less likely to be perceived as leadership material. So although it’s good to appreciate the support of your team members when warranted, if that’s all you do for them, they won’t go as far in their careers as they could.

Solution

Catalyst: When you speak of the women in your team, be specific about their contributions.

In addition: Find real opportunities for every woman on your team to develop and exercise leadership skills regardless of their position. Admins and support staff can be put in charge of leading projects that give them the exposure they deserve. You might be surprised at how people rise to the occasion once you raise your expectations.

Flip the Script Women

Courtesy Catalyst

3She Gets Overly Emotional

I don’t need to tell you that women tend to be more in touch with their emotions than their male counterparts. Or that often, when we are angry we cry. And although this may be a biological response, both tears and displays of anger in the workplace tend to be frowned upon. When it’s women who are doing either, obviously. The social norm that affects men expects them to exhibit anger, assertiveness, and aggression as part of the attributes of male leadership. Not so much for women.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than calling her “emotional” take the time to describe to women the consequences of their behavior.

In addition: Help them learn to explain the reason for their tears while they are shedding them, so their audience is aware they are not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of anger, frustration, etc. Help your male employees identify their different responses to anger when expressed by each gender so they understand women can get angry yet be effective leaders.

4She Lacks Leadership Gravitas or She Lacks Executive Presence

This is frequently code for “she doesn’t look like the current leadership,” which tends to be white, and male. This expression particularly affects women of color because they face a double whammy. Gender and race or ethnicity. It’s trully quite a stereotype threat when you wish to promote more women to the top.

So if you are truly committed to diversity and inclusion at the top of your organization, the current leadership will have to look beyond the traditional definition of executive presence.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than just crossing a woman off explain exactly what you mean.

In addition: If you continue using the old definition of the attributes, abilities, experience you look for in a leader, you’ll probably continue to recruit the same type of person. Get rid of unstructured interviews where “cultural fit” can become an unspoken way to hire people who look like you or your current leadership team. Instead, create a list of specific requirements for the position and a list of questions that you ask all interviewees. Assign points to each answer and have someone else tally all the answers from all interviewees to get you the finalist. There are many concrete, simple interventions you can implement to make sure you hire the best person for the job rather than someone who fits some old stereotype.

5She’s Too Judgmental

Often, when women give critical feedback others consider her incompetent. This stereotype threat undermines women’s leadership chances.

Solution

Catalyst: Rather than making it about her leadership style, focus on whether she’s demonstrating good judgment.

In addition: Everyone should understand that human beings are all judgmental. We can’t see the world other than through our individual lens. That lens places a layer of judgment on everything as we can only perceive people, circumstances and situations through our own experiences, emotions, knowledge, culture, social context and so on. So, rather than impose another stereotype threat, which might stop women’s impetus to grow, why not acknowledge that we are all equally judgmental.

As I said in a recent post about an entirely different subject, words matter. They build our reality. Choosing the right ones will guarantee we create a more promising future for everyone.