female stereotype

How to Keep Global Mobility Specialists on their Toes and Prevent Stereotyping in Tech World

As a global mobility specialist who is mandated to make their assignee succeed in a foreign country (in this case, the United States), the controversial Google memo that has been called “anti-diversity” can appear straight out of your collective nightmare.

Just as a recap: A few weeks ago, a certain engineer named James Damore wrote a memo that said in no strong uncertain terms that the reason for the shortage of women in tech roles, especially in Silicon Valley, had its roots in biological differences. His 10-page position paper was a reaction to a diversity program by the search giant. Damore didn’t agree with what he heard, felt his“conservative” values were being sidelined, and basically asked his readers to hear him out.

To cut to the chase, the argument was that biological differences determined abilities and that a particular sex may succeed in one ability while falter in another. It’s the kind of argument that one admittedly does not expect to hear in the 21st century: in short, if there are too few female engineers in Silicon Valley, it’s not necessarily due to lack of applicants or the hiring methods of the recruiters. But, the memo argues, maybe, just maybe it’s because men are more inclined toward engineering jobs than others.

How is this going to shape tech recruitment in the long run? If more companies think of stereotyping recruitment of tech talents, how do you handle it? Accept the principle on face value? As a global mobility specialist, your assignees, who are foreign nationals, must face their new country or place of employment and be comforted by the fact that their identity, culture, background and yes, their gender, does not matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s their talents, skills and experience that count. They must also see to it that their potentials are being tapped properly, and that any kind of discrimination is going to be frowned upon, so they can flourish and have room for achievement and professional growth.

Diversity and inclusion programs will go a long way in avoiding the kind of scenario that led to the controversy. An openly diverse corporate culture that respects different cultural traditions can prevent outright acts of discrimination. However, sometimes, as in the Google case, the best effort may not be enough to stamp out any latent prejudice in an individual, no matter how professionally qualified he is. Let’s face it: assignees too may have their own biases that don’t conform to American values but are smart enough to know that they cannot voice them out or act on them in a U.S. company.

But what if — intentionally or just as a casualty of pressure — an employee, homegrown or assignee, slips up and says or writes a slur that is potentially incendiary? It may not be a memo posted on a public forum or a message board, but it could be a casual remark or something angrily scribbled or posted on social media.

Here are a few things to do based on the hard lessons learned from the Google episode:

Always stand by the values you and the company have built, advises CNBC.

And it’s not just  a matter of browbeating the dissenting factors into submission or compliance. It is important that you converse with all concerned and articulate why you believe what you believe, proudly, resolutely, and neither in arrogance nor in apology. Once you’ve made that broad statement, your team can easily see what slur does not and should not be incorporated within the company culture.

Snuff the match before it escalates into a forest fire.

Check all your bases. Always check the rule book on this. It’s not just a matter of deleting an offensive post, but recognize first that the rule book actually supports its deletion — and that the employee signed an agreement to comply with what the book says prior to his onboarding. Still, that’s only one side of the story. While you do have to clamp down on negative elements that can adversely affect the company, you also must do your share in building up the positive ones. Perhaps in a quiet moment with the “offending” member of the team, appeal to his better nature, the values that bind you all together, which have all made America great, cliche as that may sound in this most disturbing of times. And then gently ask him if that negative comment truly reflects the best side of his country and what it stands for.

(If appealing to his patriotism is too big a leap, then a more practical way would be to remind him of what has made his home state or city — such as Northern California or San Francisco, for example — great, and what is keeping him that way.

Be prepared to intervene.

This may be the last recourse. Sometimes, some beliefs are too ingrained to be addressed. The person may be so stuck in his mindset he will never truly allow himself to be open to conversation. If there is anyway to distance that potentially discriminatory person from your assignees, then look into it, with the help of management and human resources. We’re not talking about a major transfer; they can still work within the same office, but they don’t have to belong to the same team.