How to Help Others Feel Part of the “In-Group”
Advice from Bristol Myers Squibb Executive Director Antonia Russell
If you ask Antonia Russell to pinpoint where exactly she gets her determination from, she'd probably credit her grandparents, who emigrated to the U.S. with a sixth-grade education and built successful lives for themselves, and her father, who encouraged his three daughters to be independent and not feel boxed in by society's expectations for women.
Antonia internalized her father's advice at an early age, opting to study computer science in high school instead of the secretarial classes the school expected female students to take. She fell in love with computers and went on to study computer science and mathematics at Rutgers, where she also played D1 tennis. She then went on to earn an advanced degree in Engineering at Lehigh University. As she started her career, she continued to defy expectations, pushing back against the common assumption at the time that women would leave the workforce after getting married.
Now the Executive Director of Global Risk Management for biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, Antonia sat down with us to talk about what it's like being a member of an out-group at work, how sheer individual determination isn't enough to create truly inclusive workplaces, and what leaders can do to make everyone feel welcome.
Odd one out
The terminology of in-groups and out-groups comes from social psychology and refers to people's tendency to gather with others who seem like them (and to leave out others who don't). That us-versus-them dynamic can be extremely harmful (in the case of white supremacists) or relatively benign (in the case of rival football fans on game day). At work, women, Black people, LBTQ+ individuals, and others are often part of out-groups, and even if their peers and managers aren't actively aware of treating them any differently, they often have very different work experiences from those in the in-group.
Antonia's used to that feeling. She says that as the only woman in her computer science program at Rutgers, she learned to focus on her work and not on the fact that no one in her classes looked like her. "I was always a bit competitive, so I said, 'Wait, I can do this,'" she says.
As she entered the workforce, she kept noticing that nagging feeling of not belonging. It would come up in small ways, like an early manager sitting her down and earnestly telling her, "'If you want to advance as a senior leader here, you need to think about dressing differently.' I looked at him and he was dressed the exact same way I was dressed," remembers Antonia.
That pervasive exclusion led Antonia to not tell anyone at work she was pregnant until she was well past the six-month mark. "I was afraid of what was going to happen," she says. "That's not a reflection on the company. It's just a reflection on the time."
Even so, that constant stress took a toll. "I know now that feeling like part of the out-group creates physical pain. It actually takes up space in your brain and preoccupies your energy, almost like being sick," says Antonia, referencing neuroscience research like this recent Science article.
As Antonia moved up in her career and started taking on bigger and bigger management roles, she dug into the science around inclusion and in-groups and out-groups. It helped her make sense of what she'd experienced throughout her career—and it also helped her determine what kind of leader she wanted to be. "It validated all these years of how I was actually feeling, and that validation was a breakthrough," she says. "It empowered me to say, 'Okay, well, I have unconscious bias as well. How can I include people intentionally and not accidentally exclude them?' It made me more compassionate and understanding of others."
Finding her fit
A lot of Antonia's work to feel more included and be a more inclusive leader was self-directed. She combed through the NeuroLeadership Institute's materials and decided to start putting herself forward for opportunities and proactively asking to network with in-group members.
But she still wanted to be working at an organization that made that work easier and expected it of all its leaders, not just the ones who self-selected into it. "The turning point for me was when I joined BMS," explains Antonia of finding a culture that systematically worked to include everyone. "I really saw the commitment, the investment, the talk and the walk of being able to be our authentic selves and helping others along in the journey."
She cites BMS's social justice programs and ongoing trainings for managers and staff as examples of that. "Starting the conversation creates an environment where it's safe to express opinions and experiences, with a framework that's constructive," she says.
For Antonia, BMS's open and encouraging culture has transferred to remote work, too. She notes that senior leaders have all changed their profile pictures to be more casual and more representative of their current day-to-days—like showing off their beard-in-progress or not appearing perfectly coiffed—and that expectations are that everyone shows up however best works for them.
"In fact, I wore this to a meeting the other day," says Antonia, gesturing at her top, "and it's just an orange sweater. Somebody joked to me, 'Why are you so dressed up?'" Antonia laughs, then continues: "It's really substance over form. It's a healthy environment where people can thrive."
What individuals and leaders can do to promote inclusion at work
As an executive director, Antonia oversees several BMS teams. She knows there are certain things individual employees can do to advocate for themselves at work.
Here are her top tips for PowerToFly readers who are individual contributors:
1) "Recognize if you're missing information or relationships to do your job." If you're not invited into those conversations, lean in through your job responsibilities and ask." Antonia gives the example of taking on a new responsibility recently of overseeing BMS's digital therapeutics delivery and proactively asking if she could join that team's weekly forum to get up to speed. "I could've sat back and said, 'Well, nobody's invited me.' Don't act like a victim," she says.
2) "Have an honest conversation with yourself about the environments you feel safe in and the ones you don't. If you feel like you aren't being recognized, like you're falling behind, or like you're being bypassed for opportunities, that's an indicator that this may not be the right environment for you. Have a conversation with your boss or HR and see if you can turn it around."
3) "If over time you continue to experience the same toxic feeling, it's time for a change." Antonia calls this "leaning to the side" as opposed to "leaning in": "Recognize you're being wronged and say, 'Okay, I'm going to let that go, and I'm going to put my energy in a situation that is more amenable to how I can thrive.'" She recommends looking for a new role within your company or, if you think that's not far enough away from the toxic behavior, at a new organization.
But as vital as those tips are for individual employees to enact, Antonia knows that the real responsibility—and real opportunity—for creating safe and inclusive workplaces falls to managers and other leaders.
Here's what she recommends those leaders do:
1) "Educate yourself on inclusive habits." She cites the problems associated with certain boys'-club ways of thinking about building relationships work, whether that's doing team building in a way influenced by unconscious biases (like not inviting women to after-work drinks) or expecting everyone else to engage in the same way that you do (such as being an extrovert who loves big brainstorming sessions). Start by signing up for anti-bias training if your work offers it, or advocating for it if it doesn't.
2) "Lift up every voice without making them feel uncomfortable." For Antonia, that's meant providing various avenues for employees to present work to her, from scheduling one-on-one meetings to giving ample notice before expecting a team presentation.
3) "Understand that 'We need to get this done by Friday' doesn't work for everybody." Instead, try experimenting with flexible working hours or deadlines. "Create a safe environment where [individuals] are aware that you want to listen. Be patient to work through situations and come up with solutions," she says.
If you're interested in learning more about BMS or seeing their open roles, visit their PowerToFly employer profile.
Branwyn Baughman, recruiter at Lockheed Martin, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
Take a look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as some top-notch tips that Branwyn outlines on how you can make your application stand out.
To learn more about Lockheed Martin and their open roles, click here.
6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
Stephanie Acker, director of inside sales at Commvault, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as her own career journey.
To kick things off, Stephanie mentioned the three things that make a great inside sales professional: an independent work ethic, the ability to learn and execute on their own, and an awareness of what keeps them motivated.
Over her 12-year career at Commvault, Stephanie's greatest motivation has been helping customers to find solutions and catapult them to success. In both her past role as a sales representative and her current director position, Stephanie remains committed to ensuring her team understands what motivates them to sell and setting them up for success.
The biggest surprise during her career at Commvault was becoming the director of inside sales. Stephanie shared that she loves working for a company that listens to new ideas, thinks outside of the box, and tries new things.
Don't miss her take on what moves a candidate forward in the interview process! For example, Stephanie loves when the interviewee gets into "the zone"—showing their selling technique. She also shares her favorite interview questions.
As Stephanie says, stop thinking and apply today!
To learn more about Commvault and their open roles, click here.
When you think about strong female leadership, what comes to mind? For Tatiana L., a global client partner in Miami, it's about more than having an executive seat, being a mother, or making dreams come true. "Good leadership is about being open, flexible, and able to understand different perspectives," she says. "It's about fostering collaboration, bringing people together, and empowering them to connect."
Tatiana L. is a global client partner based in Miami.
Tatiana is part of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group and helped plan Women's Leadership Day, an annual global community summit. While the highly-anticipated event takes place over just one day, its massive impact is felt over the course of the entire year.
Amy W. is an operations lead based in London.
"Women's Leadership Day is more than an event. It's energy, and it's a movement," Amy W., an operations lead in London, says. "Moments like this can completely change the perception of women in technology."
From choosing the content and programming for the event to making it accessible for women around the globe, we went behind the scenes with seven members of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group to learn more about how women are empowered—and are empowering one another— in their career journeys at the Facebook company.
Behind the scenes with Women@
Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager based in Singapore, speaking onstage at 2019 Women@ Leadership Day in APAC.
"I've always been passionate about empowering women, but I didn't know how I could do it at work. My first Women@ experience changed how I felt at Facebook," Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager in Singapore, remembers. "From then on, I wanted to help other women feel heard, valued, and confident."
Planning the global event, which brings together women from more than 20 countries, calls for close collaboration across multiple teams, regions, and timezones. Members of Women@ also partner with other Facebook Resource Groups, such as the Pride@ Resource Group, Latin@ Facebook Resource Group, Desis@ Facebook Resource Group and Black@ Resource Group, to ensure all women at Facebook are represented and feel included.
Vivian V. is a program manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Across regions and communities, we each bring unique differences and powerful stories. When one of us moves forward, we have the opportunity to bring all of us forward," Vivian V., a program manager in the San Francisco Bay Area explains. "While planning the summit, we meet weekly to talk about what women in different regions are experiencing. From the event theme and content to planning speaker sessions and fine-tuning details, we each have items to own. Two months before the summit, we meet daily to share updates and make sure nothing slips through the cracks."
"Just like me, women in APAC look forward to Women's Leadership Day all year long," Amanda says. Planning something that's deeply meaningful to so many people can feel like a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it's uplifting. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about our individual and shared challenges, and we map out ways we can build community while empowering leadership for women across the globe."
Empowering confidence, equality, and leadership through storytelling
Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, and Amanda M. collaborate with women across the globe to plan Women@ programming and events.
Women's Leadership Day encourages women to talk about challenges like experiencing imposter syndrome, breaking through barriers, and how to manage work/life flexibility. "Storytelling is a huge part of the event," Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, explains.
Vivian says, "I've been at Facebook for nearly two years and help plan these events, and honestly, I never really understood imposter syndrome before I got here. Working with the Women@ community and hearing from our speakers—who are talented, brilliant superstars—I've seen firsthand how it affects them too."
Michelle C. is a client partner based in London.
Michelle C., a client partner in London, says that the summit's speaker sessions, which feature people from inside and outside of Facebook, are a highlight of every event. "We had a speaker from Tel Aviv who talked about the importance of balance in her personal life and how she co-parents with her husband. She shared specific things she's done, like adding her husband to the WhatsApp chat groups for mothers she's in and reminding her daughter's school that her husband is also available when their child feels sick. Her message was that we'll never be equal in the workplace until we're equal at home, and it really struck a chord."
Paris says that in APAC, Eva Chen's talk about facing challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic and how she's raising her daughter was a top-rated session because it was so relatable. "From talking about her daughter's love for dinosaurs—a "boy" thing—and raising kids to fully be themselves to opening up about what it was like to grow up with immigrant parents from China and Vietnam, Eva inspired us with her authenticity and openness. Her struggle to feel supported while working in fashion and tech, rather than medicine, is something a lot of people in APAC understand."
"Every woman has a unique story," Michelle says. "Hearing from others is inspiring, validating, and truly eye-opening. It reminds us that we're not alone."
A memorable and lasting impact
It's no surprise that with the tremendous amount of planning and careful consideration that goes into the summit, its full impact is impossible to measure.
"It meant so much to me when people shared such positive feedback about Women's Leadership Day," Paris says. "We heard that some attendees felt inspired for days and weeks."
Kira G. is an agency partner based in Berlin.
Kira G., an agency partner in Berlin, has witnessed how the summit's programming can inspire action, even helping people push past a career plateau. "We might reach a point in our careers when we think, "I can't do this anymore, I'm not moving forward'," she says. "Women's Leadership Day gives us fresh perspectives, shows us new approaches, and starts important conversations. This can unlock new paths for growth and help us move forward."
Impact is felt in other Facebook groups, communities, and across teams too, inspiring interest and allyship. Amanda explains, "I felt so proud when a male VP from the Sales team came to us after hearing about what people talked about at Women's Leadership Day. He told us he wanted to learn more because it's everyone's responsibility to be an ally."
Empowering the community throughout the year
While Amanda describes Women's Leadership Day as a "bump in energy and inspiration" and "an injection of adrenaline", Vivian says that the real magic is what happens afterwards—and takes place all year long.
"When we think about Women's Leadership Day, our focus is on making sure that the powerful messages we hear and experience serve us throughout the entire year. We ask ourselves questions like, "How can we sprinkle these themes into our programming throughout the month or quarter? How do these ideas fit with our Women@ initiatives?" Going through something awesome together is just the beginning. Our work takes place year-round and we're constantly building on it to do more."
Paris agrees: "There's no shortage of amazing stories from our Women@ community throughout the year. Women's Leadership Day is just one channel for those stories, and I love how it stays top of mind with people and empowers them to do more good. When we come together, we can do anything we dream of."
"We're building a sisterhood and a community," Tatiana beams. "It feels so good to know there's always someone there to support you."
Learn more about Facebook's Employee Resource Groups, including Women@ here.