It’s no secret that we are big fans of Amy Waninger. She was a great guest on the show and has helped us connect with a lot of other people.
Before talking with Amy, diversity always felt like “Yeah, people should be doing more,” but there wasn’t a lot of personal action to take. I don’t hire a lot of people, so how much of a difference can I make?
But Amy opened my eyes to the importance of a diverse network and how it puts the onus back on all of us instead of no one in particular.
I noticed the power of a personal network when a friend moved into my area and was looking for a job. We went out to lunch and talked about what he was doing. I was immediately ready to open doors and make introductions for him.
Behind the scenes, I was frustrated that there wasn’t more diversity in his industry, but here I was, ready to do all I could to help another white man get a job. I don’t feel bad that I was eager to help my friend, but it did make me realize without a diverse network, I would not put in that same level of effectiveness for someone from a marginalized background.
The thesis of Network Beyond Bias is that this is normal behavior. People with a strong social network love to make connections and be generous–and there’s nothing quite as generous as finding a job for someone. Personal networks are more than just job portals, but when you don’t have a job, that’s immediately where you go to.
If your personal network is made up of people just like you, then when it comes time to be generous, who is going to benefit from it? People just like you. And so it goes.
Network Beyond Bias starts with an overview of the topics of networking and diversity and then goes really deep into the importance of blending the two.
I recognize the irony of white fragility here, but one of the things I liked best about the book is that Amy is kind in making her point. She doesn’t berate people like me for being so late to this issue but gives the information to ‘well-meaning’ people like me need to move forward.
For example, she’s got a fantastic chapter on gender identity that really explains the lay of the land for anyone who is new to understanding this area. It’s comprehensive, introductory, empathetic, and also direct in its message. It gave me a lot more knowledge and confidence to move forward.
Amy makes a list of ten commitments in the middle of the book that should really become a ‘bill of right actions’ for those from a privileged group. It includes things like making sure others feel safe, calling attention to microaggressions, listening, amplifying the voices of people of color, noticing when others are excluded, educating yourself, and acting as an ally even if others don’t claim you yet.
The absolute best part of the book is towards the end when she starts to list out all the ideas you can put into practice for finding people who are different than you are. There are some really interesting ideas like attending a different conference than you would normally go to, leveraging existing employee resource groups, and software user groups.
This book is for anyone who wants to stand up and take the first step towards being an ally, but lacks diversity in their own personal network.
If you haven’t read Network Beyond Bias yet, get your copy here.