[How to diversify your team] – Tip #2 Welcoming diversity

If you’ve applied the tips I gave in the previous article, you should now have several new female recruits! The question now is how to integrate them into the different departments. How do you ensure that they enjoy working in their respective teams? That’s what we’ll look at together in today’s article.

Let’s start with welcoming new recruits

1. Choosing the team

If you are in an industry that hires a majority of men, taking care of the composition of new teams can be a trickier task than it seems. How do you ensure that your new female hires will feel comfortable in the departments they will be joining?            

Whenever possible, it is best to place a female employee in a team with one or more other female colleagues. Being the only (or even the first) woman in an all-male group can be very intimidating, especially for someone who is not used to it. So contrary to what one might think, it is better to group women together than to try to cover as many departments as possible by placing them one by one.

2. A welcoming workplace

Another “basic” tip is to make sure that the environment is welcoming. For example, you can start by removing calendars or other posters of naked women (a situation I was regularly confronted with when I started working on oil rigs)… More seriously, as I’m assuming that this is now a thing of the past, it is better to check that what is displayed is not offensive, even under the pretence of humor – the infamous humor that excuses everything.

3. A successful first day at work

Next, welcoming the new hire will play a determining role. First impressions are difficult to change. It is therefore important to prepare the arrival of the new employee. At the very least, you should go around the department to introduce the newcomer, explain the roles of each person and also plan meetings with the people who will be able to help her in her mission. This is part of the general good practices, which many people already apply. Another good practice is to appoint a reference person to whom the new recruit can turn for any question, and especially to make sure that this person is favourable to the arrival of diversity in his or her department.

But, as usual, it would be too easy to stop at a welcoming workplace and a successful first day. It is absolutely necessary to make sure that the team spirit is truly inclusive and to do so, you must not tolerate any sexist remarks.

This requires combating ordinary sexism, which is at the heart of the problem, but I will not address here, as it will benefit from a future dedicated article.

So, you will have to act proactively to ensure that the first impression made through your good preparation and welcome is confirmed over time.

First of all, the only acceptable tolerance on the subject of sexism is zero tolerance. The basic principle is to not let anything get past you. Indeed, it starts with a little joke, then you get used to it, and it drifts easily. The question is then to decide what is acceptable or not. Zero tolerance helps to avoid dilemmas and will make everyone’s life easier.

Second, it is not enough to rely on management or other women to ensure that everyone behaves properly. While it is important that the tone be set and that the company publicly express its inclusive policy, it is everyone’s responsibility to enforce it.

One method that has been used with some success is unconscious bias training. I am one of those people who believes that most of these behaviors are due to ignorance rather than actual malice. Let’s give everyone a chance to learn and understand what can be done to behave better.

Finally, don’t hesitate to repeat things that should be obvious… Because if they were really obvious, I wouldn’t have to write these articles!

In conclusion, with the proper preparation, the arrival of your new female recruits in your department can only go well. It is important to pay attention to the behaviors of different team members and to intervene when they are likely to create an uncomfortable climate, so that all of us in our respective companies can work in pleasant and respectful conditions. And considering the amount of time we all spend at work, it would be a lot nicer!

If this seems so complicated that you’re wondering: “Why bother? “, tell yourself that it usually doesn’t last long and that the atmosphere will only be better in the end for everybody.

[How to diversify your team] – Tip#1 Diversify your recruitment

People often ask me to share tips and tricks to promote diversity at the workplace. I’m going to walk you through the methods that allowed me to increase the number of women in my team for each of my roles.

And because it is trendy to do Top 10s, I am starting a series of 10 articles, to explain meticulously, step by step, the mechanism I use, so that anyone, man or woman, can use it at their level.

For the first article of this series, let’s start by the beginning: recruitment.

Or rather: how to recruit more women?

« I would like to hire more women in my team, but I can’t find any. » Who has never heard this infamous excuse?

Indeed, the best way to prevent diversity from increasing is to deny any responsibility and make no changes to the method used to find talent. Denial being just one step before the policy of burying our heads in the sand like an ostrich.

More seriously, if you’ve already had that thought, we’re going to determine together the best path to follow to solve the problem.

  1. The company’s brand image

First, it’s essential to analyse the image that your company reflects and to ask yourself, in full transparency, if a woman could relate to it. When you work in a typically male-oriented industry, like the ones I’ve worked in (oil & gas and construction), it doesn’t seem that obvious. Yet sometimes, little is needed to change a company’s image, such as ensuring that every publication presents a true diversity, both on the company website and on social media, that the company has published a non-discrimination policy…etc. This underlines the idea that gender equality plays an important role for the company.

This could be out of your reach, but it’s certainly possible to get the message across to HR or the communications department.

2. The job posting

You might be under the impression that changing your company’s image is out of your control. This question remains: What can you do at your level?

This tip is for anyone who manages a team, however small it may be, and who has (or will have) a position to fill. I’ve always managed to have more diversity in my teams, by using a simple trick. When I’m looking for someone new for a role, I always request that there be a true diversity in the candidates selected by HR. The word « request » is not an exaggeration, because I have no issue blocking the recruitment process if it’s not met.

Therefore, HR must receive enough candidates to ensure that there isn’t a unique profile. And we’re going to help them.

The first step is to make sure that the job posting and the vocabulary used is truly inclusive, such as using “man or woman” in the text.

But don’t get too excited, it doesn’t stop there. The topic of diversity has been studied widely and there are a lot of readings online on cognitive biases. It’s thus important to understand them to make sure that your job posting is suitable for everyone.

For instance, with equal qualifications, approximately 20% less women apply for a role. This is a known phenomenon, often a consequence of the way women were raised, leading them to apply to a role only if their qualifications meet 100% of the requirements. A man will more frequently take more risks. Therefore, without lowering the threshold for required skills, it could be beneficial to review the job description to remove skills that aren’t crucial, such as « at least 10 years of experience in that sector » but instead focus in explaining the role in detail.

Women continue to be the main accountable spouse in charge of children’s education and the majority of household chores. Explaining in the job description that the role could have flexible hours, be partially remote, or even be part-time (most jobs are completely doable part-time, at 80% or 90% capacity), would remove an additional obstacle in these candidacies.

If the role is for an entry-level graduate, it’s important to make sure that students who are fresh out of university want to work for your company. It’s not that difficult, but it requires some time. The most efficient way is to find female employees who’d be willing to run regular conferences or presentations on campuses. They could then highlight their company’s gender-inclusive policy in their speech, and how amazing it is to work there as a woman.

There you have it. Thanks to your spectacular job with the job posting and the substantive work in universities, you now have plenty of female candidates.

After this step comes the long-awaited moment of the job interview.

  1. The job interview

30 years ago, when I decided that I wanted to become a field engineer on an oil rig, the recruiter asked me what my mother thought of my career choice. I had answered « would you ask men this question? No? Then you’ll understand that I refuse to answer it. »

I’m optimist and I’m sure that 30 years later, we’ve made a lot of progress, and that recruiters – apart from very few exceptions, no longer ask inappropriate questions on possible future children for instance, or questions from another era.

But avoiding sexist questions is the bare minimum and is definitely not enough – that’d be too easy.

Our own subconscious biases are a lot more insidious. We all tend to hire people that are similar to us, with whom we have created affinities, and who correspond to the members of our usual network. But is that really the best way to build a team that represents diversity in its way of thinking or approaching problems? And this isn’t about parity, but rather how interesting it is to have people with different backgrounds, nationalities, and opinions within the same team. So it’s important to overcome this bias. Being aware of it is the first essential step, but it’s still not enough. Another way to be more impartial during the interview is to ask very different people to be a part of the recruitment process. And of course, be open and ready to take « risks » to recruit people with unique profiles.

At this point, there’s nothing left but to select a candidate. If at the end of the process, it so happens that the best candidate for the role is a man, then of course hire him! The purpose of this article is to make sure that during the interview process, qualified female candidates were given the opportunity to apply, and not only men. Who knows, this might prevent you from missing out on your company’s next CEO!

But the recruitment part isn’t all of it, and we’ll see together in the next article the best methods to keep the women in your team!

To quota or not to quota, that is the question?

When I started this blog, I knew that one day I’d have to address a topic slightly more controversial than the ones treated until now. The day has come, and we’re going to talk about the very contentious subject of quotas! Indeed, although I’ve been wanting to talk about it for some time, I pushed it back as much as I could to avoid potential harsh criticism. Only recently I found an article by the amazing Isabella Lenarduzzi covering the question « Quotas are a medicine for an ill society ». It’s fate, I can’t avoid it any longer,this article has to be written.

She talks about Belgium, where the laws are different than in France, but the problems are the same. She mentions the BNB and the low number of women in governing bodies.

But the true purpose of the article is to ask the question that everyone wonders deep down when talking about quotas. As Isabella said so well« « Doesn’t this quota system have a humiliating aspect for women,named because they’re women and not necessarily because of their skills? »Humiliating, no. Stigmatizing, yes. I know what I’m talking about: in many panels, I’m often the female-quota. Without the quotas, I probably wouldn’t be invited. Quotas are a medicine for a sick society. A society suffering from the“entre-soi”, from mimicry.

Do I agree with Isabella? Am I in favor or no of quotas? I won’t keep the mystery alive much longer, I’ll admit it right away – I’m for quotas – entirely, 1000%pro-quotas, all the while dreaming that one day we’ll alleviate their importance.

In my first article, I was talking about how I was recruited by Schlumberger at a time where they weren’t hiring women. A few years later, a rule of parity was implemented. By the way, the origin of this change isn’t anecdotal. Indeed, the CEO’s daughter, who had just graduated, complained to her dad about the sexism she encountered during her job search. Her dad, of course, was angered by such discrimination. However, he wondered “what about the company I manage?” After looking into it, he was surprised to find out that less of 1% of the field recruits were women! He decided to change that number as soon as possible, and as he was an “action-man”, he immediately established recruitment quotas.

One argument from people against quotas is: does that mean they only hire women because they’re women? Yes and no. Yes, they’re partly recruited for that –positive discrimination, but also and above all because they have the required skills. A recruiter needs to do his job, which is to hire the best possible candidate for the job, regardless of sex. A quota won’t be a good enough reason to hire someone who doesn’t meet the requirements, as they’ll just become a source of problems for their manager, who would probably come back and yell at the recruiter. The recruiter would not keep his job very long! However, there’s no shortage of young ladies graduates that are both motivated and qualified! Why not turn towards them?

So,quotas, what do they change? It simply forces companies who aren’t necessarily known for their parity to implement a policy to attract women. When we ask little 8-year old what they want to do when she grows up, very few answer“field engineer on an oil rig”. Therefore, instead of trying to dismiss female applicants to avoid the hassle, as they did with me back in 1989, recruiters need to explain to them why they’re made for the job. To become more attractive, a few methods exist. First, saying loud and clear, through different campaigns, that women are welcome. Then, inviting pioneers or senior women to schools, conferences, etc. to attest the fact that it’s an amazing job opened to all. For instance, with their quota policy, Schlumberger’s recruiting of women field engineers increased to 15% in about 10 years, and to about 30%after 20 years.

And when it comes to promoting an employee? Same thing. Once again, and I say it often, companies aren’t going to name “female – flowerpots” because there’s a required performance level to reach and the only way to do that is to promote the most competent person for the job, regardless of gender. Quotas are simply going to oblige them to go and find the infamous “talented – quiet” women that I often talk about. They’re women that aren’t in the limelight or don’t dare to apply for a job that they want even though they’re perfectly qualified for the position. It’ll allow them to wonder “the five potential replacements for this position are all men, maybe I’m missing out on a qualified woman?” Of course, a male might be picked over his female counterpart, and if he’s more competent,it’s completely normal! However, quotas force managers to ask themselves if they should put a woman at such or such job. And it prevents this cycle to start again, where male managers are replaced by similar profiles, male as well, creating a vicious mechanism where a woman never seems to fit in.

We don’t have a choice. If we want to disrupt codes and conventions and we really want things to move forward, then so-called “male” industries need to hire more women. And the only way to see the curve evolve is by giving quantitative goals to stakeholders.

But women themselves are against quotas? Yes,indeed, I hear female friends say: I don’t want to be a female quota. But I don’t believe it – for the reasons mentioned above. And when a woman truly believes it, that means that the destabilization technique of some of her male colleagues, who don’t see this feminization with a good eye, is working well.

And yes, if I get asked the question, of course I’ve had some jobs because I’m a woman. Or, at least, it’s the case with my current job. My boss wanted a woman to kill two birds with one stone – have an expert in the field while feminizing his management line, therefore bringing in a role model for his diversity plan. Does this make my action less credible?Absolutely not. It compensates for all the jobs that me or others didn’t get because of gender.

In conclusion, to come back to Isabella’s article“Quotas are a medicine for an ill society” – and like every medicine, it’s something we would like to eradicate. A medicine that the industry needs to keep taking until it’s properly treated. The day the number of women recruited in different industries will be sufficient (I know, we could add a chapter on the definition of “sufficient”, but today I leave that up to you) – that day,everyone, me first, will be very glad to stop quotas!

Staying with the subject of recruitment, let’s take a closer look at wages.

When we talk about wage inequality, the argument that often comes up is “Are we really talking about equivalent experience for an equivalent position? Women may have slowed down their career or taken time off when their children were born, these choices had an impact which explains the different wage evolution even for an equivalent position… Etc.”

There may be some truth in these arguments, but I don’t intend to cover that here. At least not yet.

Logically, we should not find a salary difference when leaving school?

Let’s have a look…….

The latest wage study conducted by the engineers and scientists society of France (IESF) showed a difference of almost 2k euros in starting salaries when the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE), mentions a 1.7k euros difference.

So, how can this be explained ? Firstly, graduate female engineers study predominantly in fields such as water, sanitation, agribusiness, etc. where wages are on average lower than other sectors of industry. Also, according to CGE and IESF, about 10% fewer women get a permanent employment placement for their first job !

Other reasons to understand this phenomenon are :

  1. Women are poorer at negotiating …

This may have been true before, but not so much now. Young women negotiate much better than their predecessors. But has this resulted in improved results for women ?

A recent study by HBR in Australia, which surveyed 4,600 employees, showed that women negociate just as much as men, but have less satisfactory results.

Another thing that surprised me, this time in the USA, a survey of 2500 people, found that when a job announcement does not say that the salary is negotiable, men would be more likely to negotiate than women. On the other hand, when it is explicit that salary is negotiable, women do negotiate more than men.

  1. Unconscious bias

Unfortunately, this exists for both the employer and employee. Many women are still not comfortable with the idea of ​​earning more than their partner and would self-censor. On the side of the companies they anticipate that a woman will be less mobile, will require maternity leave and will eventually choose a better work-family balance, which could impact productivity.

In my case, I experienced at least 2 times salary discrimination on hiring. I did a thorough salary research  when applying for the position and refused to budge on my requirements. I got the job at the requested salary, but with a big delay. I found out afterwards that I was really asking for a lot, which explained why they had hesitated to hire me. Another engineer was hired at the same time as me, same age, same experience but less relevant for the position. From the beginning, I was given more strategic projects than him. Then I discovered some time later that he was paid more. Needless to say that I did not stay much longer with this company.

The identification of the unconscious bias makes it conscious! Let’s inform young engineers to be aware of it and consequenctly to prepare for it (partake in negotiation training, for example) and let’s make sure that companies have a policy of hiring young graduates impartially..

My career as a female engineer: How I was hired to work on an oil platform.

Welcome to my blog on Usine Nouvelle, for which I am preparing a series of articles that I could call “What is it like for a woman working in a very masculine industry? ”

After all, does my male counterpart understand what we are facing? Does a young engineer fresh out of school know what is really waiting for her?

The idea is not to talk about statistics, quotas, laws, salaries, etc. I want to share my experiences in an environment still too little feminized, and above all to understand the invisible difficulties, the famous unconscious bias and other obstacles that hinder the career of a woman in the industry. As a starting point I will return to the beginning of my career. After 30 years of working in the oil  and then cement industries, my recruitment now seems a distant memory.

How did I enter the oil industry?

When I was a student mechanical engineer at INSA Lyon, like many young people of my age, I did not know what I wanted to do, but I was sure of one thing, I did not want a routine job, or to work in an office. It was then that I discovered the profession of field engineer and it was love at first sight, a profession perfect for me! At a recruitment forum, I made my way to the Schlumberger stand, an oilfield services company, and I asked the recruiter how to apply for a job. He looked at me nonchalantly and said “This is not a job for you,” without asking me a single question. Even though my CV was more than acceptable for a fresh-out : A humanitarian mission in Mali, an industrial internship in Brazil and presidency of the Student Government at my University, all by the tender age of 21 years.

I told him that I would not budge until he gave me a plausible explanation so I stayed there … 1 hour … 2 hours … 3 hours … Faced with my unshakable motivation (well, more likely to get rid of me) he finally gave in and gave me a questionnaire, followed by a job interview, punctuated with sexist questions: “What does your mother think of your choice? “. Me: “Do you ask this question to men? “. Him: (embarrassed): “Ahh… no”. Me: (calmly): “So you do not really need me to answer? “.

Was I dealing with a particularly sexist company and a misogynist recruiter? Not at all. I had in front of me a person who had never dealt with the recruitment of a female engineer, and who just did not know how to handle it[1].

Today questions so openly sexist are rarely heard of. Recruitment processes are formalized, male and female candidates receive similar treatment.

Voila, that’s it!

Problem solved. Article completed.

Signed: Magali Anderson

Yeah right………..

I wish I could finish my article there, except that differences still exist. The sexism I faced was undeniable and indefensible because it was so visible. Today for certain industries it exists, but more obscurely. For example, sexism can be found in the way a job offer is written or in the very masculine image that an industry projects itself, offering the impression to women that they are not suitable for it.

There are two issues. Companies that don’t know how or want to recruit women, and women who do not know they can access certain industries

I suggest to start with the problematic company. The recruiter is faced with the fear of introducing a disruptive element that could change the dynamics of the group. And not just any element, a young graduate woman, who has not yet proven herself or acquired legitimacy. The recruiter must therefore leave his comfort zone.

To make this possible he will recruit a ground-breaker, a woman with a strong character who can manage in this male dominated environment. That’s good, but is it sustainable, and above all, what about all the women who are very competent but less “driven”? The trailblazers are not necessarily going to change the mentality of the group because they blend in. The fight is really won the day any woman, regardless of her personality, can integrate.

As a company, how do you motivate recruiters to recruit more diversely? There’s not plethora of effective short term methods : numerical objectives. Recruiters will have to find ways to attract women. Change the speech, better explain what these industries are like, get female employees to say why it’s great to work there. Often that’s all it takes. You will find motivated female candidates who do not want a routine job, looking to embrace a career that is “different” and who will flourish in male dominated work environments.

Next, the candidates, my second problem.

Self-censorship still exists, meaning many women cannot imagine themselves working in certain jobs. This can simply because there are not enough visible model roles. Ladies, we must change this.

Answer job postings, dare to be different, choose to be out of your comfort zone. Then, when you are in front of the recruiter, conduct yourself as you would normally do for any job interview, except that it may take a little more time and effort to show that you are quite capable of working in their industry. Your engineering degree is proof that you are capable (I am sure that all engineers will know exactly what I mean here) !

A fight from the past? I still meet managers who tell me “but our industry does not attract women”. This, to someone who started on an offshore oil rig in Nigeria, the only woman in the middle of 80 men, more than 30 years ago? Today an industry that now recruits + 25% of female engineers? Seriously?

This article is a cry from the heart, addressing women and men. My career and those of many others, show that the success of women in a male work environment is possible.

Recruitment is only the very first step but a very important one. If women do not choose to enter the male-dominated industries, the mix will not increase (Obvious, I know, but worth being stated!).

I dream of a day when entering these sectors will be as natural for a woman as it is for a man, and that so-called masculine or feminine industries will no longer exist. It will just be industries. Quite simply.

[1] Schlumberger has since become a leader on the subject by starting their Gender Diversity program in 1994