One of the biggest challenges Kamilah Taylor, Software Engineer at LinkedIn, faces around building a diverse team is getting other people to understand that there’s even an issue in the first place. “Not everybody really notices those things,” she says. Those things she’s referring to are the things that form an insidious pattern of “the same sort of people who get promoted, who get to take on larger challenges, and who get to prove themselves more” that is common at most companies.
So why does this happen?
It happens because people often act and think with a tribal mentality — preferring the comfort that comes with being surrounded by people who look like them and share similar perspectives. Kamilah is keenly aware that “not everyone looks at situations and teams, and is really introspective about whether or not everybody is being given equal opportunities to take on larger projects, more ownership, and more leadership.”
And without that introspection there is a lack of intentionality, which then leads people to fall back into default mode. “Very often,” Kamilah says, “it’s a little bit too easy to pick somebody who maybe just looks like you, or you identify something in common.” These patterns happen far too frequently, so Kamilah has started to call them into question.
“One of the biggest challenges for me,” Kamilah says, “is not only speaking out to make sure that I get the same opportunities, but also noticing [what I can do] for others on the team.” This is a hallmark of inclusiveness leadership — having the awareness to recognize that if you are being overlooked for opportunities, other people very likely are being overlooked as well. Over time, Kamilah has grown confident in finding ways to make suggestions to people in leadership positions about how they can change their pattern of thinking and behavior.
And while not all folks are receptive to her suggestions, Kamilah says she is seeing an overall trend toward positive change in the industry from when she started six or seven years ago. “People are more aware, and they’re starting to wonder: What is it that we’re doing? Why are we losing these people?” These are good questions to be asking, Kamilah says, because “for the first time people are really confronting [the issues]. People are just being a little more honest and confronting some ugly truths to we can actually see what the problem is and find solutions.”
And even though there is positive change occurring in the tech industry, things are far from ideal. Speaking about a particular frustrating moment early on in her career, Kamilah says, “I realized that nobody’s looking out for me in this industry.” She spoke up and got through the stressful situation, but wishes she had had a mentor at the time who she could turn to “when these types of things happen at work. Now I have a mentor, and a much stronger network to tap into [so I can] relate the conversations and [get help on] how to act and do the next thing.”
Kamilah is doing her part to change workplace culture to be more inclusive. She is a contributor to the book Women in Tech, geared toward women who are considering getting into tech, or those already in a tech job who want to take their career to the next level. We all––no matter our gender identity––would do well to listen to Kamilah’s advice.
Listen to the full podcast below or here.
LinkedIn: Kamilah Taylor on the Importance of Paying Attention to Patterns of Exclusion