In the Garage

Diversity beyond the surface

November 08, 2023 | 3 Minute Read

At a previous job, I joined a workshop titled #IAmRemarkable, held by Google, that proclaimed to coach participants on being able to sell your success and achievements better. As a natural introvert and someone who doesn’t like beating my chest about how great I am, I thought it sounded like an interesting chance to do something different.

Looking around the room of about 30 participants, there were only three men. It wasn’t surprising that this workshop was so lopsided; in fact, when a coworker and I told some men in our team that we were at this workshop, they looked at us funny and asked, “Why would you even need a workshop on selling your success?”

One thing that struck me was that the presenter defined “diversity” as “the ratio between men and women.” I even wrote it down and underlined it with my own notation: ?!?!?!?!

Before I get into my thoughts on this definition, I’d like to say the workshop itself was thought-provoking. I saw how different people see why they’re remarkable, what they considered as “success,” and how success can be a personal matter. Of course, it’s normal to have measures of success at work that are external, but it’s important to have a healthy mix of both. To sum up, the key takeaways were:

  1. Speak about your achievements. They won’t speak for themselves if you don’t.
  2. It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts.
  3. Self-promotion is a like a muscle that needs to be trained. The more you use it, the better you’ll get.
  4. Empowerment and supporting other people are important.

But here’s a takeaway I had myself—diversity is key to have successful teams because success looks different to everyone. To go back to my main point, it annoyed me greatly that the presenter’s definition was so narrow. Even if we’re just talking about men and women, there’s a whole spectrum there and we’re not just binary.

We can’t just think of diversity as being limited to the things we see, such as gender and race. Diversity goes way beyond that, especially when defining success. Education, (dis)ability, economic opportunity and life experience are all characteristics that have an impact on what “success” may mean, and none of them are visible at a glance. Upon graduating from high school, I felt successful just getting an acceptance to my college because I had thought it was a reach for me. When I was actually at college, there were definitely other students whose idea of success was vastly different than mine because they had basically expected to be accepted. Their educational opportunites at private boarding schools was beyond what I had even experienced in my suburban public high school.

Within a team, having a balance in overall job experience and tenure within the team are factors that should be considered in addition to things like gender and race. Success for a team can look very different when there’s a good of people, and hopefully more experienced teammates will support others to set ambitious but achievable goals. Beyond that, individuals should be aware of “selling success” because some people are not conditioned to do that as easily; again, supporting each other here and understanding where everyone is coming from is important.

I find myself actively reminding myself about the four key points from the workshop that are outlined above. The last point is one I ruminate on the more I go into leadership roles. I try to be supportive, listen, offer help where I can, and understand that it’s not always a competition. By choosing to be places that focus on diversity, I hope that I can continually improve and keep seeing new ideas about what it means to be successful.