People who are LGBTQ+ have additional concerns when looking for a job. Will my new employer be accepting of me or disapproving?
My guest, Amanda Boyd, and I discuss things to look for and, for employers, how to signal that you are an inclusive environment.
So, my guest today is Amanda Boyd. She's the founder of "Visible Talent" company in Akron, Ohio, which is a national inclusive recruiting agency specializing in connecting LGBTQ plus individuals and allies to ideal inclusive employers. Her firm's mission is not only to support job seekers a comfortable and confident employment experience, but to connect with employers wanting to improve their diversity, mission, and commitment to DEI through hiring practices that go beyond lip service. Amanda, welcome.
Amanda Boyd 00:40
Thank you for having me.
Jeff Altman 00:41
My pleasure. So, when I hear someone starting a business as yours. There's a backstory. Tell me about it.
Amanda Boyd 00:59
I have been somebody who grew up very blue collar. I've been working most of my adolescent life into my adulthood now and I've worked everywhere from a free market to a fast food restaurant to, I was ahead of campus security at my undergrad and even now, my most recent career was as an art teacher, and now I'm an entrepreneur. So, when I think about back to my experiences, where I wasn't the one hiring, where I'm the one going in blindly to these interviews, and to these jobs, situations, or opportunities that I'm trying to achieve for myself. I always felt as its somewhat disadvantage as an out in somewhat androgynous, noticeably visible lesbian. When I was an undergrad, my professors used to tell me, don't tell them that they're not going to hire you at the education field is too conservative, even though I was an art teacher and so I went into these things and like, you got to wear a dress, you should probably wear a skirt, you have a pantsuit, what's going on and it became this kind of like sense of stress for me going into my first professional experience, is what do I wear, and I'm going to be judged and already minus one going into the interview blindly, not knowing what the attributes or values of the hiring person was going to be and I probably went through five or seven different interviews, as I'm coming out of undergrad, where I just didn't get the position and I was being interviewed by a sisgendered white men. I always felt like whether that was because of me, and who I am, or it was because of my lack of confidence because I felt like I had something to hide. I was never really sure what was happening there until I met a principal in 2009 who saw me and when I say that she saw me, I meant that she used language that made me know that it was going to be okay. She asked me, oh, what's your life? Do you have a partner? Do you have this, what's going on, and just that small verbiage that she used let me know that I was in a safe place and that was actually the first person that gave me a chance professionally as somebody 22 coming out of school and as I reflect on that, and it was all uphill from that point, for me being able to kind of come out of my shell. But I never wanted to have employees as I became an entrepreneur feel that way in my interviews, and I always wanted to give younger people a ted talk that it's okay, you're not going to be for everyone. But as long as you're being authentic then you've got somewhere to go and you can stand up on your own two feet. So visible talent is just that, it's an opportunity for employees to be seen and be hired and it's an opportunity for employers to really put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversity.
Jeff Altman 04:04
And when you talked about your experience, when was that? What decade?
Amanda Boyd 04:11
This is 2007, 2009. So, we're talking like George W. We're talking issue one, we're talking don't ask, don't tell us, don't want to fact. We're talking, people are closeted in the military. People aren't able to get married. People are trying to navigate civil unions. Adoption is the subject, surrogacy legal support was nonexistent. So, it was a different time. It was 15, 20 years ago.
Jeff Altman 04:39
And the other thing for the those who don't know, you used the term sisgendered. You define it for them as well.
Amanda Boyd 04:48
Again, I'm not an expert on the gender terminology, as a profession but sis versus trans is you can kind of do it for simplicity terms. Cisgender mean that you identify with the biology of birth and a transgender mean that you have gender identity that differs profile.
Jeff Altman 05:11
Thank you. Because I want to make sure the audience follows what you said. So, with that, we're going to be covering advice for both job hunters and employers to ensure that job hunters recognize environments where they can feel safer. I have to say safer because not necessarily safe, but safer and from an employer's perspective, the kinds of things that they want to be doing to demonstrate a real commitment. So, let's start off on the employee side.
Amanda Boyd 05:51
I think there are a lot of choices that need to be made by somebody going into their career field, when it comes to their sexuality. Everyone has their own threshold of what they're willing to share and it's usually erring on the side of closeted. But I would really empower in this day and age where we are going through a gender revolution. We are looking at the brink of the Federal Equality Act, is where is your breaking point. I don't mean that you need to put your sexuality after your name as a moniker on your resume. But you can definitely put your pronouns. Are there ways that you can gently allude to your sexuality or even ally ship to the community by doing things like putting your volunteer work on the bottom of your resume? Can you refer to your cover letter in gender neutral language? How out do you want your resume to be and that of course is a personal choice? But when you do that, I would empower you to stick to it, and if someone misgenders you, correct them. If somebody speaks about people in your life in terms of gender, or spouse that doesn't reflect your lifestyle, husband, wife, etc., so on, speak up. If someone assumed you don't have children, because you are a member of the community, speak up and so that kind of like having your resume translate into your interview, have it been the same. It's really easy to be out on paper, and go into the interview and cover inside yourself and not be as comfortable or as not to stand up for yourself or not to correct people who may or may not be ignorant or not even prejudiced, could just be ignorant to your needs and your preferences in the way that people speak to you.
Jeff Altman 07:44
I'm going to interrupt for just one moment. I know that there was a point where I was working with a number of people who consider themselves gay friendly and they would always refer to a partner and I started to correct them and say, remember, wife, husband, partner, because there's equality in marriage in the United States now and I don't know what other nations, but at least in the US, there's marriage equality. So make no assumptions about who the spouses or the marital status of the person that you're talking with and I know for myself, when I've spoken to people who've been referred to me as coaching, as people to coach, I've always used that language and I've been thrilled when someone's come out and say, I was talking with my husband about this for a man or talking to my wife, for a woman, because she felt comfortable or he felt comfortable opening up to me that there was a spouse of the same gender and for those of you who are interviewing, and this is on both sides of the equation. I have to assume and please correct me, because I just don't know that the choice about revealing is a reflection of your comfort and your willingness to be yourself.
Amanda Boyd 09:11
I would tend to agree with that. I don't mean to speak for everyone. Some people have a very strong line, if they want to keep their work life and their private life private, but at some point, your private life comes into work and so I would tend to agree that the level of authenticity that you come into the workplace with, does reflect your confidence and comfort level and I do think, it matters, something as simple as your attire. How are you going to present yourself in the interview along with what you do on paper, what is your person? Are you going to be somebody who's going to be gender neutral? Are you going to be present yourself as transgender, even though you might have and if you want to talk about terminology between cisgender? Dead names are also a big issue for transgender community is, do I put my legal name or do I put my preferred name and at what point does that differ between having the legal name change having a being process? Do you present yourself as female, but allow them to call you, William? If you are in that, and that's your identity, that's fine. But what if you prefer a different name? How does that go on the resume and I do think that is also a personal preference but whatever you do, be comfortable in it and realize that if you are not going to be accepted in the interview, you are not going to be accepted in the workplace. So, is that the life you want to live?
Jeff Altman 10:55
Again, I'm learning along with some of the people, my audience that you would fill, you would have the resume with your preferred name. When you do the application for HR, you might have the conversation by saying, so this way, it's not with the workers. We're making the decision. It's with HR going. This is how I was born. This is the way you'll find my background.
Amanda Boyd 11:25
I was and I would definitely equate it no different than somebody who may be made named to married, divorced name to going back to the name. You don't have to be ashamed of this situation or tread on it because name changes happen in every type of identity.
Jeff Altman 11:42
Absolutely true. So, the first thing is making decisions about the degree of output that you're willing to pay and what's the second thing that someone might do?
Amanda Boyd 11:59
I do think you should present yourself authentically in whatever gender expression that you choose when you go into the interview. I think that pulling that, like I said, I have always in favor of going in there authentically realizing that if I'm accepted in the interview, I have a better chance of being accepted in the workplace and it really is a taking the temperature for the culture of an organization. The last thing I would say, besides resume and attire and gender expression, would be the negotiations. Heterosexual women tend to be the most complacent when it comes to asking for negotiations and salary. or asking for certain things in their contract and I think that if you are somebody that needs certain things in your life, whether it be adoption or surrogacy support, whether it be gender identity, ability in your healthcare, whether it be more higher wage, I think that sometimes in our community, we are less likely to ask for that negotiating because maybe we don't feel like we are entitled to it. It's really easy to feel, you have to come out as a child, you have to come out as a spouse. You have to come out in the workplace. I think that we should be asking for equality as well, when we're talking about our pay, and our benefits and our packages that we're accepting from employers.
Jeff Altman 13:26
It gives me the idea that it's part of the lack of freedom that people feel to be themselves that you can't ask for fear.
Amanda Boyd 13:39
They're not entitled to it, like they're not good enough for it, or they're being to appreciative about the job instead of knowing what they have to offer in the workplace.
Jeff Altman 13:51
Interesting. One of my things is helping people play big in the world and with that, comes the idea that supporting people with feeling free enough to ask to negotiate, if necessary, reject the offers that are inadequate, so that this way, there's always going to be some firm that will provide the right offer. It's a question of timing. Sometimes, if you need something now, I don't presume to make decisions for people. But there's an awareness of what you're stepping into, and the compromises you're choosing to make going into such an environment. I don't encourage or discourage; I don't have that power but it's going unconsciously.
Amanda Boyd 14:45
Absolutely. I was in another life. I was an art teacher and I had a professor told me, you can always start strong when it comes to classroom management and when it comes to classroom accountability, but you can't go in there soft and expect to be able to have a bunch of six year old. Do what you say and that's what we're trying to commandeer our employers. But at the same time, if you come in strong with what your needs are, and who you are, it's going to be a lot easier than that expectation is going to be set from the beginning.
Jeff Altman 15:18
Excellent. Do we have more tips or we going on the employer side now?
Amanda Boyd 15:22
I would go actually to the employer. I got more to tell that.
Jeff Altman 15:24
Oh, good. They need to hear without a doubt.
Amanda Boyd 15:32
Tip number one is, don't assume that you can see the diversity in your applicants.
Jeff Altman 15:38
Oh, they don't have gaydar.
Amanda Boyd 15:41
Of course not. We all might have our own level of gaydar. But yeah, I will tell you that, it's really easy. Well, I'll just hire gay people. Done. My DEI goal, my quota has been met. I will tell you that, contrary to popular belief that you need to act first, before you start trying to change things, you need to take the temperature of your culture. You need to be listening to your allies because whether you think or not, the allies are going to be the most direct route to increasing your company's inclusion.
Jeff Altman 16:17
Define an ally for the audience.
Amanda Boyd 16:18
Yes, an ally is somebody who might not identify as a member of the LGBTQ plus community. But maybe they are in favor of equal rights. Maybe they have a child that identifies a neighbor, a friend, a colleague. They are the people that are going to be more likely to stand up to bigotry. They are going to be more likely to call you out on your BS, if you are doing something that is not aligned and sometimes you have to ask, and when you ask, you'll be surprised the people that have opinions, or that have relationships in their life, that involve the community. So, I think that before you try to change, make policy changes to be more inclusive. You should probably start listening to your people, because your allies are going to be the ones steering the ship.
Jeff Altman 17:10
And let's say it's an environment where there are some allies, some not. How does someone navigate that environment as a leader of an organization?
Amanda Boyd 17:21
Again, as I told the employees that they had to go in there and have their tipping point of what they're expecting to do prior, how is their resume going to be? I would also empower the employers to say, how inclusive do are we going to be and what level of non-inclusivity are we going to accept?
Jeff Altman 17:46
That's interesting because I don't know that any employer can say, we're not going to be a particularly inclusive environment.
Jeff Altman 17:56
Gay is okay. Black is okay. I'm not sure about Latin x.
Amanda Boyd 18:07
So yes, there are different levels of acceptance. But I think that when you have an environment that might be mixed in their politics, in their views, and their morals and their values, I think that cultures attract likeminded culture, we're all people and I think that people that no longer fit a culture will weed themselves out if it's something that is that much of a deal breaker to them. So, I wouldn't voice so much about the naysayers as much as I would try to listen more to members of the community that might currently be in your organization, or the allies and around them. I would also want to let you know that as an employee, we are looking for the smallest signals of inclusiveness of inclusion. You don't have to have a gay, a pride flag on your front door. You don't have to come around and make special accommodations during Gay Pride Month. We don't have to have an office parade but what we do need are the small signals during the application, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and job process that signals to us that you are a safe place.
Amanda Boyd 19:29
The first thing I always look for on a company website. Do you have a diversity mission statement? It's not going to be but if it's there, we are going to notice it. On the application, do you have pronoun options? Am I being required to choose from a binary situation of male and female or are you going to be open and not just saying he, she, he, him, she her, they them, but do you have that other because the other is important, because self-identifying and gender expression and gender identity is as fluid as the number of people that you have in your organization. So, we have that diversity mission statement, have the pronoun option, one that you might not think about is reviewing your company dress code. A lot of dress codes are binary by just tradition. Funny story is that I grew up in near Sandusky Ohio and I worked at Cedar Point many summers of college students. Their dress code, it's better now, horribly gendered. Males couldn't have their hair longer. Women had to wear a different type of tie to their shirt, when I was a housekeeper when I was working at the hotel. Are you required?
What is business attire for your organization and if that's the case, it is already harder for heterosexual and cisgender women because the suit thing. What is the equivalent of the suit and tie? But do you require a suit and tie? Is that where you're saying that gender is defined in the business world? It's something very slight, but am I going to be seen as less professional or more professional if I wear a suit? What's funny is that, there was a study recently that talked about how people are being promoted in the workplace and it appears that it all revolves around the masculine identity of the individual. So, homosexual or bisexual women that present themselves as more masculine and their expression tend to be promoted more so than straight women that it might be more traditionally female expressed. But at the same token, straight males seem to be promoted more often than more feminine gay males. So, it's this thing, where are we equating our promotions? Are we equating success and moving up in the company in that kind of binary option where we're talking about somebody who's more authoritarian or masculine, being somebody who's ready for the position? So, I would look at your soft skills as well and say, am I really judging this promotion based on the performance of the individual aside from how people dress? So that's kind of where I am with dress code is, we don't realize, even subconsciously, whether it's written or not, what is your dress code? What are you expecting people to wear to work? Spousal benefits and what kind of health care are you choosing for your employees? Are you choosing health care that is going to be gender affirming, and allowing people to have gender affirming surgeries, more health care? Are you choosing healthcare that's allowance for spouses to be involved? Do they have adoption benefits? Do you have surrogacy benefits? Our adoption options, because these are things that are very expensive in the community, and that we're looking for, especially for high performing professionals within the communities that we need these to live with our families for the most part and that's kind of a sticking point as well.
Jeff Altman 23:31
I'm going to talk to parents, and is expensive, we did an international adoption and this is going back to 2001. We travelled to Central Asia and the cost of the adoption of that time was $35,000, which we had to bring us cash with us in new bills, because they don't take checks in getting in that country through the currency system, because they had just extracted themselves from the old Soviet Union or Russia, and needed new bills. Lots of little things. So, the idea of adoption benefits I get, I know how expensive it is.
Amanda Boyd 24:16
You know, and my wife and I are self-employed and so that becomes an option too. It's like, how do you afford that? What we have, two children as well and going through the fertility process and trying to navigate that through an infertility clinic because when you can't, when you don't have the male and female partnership, people when you go into a fertility clinic, they assume you're infertile and so what kind of testing are they going to put through your insurance? That's unnecessary. So, I was able, I'd like I'm digressing here. But I was able to again, using these principles of standing up for who I am. I said, I don't need these tests because I'm not infertile. I'm just gay. I don't need X, Y or Z. So, I think, I was able to get probably half of those procedures not done because I didn't need to be treated as infertile, I just needed to be treated as a person in a different type of relationship. So that's what I would tell employers should do. Use the small signals, have a mission statement, have some pronoun options, assess your dress code, culturally, listen to your allies, pick healthcare that works for everyone.
Jeff Altman 25:32
And for someone who has a LinkedIn profile, of course, pronouns present there, so that when someone is researching who they're interviewing with, they see the pronouns and it's a signal.
Amanda Boyd 25:46
Yes, and what's really interesting too is that you're seeing a lot of allies take on even emojis on their LinkedIn profiles. They're putting the pride flag after their pronouns and parentheses, even though they may or may not be a member of the community. So, I think this kind of emoticon world that we're living in, where symbols are everything. Having the words of your pronouns is a very simple way to signal to someone that you are a safe place in an inclusive place. But I do think that, even on LinkedIn, where it's more professional, I think people are open to having those symbols on their professional page, because it's just again, it speaks louder than words sometimes.
Jeff Altman 26:25
And for those who don't understand. They don't know, they don't care.
Amanda Boyd 26:31
No one thinks less of you because you put in your pronouns. I think you're attracting the attention from the people that you want to signal to.
Jeff Altman 26:41
So, what else should we be talking about today, that we haven't spoken about?
Amanda Boyd 26:47
What would you be talking about, the Federal protections that we're about to see, the Equality Act? As of 2020, there were 22 states and DC, that only 22 states have expressed the inability to discriminate in the LGBT community and so we've got 28 states here where you can still be fired.
Jeff Altman 27:22
Amanda Boyd 27:25
I don't think anybody, regardless of their sexuality, your personal life, inside a lawful person should not be any reason to be able to dissuade the performance that you're doing on the job.
Jeff Altman 27:41
So true. So, in the new Equality Act, there's federal protection to ensure that there's no terminations or wrongful termination based upon gender preference, gender orientation, etc.
Amanda Boyd 27:55
Yep. I do a lot of contracts in my line of work with recruitment and anytime you go to a lawyer and ask them to draft the contract, they have the standard. Currently, federal protected things, gender, sex, all of these things that you cannot discriminate against and sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not yet there and so I always have to ask my attorneys to add them. I say I realized this, but my company does not discriminate on the federally protected, demographics as well as these additional ones. So, it's always interesting to see that, by default, people are giving you the minimum and you'd have to ask for more.
Jeff Altman 28:38
So true. Amanda, this is fabulous. I really mean that. How can people find out more about you and the work that you do?
Amanda Boyd 28:48
I'm very active on LinkedIn. If you want to get in touch with me personally, I will tell you to go to my LinkedIn account, which is just Amanda Boyd, and the OIG with my LinkedIn page, which is the "Visible Talent Company". You can also go to visible talent company.com to see my current job openings that I'm filling. You can also sign up to be a part of my general application pool, where you're just putting your name, your hat in the ring there and allowing me to add you to my database for searches. If you're a company or an employer that wants to reach out to me, same way, you can reach me at info at Visibletalentcompany.com. Send me a quick inquiry. We'll do a quick call to see what your needs are and how I can help you fill your most valuable, will bake vacancies inclusively.
Jeff Altman 29:28
As you're doing consulting around DEI, for companies as well?
Amanda Boyd 29:33
Yes, I've done it on a smaller scale because just timing. I've been so lucky to be inundated with a lot of people that are wanting to fill positions. So, we're talking to people like Joanne Fabrics, just went public. They have a brand-new diversity and inclusion department that they are starting that they're launching with that we're working to partner with to fill those positions for store management and for warehouse workers for interns� record. So, we're seeing some big changes here in the in the DI round, and more and more companies, thankfully have been reaching out to me to kind of open this up on a national scale.
Jeff Altman 30:11
Wonderful. Amanda, thank you and Phil and folks, we'll be back soon with more. I'm Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter. You can visit my website, which is thebiggamehunter.us where I've got a ton of information that you can watch, listen to or we help you find work more quickly. In addition, I just want to remind you of my course, called "The Ultimate Job Interview Framework", a video course that you can order at thebiggamehunter.us forward slash interviews. It will help you interview far better than your competition and it's also available as a paperback and kindle book on Amazon. Lastly, connect with me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn.com\IN\Thebiggamehunter. Hope you have a terrific day and be great. Take care.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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