Episode 36: Helping Women of Color Identify Inclusive Work Environments in STEM

Hello listeners, and welcome back to Tech Forward! For the second episode of our November job seeker series, I spoke with Michele Heyward, founder of PositiveHire. PositiveHire is a tech company engineered to bridge the gap between employers and women of color STEM professionals. Michele’s vision is to not only help experienced women of color find inclusive workplaces, but to help enterprises recruit them. PositiveHire does this via matching experienced women of color STEM professionals to relevant management positions within organizations. On this episode, we discussed Michele’s plans and aspirations for her business, as well as her advice for women and companies on how to begin to narrow the gender pay gap.

PositiveHire grew, in part, from Michele’s previous experience in career coaching. Having heard similar stories of career struggles from many female engineers, she wanted to help as many women in STEM as possible — and as quickly as possible. “What I want PositiveHire to do is enable women from different races to understand what a company’s culture provides each one of them. Each race can and will be discriminated against differently. So, what is it about the company culture that may benefit one woman of color, but not another? The ability to determine fit based on cultural background, gender, and race would help so many women.”

When it comes to externally determining a company or organization’s culture, Michele has a few tips for job seekers. First and foremost, look at upper management: less diversity at that level may indicate a cultural issue. For instance, it’s not uncommon for the responsibility of leadership to rest of the shoulders of Black women, but not the title. Connecting with former employees of the company on services such as LinkedIn can also be helpful, as they are often willing to be candid about their experiences within the company.

Michele also has words of wisdom to share as far as closing the wage gap. For women, especially women of color, she emphasizes the importance of knowing when to say no, and keeping concrete, quantitative documentation of how you’ve helped your company, team, or group. At the employer level, she notes, “You have the information you need to go through and equalize pay in your organization. How long are you willing to gamble that your employees won’t find out they’ve been underpaid?” Course correcting isn’t just about avoiding short-term negative consequences, however. There are plenty of long term benefits to making this effort, including positive press, and improving the bottom line.

Michele, thank you so much for coming onto the show and discussing the important work you’re doing with PositiveHire. Thank you also to all of you out there listening, subscribing, and sharing the show. See you next week!


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