Cory Foy

image of cory foyCory Foy is a software developer and organizational consultant based out of North Carolina who has seen his share of garbage practices over the past 20 years and tries to help fix that in any way he can. Episode Resources:  

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Transcription

00:30

Kim Crayton: Hello everyone, and welcome to #CauseAScene podcast. Today’s guest is Cory Foy. Cory, please introduce yourself.

Cory Foy: Hi, thanks for having me on. Again, my name is Cory Foy. I’m a technology consultant and trainer who’s been in the industry for about 20 years now.

Kim: OK. Tell me what does that mean? Yeah, I need more details.

Cory: You need more detail. That’s OK. So I work with—I kind of have a dual role that I play with organizations. So, I have some clients that I work with who need technology help, and so I come in and help them figure out how to build better software. And a lot of times that starts with understanding how to collaborate better, and how to bring in different ideas about building software.

And then some of what I do is organizational consulting. So I come into small and large companies and help them figure out how to deliver more effectively. And so that goes the gamut from, “Do we even know what we’re trying to build and deliver?” to, “What should our teams look like? How do we do—” I help some organizations with recruiting and hiring, that’s actually led to some interesting Twitter conversations when I’ve helped organizations with hiring, but that that’s kind of what I do primarily.

02:02

I have worked for other companies before. So prior to this I’ve been a software developer, I worked for Microsoft as a field engineer for them. I’ve been both a interim and a full time CTO for organizations. I’ve run corporate education for different companies. So I’ve kind of run the gamut of a lot of different roles in both business and technology.

Kim: OK. The reason I ask is #CauseAScene is all about helping people learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so I wanted to make sure you extended your expertise, and so people understand you’re not—although you’re a white guy and although you are benefiting from undeserved privilege, you still have a background of expertise that is very helpful in this field and with this conversation.

Cory: That’s right and I do—a lot of with teams is reflections and retrospectives. And I’ve done that with a lot of different organizations helping them really get to what is really going on, like what are some of the problems that we’re facing beyond just, “oh, our build was broken.”

03:21

In the work that I do there’s a lot of—the term is often called root cause analysis, which is what is really going on, and sometimes—and actually oftentimes—that comes down to people didn’t know or people weren’t trained, and that starts to unveil a lot of organizational challenges where senior people don’t train junior people because it’s beneath them, or there’s a lot of islands.

And I see that, coming in as a white guy especially, I see that that bro tech culture so pervasive through the technology industry that it’s disheartening because I’m a self-taught developer, I didn’t get to go to MIT or anything else like that, and I know how hard it was for me, even as a white guy with all the privileges that that entails, I know how hard it was for me fighting through the, “Oh you don’t have a degree, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” those kinds of things, and it was like, some of that isn’t because we don’t have a degree, some of that is because you don’t know how to onboard people, you don’t know how to bring people into your organization.

And so really a lot of my passion over the past couple of years has been how do we fix that portion? How do we level that playing field of, let’s change how we bring people into the organization, let’s change how people learn to grow inside of an organization and not just rely on, “Oh I happen to know the right person,” but really go back to, “Well, what do we need to do to help people grow and excel?”

05:07

Kim: So I think you’ve been preemptively answering some of my questions. [Cory laughs] Tell us why you’re causing a scene and how you’re causing a scene.

Cory: Sure. So, I was very lucky to have growing up a hippie mom, right, who was very—she was an ER nurse. I come from a family of very strong women who did not put up with  anything, who a lot of times were single moms, and definitely had their own challenges; like, there wasn’t any pretense that there was perfection. And that influenced me a lot growing up, but there were obviously a lot of things that I just was not aware of.

So how I kind of ended up where I’m at right this second, I think that there’s been a couple of things; I mean one, just seeing in the industry the pervasiveness of racism and sexism has been horrifying, and I think even outside of that bubble, just the notion of business is all about taking advantage wherever you can. I came as the CTO of a company a couple of years ago and I had some employees making $110,000 a year and some employees making $29,000 a year doing the same job.

06:38

And that was because—[both laugh] if you’re not looking at the video, that was a great facial expression [Kim laughs]—and you could argue while it was because they didn’t know how to negotiate or those kinds of things, but it simply came down to the CEO felt like they could take advantage of them.

And the notion of leveling the playing field, one of the first things I did was come in and go, “Well that’s not acceptable, we’re setting a floor salary and we’re gonna bring everybody up to that, and there’s not gonna be this, “oh we’re gonna step there.” If you’re below this level, everyone’s coming up to that.”

And then it became an issue where the person making $29,000 was treated as a joke, everyone was like, “Oh, you know, he’s always late, and what motivation does he have to be here [Kim chuckles], he’s making four times what he is, and he’s barely—,” he’s living with his parents at home because he can’t afford to move out as a software developer in this industry!

Kim: Exactly.

Cory: That’s horrifying to me, right? So, I saw a lot of those things, but then there were two kinds of key moments that made me hyper-aware.

07:53

About four years ago, I was consulting with a phenomenal group of people, and we were in Chicago for some meetings and the two colleagues that I were with did not look like me, they were both Black, and they said, “Oh, we’re gonna go from here to this restaurant,” we were all standing there together and they were like, “Well, we’ll just call an Uber, ” and I was like, “Why would you call an Uber? We’re in Chicago, there’s taxis everywhere.” And they both just looked at me and they were like, “You call a taxi, go ahead, they might stop for you.” And it was like this sudden realization of like, holy crap. I never worried about that. Never worried about that.

Kim: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Cory: So fast forward a couple years later and I came into an organization and took over a team of like 35-40 developers. And I noticed that I think I had maybe, maybe two women on the team. I think it was just one though. And I was really surprised by that. And so I was like, “OK, I’m gonna make this an effort to really reach out to the network that I have of Girl Develop It, and a lot of other amazing women technologists that I know out there, because I wanna get more people in here.

And I was getting zero responses from people. I mean, zero, like, no interest. And finally, a friend of mine—

Kim: OK, I’m gonna stop you right there. Yes. Because that is the point that other people don’t understand. [Cory laughs] People say that they want inclusion and they want these great things—

09:33

Cory: Yes.

Kim: —until you ask, until there’s an action that’s required, and then there’s crickets. [laughs]

Cory: Oh my gosh! So, when I look at—and I’ll continue the story a second—but when I look at conferences, the most common thing you get of,  “Why don’t you have more diversity in your conference line-ups?” are, “Well, we had a call for proposals and this is who we got.”

Kim: So I checked that box.

Cory: So I checked that box, right? And it’s like that’s a passive way of approaching it.

Kim: Yes!

Cory: You have to have—that works if you have done the work ahead of time to build diverse networks.

Kim: If you have relationships in the communities, if you say that matters to you. If not, they don’t know you from shit, so why should they answer your call for proposals? They don’t know you.

Cory: Yes! Yeah, that’s right.

Kim: And based on our relationship with the technology space, we don’t trust you. So it’s on the part of the conference to do something active, proactive, instead of sitting back and saying, “Well, I, er—.” Yes, exactly.

Cory: You bring up such a great point there, and this is to me the crux of the whole point, because this isn’t about—I wanna be cautious of my words here, I guess, ’cause I wanna phrase this—

Kim: Please don’t. [Cory laughs] No, no, no, no. I told you.

10:58

Cory: This isn’t just about equal opportunity, because this goes beyond that of saying, women and minorities feel unsafe at these conferences. Women and minorities feel unsafe in the technology industry. And we have to—reaching out to those communities.  isn’t about lowering the bar, which is what I hear from some people, it’s about explicitly communicating to them, “Hey, this is safe,” right? This is an environment where we’re not going to treat you like garbage. And so that’s what happened in this role. So I’m in—

Kim: But I’m gonna stop you again, ’cause you just said something ’cause it’s so condescending for people to say “to lower the bar” as if we’re, there’s something of defect in us, that’s why we’re not there. So you put the blame on us.

And this is why, although people keep saying women are making gains in tech, it’s only white women who are making gains in tech, but their experiences aren’t changing. They’re making gains in tech because they have privilege on their side, but because we’re not changing our organizations, communities and events, their experiences are still unsafe and dangerous and all these other things.

And I’m gonna let you get back to that, but I didn’t want that to pass by because that lowering the bar thing, it so speaks to the racism out there as if people from underrepresented and particularly marginalized communities are less than, and you have to do something, you have to dumb things down for us to get it.

12:37

Cory: That’s right. And what I will add to that is from my experience and my perspective, there is—yes, there are a lot of efforts in organizations to make sure that explicit sexism and racism isn’t included in job hirings, right? A: that doesn’t mean that there is not implicit, but I think broader than that is the opportunities for people—so I think of senior roles, like we were just having this discussion over the past couple days on Twitter with some people, which is—so let’s take the notion of leadership, right?

So many leaders in organizations or leaders of the business world are men, and are typically white men, and they have very aggressive leadership styles, and it’s this take no prisoners, go at all costs. But the reason, the historical thing with that is, that who came before them got the benefits of all of those horrific things that were happening, that enabled them to be in a safer spot, that enabled their children to be in a safer spot, that allowed them to then take risks.

14:01

So yes, there is a notion of a lot of strides towards leveling the playing field now, but just because—going back to what we were, I don’t remember if we were talking about before or after—but like a race, if someone gets a 200 yard head start, just because now you say, “OK, both of you can only run at 3 mph,” I’ll never catch up right? [Kim laughs] Like, OK, great, you level the field for what? To what end, right?

Kim: [Still laughing] Exactly! I need rockets on my shoes, I need something.

Cory: Something, right? And so yeah, does that mean that I am lowering the bar for runners? No, if we say that the—to drive this example into the ground—if we say the bar for runners is running three miles an hour, but you got a 300 yard head start, I’m never gonna be able to catch up, so saying, “Hey, wait a second. We just need everybody to start at the same line or just wait for everybody to catch up, and then we’re all gonna be running at the same pace.” That’s not lowering the bar for anybody.

So [sighs] back to—sorry, I mean, there’s so much to unpack in this, right?

Kim: Exactly! That’s why I love it. I am just smiling over here. Go ahead, keep goin’. [giggles]

15:23

Cory: So when I came in, and I saw that there are so few women, and that I was not getting any responses from the community, I had to network to be able to reach out to—it wasn’t like one of the things of, “I’m a new leader, I don’t know anybody. I’m just going to put it out there,” I had built trust in the community where I felt like people would want to come work for me and the environment, but I wasn’t getting anything.

So finally, somebody took me aside and was like, “OK, we need to talk.” And I was like, OK. And they were like, “No one’s gonna come work for you, because of the organization.” And I was like, why?

And so it turned out that this organization had a history of rampant sexism within the organization from the top down, and finding out that your CEO is taking your only female employee to a strip club, as a junior developer, and she’s so uncomfortable that she leaves; having a CEO who is causing prospects to be uncomfortable because of how he comes on to the women that were part of it.

There was this culture of—oh, and let’s talk about beer taps in the office, right, where people were getting drunk in the office [Kim makes “mmhmm” sounds] and the culture did not—oh, I’m sorry, and their wifi password, since you said we can be open here, their wifi password for a little while was a euphemism for a woman’s vagina. And they said—

Kim: What’s that, cunt?

17:02

Cory: No, no, no, no, no, no, no; big box.

Kim: Oh! Lovely! Yeah, OK.

Cory: No, they had a justification supposedly for that— [Kim laughs] that they had—

Kim: There’s always a justification.

Cory: —I was like, whatever, and I would have even bought that had they whenever it got brought to them, they went, “Oh god, that’s horrifying, we’re gonna change it immediately,” instead of going like, “We’re not changing that at all.” And it was like, well, OK, then there’s something else going on here.

So what that led to was just this awareness of, we are in—this is dangerous, right? We’re at a disadvantage because we can’t hire people, because we have such a horrible reputation before us, that this is going to impact us as a business—

Kim: Business! Yes! [laughs]

Cory: —going back to the business, right? Even setting aside the social aspect of that, as a business I can’t hire the people that I want to hire, who I know are going to do amazing things in here, because they don’t want to be part of this environment. That’s not lowering the bar, that’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t get these people in here, because of leadership style.”

So, that was the point where I was like, this is not cool. And from a risk perspective, as an officer in the organization, from a risk perspective, this could cause us to end up with class action lawsuits to, even outside of not being able to hire the people or being liable to lose clients, there’s really material risks to the organization.

18:36

And so I was like, I’ve got to address this, I have to, we have to do this as an organization, as a leadership team. And so I worked with the co-founder and I was like, “We’ve got to fix this, this is completely unacceptable, we’re gonna end up with class action lawsuits and all this other stuff.” And he worked with the founder, and I remember we had a great meeting where they called me and they were like, “Let’s talk about this.” We got in really early one morning and they fired me. So [both laugh] that was it, like, “OK, you’re done.”

Kim: And they had the “big box”, they’re telling me that I’m liable. Yeah. OK.

Cory: So they did change their wifi password at some point before I came on, but that was the historical context of all of this was there, and it permeates throughout the culture, right? And that’s the tricky part of that, is that even when you’ve got great people there, like I remember asking one of my colleagues there who didn’t work for me but was in a adjacent group, I said, “How do you deal with this?” And she was like, “I just stay out of it. I don’t want my name up there, I don’t interact with them.”

But if you think about that, OK, that’s survival mode and how likely is she to progress if she’s not willing to take risks because of that?

19:59

Kim: But no, no, let’s talk about that, because people don’t understand culture comes from leadership. It comes from the head down. And so these efforts of pushing inclusion from the bottom up are not going to be sustainable because it has to be a systematic instead of siloed approach. And so it gets me when people are like, “Oh my team is great, but the organization sucks,” that is not—then you saw that, because people aren’t going to come in.

But also, when you look at, let’s say because I use the Facebook as an example with Cambridge Analytical [correction: Analytica], I mean when they said, “Oh, we told them to destroy something, to destroy the data,” and they never checked back. This young lady that you just gave an example of—’cause my question was with Facebook—was there anybody on that leadership team that said, put it on the calendar a year later, “Hey, let’s go check back with them and see what happened with that.”

So even if this young lady’s there, the fact that she does not want to engage says first of all, she’s not included. They have a bit of diversity, but she’s not included because she doesn’t feel safe enough to have her voice, but what if something catastrophic was about to happen? What if something that was detrimental to your business was about to happen, and she did not, her stance was, “I don’t want my name brought up in any of this”?

Cory: That’s right.

Kim: That completely harms your business.

21:23

Cory: For sure. And so I spent about eight years with Fire Rescue, and when you’re in a burning building and someone says, “Get out,” you have to get out, and it doesn’t matter where that comes from, but that also means that that person has to be able to feel safe saying, “Get out,” and you’ll listen to them.

And even in an industry—here’s what’s almost sad to me in a little bit of a way, I felt that the Fire Department was more progressive than the technology industry, what is in many cases, that there was this explicit effort to make sure that we all had the same voice, and there was equality and equity across the board.

And actually, I started off in government, and one of the interesting things about government was everything was public record, your salary was public record, your emails were public record, and so—

Kim: Oh yeah, I’m a educator, yeah.

Cory: Yeah. And so it was really easy to see if there was disparity, and you had to justify it.

Kim: Yeah. Yeah.

Cory: So this whole notion of, in a company, “Well, we’re not going to talk about salaries,” I’m glad to see that starting to change, because that’s how so much of this happens is, “Well, I don’t know that Joe over here is making $85,000 and I’m making $60,000 and we’re doing exactly the same job.” Like, that’s BS, right? For sure.

23:03

Kim: Yeah, yeah. OK—

Cory: So that’s why, and I think that what I started to see was when women and when other people were bringing up these cases of sexism and racism and oppression and all these things in discussions, they were dismissed because, “Oh, that’s just who you are,” and I realized that I don’t wanna call my—I don’t want to sound piped up about this either—but I don’t call myself an ally, I don’t like that notion of, I am an ally, I am this.

But what I found was I could engage with people who look like me and say, “You’re wrong. I have the history of this. I know what the impact of this is,” and I’ve had to learn the right way to do that. I mean, I think that there’s been a lot of great colleagues that I have who have said like for example, I don’t—when I engage with somebody on Twitter—I don’t include the the woman that they were responding to oftentimes because then they just get drug into that conversation and they’re probably exhausted having the conversation anyway.

Kim: Exactly. Then they’re gonna get trolled.

24:26

Cory: And they’re gonna get trolled and everything else like that. So I am very aware of, I have the privilege and the capability of being able to—and the background and the experience in dealing with these situations and seeing the successes of them—to be able to say, “OK, I can engage this. I understand the argument you’re trying to make and it’s wrong and here’s why it’s wrong,” [Kim laughs] and that’s—.

Kim: And so you do what I do, and this is why I love the people who are part of this movement because as an educator, I had great classroom management. It was, “Stop doing that; this is why we’re going to stop doing that; and this is what we’re going to do alternatively.”

Because I think a big part of these issues are people feel shame and guilt and all these other things, which they should, it’s just a normal part of—nowhere, people aren’t saying these are things that you’ve done intentionally, but when you don’t own them, you benefit from them and that you’re benefiting means that someone else is not benefiting. That’s just, that’s uncomfortable and you need to get comfortable with that and it’s OK, you’re not gonna die, it’s OK. [Cory laughs]

But two things I want to talk to you about, because again, Cory is new to me, people know, you guys know me—people bring me on the stage to make people uncomfortable. That is my job.

Cory: Cause a scene, to cause a scene!

26:00

Kim: Yeah, and so—exactly. And so I’m living up to it. So when you talked about two things, allyship and then you talked about something that reminded me of something else. So I’m happy that you mentioned you don’t call yourself an ally because that is a big conversation I’m having a lot lately; privilege does not get to assign themselves a title of ally. It is through their work and their efforts that they demonstrate to marginalized groups that they are allies, and then we can assign that title to them.

It is the first time where you don’t have the power, it is not about you, it is about—so for me, and I have another definition—I call them POWER allies. So “ally” to me is someone who understands that there’s a difference but not willing to be too uncomfortable about this. So that’s an ally. I don’t really want them, what I want POWER allies. And what I’ve defined POWER allies are, and I use POWER in all capital letters, is someone who is willing to make themselves uncomfortable so that I can be comfortable. That to me is what we need, more of those.

And so what I started, and and the reason I bring this up is because you and I have just started following each other, I have a league of white men. [Both laugh] Yes, people are like, “Is that what they’re really calling me?” Yes, that’s exactly what they’re called, and we have a Slack channel and everything.

27:29

So I have a league of white men to speak exactly to what you’re saying; there are people who look like you who can go out and have these conversations so that I don’t have to exhaust myself to have these conversations. I won’t be challenged as a Black woman from the South to start these conversations. And so what their role is is to make sure that I’m protected if I’m gonna go out here and leave this thing and push these agendas that other people aren’t because, again, most people like to go up to the line of discomfort and aren’t able to cross over. I’m gonna do that, then I need to have the support, full backing of privileged men.

And this is why I define privilege as access, because in other countries, privilege would not be white men. It will be whatever that privileged caste class is. That is a very important thing that I talk about, because particularly when we’re talking about—and I want to use, to really get to the legal and the employment part of this ’cause people have such misunderstandings about this—but this is why when I look at, let’s say to Stack Overflow survey over the last three years, I have written a blog about it over the last 2016, 17, 18. They have horrible numbers related to underrepresented and marginalized. They don’t even classify the—except for basically it’s men, and then basically others, [both laugh] and the numbers there are just horrible.

29:04

But I recognize when I’m looking through the data that the majority of these individuals, 92% were white males, ages 18-34. It takes the league of white men not speaking for me—because I don’t want people to speak for me because it’s my story to tell, this is my mission and my movement to lead—but they are able, and it is doing what exactly you’re saying, you’re challenging certain assumptions and providing information to say, “Hey, this is why that’s wrong. Your belief on this is incorrect. You have an incorrect assumption [both laugh] and this is why it’s incorrect. I’m not blaming you for having the incorrect assumption because as a person of privilege, you’ve never had to consider anybody else. It’s always been about you. So yeah, you’re gonna, there are a lot of things you’re gonna get wrong about other people, but this is why.”

 And so I really want you to get into this stuff, I was saying that, about the whole, “Isn’t hiring based on race and gender and blah blah blah illegal?” [Cory laughs] So go into that!

30:15

Cory: Sure. Yeah, I’ll say, I wanna say one thing about allyship for a second, I think the notion of having, of earning a title, it’s no different than leadership, right? You can’t call yourself a leader, you can call yourself a manager and I’ve been in situations where, we have in the Fire Department like we would have people who, yeah, they were a captain or yeah, they had a Chief’s helmet or whatever, but that didn’t mean that they were great leaders.

[Interlude]

31:24

Kim: And also, leadership sometimes comes from the rank, some people who, somebody whose title is below them. So yeah, leadership—you’re actually right—is earned.

Cory: And there’s not—this is a conversation we’ve been having and actually came out of the whole James Damore Google thing, which is, there’s not one style of leadership, there’s at least 11 defined styles of leadership, two of which fit the typical male bro culture of very aggressive or very directed.

But that doesn’t mean that—yeah, that’s been the default for a long time but that’s not necessarily the most effective, and in a lot of situations, even if you think of what would stereotypically be like, the military of like, “Oh that’s [inaudible]”—which it’s not, they’re very much a servant leadership. They’re not, there’s a lot of pushing down to the ranks and letting them [get] in self-organization there. So—

Kim; And that’s one of things my research that I’m doing is couched in, learning organization theory.

Cory: Yes.

Kim: You talked about the system and not individual, and core values, and all these other things that help leaders and people in the organization know which direction to go in, to what the true north is. Go ahead.

Cory: And funny enough that—you touched on something, another influencer for me was, my wife has her master’s in industrial organizational psychology, which touches on so much of that. Now, she’s not in that field, but everything she was learning while she was in school, I was like, “Give me all your books, this is amazing!”

32:58

Kim: It’s sometimes because you’re—’cause I forgot the term you used when you said you’re digging into it. It’s something—you were saying there’s a term we use when you’re trying to find a problem—

Cory: Oh, root cause analysis.

Kim: —and for me, I call it, well, there’s a field of anthropology called organizational anthropology. And so that is that digging into all the historical stuff, because what I find is—and this happened in the Node community when they had the big blow up on Twitter last year, people were concerned and talking about this thing that happened, let’s say today. But that was a reaction of something they didn’t take care of two years ago, which was the reaction of something that they didn’t take care of four years ago.

And so until you can do that organization and anthropological stuff, you don’t see, you just—people are so reactive, you just see that thing, they assign causality. You know, this is happening because of—no! And as you said, it wasn’t that you weren’t able to reach out to people that you desired to be in your organization, because the actual root cause was the founders or the leadership quality, and that people were like, “You know what, dude, I’m not coming over there.” [Both laugh]

Cory: Well, and there’s a technique I use with teams, is The Five Whys, if you haven’t heard of that before, which is you ask “Why?” five times, and a lot of times that drives you so far deep into, you know—no women came to the conference. Why? Well, no-one applied for it. Well, why? I don’t know. OK, well let’s go figure that out, or you know, why? Well, they didn’t feel safe. OK well, why? You know, ’cause we invited this person.

34:37

Kim: That’s my education performance. I was the laziest teacher in the world. It was like, it was a whole bunch of why questions; “So why are you, why are we doing this? Oh, OK, so why did that happen? OK, why did that happen? Go figure that out and come back to me.” [laughs]

Cory: So, onto the EOC [Employment Opportunity Commission]. So the big thing that came up recently was I was working for a client. that is in an industry that helps people with certain disabilities. And they were hiring for a CTO and I was in as an interim CTO, kind of helping them through some transitions, and I said, “I’ll help you find people.” And we had 40 candidates for the CTO position, and I think two, maybe three were women. And before I got engaged in the process they had started whittling that down, and they had basically handed me a list of four men to interview.

And the CEO there is very progressive, I mean he himself has certain handicaps that he’s been fighting for a long time, and so his question was like, “Well, why don’t we have more women as part of this?” And the HR person was like, “Well, I don’t know,” and I was like “Well, give me all the resumes.” [Kim laughs] And I was like, “I’m going to review that, whatever thing you just used did not work.”

36:10

Kim: [Still laughing] That is so amazing, the HR person, “I don’t know.”

Cory: “I don’t know.” And so two things happened out of that, 1) one of the people I interviewed—and to show you how pervasive this is—one of the people I interviewed I did for a Chief Technology Officer position, when I interviewed him, it was a video interview and he had his computer in the background, and he had a screensaver of a scantily clad bikini model and I was like, “You’re out!” Right? [Kim laughs] If you can’t exhibit basic—I mean, there’s—

Kim: That’s basic interview technique.

Cory: If somebody go look at that, I don’t care, that’s—whatever. But there’s a professionalism that if you can’t think through that, you’ve got bigger issues. So then what I did was I said, “OK, I know that I have a really great set of people that follow me and that I follow on Twitter, who can reach out to a really diverse set of people.” And so I said, “I’m going to put this out there and see who I get,” and I know that if I just put it out there from previous experience and I just put it out there now, I’m only going to get mad. So I need them to understand this is an organization that is safe.

37:25

And I’m gonna do that by saying I’ve got the capital, for people—I’ve got the trust built up and the capital built up, that if I say, “Hey, if you’re a woman looking for this—,” I used female in the initial term and somebody was like, don’t do that, and I was like, that’s great, I didn’t know, I still have lots to learn.

Kim: Yeah. I just came across that today between women—and I’m a woman—that females are animals and women are human. Men and women.

Cory: Yeah. And there’s different perspectives on it. There’s a meme somewhere where it’s—there was an old cartoon character called He-man, and it’s him saying like, “Hey, I’m actually called They-man now,” or something else like that, and his chief nemesis Skeletor was like, “Hey, thanks for letting me know,” right? And it was like not a big deal. And so when somebody said that to me, I was like, “OK, that’s fine. I don’t mind, and I’ve learned something about the right way to talk to people.”

So I put this out there of, “OK, I especially want to reach out, we’ve got 40 candidates, 98% of which are men. So we’ve got a huge male candidate pool to pull from. What great women are out there that we’re missing as part of this?” And I had no idea it was gonna—I mean, I did have some idea was gonna be controversial—

Kim: [laughing] Come on, now!

Cory: —but it was way bigger, which was fantastic, I loved every second of the 36 hours I spent responding to—

39:01

Kim: Oh my god, doesn’t it, doesn’t it, doesn’t it—and that’s what people don’t understand this takes a, this is a job.

Cory: It’s a job because I had to show that—that showed that it was safe, because I got a lot more candidates who said, “I am interested because I saw how you fought…”

Kim: And how you engage.

Cory: …and how you…

Kim: …and that’s the thing, it’s not about saying you’re a ally, it is about demonstrating that this is what you believe in. And when you make mistakes, “You know what? I screwed that up and how can I do better?” ‘Cause like you said, you went to the community and said, “Hey, this is my issue, let’s talk about let’s get this thing out here.”

Cory: That’s right. So, the two most common arguments I got out of that were, “You’re lowering the bar,” and I got that not just from men, I mean there were some women and some minorities who said, “OK, yes, you are, I feel like you’re lowering the bar,” and it was like, “I’m not, but I’m not going to dismiss your feelings of this because I’m sure that there have been plenty of instances where people have lowered the bar in the sake of diversity, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here.” But a majority of it were white men who said, “You’re lowering the bar,” which we clearly were not, and what we were doing was illegal.

40:22

And it wasn’t, and and here’s why; first of all, there is an actual job position from the—so this is US, right? And I’m not a lawyer—[laughs] from the US perspective, the EOC laws, you can’t discriminate inside job descriptions in a general sense, right? And so the general advice you get from HR is you can’t do that. There are cases where you can discriminate for specific types of roles; and further, the EOC has explicitly said in court cases that it is allowed to reach out to underserved communities and that is perfectly acceptable, as long as everyone can apply to the position.

So I can have a position that is open to everybody and only advertise it to underserved communities and that is perfectly legal under the EOC. And that’s a really hard thing for people to understand.

Kim: Yes!

Cory: You can do that, and the reason is—and they were like, “Well, what if I just created a thing for men and published to them,” and I said “If you’re applying for a field, if you’re advertising for field primarily dominated by women, like nurses, that’s also allowed,” right? Like, “Oh my gosh, we have 95% of our nurses are women. We would like to get some more men as part of this.” You can reach out to those communities and do that, that’s perfectly legal under the EOC.

Kim: Mhm. Mhm.

41:55

Cory: You can’t restrict it, you can’t say like, with—again within limited circumstances—you can’t say, “Well, you know, if you’re a woman or your man you can’t apply to this,” which is not what we were doing. And I certainly wasn’t gonna put the company name out there for people to go to evaluate themselves 

Kim: Exactly. Exactly.

Cory: I didn’t want to drag them into this. But the fact was we were very open, we had a very open process, and I ended up with probably close to 20 people who reached out to me who were very strong leaders. Women leaders who were fantastic to talk to.

And a couple of them, like a majority of them once we talked through it they were like, “OK, that’s not the right position for me,” or you know, whatever, but a couple of them, we ended up applying and interviewing for it, and they were easily as strong and stronger than most of the male candidates we had that were in there, and and I never would have found them had I not explicitly reached out to that community and to me that was the success of it, that was worth everything I’d ever done, was to say, “Yes, this was totally worth it to reach out to the to the communities there.” So that’s why, that’s what I was doing.

Kim: OK. So I’m going to put you on the spot; did you hire a woman?

Cory: We did. So, we did not hire a woman from the group that I reached out to, but we did hire a woman and it was one of the people that we went back and revisited—

Kim: Oh, that wasn’t in the original—

43:26

Cory: —that wasn’t in the original thing. And I was like, “Why are we not interviewing—?” There was like two people, I was like, “Why in god’s green Earth did we not interview these two people?” One of them was the head of these giant entertainment industries, the technology head of this giant entertainment industry in LA, who had managed 10,000 people. I was like, “Why would you not want them to interview for this? Why would you consider them not qualified?”

Kim: And did they have a reason?

Cory: No. I want to be clear that some of that I chalk up to HR people aren’t always familiar with leadership, and coming in as CTO myself, I had a lot more insight into the industry and what we’d be looking for.

But some of that came from, the CEO going, “Why aren’t there more women? Why don’t we have any women applicants?” and then fighting to get more of them in there and [getting women] before them.

Kim: And that’s the part right there, it’s the extra step. It’s going back because it’s—[Kim reacts to Cory’s dog in the video chat] I’m loving this dog and his cones running in these—

Cory: Oh, I’m sorry.

Kim: No, no, no! I saw him laying down and he’s trying to get up and he was knocked into the, like, oh my god, what is it on my head?

But it goes back to our race analogy we’ve been using. So it’s like, how do you run a race if there are no people there? You have to go out and recruit. We can recruit all the time.

44:58

It’s how you recruit, and what standard or what core values or whatever it is about recruiting; it’s an active process. If these things are—so again, that’s why I love the core value thing, because if you have the basic core values that says, “This is an inclusive process, blah blah blah blah,” and you get to that place that you are at and you saw that there were only—first of all you wouldn’t get there, because there will be an issue because if you got there and you saw that there were only men, then you would have to run that through your core values and say, “Hey, is this in line with our core values? And if it doesn’t, OK, so then we how do we get to this place? Oh, that’s our usual way to get to this place. So now we need to be doing something different ‘cause our usual way didn’t work to get us what we say aligns with our core value.”

And that’s the piece that people are missing, and that’s why these conversations happen, people have to really get out of their feelings about this, and this is what I keep pushing this; and someone to me today was she called it “chastising me” about—first of all she used the angry Black woman thing, and I was, “OK, right there, you shut me off because I have an opinion.” If someone takes it at that, I’ve earned my spot to be where I am and I directed her to go, if you want to go—I’ll let my work speak for itself, go look at everything I’ve been doing and then you tell me whatever.

46:20

But it’s the whole, you have to be willing to get out of your feelings and say in particular, these things are as important to you as you say they are and say, “The shit we’re doing obviously is not working. Let’s figure out something else.”

And maybe you don’t have those skills with it in house. So, “How can I reach out to people who can help me and pay them?” That is my big problem with this. Everybody wants to talk to inclusion and diversity, but no one wants to pay for this stuff, and pay them to come in and write you with strategies so that your actions and your core values or whatever are aligned.

Cory: Right.

Kim: And it takes time. There’s no one size fits all, and there is no fast track for this. This stuff has been systemic for years.

Cory: And going—just to completely drive this race, the foot race analogy into the ground. If you’re looking at a foot race and had a track and people are running around the track and it’s all white men, and then you finally, as a woman or as a non-white man, you get in there and you’re not as good as them, well, you haven’t had the same practice that they have. But then people go, “Well, clearly they’re not cut out for this.”

And we’re seeing that discussion, people go, “Well, women aren’t flocking to construction or mining.” It was like, “Well I wonder why, probably because there’s a historical systemic oppression of women even being allowed to apply for those positions—”

Kim: Mhm, mhm

Cory: “—and not being considered good enough. So of course they don’t even have the experience necessary to be leaders or to make these kinds of changes.”

48:03

And that is a huge thing because if you go, “OK, well, you know, women must not be or anybody must not be as good as men because there are more men leaders,” that ignores a huge amount of historical context.

Kim: Exactly.

Cory: How did we end up with that? Right? I’m sorry, I just want to, just one other thing, which is, “You’re the angry Black woman,” comment, which is the other thing that really frustrates me as I see colleagues and men saying like, how approaching this from a sense of calling it as racist, calling it as sexist, speaking out vehemently against it, is the wrong way, and hurts the movement, and hurts these things because we should all be polite about this, and you know that—and I’ll tell you the thing and if no one’s watching this on video, I wanna see your reaction when I say this—and then they invoke MLK, right? [Kim makes dramatic intake of breath]  And they go like—

Kim: Ohhh. Then they the expert on MLK all of a sudden. [Cory laughs] Mm, mmm.

Cory: And to point out, I don’t know if you knew this but a majority of white people, back when MLK was around were saying like, “Hey, how he’s doing this movement is wrong, and the picket lines are wrong, and it hurts the movement of civil rights and—”, but that’s how you generate change, and to fight—and I think it’s the height of privilege to say to somebody who’s being oppressed or who is experiencing racism or sexism, “You need to change how your approach is, and you need to bring it on my terms.”

Kim: Yeah!

Cory: I need to go to you. I need to go to you to understand it.

50:01

Kim: And let me—and I’ve been retweeting this often because there’s this, when everybody wants to invoke the Martin Luther King, 11 months before he died gave a interview with CBS where he is saying one of the quotes—and I can’t get it right cause I don’t have it in front of me, it was a James Baldwin quote—is that he personally says he thinks he made a mistake in talking about integration at any cost; and also because he believes he brought Black—as he called the negroes—into a burning house. He did not do us—he did us a disservice in that.

So anybody wants to quote King again, let’s look at the historical, you can’t take a snapshot of something he said with the “I have a dream” speech or Montgomery [bus boycotts] when he had like, “all people should do…” He had evolved and recognized that the tactics they were using were not always the most effective and were not always in the best interests of the negro that they could have been.

And so I have on my board, you don’t see it, but I see myself as in between Martin and Malcolm from that little thing. [Both laugh]

Cory: That’s awesome.

Kim: Because you need that, you need to come—I come with the measured. I come with the research, but they’re just like, “Under any means necessary, this is going to happen.”

51:33

You cannot have a US economy that is thriving from, and needs these global customers, from the perspective of one or two individuals. It’s not gonna happen. You do not have your local Ace Hardware anymore where it didn’t matter if everybody was the same color. You are offending people if your customers are in South America and you don’t understand them, and there’s no one on your team who can explain to you the nuances of whatever—just doing Google Translate, there’s a lot that’s missed—

Cory: Yeah.

Kim: —in those kind of things and that—oh my god, I will create a video of terms you should stop using now to describe people like me. And it’s aggressive, intimidating, angry, assertive—I mean not assertive—there’s six of them in total. Because what happens is—and people think they’re harmless but they’re not—what happens is it affects people economically, ’cause just like you said, when the manager says that, that ends up in somebody’s personnel record and then when someone’s reading that, that becomes the… that can affect them negatively economically, and you do not have the right to do that because you cannot control or manage your own personal feelings. That has nothing to do with me.

52:56

And so that’s what I told her today. I was like, “Thank you for your feedback, because everybody has a perspective, but I’m gonna decline because it’s my story to tell and my movement to lead. And the fact that you even brought the anger, to actually be concerned about people seeing as an angry Black woman is a part of the problem that I’m having, that we’re having, ’cause it’s not my problem, ’cause I could give a damn.”

Cory: And the term I learned from a woman was “concern trolling”, which is that people come and they go, “Oh, you know, you would be so much better if you did this, or you know this is the thing, and—or the whole EEOC thing and—,” that’s concern trolling. It’s saying, like, “Oh,you’re gonna get in trouble if you do this and I’m just trying to protect you.”

Kim: Thank you, because that’s what she did! She did a five-stage tweet, starting with, “I’m Hispanic,”—don’t care—and, “Science says that if you want to appeal to people you shouldn’t use inflammatory—,” there’s redefining the word “privilege” to blame people, that’s not my issue. It’s a word in the dictionary. Now if you have issues with how words are defined, that’s not my issue. And so I’m glad to—oh, I’m gonna use that, I’m gonna make a video.

Cory: And the other thing I’ll say…

Kim: And it derails the conversation.

54:22

Cory: It derails the conversation. The other aspect I’ll put in this is there is an article I’ve sent to some people called “The Distress of the Privileged”, and it references a movie called Pleasantville, where a guy just wakes up and suddenly it’s like this very different world that he’s in. And there’s a point in the movie where he comes home and he’s like, “Where’s my dinner?” Because that’s been the default and everybody’s really mad at him for saying, like, “Where’s my dinner?” And he doesn’t understand why.

And there’s an interesting thing in the article where it says he’s not trying to oppress anybody. He’s not trying to be a bad guy, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. He just wants his dinner. He just wants things to be like they’ve always been.

Kim: Mhmm.

Cory: And I think about that a lot of, there’s this like completely uncertainty and fear of the world is changing and I don’t know how I fit into that anymore…

Kim: Yes.

Cory: …because everything I’ve been taught is kind of going away and I don’t know what to do about that. So that’s the other position that I kind of take from it is, you know, I think about that perspective of somebody coming home and going like, “Where’s my dinner?” And me going like, “OK, listen Bill, we’re gonna have a little talk…” [Both laugh]

Kim: And that’s what—so the thing that she was concern trolling on was a conversation that I was having with someone who tweeted something and wanted my opinion on it because he kept saying he’s having these unnecessary levels of discomfort, people being unnecessarily discomforted by—I don’t even know if discomfort it is the word —OK, because of privilege, we need to have these conversations and I’m like, “Well, where you see unnecessary, they are very necessary.”

56:10

 People need to go through these stages, we have to meet them where they are, but it’s on the person to prove to me that they are genuinely interested and have a desire to be informed and I’m with you all the way until you show yourself as an asshole and then I’m like, “I’m done.”

I’m not going to spend any more energy on this because I recognize—again being a special needs teacher I had 10 people in the class. I had to all get them where they needed to be, but they all had to get there at different paces. People didn’t come at the same topic at the same level of understanding. And so this is what I tell people in my talk; I am not white male bashing at all. I understand that there is a system around you that although you benefit from, it is invisible to you, because you’ve never had to struggle with it. It’s what you know.

And so—but what I’m, what we’re saying is for the first time, it’s not about you, and it’s OK to take this information in. It’s gonna sting. So I’m asking you to sit with it, internalize on it, reflect on it and just sit silent. There’s no need for you to say anything. Just sit silent for a while and just internalize it, because our gut reaction is to, “That hurt. You said something against me so I’m gonna attack,” but you’re not, then you miss out on all the nuances because you’ve never had these conversations. These are new to you. These are new to us. [Cory giggles] What’s new to us, I can tell you is the fact that white people are actually naming it.

57:47

Cory: Yeah.

Kim: That’s what’s new, ’cause we’ve been hushed, and told we’re crazy, and this doesn’t make any sense, and why are you talking about this for so long? That it seemed like a conspiracy theory. So now that it’s in the light of day we’re like, “Oh shit, OK now.” [Cory laughs] And then we’re going back and lookin’ at all these different things in our lives, that these things happened and re-evaluating it, because what’s happened to us, and this is one reason I really want to make this point, because this has been so systemic, it has harmed our communities in a way that has harmed our internal psyches.

We have—because it was never out there, it was just like this thing we felt, you start to internalize it and start thinking, “Is there something wrong with me? What’s wrong with me that this is not feeling right? What’s wrong with me, that this person keeps interacting with me in this way, and that’s not what my intention is?”

And then we start modulating our behavior; “OK, let me try it this way.” And every way we try it, it still gets slammed in our faces. That hurts us, psychologically.

Cory: Right.

58:58

Kim: And so we’re just saying—I’m gonna speak, I’m saying—if you are feeling a little discomfort, you’re only feeling a thumbnail’s worth the discomfort than what we feel everyday walking around in our skin…

Cory: Amen.

Kim: …and you’re gonna be OK. And you’re gonna be OK.

Cory: That’s right. And that’s what I tell people, it’s like, if you’re uncomfortable with this, imagine what they’re going through. Just imagine what they’re going through, where this is daily life for them. And it’s where every situation can be dangerous; everywhere they walk, they’ve got to think about—I’ve never walked out of a grocery store and thought, “Oh, I hope I have my keys between my fingers as a little weapon just in case.” You thought about that, right?

But there are many, many, many people who that’s exactly the first thing that they think there, and they have to think through those things, and it’s awful, and you brought up a good point, we have to do the work, to sit with the injustices that are out there, and it’s not because we personally are bad people.

Kim: Exactly.

Cory: We’re the product of a very flawed system, and if we believe that things should be different, if we believe that—there’s been a lot of talk about, men are biologically predestined to be leaders or whatever, and that’s a bunch of BS, and that comes from certain behavioral things and whatever—we have to sit with that and really reflect on it as the privileged people and be able to say, “OK, that’s not acceptable, that’s not cool.”

1:00:52

And it’s not about lowering the bar, it’s not about just increasing diversity numbers. It’s really about saying, “We work better when there’s many of us and when we don’t have many of us, we have to ask ourselves why and what we’re missing out on and how we’re going to fix that.”

Kim: And I want to end on this note. This has been a great conversation, but you just said something, I want to make sure, I want this to be like the exclamation point on it. [Cory laughs] And we were just talking about men as leaders. It’s the same thing as when all you see in your household is what you believe the world to be, and when you go outside of your household, you are stunned and shocked because people live different ways.

For years, for a century, for as long as the freakin’ US, there has been a capitalist system in the US. The only model we’ve had are white men. So to say that that is because they’re better is an incorrect assumption. It’s because that’s the only thing that you had to model from.

1:02:09

So people from underrepresented and marginalized have used that as a model and tried to contort ourselves into these situations. And I say this all the time, we need to—as underrepresented and marginalized people—we need to stop trying to play it, play a game that we were never intended to be a part of. We need to create our own game. The rules need to change. The game of privilege was never meant to include Black Kim Crayton. It was just not meant to. And so there is me wasting my energy trying to fit in there; it’s frustrating and demoralizing.

So I create my own stuff on the side, which is #CauseAScene and all these other things that I do, because I didn’t have a model. I’m, we’re making this up as we go. And that includes privilege as well. We’re making this up as we go. So, as long as you come to the table with a genuine, sincere interest in being a part of the solution, we got your back.

Cory: That’s right. And I…

Kim: ‘Cause we all have to get there together.

Cory: We all—and I’ll tell you what, what Arlan [Hamilton] just announced, Backstage Capital just announced, that $36 million fund with a million dollars each going to a Black female founder is going to fundamentally change…

1:03:30

Kim: Change.

Cory: …so many aspects of this country. It is so exciting…

Kim: We don’t even know how…

Cory: We have no idea that is gonna be…

Kim:  It is going to be a ripple effect.

Cory: …a historic, historic thing that we can’t even fathom what the—well, [laughs] I bet there’s a lot of people who can fathom that that was a [inaudible], but I think it’s going to change things in so many ways that there’s gonna be no choice. You are gonna, I mean, [exhales] women, Arlan is creating a platform that is unstoppable in a lot of ways, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of that, because that’s going to change so many things.

Kim: And what it is, is—the goal is that we’re going to end on the running analogy [Cory giggles]—the four-minute mile. No one could do it until the one person broke it and then thousands of people have broken the four-minute mile. It just takes one example of how something can be done, and that’s why I’m doing the #CauseAScene conferences, and only highlighting, because underrepresented and marginalized communities, because of what we started, how we started this conversation, but we can’t find these individuals. So, let me show you how this is done.

Cory: Mhm. That’s right.

Kim: Thank you Cory so much for joining me today, joining us and sharing, this has been a wonderful conversation.

1:05:00

Cory: Oh, it was my honor. I really appreciate you coming on and letting me participate a little bit in this, so.

Kim: Thank you.