Despite a reputation for individuality, Silicon Valley companies are often mired in conformity. Tracy Cote says the path to diversity and success is marked with questioning assumptions and recognizing bias.
As an HR professional, I often have conversations where managers reject candidates for lack of an indefinable quality called “presence.” Professional presence, executive presence, personal brand — these have become the new code words for mimicking company leadership.
Do you look, speak, and match the company’s self-image? A suit in a bank, a hoodie in a high-tech company, green hair in a nonprofit, even pounding the table to get your opinion across.
Presence is one way that companies unintentionally discourage diversity. You may not want to wear the company sweatshirt or remove your nose ring. But a condition of employment becomes who the company wants you to be, rather than who you already are.
I know an HR leader who is coaching a manager on his executive presence. He is educated and performs well. But his strong accent, unruly hair, and peculiar attire make him a challenge to promote. My take: The employee doesn’t need coaching; the leadership team does.