Why This Illumina Leader Believes Complacency is the Biggest Obstacle to Diversity Hiring

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In the Celebrating Male Allies Series from Fairygodboss, we share the stories of male allies who are helping elevate women in the workplace and pave the path to gender equality.

Since men still hold most positions of leadership today, we believe it’s critical that they raise their voices to help advance women at work — whether that be by participating in women’s Employee Resource Groups, making sure their female colleagues have a seat at the table and more. 

Our next male ally is Justin Stewart, the Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Illumina. We interviewed Justin  about his efforts to improve gender diversity at work.

Tell us a little bit about your role. What are your key business priorities, and why do you think gender diversity is important in the workplace?

I am a career and talent matchmaker. It's my mission to partner with my candidates and all levels of Leadership and to find and hire the most talented, passionate and amazing people to join our revolutionary organization!  I also build long term, meaningful relationships with professionals in numerous industries and act as a bridge to bring networks together. My goal is to open doors and opportunities —period!

As a Full Cycle Jedi Recruiter, my primary focus is the sourcing, vetting, recruiting, and closing talented professionals in Life Cycle Management, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Equipment Engineering, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Information Security, Project, Program, and Product Management. If Illumina needs it, I'll find and fill it!

When it comes to gender diversity, I feel it’s critical in all aspects of life, not just the workplace. The day we take this approach, is the day we as a society elevate to the level I feel we are all aspiring to hit and achieve even more mind-blowing accomplishments.

What is one of the biggest obstacles to workplace gender diversity that you see?

Complacency and the mind set "If it ain't broke don't fix it" is one of the biggest obstacles in front of us today. We have to be open to hiring and employing those who do not look or sound like us to truly diversify thought, product and results.

In your opinion, what’s the first step men can take to be stronger allies?

I do not speak for all men, but I feel we could do a better job of encouraging and empowering our women counterparts. Allowing more diverse thinking will allow growth and success for all. If men continue to think that "our" way is the best way, we will hinder progress and decrease the chances of a higher level of success.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to ambitious women in the workplace?

Apply to the role, even if  you don't feel you're qualified for it! Take on that difficult project you've been shying away from. Take that chance at work and push yourself. Have that difficult conversation with a coworker or boss. Empower yourself, don't wait to be empowered. It's your time and the time is now. I'm willing to bet you're a better fit and will be more successful than you think.

Why is your company a great place for women to work?

True diversity of thought takes place here. We empower women at Illumina to be the best they can and want to be. I love how gender diverse our Org is, and we constantly work to increase that diversity at all levels at Illumina.

Tell us about one of your female role models. How has this person made an impact on your career?

My mother. Watching her climb the corporate leadership ranks (she became a Senior Manager for Blue Cross/Blue Shield/Anthem) during the 80-00's), while raising two highly active boys and maintained an amazing and loving marriage. 

I truly have no idea how she did it all, but she made it look easy and I know it was far from that — especially being a black woman during that time frame. Looking back at my childhood, not taking anything away from my Dad (he is role model as well), but my mom did a ton for us. I know I wouldn't be where I am nor the man I am without her advice, love, encouragement and example.

Lighting Round: What are your passion projects? What do you do when you’re not working?

Work around the house, Family time, Xbox (yes I am a gamer) and support our veteran community.

Lightning Round: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would that be?

Jackie Robinson

Lightning Round: What’s your favorite book?

Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Lightning Round: What’s one food you could eat every day for the rest of your life?


Do you know a strong male ally at your company? Send them our questionnaire here.