Leave It Better: Q&A with RetailMeNot’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion
By Autumn Manning, Co-founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt
When I started my career, I briefly worked with a public Fortune 100 company on their diversity and inclusion efforts. They were looking to get things off the ground and my mandate was to help drive awareness, in partnership with the Chief Diversity Officer, around the needs of the changing workforce and to implement practices that would ensure a more diverse and inclusive culture.
Sadly, perhaps because of timing and maybe a little to do with the industry, their diversity and inclusion efforts failed to make much progress on the macro level. Unfortunately, in regards to company culture, the only real change I saw were the air quotes thrown up when people spoke about the company’s diversity and (lack of) support for it. Despite this, I like to believe that individuals were at least impacted in some small way, in pockets across the organization, and better understood, both with their heads and their hearts, the importance of advocating for an inclusive workforce.
Today, building a diverse team and advocating for an inclusive culture is more than just a check-the-box program or employer branding fluff for recruiting efforts. We have those millennials to thank for actually expecting our organizations to stand for something and live by those values; for building teams that are fast moving, high-performing, creative and inclusive; and contributing something of meaning and value.
This fall, I had the privilege of joining RetailMeNot, Inc. onsite to speak at their second W@RMN event. I was lucky enough to share my experience as a female executive, the mistakes I’ve made along the way, and lessons learned that I enjoy sharing with others so they can also find more courage to lead as women in the workforce today.
After that event, I sat down with Christine McCarey, RetailMeNot’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Senior Director of Legal Operations, so she could share her experiences and best practices for others who are looking to establish, increase, or create awareness for the Diversity and Inclusion efforts in their workplaces.
Autumn Manning: Let’s start with what you do for RetailMeNot. How long have you been with the company? What is your background?
Christine McCarey: I have been at RetailMeNot for almost six years. My husband and I moved to Austin from the Washington, D.C. area ten years ago. Throughout my career, I have held mostly legal roles including General Counsel and business positions over the years.
At RetailMeNot, I wear a few hats! My official title is Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and Senior Director, Legal Operations. Our Manager of D&I and Legal Operations, Haley Ackerman, and I co-founded our D&I Program in close collaboration with our executive team to ensure every team member is valued, welcomed, respected, and heard. Our initial diversity and inclusion efforts started in our engineering community and our D&I Program built upon those efforts to create a company-wide program.
Manning: What is W@RMN? Why did it start and what is your role with it?
McCarey: Women @ RetailMeNot (W@RMN) operates within the umbrella of our D&I Program as an Employee Resource Group (ERG). I founded and initially led W@RMN and our CMO, Marissa Tarleton, is the W@RMN executive sponsor and an early and enthusiastic supporter of the program. Leadership of W@RMN has since migrated to two other female leaders within our organization, Kim Read and Vicki Bodwell.
W@RMN is a community that celebrates women’s voices, increases their impact, and recognizes their full potential. This community is a path to a more balanced representation of women at all levels of our company, and everyone is welcome to join W@RMN — not just women!
We now have seven official ERGs under the Program’s umbrella, each designed to help foster community within RetailMeNot with a focus on attracting, developing, and retaining diverse and inclusive team members. These groups are supported by a cross-departmental D&I Council comprised of team members at all levels.
At the highest level, our D&I Program has been widely supported by our CEO, Cotter Cunningham, and our entire executive team.
Manning: How does W@RMN serve the business?
McCarey: We are still early in our tenure with ERGs, but already have seen an impact. As part of the W@RMN ERG, we launched a Mentoring Circle program to promote professional development of women across departments. So far, I have been excited to see our Mentoring Circle program foster a sense of connection and engagement vital to retention.
Manning: How does W@RMN serve the employees?
McCarey: Before we launched W@RMN, we surveyed female employees and three areas of improvement emerged: navigating career path; building communication skills; and integrating work and life.
We immediately instituted monthly informal women’s lunches that offered a safe, supportive space to discuss issues, enable women to present, and empower our team members to be part of the solution. We also have fun!
In addition to the Mentoring Circles, W@RMN has:
- Hosted inspiring speakers (like yourself!) as part of a quarterly speaker series
- Held a clothing swap that benefitted Dress for Success
- Viewed a private showing of “Wonder Woman” and “Battle of the Sexes” at Alamo Drafthouse.
We will continue to partner more with other companies like YouEarnedIt and organizations that recognize and further women’s issues. RetailMeNot was an early YEI adopter, and we believe in recognizing and supporting our peers.
Manning: What business changes have come from the efforts and learnings from the D&I Program, including W@RMN?
McCarey: At the individual level, D&I Program volunteers and People, our HR department, partnered to implement optional, company-wide unconscious bias trainings (online and in person) that build awareness and give our team members tools to decrease unconscious bias. In those trainings, we address issues that specifically impact women and minority groups.
At the business process level, we continue to identify and implement unconscious bias interrupters. For example, we added “salary negotiable” to job descriptions because studies show women often do not negotiate otherwise. We also implemented an enterprise-wide software solution called Textio that helps us ensure all job descriptions are gender neutral. Through this software, our public-facing job descriptions are evaluated for language to ensure tonality speaks to both men and women equally. This way, our candidate pool is greater as our opportunities are crafted to reach the most qualified candidate possible.
Before W@RMN launched, our People (HR) team, thanks to our CEO, had implemented a generous parental leave policy. Our male colleagues are encouraged (and do) take parental leave; this is an important way to support women too.
Manning: What advice would you give to other organizations that are just kicking off their D&I Program and female leadership initiatives?
- Educate your executives (if necessary) and obtain vocal, consistent executive support at the outset (always).
- Study best practices, including behavioral economics.
- Ensure your initiative’s design empowers the team members to engage and facilitate change.
- Actively listen to the needs of your community.
- Speak with other organizations doing this work to find out their successes and pain points.
- Identify your mission and how you plan to get there.
- Always keep the big picture in mind so small failures do not derail you.
Manning: Are there beliefs you used to hold true, but that you don’t anymore based on the work from W@RMN?
McCarey: My early career developed in heavily male dominated industries in the ’80s and ’90s, so unfortunately I know what unhealthy environments can feel like. Like many women, I used to think talent and hard work were enough, but I know now women cannot wait to be discovered or give away their power.
Manning: Same question for the business: practices you used to do, but that you don’t anymore?
McCarey: Fortunately, we did not have any business practices that were outright harmful, but awareness has resulted in several positive changes like:
- We address when something in our physical environment makes someone uncomfortable. For example, we now have a gender neutral bathroom.
- We ensure the ratio of women and men presenting at RMN events is more balanced.
- We note when folks refer to mixed groups as “guys.”
Manning: What are some keys to a successful women’s initiative that not only serves the culture but also serves the business?
McCarey: Our CEO always has encouraged a culture at RetailMeNot that fosters and allows employee success in endeavors like this. Empower your women to empower your business — it will impact your company’s success. Everything is connected!
Thank you Christine for your openness and willingness to #LeaveItBetter!
Leave it Better with Autumn Manning is a Q&A series with YouEarnedIt’s CEO to discuss hot topics around leadership, diversity, culture, and women in tech as part of our ongoing effort to build strong and inclusive business cultures.
Autumn Manning is co-founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt, an HR SaaS company that improves bottom-line performance metrics by enhancing the employee experience. With a background in human capital management and expertise in enhancing corporate culture, she carries out the company’s vision to improve the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time.
Profiled in The New York Times and HuffPost, Autumn’s thoughts on culture and leadership have been featured in Inc., Business Insider, and Entrepreneur. Under her leadership, YouEarnedIt created the world’s most robust employee experience platform and was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017.
Christine McCarey is the head of diversity and inclusion at RetailMeNot. She founded and leads RetailMeNot’s diversity and inclusion program that includes a cross-functional diversity and inclusion council and seven employee resource groups. She oversees program work which includes implementing unconscious bias training and community outreach. Christine also serves as the leader of RetailMeNot’s legal operations team.
Connect Christine McCarey