“Bring Yourself to Work Day” and Other Ideas Whose Time Has Come

We wanted to find out what happens when you get 125 people together to brainstorm ideas on Gender Equality in Tech. So at our most recent Seat @ the Table — part of SAP’s #PurposeGen Week in New York City — a wonderfully diverse group tackled two key questions:

  • How might we help people in a minority (women, introverts, people of color) in tech to feel more powerful in challenging environments?
  • How might we get men more systematically engaged in the progress of women in the tech workplace?
Giving out brainstorming instructions to the group.

The goal was to generate solutions that could be put in place as quickly as possible.

Collection of some of the ideas brainstormed.

Questions were randomly assigned, with each small group first sharing stories and solutions, then brainstorming new ideas and picking out their top ones.

People self-organized into small groups for story sharing then idea generation.

Small groups then rolled into larger groups to build on their top ideas and again pick out their collective favorites.

We melded all small groups into four larger ones.

We were impressed with the engagement and thoughtfulness of every group, but the crowd favorite was for “How might we help people in a minority in tech to feel more powerful in challenging environments?” It was “Bring Yourself to Work Day” dressing in something that represents your authentic self (old t-shirt and sweatpants anyone?) and getting to know each other at a deeper level. The idea is that by knowing each other better, we can be better employees and bosses — and more supportive of each others’ whole selves. In response, one person shared she would wear disco balls everywhere because how much she loved disco was important to her.

Here are the rest of the ideas groups shared.

Question: How might we help people who are a minority feel more powerful, especially in challenging environments?

Idea #1: During meetings there are a lot of introverted people that don’t feel comfortable expressing their ideas. One way to get their and everyone’s feedback is to have a wait time between when the meeting is over and when the decision is made. That way everyone makes no rash decisions and everyone has time to mull over everything that was going on. Everyone has time to process, and then the introverted people can then feel comfortable expressing their ideas at a later time, because they don’t feel so pressured to have to jump into the conversation with more aggressive people.

Idea #2: Offer employees who are in these groups the opportunity to talk to an outside confidential resource about whatever stressful moment or issue they’re facing in the workplace. Often times people don’t feel comfortable going straight to their boss or to the HR business partner. So this would give them the opportunity to actually vent what’s bothering them to someone else, and give them the confidence to go forward and have whatever conversation they’re having.

Idea #3: An idea to really bring your authentic self to work — bring yourself to work day! It is where we get to really sit down and get to know each other a little better and really bring our authentic selves to work. Wearing whatever it is that we want to wear, listening to whatever music we listen to at home, and really just getting a chance to also talk about some of the experiences that we’ve had at work where we’ve felt inequality. That way we can have sympathy and understanding for what each other has been through so that we can be better supportive and be better employees and better bosses.

Idea #4: Our second idea was to go beyond conversation and actually implement metrics in hiring processes, in salary negotiations, in promotion opportunities, and really being able to have accountability about how things are done. Not making it seem like we’re just a room full of women and men talking about how we feel about things, and that we feel left out, but there’s actually facts behind what we are saying, and that there’s room to be able to create goals that we can reach.

Idea #5: Provide channels for capturing anonymous input. Explain that you will actually turn to what one of our groups did which is write down our ideas and stick them on a sticky note and have people vote democratically for the best idea by merit instead of by who said what or how that looks. So that reduces the amount of politics and bias in judging the best ideas.

Question: How might we systematically get more men engaged in the progression of women?

Idea #6: It turns out that both groups separately discussed that there’s biases in all of us, but also even among women. In our first group, we discussed how sometimes women, especially if you are a person of color, we felt that white women are were actually detrimental to the progression of our careers, and that we felt that sometimes white men were actually better in helping us get forward. And so what both groups decided was that boys need to be raised with strong women and women in positions of leadership, so that if they marry a woman who’s in a high powerful career she won’t have to take time off since her partner has been comfortable with that since a child. So the solution was all those in position of leadership is to require them to mentor someone of a different gender identity. And that includes intersectionality of genders or sexual orientation.

Idea #7: Because motherhood and parenthood came up a lot in this discussion and through the experiences of those from Finland, me from Canada, and how we see paternity leave as much better than the states. We all came up collectively that it should be mandated paternity leave by corporations and companies for fathers who have a child within the first year. This includes, full time, part-time, freelance, contractors, all of them have to take time off if they are a father within the year of having a child.

Idea #8: Our idea was around data and statistics. We want to do something like benchmarking. On Facebook you have groups. What is the average ratio from men to women in these groups and where does your group stand? How many emails have you sent to men vs. women and where do you stand in the company? In taking that data and sort of analyzing it and benchmarking it to where each group in the company has been successful, and opening up the conversation on how that data has driven results. Maybe it’s not based on performance, but what you get from that is you understand where you are as an individual. And you eliminate your own bias.

Martina: The really, really important thing beyond the ideas that were brainstormed and shared by the panel here tonight, is not what we do together in this room but it’s what each one of you choose to do when you leave. It’s an action that you choose to put in place. If you liked an idea, bring it into your company and take action on it so progress will be the collective effort of 1,000 little actions that will actually move the needle toward progress for us in every question we’ve explored tonight. I want to encourage you to not just make this a conversation but to make it the beginning of you taking action on your own behalf in your daily life.

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To view more photos from the event, please visit Facebook.com/CostanoaVC.