Grace Hopper 2016: Insights from the Top Companies Leadership Index
During the morning keynotes at the Grace Hopper Conference, the highest scoring companies from the 2016 Top Companies program were announced, along with overall winner ThoughtWorks. I’m proud to work for Intuit, a company included in the Leadership Index.
In the afternoon was a special session for all GHC16 attendees to hear from senior technologists at companies on the Leadership Index, and learn what they’re doing to increase the representation of women technologists through recruitment, retention, and advancement. The panel included:
- Moderator — Sharon Florentine, Sharon Florentine, CIO Magazine
- Rosa Ramos-Kwok, Bank of America
- Opal Perry, Allstate
- Aicha Evans, Intel
- Annette Rippert, Accenture
In opening, each panelist talked about why diversity and the Top Companies program matter to their companies. The common theme was that their customers and clients are global and diverse in nature, therefore, the workplace needed to be as well. Aicha re-iterated that you need diversity of thoughts, diversity of views, and diversity of experience and shared her CEO’s goal of achieving a fully diverse workforce by 2020. He can’t understand how we can land a man on the moon but are unable to get the workforce to represent the population. It’s awesome to see such bold, moonshot goals set.
The conversation then moved to programs at each of the companies. While many have formal mentoring, hiring, and retention programs, all stressed the importance of also having business goals around diversity. What gets measured gets improved.
Aicha raised an interesting point about how surveys at Intel told them that diverse populations felt isolated. They weren’t sure if they should try to be like the rest of their Intel colleagues or if it was really ok to bring their true selves to work. (At Intuit, we definitely encourage everyone to bring their whole, true self to work.)
The conversation the moved into unconscious bias: “Like likes like.” Having unconscious bias doesn’t make you bad (we all have it, even minorities), but you do need to be aware and do need to work harder to be inclusive.
Rosa talked about how Bank of America worked hard to ensure the language in their job descriptions was inclusive: action-oriented versus aggressive. Have you read the job descriptions your company posts? Have you ever avoided applying for a job because of non-inclusive language in a job post?
Flex time was also a big topic, but the panel felt it’s more important to focus on accommodating what each person needs when they need it (family status changes, life changes). Don’t assume what people need and what works — make it easy and comfortable to have conversations. Aicha noted that you should always have the conversation and ask for what you need, and if you get told no, you probably didn’t really want to work there anyway.
While there is always focus on recruiting and hiring, companies also need to focus on retention. Annette shared recent improvements to maternity benefits that Accenture had rolled out along with the option for all parents (regardless of gender) to ask for more local assignments (with less travel) after having children.
Opal talked about a unique program that Allstate had rolled out. They have a new opt-in lab environment that focused on extreme agile, pair programming, and test-driven development. If you opt-in, you use a desktop so there is no computer to take home at the end of the day. All meetings and work happen during standard business hours. In return for less flex time (you can’t pop out during the day to read at your kid’s school, for example), you get evenings and weekends free to have uninterrupted time, whether it’s pursing hobbies or having dinner every night with your family.
With regards to promotion, Aicha shared an interesting thing Intel does when looking whether or not someone is ready for promotion. They don’t just look at how long the person has been in the current role but how long they were in the previous role; is there an acceleration needed for that person? Never underestimate the power of doing something for even just 1 person. It still makes a difference.
A final topic was pay equity. Intel and Accenture were making great progress, but one call out was don’t just fix any inequity that you find, but really look at why and how it happened so you can prevent it again.
The panel was full of amazing technical women who were clearly passionate about their roles in championing diversity and making a difference. Measure What Matters!
If you love data, you can read all the findings from this year’s report here.