An afternoon panel at the Move the Dial Global Summit continued the morning’s conversation to focus on retaining more women in tech. That panel, moderated by Dr. Sarah Saska, featuredCeridian’s own CMO Kristina Cleary, Cognizant Senior Full Stack Developer Zoe Jones, Harvard Research Fellow Anisha Asundi, integrate.ai Founder and CEO Steve Irvine, and Borowell Co-Founder and COO Eva Wong.
Ceridian’s Cleary said that employers need to focus more on creating an “ideal workplace” – that is, creating a work environment in which every employee can be their best self. That means implementing unconventional and non-traditional policies and programs, using tools and technology to help employees work in the ways that are best for them, and driving a culture and work structure that is unbiased.
She also echoed the point WealthSimple’s Michael Katchen made in the morning panel – companies need to do a better job of sharing and being transparent with their data to understand what they can do better.
Borowell’s Wong brought logic to the forefront – if you want to retain more women, then hire more women. Her point is that the more women there are in the workplace, the more they understand the roles and responsibilities that other women face, and the more collaborative and inclusive the environment will be.
She added that simply measuring retention isn’t enough – and at that point, it’s too late to act on the numbers. At Borowell, they measure engagement rates weekly. “Engagement gives us insight to act on things people are feeling,” Wong said. “We get a pulse hopefully before someone feels they need to leave the company.”
Cognizant’s Jones made a statement that panelists said they should put on a t-shirt: “You can’t make a whole picture out of a pixel.” Jones expanded on this, saying that employers need a “variety of lenses” to get a full picture of what it takes to retain more women, advising that employers develop their employee resource groups (ERGs) and get as many different inputs as possible.
Irvine of integrate.ai, the only male on the panel, said that navigating these conversations as a white male CEO requires being both vulnerable and uncomfortable – and that more CEOs and senior leaders should be put in that position, to have an experience where they don’t control the surroundings. It’s much more powerful and impactful to feel it – vulnerability and discomfort – versus reading about it and never truly experiencing it, he said. “Passion follows empathy,” he added.
He also noted that it’s important to be aware of how employers judge progress. He cited an example of meetings where people complete each other’s sentences and high-five each other on the way out, adding that this isn’t necessary a good thing.
“We’ve been taught that you should conform,” he said. As companies move from more homogeneous groups to heterogeneous groups, the best meetings are “when you leave a meeting where everyone is challenging you and no one naturally sees things the way you do – that’s the best thing ever.”