Diversity Woman Magazine

SPR 2019

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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We Mean Business > 24 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S p r i n g 2 0 1 9 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m In 2017, we did a Tech Leavers survey that showed that the engineering and technical positions are overwhelmingly occupied by white males. ose jobs tend to drive the culture of tech companies, and these employees are valued more highly than those in finance and market- ing, where you find more women. DW: What are some of the major hurdles for women and women of color in STEM? FKK: I think that tech has a huge prob- lem in understanding what diversity and inclusion and equity and fairness are all about. Tech, as we know it today—I am thinking of Silicon Valley–style tech, the land of high-growth venture-backed start-ups—has a culture antithetical to diversity. e industry sees itself as in- credibly smart and talented, and that it is inventing the future. But it is also ut- terly biased in that it attracts and retains and promotes its own, not necessarily those with a good idea. e industry likes to think of itself as a meritocracy. But it isn't. It all comes down to networks and group think. And there hasn't been enough direct open and difficult conver- sation on that topic. DW: Are you seeing buy-in from the C- suite, so that companies can increase their talent pool and retain diverse workers? FKK: When you first meet with chief di- versity officers, you get a lot of enthusi- asm around what their companies are doing. ey are happy to evangelize their bold initiatives and such. But then you get a group of CDOs together in a room over a glass of wine, and every single one is frus- trated that the C-suite doesn't really get it or care. ere is insufficient staffing and budgets and even goals and metrics for what CDOs do. e goals for D&I depart- ments are generally much lighter than for any other strategic aspect of the busi- ness, and nobody cares if you meet those numbers—if you miss your numbers of, say, diverse hires, heads don't roll. is means no one is caring. at is the chasm where all the cyni- cism and distrust amplify, and is why you get the level of turnover you get. DW: How is the culture antithetical for women and women of color? FKK: Here is one example. Chief diver- sity officers will tell you off the record that there is a problematic tension between white women and underrepresented wom- en of color. Depending on the company, sometimes Asian women can align with either white women or women of color. I ask, every time I talk to CDOs, how many women ERGs (employee resource groups) are exclusively white or white and Asian. Often there is some very uncomfortable shuffling and looking at their shoes. is is a common issue that nobody wants to talk about. ere is a lot of potential for heads of D&I to wrap their arms around the issue of what it would mean to be a true ally. What does it mean for women to have conversations across race and class and talk about the enormous differences in their experiences within the same com- pany? ere is the potential for break- through in addressing head-on these is- sues of intersectionality. DW: How does a company change its culture? FKK: First, you need to get to a critical mass in terms of race and gender. e tipping point is in the 20 to 30 percent range—not just in entry-level positions, but also across the board, including in the C-suite and in engineering. Until you get there, the culture doesn't change, and it doesn't feel safe. Tech's current approach to diversity is like fill- ing a bathtub with the drain open. A lot of resources go into sourcing and recruit- ing, but little goes into the critical com- ponent of auditing the culture for being welcoming. DW: How can data be used by compa- nies to better understand how to recruit and retain a diverse workforce? FKK: I would love for CDOs to get much more sophisticated about reading and understanding the research that they use to make decisions. For example, we test- ed for five common D&I interventions to see which make differences around the experience of biases within a company. As far as I know, no one has done that sort of study or used that kind of data— meaning, to see what decreases in biases in organizations make a statistical differ- ence in increasing the retention of unrep- resented groups. Further, companies assume that certain activities work, without the data backing it up. For example, people do unconscious bias training without testing—and stud- ies show that the training doesn't make any difference. In fact, some studies show it makes things worse. at is why so many women, especially women of color, leave. e data show that underrepresented women of color in tech are being passed over for promotion. But I don't think many CDOs have a good com- mand of the research and rigorously drill down in the data to even find this out. As a result, you have people making assumptions and decisions based on ste- reotypes. I am reading Michelle Obama's book [Becoming]. Her high school guid- ance counselor told her that she was not Princeton material. ose very same sorts of expectations based around race and/or gender are still being played out in the tech industry. DW I think that tech has a huge problem in understanding what diversity and inclusion and equity and fairness are all about.

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