Diversity Woman Magazine

SPR 2019

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

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d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m S p r i n g 2 0 1 9 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N 37 I have learned to embrace those interactions as teaching moments and not get frustrat- ed by them." Washington says she too has encountered many mi- croagressions and obstacles in her career, especially in her years as a senior vice presi- dent representing PeopleSoft in Europe, where she also had to overcome a new set of cultural differences. "Robin is also a male name, so when I was the site lead, I would go to meetings and the first reaction was they didn't expect to be shaking hands with an African American female!" Washington says. "I learned how to use this reaction to my advantage. I just focused on my work, and by getting the job done, eventually the shock and awe wore off, and we got down to business." She says that the key is to find the silver lining when you face an obstacle or a rejection. "Ask for feedback and then learn how to leverage that disappointment into what you are seeking," she says. "And sometimes the alternative turns out to be the better opportunity and fit." Breaking down the doors: diversity Women, and particularly women of color, are signifi- cantly underrepresented in science, tech, and engineering oc- cupations, according to a 2017 study by the National Science Foundation. For example, women made up just 14.5 percent of engineers in the United States in 2015. Archambeau, Brown-Philpot, and Washington have all reached the pinnacle of their professions. at affords them a great deal of perspective on how to address the job equity gap and build diverse teams in the technology and biotech sectors. One of the most deeply held axioms in the tech field is that new technology drives innovation. at can conflict with the reality on the ground, where many, including Brown-Philpot, strongly believe that the technological advances must be paired with the under- standing that diversity of thought and experiences is just as critical. "If your company is truly going to be innovative on a global scale, it must have diversity of mind-set and skill set in building your company," says Brown-Philpot. "You can't just say tech drives in- novation if you have a bunch of white men building things and not understanding how people will be using that technology around the world. at company would fail. To get truly diverse human judgment, and therefore the outcomes you want, you need people with different experience and background around the table." As in any field, managers in tech and biotech tend to hire people who look like them and have similar life experiences. erefore, says Archambeau, diversity and inclusion leaders need to help their CEO and leaders realize the importance of cross-pollination. "Tech companies are moving so fast, they do what is easy— hiring people who look like them. is is simply muscle mem- ory," she says. "at said, I firmly believe there are leaders of companies who get it and those who don't. But I do think that more and more are getting it." Brown-Philpot notes that at TaskRabbit the responsibility for hiring diverse employees does not just fall on the human resourc- es department. "Every person in the company is responsible for creating diversity in their area," she says. She acknowledges that sometimes those conversations can be hard. "I once had a conversation with a cofounder who is the CTO, an engineer, and I said we need to hire more female engineers. It was a challenging, difficult conversation. Finally, as I kept in- sisting, he hung up the phone! But the next week, he called me and said, 'OK, Stacy, we will do this together.' at changed every- thing, when he signed on." For Washington, one way to get leaders to recognize the value of diverse teams is simple: ask them to think about their daughters. "I had a boss who talked about how he wanted to ensure the environment he created as CEO was one he wanted his daughters to work in," she says. A diverse company means nothing without a commitment to inclusivity In the tech field, says Archambeau, the key to ensuring inclu- sion is strengthening the skills of managers. Many people, such as successful engineers and programmers, are promoted into leadership roles. "e problem is some don't have the requisite The Leadership Challenge for Women in STEM Robin Washington "Success in leadership in the STEM fields is about more than technical skills. People skills are just as important."

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