Women leaders reflect on whether gender diversity is working

With technology and globalization, the world is becoming smaller.  Recruiting, retaining and empowering a diverse and inclusive group of employees reflects the world around you and makes your team more creative and develop products that better meet the needs of your marketplace. 
 
Enterprises have also recognized that the abysmal lack of diversity in their organizations is to their economic detriment and are working on multi-pronged strategies to solve it.  
 
Talking Cranes talks to women leaders to reflect on the diversity needs, challenges and successes in their industries.  We posed two questions:
 
 - Can you identify atleast two things that have helped increase diversity in your industry? and how is it working?

- What could companies offer to empower women in the workplace?  (maternity leave- flex timing- job sharing- working from home- other benefits etc)?

and here is what they have to say.

Emily Glassberg Sands – Data Science Manager at Coursera, Mountain View
 
In the field of data science, the problems we’re tackling are hard and require creative and novel approaches. At the team level, this means bringing in people who are going to uplevel the creativity of the team as a whole. And as we know from the literature, diverse teams are more creative.
 
Today, 40% of my data scientist team is female. That’s more than twice the industry average. What has worked?
 
First, actively sourcing and recruiting diverse talent. Consider three groups at the top of the funnel: referrals, organic applicants, and sourced applicants. Referrals are often talented, but if there’s a gender gap on the team today, leaning too heavily on referrals can exacerbate the disparity. Why? Because people tend to refer people who look like them. Organic applicants can be more diverse provided we are thoughtful about casting an inclusive net, for example by checking that job descriptions are gender neutral. But ultimately it’s also on us to source for the talent we want -- hosting inclusive events with groups like Women Who Code, reaching out directly to select profiles on LinkedIn, building a network with the types of people we want to hire. Then, once the right mix of candidates is in the pipeline, data can bring awareness to any implicit gender biases in screening, and the inclusion of female interviewers on the panels can help with evaluation and selling.
 
Second, connecting the dots between technical roles and social impact may be useful for attracting and retaining women to the field. While many technical roles provide a unique opportunity to make an impact in education, health, and other societal challenges, the link is not always obvious in the classroom or even while interviewing. Talking to potential candidates early and often about the why behind the work is likely to appeal to female talent, not to mention talent that is a strong fits with the organization.
 
Finally, throughout the workplace, we can empower women in their roles by treating them as equals. This means being deeply honest about whether females in the organization are given the same transparent feedback and high-visibility projects as their male counterparts (and where they are not, fixing it). More formally, we can validate that compensation and promotion decisions are gender agnostic. At Coursera, we conduct analysis of pay parity at every compensation review to ensure fairness across the company, including between men and women in comparable roles. 

Mona Sabet - Tribal Leader, Tribal Ventures, San Francisco
 
In the entrepreneurial world, women founders have increased in numbers substantially over the past 5 years.  I don't know of studies that explain why that is, but my experience tells me that it's because there is more attention in the media paid to women founders.  More attention = more awareness on the part of women that this is a path that is open to them to take.
 
The sad part of the story is that despite their being more women founders, women led startups still receive a small fraction of the VC funding available out there compared with male led startups.  What will help improve those numbers is if we have more women VC partners in traditional VC companies.
 
For the larger companies that can offer a suite of employee benefits, I think the single biggest initiative that can change the numbers of women in male dominated professions is offering a national required PAID parental leave policy that requires both parents to take EQUAL TIME OFF in order to receive the benefit of the policy.  Until we manage to get legislation to that effect through at a national level (and honestly, I have little hope of this happening in the next 4 years), the best we can hope for is that individual companies offer this benefit on their own.
 
 
Darya Henig Shaked Founder of WEACT, Women Entrepreneurs Act, Palo Alto
 
I believe we need to support women in their effort to build global corporations by exposing them to our professional network, provide tools and accessibility to funding. More female founders means more solutions to diverse range of challenges as well as more success stories and more women in the investment world. Once more women will sit on investment committees, more funding will go to female founders and this is how we disrupt this cycle.
 
I believe more women in leading positions will bring more modern and thoughtful work culture.  Workplaces shouldn’t care where and when their employees do the work. They should care only about the bottom line results. If that was the case, women would have been much over 50% of the work force. This is what I experienced in the past 10 years as an employee and this culture proved itself.

 

Anjana Nagarajan

With technology and globalization, the world is becoming smaller.  Recruiting, retaining and empowering a diverse and inclusive group of employees reflects the world around you and makes your team more creative and develop products that better meet the needs of your marketplace. 
 
Enterprises have also recognized that the abysmal lack of diversity in their organizations is to their economic detriment and are working on multi-pronged strategies to solve it.  
 
Talking Cranes talks to women leaders to reflect on the diversity needs, challenges and successes in their industries.  We posed two questions:
 
 - Can you identify atleast two things that have helped increase diversity in your industry? and how is it working?

- What could companies offer to empower women in the workplace?  (maternity leave- flex timing- job sharing- working from home- other benefits etc)?

and here is what they have to say.

Emily Glassberg Sands – Data Science Manager at Coursera, Mountain View
 
In the field of data science, the problems we’re tackling are hard and require creative and novel approaches. At the team level, this means bringing in people who are going to uplevel the creativity of the team as a whole. And as we know from the literature, diverse teams are more creative.
 
Today, 40% of my data scientist team is female. That’s more than twice the industry average. What has worked?
 
First, actively sourcing and recruiting diverse talent. Consider three groups at the top of the funnel: referrals, organic applicants, and sourced applicants. Referrals are often talented, but if there’s a gender gap on the team today, leaning too heavily on referrals can exacerbate the disparity. Why? Because people tend to refer people who look like them. Organic applicants can be more diverse provided we are thoughtful about casting an inclusive net, for example by checking that job descriptions are gender neutral. But ultimately it’s also on us to source for the talent we want -- hosting inclusive events with groups like Women Who Code, reaching out directly to select profiles on LinkedIn, building a network with the types of people we want to hire. Then, once the right mix of candidates is in the pipeline, data can bring awareness to any implicit gender biases in screening, and the inclusion of female interviewers on the panels can help with evaluation and selling.
 
Second, connecting the dots between technical roles and social impact may be useful for attracting and retaining women to the field. While many technical roles provide a unique opportunity to make an impact in education, health, and other societal challenges, the link is not always obvious in the classroom or even while interviewing. Talking to potential candidates early and often about the why behind the work is likely to appeal to female talent, not to mention talent that is a strong fits with the organization.
 
Finally, throughout the workplace, we can empower women in their roles by treating them as equals. This means being deeply honest about whether females in the organization are given the same transparent feedback and high-visibility projects as their male counterparts (and where they are not, fixing it). More formally, we can validate that compensation and promotion decisions are gender agnostic. At Coursera, we conduct analysis of pay parity at every compensation review to ensure fairness across the company, including between men and women in comparable roles. 

Mona Sabet - Tribal Leader, Tribal Ventures, San Francisco
 
In the entrepreneurial world, women founders have increased in numbers substantially over the past 5 years.  I don't know of studies that explain why that is, but my experience tells me that it's because there is more attention in the media paid to women founders.  More attention = more awareness on the part of women that this is a path that is open to them to take.
 
The sad part of the story is that despite their being more women founders, women led startups still receive a small fraction of the VC funding available out there compared with male led startups.  What will help improve those numbers is if we have more women VC partners in traditional VC companies.
 
For the larger companies that can offer a suite of employee benefits, I think the single biggest initiative that can change the numbers of women in male dominated professions is offering a national required PAID parental leave policy that requires both parents to take EQUAL TIME OFF in order to receive the benefit of the policy.  Until we manage to get legislation to that effect through at a national level (and honestly, I have little hope of this happening in the next 4 years), the best we can hope for is that individual companies offer this benefit on their own.
 
 
Darya Henig Shaked Founder of WEACT, Women Entrepreneurs Act, Palo Alto
 
I believe we need to support women in their effort to build global corporations by exposing them to our professional network, provide tools and accessibility to funding. More female founders means more solutions to diverse range of challenges as well as more success stories and more women in the investment world. Once more women will sit on investment committees, more funding will go to female founders and this is how we disrupt this cycle.
 
I believe more women in leading positions will bring more modern and thoughtful work culture.  Workplaces shouldn’t care where and when their employees do the work. They should care only about the bottom line results. If that was the case, women would have been much over 50% of the work force. This is what I experienced in the past 10 years as an employee and this culture proved itself.

 

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