2013 NCWIT Summit - Workshop, Male Advocates Matter: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology
[music lead in]
Catherine Ashcraft: So thank you so much for coming to ah the panel on male advocates and influencers, welcome. Glad to have you. And as many of you may know by now, um this panel basically comes out of the male influencers study that um we just completed. It is debuting here at this conference. And we're very excited about that study. This panel is an opportunity to give us a chance to talk more about kind of the issues in um the study itself, and real life experiences of people on the panel with these kinds of issues. So um, here's the format for the panel. I'm um Catherine Ashcraft. I'm a Senior Research Scientist at NCWIT and one of the authors of the study.
And I'm just going to give like a really quick background on umm, and context because we want to get to the panelists and to your questions as soon as possible. Um, so I'm going to give a quick background and then a few highlights, just a couple findings.
And then, the bulk of the time will be spent with the panelists addressing some of the questions related to these issues. And then about 15‑20 minutes before the end we're going to open it up to the audience for questions. So be thinking of what questions you want to ask.
And um let's see if I can get this to work. No? There we go.
So, the first question in um in setting up the context for this panel is, why this panel? Why study men?
And if you have been around paying attention to gender in technology issues you know that most of the time in these, in this area we focus on women. And the research is on women's experiences in technical places and with diversity efforts.
And both our Workforce Alliance and us, as researchers, were very interested in studying men's experiences because as we all know, or may have noticed, um women are not the only ones that are gendered beings. And so gender change is not just an issue that affects women. It also affects men.
And particularly, as you see in the slides some of the reasons summarized there. Ah, in technology workplaces, that ah, the leaders and gatekeepers are often men. And so it's really important to get their buy in.
And also in previous research, we know that um women frequently report that the decision to pursue a career in technology, or to stay in a career in technology, has often come from men, male colleagues, male family, male peers, that sort of thing.
So we felt it was really important to understand their experiences. What motivates them to participate in these efforts? What kinds of things shape their thinking? How they go about advocating, and what challenges they face.
So, um we conducted a study. We interviewed 47 men in technology workplaces. And I'll just highlight a couple of the findings in two different categories.
The first is the experiences that lead men to advocacy. And I won't go through all the ones in the slide here. But you can see that um there are professional experiences and personal experiences that motivate men to be advocates and shift their thinking about these issues.
And in terms of professional experiences, having had a female boss or mentor was often a really common one that was mentioned. And either that it provided them with positive experiences with a woman in a technical, you know, field.
Also, they had had a chance sometimes to see their stories. To see them experience bias or to hear their stories, and had a moment where they were surprised and wanted to learn more about that.
In terms of personal experiences, you see some of those summarized there as well. Having a minority experience themselves was also a powerful motivator. Whether it was a racial‑ethnic minority or a more temporary experience of attending, like Grace Hopper conference and experiencing being the only man in a particular environment.
Those were some of the key experiences that motivated them. I keep thinking that the slides are right there, but they're not.
The second thing I wanted to highlight were the top ten ways that men say they advocated for women and gender diversity. I just had to ask earlier, apparently. Now they're there.
These are the top 10 ways that actually came out of the interviews that the men talked about advocating. There's obviously much more detail in the full report.
They're not in really hierarchical order. That's one thing that's important to say. We do number them 1 to 10 just to throw you off. There were actually reasons why we did that, but it wasn't that these were necessarily the most important. It was based on a combination of them being either mentioned most frequently, being relatively easy to implement.
Listen to women's stories is number one because it doesn't take a lot of money to do that, necessarily. Maybe take her to lunch. It doesn't take a lot of money to implement that kind of thing.
Talking to other men, also, was frequently mentioned and up towards the top because those are easier to implement. Also, earlier to do in the process or the journey of becoming a male advocate. That's how you can think about those different ways that men say they advocated.
If you want more information on that, however, you will have to get the full report. There are, obviously, copies in the back or you can get it off the website, those two URLs.
There is also the top ten ways to be a male advocate which is a short brochure that you can use to kind of summarize and get quick, raise awareness more quickly than with the full report. With that background, [laughs] we are ready to segue‑way now to the panel questions, and I will introduce our panelists.
Next to me ‑‑ you can just wave as I say your name ‑‑ we have Renata Colitti O'Day, Senior Engineering Manager from BRCD. They are not seated in the correct order, but I'm going to go with this order. Mike Younkers, Senior Director of Systems Engineering from Cisco. Lisa Neal‑Graves who is our Executive "on loan" from Intel, and Colin Bodell, Vice President App Platform and Builder Tools, Amazon.
And I already introduced myself, so you know who that is. Now, we switch to asking the panelists some questions and then we will open it up, like I said, for your questions at the end.
We thought we would start by asking ‑‑ I guess I should say that the women are going to focus on talking about their experiences working with male allies, and also how they went about identifying male allies, and how men have encouraged them or influenced their careers. Then, the men will particularly focus on their work as male advocates and what shifted their thinking.
So to kick that off and start that off, we will start with Renata and Lisa, just have you tell us a little bit about your experiences and how men have supported or influenced your career paths.
Renata Colitti O'Day: I have a couple of examples where men have been really key to engage with me in advancing my career. The first experience I can think of I was in a software quality assurance organization and they kept saying software quality assurance engineers could not manage projects. It was done by the development organization. I'm like, "Why is that?" So I was able to engage my Senior Director at the time and say, "Can you give me this opportunity? I'd really like to give it a try." I kind of managed my manager by engaging him and having the same goal as what I was going for.
He ended up going out and finding probably the worst project in the entire company to work on, but it had a ton of visibility. Basically, it was a business management kind of system so I had to pull in resources from across the entire organization.
I had to engage people from pretty much every department because it was doing financial management, resource management, resource allocation, budgeting and stuff. But I also had to engage the senior team, because they were the consumers of all the data and they wanted to be able to dice and slice it the way they wanted to.
Fortunately, through the relationships that I had I was able to build a team ‑‑ an interdisciplinary team ‑‑ that had a lot of human factors, design engineers, a lot of good software engineers, test engineers and we built a product that is still running today in Quest.
He told me when he got this for me, "You know what? This is really high risk, high reward. Are you sure you want it?" I said, "Absolutely." He's like, "I'm behind you all the way."
That was one example. He really supported me. When I came into roadblocks or I couldn't get into the office of a particular VP, he would help me figure out the way to navigate my way into the office to find out what their requirements were.
Then, he also advised me at some point in my career, I needed to get some business background and so I decided I needed to be a business development manager. Again, "Well, let me help you out. High risk, high reward. 13 million dollar infrastructure program." I was like, "OK."
My Senior Director at that time, I ended up reporting to somebody else, but he took the time and we would meet over lunch a couple of times a week. He would give me stacks of business cases and I would go do some homework. He would come back, "What are the nuggets you took out of the business case? What are you going to do with it? What's valuable?"
He coached and mentored me in that way and I was that much more valuable when I went back to the technical organization to have that kind of experience and visibility in the business.
Catherine: Great. Thank you.
Lisa Neal‑Graves: My experiences well, yeah, I've had good experiences and bad experiences. Because you actually started with a good one, I'll start with a bad one. Because I think that the bad ones, actually, were the sort of metal that helped me to become who I am. So, I'm really good with it. I actually was fortunate enough, I was pretty brazen as a youngster and I asked for an assignment when we were re‑engineering the business at US West. The leader of the business said, "Let's put Lisa in charge of this."
But all of the guys that were in it, it was all guys and it was me. All of the guys had been with US West for at least 30 years or more. I had been with US West for four years. So I was meeting with them and they decided that they [laughs] no longer wanted to really be led by me, and so they would call all of the meetings in the men's room.
Lisa: I figured this out because I'd go to the rooms where we were supposed to be meeting and it would be empty. I was thinking, "What in the world is going on?" I could hear them and so I went and listened to where they were. They were right in the men's room. I would stand outside the door. I would here them talking about things and I'd yell in there what my ideas were...
Lisa: ...and tell them what I thought. They were like, "She doesn't go away. What is her problem?" I told them, look, "I've got two brothers. I'm not really that shy. I'll come in. We can talk about it, just don't have anything showing."
Lisa: It didn't get that bad. I didn't have to, actually, go in. After a while, after I kept standing by the door and yelling in my ideas, they finally decided that, "Clearly, she has some ideas." So I was able to sit at the table with them. But they would never take my ideas. They would take my ideas and somebody else would say them. Then they would go, "Yeah. That was a great idea." I said, "Yeah. It was great the first time it was said. Thank you."
Lisa: After a while, trying not to be snarky my whole life, but I've got brothers. What are you going to do? I was able to, actually, move them over to, "She may not go away. She does have some decent ideas. She is young, but..." And I had one of the guys finally, and I think this was a turning point, one of the guys that was on the team, he said, "you know Lisa, I've got more years in this business than you have on this earth." I looked at him and I said, "That was never a prerequisite for intelligence."
Lisa: Everybody was silent for a minute because this guy was the lead dog. Everybody was silent for a minute because they were like, "Lisa said that to him?" Then another guy just cracked up. He couldn't stop laughing. He was like, "That's a great point." [laughter]
Lisa: From that point on, it was good. I could participate. I didn't have to stand by the men's room. When I got tired ‑‑ and you do get tired because it's a lot of work. When I got tired of doing it, I finally said to them, "Guys, I've gone to the men's room with you. I've had to be snarky with you. I've done everything that I could do to prove to you that I should be, at least, at the table. I'm tired and I'm done."
I decided that I was going to walk away. They were like, "No. We need the contrast. It's not about us just being evil to you. [laughs] It really is about us pushing you so that you push us."
At that point, I was relieved. I felt better and I felt like I was a part of the team. I'm good with that.
There are, of course, other instances where I actually had, because of that experience, they gave me a pretty good reputation for being an action person. So when there were other projects, they would recommend me for those projects. It was always really cool to find out who was the recommender because it was always the most least likely person that I would ever think.
A lot of it is, there is this notion that women have to be fixed. We have to be taught to lean in. A lot of it isn't, really, about women being fixed and having to lean in. It really is about women being OK about having the dialogue and being OK with being the outsider for a while. We can be outsiders even with women. [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah. I think that's a great point of being open to the dialogue because a lot of times, and I'm sure that you'll speak to this in a second, that men want to have the conversation, but don't know how. And knowing how to find those men to talk to and being willing to talk to them is key.
Catherine: I think, even we were talking before this panel, and it was so funny that we had shared the same bathroom experience. I've had my share of bad ones, too. My bathroom experience was they were talking about me in the bathroom...
Catherine: ...and then, actually, somebody who decided that that, really, wasn't OK. It was a guy in the men's room came to me and said, "You need to know this. They're talking about you in the bathroom. This is what they're saying." I was able to actually go and have a private dialogue with somebody and say, "Hey. I understand that there was a conversation in the men's room. My name was mentioned about this and this."
I said, "We're leaders in this organization. It doesn't make you look good and it doesn't make me look good. Let's look like we're collaborating, that we're a team. That kind of behavior is not OK for the office."
Several years ago, the company that I was working at with this gentleman was acquired. I was the only senior engineering software manager that was retained out of the acquired organization. He came up to me and other people in that conversation and said, "We can't think of a better person to have gone and lead this team into the new organization."
To me that was a huge win. I was like, "Wow. It was worth the torture."
Catherine: It was worth the time, but I'm so glad that I had that conversation, too, because if I didn't, if I let it continue, that dynamic would have never changed. That was big win.
Colin Bodell: There's a whole world of bathroom activity that I'm not... [laughter]
Colin: ...aware of going on. I feel left out. The guys are leaving me out. The women are leaving me out. Who's got a bathroom story?
Catherine: And on that segue... [laughter]
Lisa: Let's go to the men's room.
Catherine: Let's go ahead and hear... [laughter]
Catherine: ...what kinds of conversations you've had or experiences that have motivated you to participate in this kind of work?
Colin: There was a very important event that happened for me that caused me to step up and pay a lot more attention to the needs and the growth of women within the engineering community. I was at the Hopper's Conference. I think it was either 2007, 2008, the one in Colorado. I'd been subbed in at the last minute. Our CTO was due to go, he couldn't go. Would I be interested in going? I don't know what basis they asked me.
Anyway, I said, "Tell me more about the conference?" "Well. It's about 4,000 wo...."
Colin: That was a no‑brainer. I flew out to Colorado. I was in the tech exec forum representing my company. We were going around the room, a big circle of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, people from academia. A very august body around the room. I'm sitting in. Each person is being asked to talk a little bit about how their organization is doing becoming a better place to hire women and, also, to develop women's careers. I'm sitting there feeling very pleased about myself because I was going to say great things about what Amazon was doing.
Luckily for me, they started the questions going around the room in this direction. They were pretty much coming to me last. As I'm listening to everybody talking about what their organizations are doing, I'm getting more and more depressed.
Colin: Then the depression moves onto despondency because I'm realizing that we're not doing a terrible job, but we're sure as heck not doing anything as good as so many of these organizations. When it came around to me, I said, "I'm Colin Bodell. I work for Amazon. I thought we were doing well, but I've now realized that we've got a long way to go. Thank you for inviting me to this event. I'm going to leap in feet first. I'm really looking forward to it."
Maria Klawe, who's the president of Harvey Mudd, she's on the board at Microsoft. Stands up, from the other side of the room, marches across the room, gives me this huge hug, and just says, "Thank you so much for at least realizing and acknowledging this."
That was a pivotal moment, that I realized that I've always tried to be as inclusive as possibly can, but there are different ways and styles in which you need to do it. It's all going to be done on the basis of learning and understanding. I was breezing through life, and breezing through work, not really understanding at the level that I needed to understand.
Being surrounded by four thousand women for three days, boy I got an education like nothing on earth. I've been to the Hopper's Conference every year ever since, taking more and more women. Also, I took my entire engineering leadership team, men and women, to the Baltimore event. The guys were asking me, why are we going to a women's conference?
I just said to them, "You'll see." I didn't want to prejudice them. I just wanted them to experience it first‑hand. It had the desired effect. Everybody coming up to me afterwards saying "Thank you," it created great impressions, but also we've got a lot to learn.
It began to open up the dialogue. Unfortunately, not every man in an engineering organization gets the chance to experience that. It's then, how do you bring those messages back? There are a bunch of people that are very open to those messages.
The vast majority, it's not that they're closed to them. It's how to get the dialogue going, is a challenge. I've still never found one big, all‑encompassing way of doing it. It's been a lot of walking the corridors, individual conversations, carrying copies of the little 10 ways folder with me.
In my briefcase at any point in time, I'll have half a dozen of those. When I engage and have the opportunity to engage in a conversation, I feel as though I'm walking around knocking on doors trying to get people to sign up for religions. I have a pamphlet for you, would you like to read this?
Colin: Because it's short, because everybody's ADD and Type A, and nobody will spend more than five minutes reading it. It's a very quick read. As you're reading through it, you identify with the things very quickly. Because you identify them, you feel good that it's all very inclusive. We also realize there are a few things that you're not very good at. That begins to get the ball rolling. That event, that experience, was the thing that caused me to step forward and say, "Yes, I personally need to do more. I want a broadly diverse organization."
Not just gender diversity, but diversity of any form, because it's more fun, going to get better. You know all the reasons, it's the right thing to do. It means there's a greater volume of people. We're more effective hiring a diverse workforce.
There's a greater volume of people we can go and hire, and that's going to keep our business growing, as well. That was a very, very significant event for me. I've got on to be very, very good friends with Maria. My daughter is at Maria's school. It keeps it all nicely in the family, as well.
Catherine: I think you had a complementary, but slightly different experience.
Mike Younkers: I did. What really jolted me into action at Cisco, I'm a part of our inclusion and diversity team, in a broad sense. I had been working through this, but I have a wife who works. She works in the school system. She's a librarian where they're infusing technology into the school system where she works. She came home one day and asked me some questions about, "Is this appropriate that someone has said these things to me, or approached me in a certain way?" I was listening to her, this was a classic case of harassment.
Where I work, we train on these things, and we look to seek them out and deal with them directly. This was a supervisor, not of her, but in this school, who had put her in this environment. She wasn't even sure that it was a problem, and then she started asking me about, "Well, what did I do to cause this? What should I have done differently?"
My immediate reaction, being the guy that I am, and someone's threatening my family, was I was getting ready to go down to the school and deal with it, but she didn't do anything. She wasn't even sure what the situation was.
To Colin's point, I was a part of a team that was looking at this in a broad sense, but I was sort of going through the motions and didn't truly understand some of the more subtle ‑‑ and in this case, very impactful.
My wife was considering leaving the school because of this. I thought, what a shame, to the school and to the kids, where she's very successful, that this environment isn't safe for her, that she doesn't feel safe to work in it. I moved very quickly inside of my company from the broader inclusion and diversity initiative directly into gender diversity, and that really drove me into action based on that personal experience with my wife.
I think we're going to move to some other questions, because I have a lot more I'd love to address.
Colin: How'd that work out with your wife? Did that situation get resolved to her satisfaction?
Mike: The frustrating part is, as a lot of ways that this gets dealt with, she was not the only person who had this problem. Other people made complaints. They just moved the person to another school, they didn't address the problem. They just moved the problem. That's an extremely frustrating thing. All I can do, there's more I can do, but what I do is I channel that frustration back into my own company. If I see this, I will address it. I'm in a team, I support the Federal Government, there's about 400 of us in the team that I work with.
I'm in a company that has 75,000 employees, and at high level, we have all the programs you need, all the mechanisms for whistle‑blowing, and all that stuff. At the local level where I work, this stuff exists every day. I do work to seek it out and try to channel that frustration that I experience with my wife into making the environment, at least that I'm a part of, a more productive and safe environment.
Catherine: We are going to shift gears a little bit now, but we wanted to start with that, because it was in conducting the interviews, for example, one of the really interesting, enriched topics to talk with so many of the men about, about how they came to be advocates, or what shifted their thinking and what motivated them and kept them passionate about these issues. Now, to just shift it a little bit to talk more about what you're actually doing in companies, and how you're advocating. So for Colin and Mike to be thinking about addressing the question, what are some of the ways you've advocated in your companies or elsewhere.
For Renata and Lisa, at least to be thinking about what are some of the ways you've identified and worked with male allies on these kinds of topics, and you can just chime in.
Colin: I'll start of with as a function then, of going to the Hopper's event, I'm very, very action‑oriented. What can I do? It was tough coming back and not knowing what to do. I spent a bunch of time talking to folks within a human‑resource organization that ran the diversity program, but spent a lot of time talking to women at all levels of the organization, from interns right the way up to distinguished engineer level.
The stories were all very different, but all very similar, and it was the small slights that were the problem. For example, I had a technical program manager that was very accomplished woman engineer and program manager, and her office was just outside just by mine.
Had an instance one day, somebody would come up and just presumed that she was my assistant, and was trying to schedule a meeting, and organize and print copies of a document and what have you.
I overheard this, and she politely explained who she was and revectored him. Once that finished off, we chatted about it. How often does this happen?
She said, "More often than I would like and more often than you could possibly imagine." What we wound up actually agreeing to do, was to move her away from my office. Now, the fear was, was it running away from the problem?
No, she was very happy to be able to do that, to make a little bit of distance, so people weren't making that automatic assumption. I also used it as an opportunity to talk about it in all‑hands meetings, and to socialize around, that it wasn't acceptable, understand the roles that people were playing in the organization.
I got involved with what we used to call then, the Hopper's Organization, a group of women that would organize events within the company. We changed, in the last 12 months, the name of the group to Amazon Women in Engineering. It stands for AWE, and you can do a lot with AWE.
At the Baltimore Hopper's Event last year, the Tech Exec forum. We had a session, we were talking about big, practical things that we could do. Somebody ‑‑ I think it may have been somebody from Cisco ‑‑ stood up and talked about a day‑long conference they'd run just a few months beforehand. Talked about the benefits and the outcome from that.
Then, when we got together in our small teams, I said, "OK, that's it. We're going to draw a line in the sand, and within six months' time, we're going to have a full‑day women's conference."
By the way, I've got the name for the conference, we're going to call it AWESOME.
Colin: Once you've got the name, it's downhill from there.
Catherine: It all falls into place from there.
Colin: We had external speakers, Summer Redinhower was there. Wendy Dubow from NCWIT was there. Carolyn Simard from Anita Borg. She's now back at Stanford. So we had just these spectacular women's speakers. Then we did a number of panel sessions, aimed at the audience. We had 300 women attend. We live‑streamed it around the world. We had 24 different Amazon locations. Then we kept a number of people back, and we did an event for the external community.
We had parents of young ladies that were thinking about whether they're going to go and study. We had some university students. We had other people not affiliated with the company come in. They listened to a presentation by Maria, and had a whole opportunity to ask a bunch of questions and network around.
Doing something very tangible, and hearing the feedback, and allowing us to adjust. Again, getting those stories around, I think sensitized. As well as having the 300 women, there are probably 50 men in the audience, as well.
We asked them explicitly, fan out and talk to your peers, talk to your colleagues. I'm making sure that people will understand, that will listen, and will take action every minute of every day, where they see inappropriate behavior, or where they see inequitable behavior, that's their chance, that's their opportunity to step up.
Catherine: We have found those kind of events to be very effective in raising awareness. Cisco did do a similar one that we came out and spoke on very similar topics. I think you've done some similar things at Cisco.
Mike: Again, back to this big company‑small company, I believe very much in Steven Covey working in the circle of your control, and then build your circle of influence, right? For me, when I started on this journey, I was afraid to have the conversation. I had women on my staff, and I didn't even know if it was an appropriate conversation. I went from the US Federal government to work at Cisco. When I was in the government, we got hammered on what's appropriate and what's not appropriate for conversations in the workplace.
Here I am wanting to make a difference and wanting to do something, and I don't even know how to open the dialogue. Fortunately, I had a female on my staff who was so gracious in helping me to say, "Mike, it's OK. I'm not hiding from this, I'm not afraid of this conversation. What do you want to know? How can we talk through it?"
That one little instance, it got me to kind of think through it. Now when I talk to people, I just sort of ask them, right up front, "Look, I want to have a dialogue, and I'm seeking to understand and learn. I want to set my team up in a certain way, to impact the bigger company that I work for. Is it OK if I ask you questions, if we explore some of these difficult topics?"
At any point you can stop, if you don't want to do this, that's fine. I'm coming from a place of trying to learn and change our environment. If you're willing to have that dialogue with me, I'd love to explore it. If you're not, no harm, no foul.
I think that that's critical. That's the one thing, having that person help me get that dialogue going and knowing it was OK. That's what I would have, and ask of you guys. As you're seeking out these advocates, men inside the organization that could advocate on your behalf.
Test the waters a little bit, and make sure that they know it's OK to have that conversation. That was huge for me, and made a difference for how I approach this.
Lisa: Yeah. I think also, what you said there is key is, recognizing that some women may not want to talk about it at all, or right now, or at some point might not want to not go into any more detail, that kind of thing, and making that clear, is a key benefit.
Mike: It is, and it's hard. How do you get through it? In the world I live in, there's two parts of this problem, there's the recruiting side. How do I attract talent? For me, the bigger thing that I worry about is how do I retain the talent? How do I have an environment where people can thrive no matter who they are or where they come from?
Having the dialogue, that can backfire. You can create a hostile environment just by bringing it up. I'm willing to take that risk, because I think I'm coming from a place of good, and I haven't gotten in trouble yet.
The other side of it is that I need role models throughout my organization, so I'm looking for people in my organization and in parallel organizations to get at all different levels.
And the other thing that’s hard is I never want someone to think that they’re in a position because, like I don't want someone to go, "I got that job because I'm a woman, and Mike needs a grade‑12 woman to run this team." That's the other balance. I have to find the right talent and get them in the right place. I don't want to ever undermine them.
The dialogue is an important piece, but then also finding the right people that you can stand up as mentors and role models throughout all levels of the organization to help create that environment.
Catherine: Lisa, you chuckled there. It sounded like you had some thoughts on it.
Renata: It's easier for a woman to actually start the dialogue ‑‑ it's sort of easy ‑‑ because you still have where there are women that are single that are coming into the organization and you really do want to pair them with a mentor. It used to be that we would try and pair women. I should probably go back, just a second and just give a little bit of background, because I started my career as a software engineer. My background is computer science and math, and a master's in computer science.
I decided that I wanted to go on the business side for a lot of reasons. But I later got an engineering management degree and then I went to law school, because I really wanted to understand the full scope of technology, business and law, because there were so many things that were integrating.
At Intel, I joined Intel as a business attorney. But most of my work, because my heart is as an engineer, is with the women engineers, because I see them come in. I see them full of promise, and then right around mid‑career, I see that light go out, it dims. I was always worried about that.
What used to happen is that you would pair women with other women engineers. That's OK. But what that also tends to do, and we talked a little bit about this in the Affinity Group Alliance, is that we tend to whine to each other, "That was such an awful day, and because I've had those experiences..."
"Yeah, girl, it is really bad sometimes, but you can do it. Go in there and buck up." That's OK, but what you really want is to pair a woman with a guy. You want to pair them with a guy, because with a guy they're less likely to tell him, "I'm having such a bad day." Because a guy's going to say, "Ooh. I don't know what to do with that."
Mike: That's scary stuff.
Renata: "Hands off." But, what a woman would say to a guy is, "Hey, I'm having this conversation with this other guy over here, and he said X. I don't really like the way he said X, but I'm OK with it. I can work through it. But can you give me some ways to think about why he said it that way?" You start to understand perspective. By pairing them with guys what I found is that women tend to actually have the hard conversations, and they're willing to go there because they now know that they've got this person that is supposed to have the conversation with them.
But it was a little bit tough because they come in and they're single and they're talking to guys that they're not sure, "Are you single? Are you married? Are we going to be talking? Because we're doing this dance."
I would just clear the air and say, "Nobody's getting married here. This is not about that. We're really about building careers. Guys, I know this is really tough, because she's probably incredibly attractive, but get over it. Girls, you probably don't see a whole lot of guys and you're looking for a husband, don't do it here. Figure that out someplace else."
You have that conversation. I'm so blunt, and I'm so basic that they're like, "Lisa's real." They could come to me and say, "Lisa, I'm having a really bad day," and I can say, "Go talk to so‑and‑so about that."
They know that they're not going to go talk to the guy about that. They'll go and talk to him about the real issue they're having, not the bad day that you're having.
What I have found is that by pairing women engineers early in their careers with guys, as those guys grow up in the company, they tend to remember the encounters that they had with these really smart girls when they came into the company, and they think about them in terms of opportunities later.
They already have a relationship. They already have a network. They bridge the gap of their networks. They don't have a problem with introducing them to other people in their networks, so it actually works a little bit better. I think that that has been the key.
It's harder, because you also end up with some of the women that you introduced to their male mentors, they may go once or twice, because guys are a little bit gruff at times. They're not quite as soft as that nurturing that women tend to do.
Lisa: We also found that in the male influence of research, too, that men talked about the benefits both of having a female mentor themselves, like I had mentioned earlier on the slide, but also of having female mentees and how much they learned from them in a reverse‑mentoring way. But also they talked about the difficulties, and what they had to negotiate and learn. They were very human, poignant stories, the ones who had treated it that way, and treated it like, "This is a learning experience."
One man told the story of how the woman wanted advice on going in and asking for a raise and he's like, "The thing you need to do is just march in there, throw the door back, and tell them that this is what you deserve and that you've done this, this, and this."
He's recalling it in his head, and he says, "She just sat there and smiled, and looked at me and said, 'That's the perfect way to do it for you. Now can we brainstorm some things that I could actually do? Because that's not going to work.'"
Colin: You're absolutely right, though, because I have a couple of female mentees and they'll explain situations. I always assert that it's very occasionally that there's good or bad, there's just different perspectives. But they'll explain a situation or circumstance to me, and I'll try to explain perhaps what was going through the guy's head. As I'm doing it, I'm realizing, "I probably said something like that a week ago, a month ago."
It helps you develop yourself just by going through that verbal exercise of explaining possibly what was going on in somebody else's head. That constant reminder is always a tremendous thing. Having mixed‑gender mentor‑mentee relationships is incredibly powerful like that.
Mike: The other point I want to make is that we live in a complicated world and I think for certain areas people come to me and ask me questions, and in other areas they know that I can't help them. Even just purely in technology, there's a lot of stuff I don't know. I think in the case of mentors the expectation is that you'd have multiple mentors, and use them appropriately for the situations you're trying to work through.
Lisa: I've also encouraged women to not just look for mentors, because mentors are good, it's great to have people that you can go talk to. But what you really need are sponsors, you need somebody that's going to, when you're not in the room and there are opportunities that are being talked about, say, "Hey, Lisa would be a great candidate for that job," and advocate on your behalf to get that role.
That's a little bit tough if you don't have a way in. That's why you pair them up with mentors and then those mentors pair them up with other people in their network so that happens.
Catherine: That's what I was thinking when you first told your story, Renata. Would you have considered those men that you were talking about sponsors? Was what they did on some level sponsorship?
Renata: Absolutely. It even translated even later in my career. I had worked for some of these men, and we had split up, gone to other companies and stuff. Actually, they reached out to me and said, "Because of your spirit, your effective communication skills, your leadership, I have an organization that's going through an extreme amount of change, and I can't think of anybody better to lead this organization."
I came in, a new person in an organization where people had been there for 20 years, and were reluctant to change. Again, it was probably one of those high‑risk, high‑reward things and it turned out to be very successful.
Even the people that came back and said, "We're glad. If there was only going to be one engineering manager that went with the new company, we're really glad it's you." I was able to build my own team and I still have 90 percent of those people that came with me six years ago.
I would even say, too, advocacy in my own organization. I typically have that my teams are mostly men, because mostly men are software engineers. I always seek out opportunities to hire women. I bring them in for internships and try to keep them.
They're advocates, too. I can have conversations with them, too, about what I can do better and how I can help them navigate through the organization. In return, they've done the same for me as well. It's a mutual thing.
I agree with what Lisa's saying, too, about the sponsorship. I think that's got to be a key ingredient to mentoring and to male advocacy, because a lot of men are sitting in those positions that can help women move up through the organization. Without that piece, it's going to be hard to get a lot of women into the C‑suite.
Things are starting to shift, and it's great. But I think more sponsorship is going to be really key. We've talked about NCWIT maybe doing some work and providing some tools around that sponsorship, so that people can leave here and make that available in their companies, and how you do that.
Catherine: I think we have about 15 minutes left. I know everybody has tons more that we can talk about. We've started talking about some of the challenges, even as we've been discussing the ways that we advocate. I think we want to talk a little bit more about the challenges as well. But we want to open it up for questions at this point, from the audience also, and see where that goes.
Female Audience Member 1: Hi. I have some colleagues, God bless them, they're trying, they really are. In some ways they're very good advocates. But they have some, let's call them, blind spots, which make some of the messages that they're imparting and some of the activities they're doing more harmful than helpful. Do you have any advice for how you can help male advocates, or potential advocates see their blind spots, work on their blind spots so that they can be more effective?
Catherine: How brave are you?
Female Audience Member 1: I'm Chair next year, so I do have a pretty big stick I can wield.
Lisa: I think a lot of it is really tied to just having the conversation. It really is about having the conversation. I can safely say that if I actually had to have a conversation with Colin and said to him, "Colin, I really need you to do me a favor. I need you to do X for me. But I want you to know that I've seen in the past when you've done X that you do it this way, and for me, that's probably not going to work. What I'd really like to see happen, though, is I really need XYZ to happen.
I don't know what your style is about doing that. But I need to make sure that as you do that you don't put me in a worse position. I don't want the backlash. I really want to be able to take this forward, so let's brainstorm some ideas about how to do that."
Having that conversation actually puts on the table that you know that there's a blind spot. But you're not saying, "You're a bad person for having a blind spot."
You're just saying in essence, "Look, we've all got them, I understand that. But let's work together to come up with an idea that will work for both of us, because I'm asking you for a favor, you're willing to do the favor. Let's mutually strategize, so that we both walk out of it with what we want."
Colin: The way you approach, "I'd like to ask you for a favor," or, "I'd like to ask for help," or even starting off the conversation with, "I'd like your permission to give you some feedback." If somebody is saying, "Yep, it's OK to give me that feedback," then at least they're open and receptive to it. I've had people come into my office sometime and say, "I'd like to give you some feedback." I'm like, "Honestly, not right now. I'm not in the right frame of mind for it. Why don't we schedule some time a little bit later?"
Rather than me sitting there clenching my fists thinking, "I've got to be somewhere else in a couple of minutes, but it's obviously important to you, so I'm going to listen." I'm not listening. I'm thinking about the next thing I'm going to go to.
At least, people asking for permission, maybe not right now, maybe a little bit later, but I can see it's important to you and I'll be open to take that feedback and then we can work on it. But being able to frame that dialogue.
A lot of times it will work. If you find yourself trying to frame that dialogue multiple times, and it's not working, then...
Lisa: It's not the right person.
Colin: Yeah. That may not be the right person to have that discussion with. They say, "People join companies and leave managers." If you're finding you're not working with somebody or for somebody that's open to your needs, whether it's a gender‑based need, whether it's a home‑life work‑balance need, it doesn't matter. If you're finding somebody who just doesn't have those skills and is not likely to acquire them out of thin air in the time frame that you need, maybe it's time to go and do something else. It's tough in a small organization.
It's much easier in a very large organization, Amazon is now 120,000 people. There are folks that move around all of the time. Again, the objective is not to brush things underneath the carpet.
But when you're finally banging your head against a wall and not making progress, don't keep doing the same thing. Try a different avenue, and maybe there are other people you can rope in. Or find another way to follow your career desires, your passions.
Mike: I think the context is very important, I'm sorry.
Catherine: Go ahead.
Mike: In that, we're representing industry, and in industry, I think it's relatively easy. In all the different places you can be, in academia, it might be harder with tenure and that stuff, but in industry, it's pretty simple. The relationship becomes important. If these are people that work for you, it's a simple case of setting expectations and holding people accountable to the expectations. Whatever style you do that in as a leader that is the approach you would take. You don't need to change your style to do that.
Here's what I expect of my employees, and you either measure up or you don't. This is just one more aspect of that in my opinion. Peers and higher‑ups are harder. Then, I think the tools that we have available, I've used as props to open the dialogue.
Inside the tools, there's a specific behavior that hopefully people become aware of but if they're not you can continue to try to lead them towards the specific blind spots they have just based on the tool. Then it's about research, and it's backed through other people, not just you pointing it out in isolation.
Lisa: You were talking about holding them accountable as a manager, too, being sensitive about these kinds of issues and creating the right environment.
Mike: Yeah. In fact, I don't have a corporate policy behind me where I work, but my leaders know that in order for them to excel or for them to bring people forward for promotion or things like that, this is an area we discuss. It's not just about technical competency and how well they handle customers, it's how well they show up inside of the organization? What are they doing in some of these areas? I put it out there. I don't get emotional about it. It's never a surprise in those conversations for the people that I work with inside of my team.
Catherine: Go ahead.
Female Audience Member 2: I had a question around being very few and far between male advocates that they are in corporations. What challenges might you have faced in playing this role, any kind of resistance, or gender‑based challenges, or even women who have had male advocates? I know we touched on blind spots as probably being one of the challenges, but what else might be barriers for you to continue down that path more effectively?
Colin: I think one I've noticed is that when I get involved with something I want to be all‑in. I want to leap in feet first. The danger that I've found or some of the push back that I've gotten from certainly supporting the Amazon Women in Engineering organization is when we did our full‑day conference. I did the keynote opening and I acted as the emcee throughout the event. A few people in their feedback summary said, "Isn't it odd having a man looking after this organization?" Yeah. I wanted to get out there because I'm very passionate about it. But on the other hand I also, almost felt obliged or compelled to do it because nobody else senior in the organization stood up.
We have a number of women technology VPs that I'd love to see getting more and more engaged. I need to go and have the conversation with them about their, not their lack of engagement, I wouldn't say, but they're not really contributing as much as I would expect.
Maybe it's because, "There's already somebody doing it, so I don't need to," and I'd be more than happy to step back. There’s plenty of other, I was going to say, windmills I want to tilt up, but that's probably not the right expression. There are plenty of other missions I want to go on. But it's finding other people to step up.
That's probably been the biggest challenge that I've had is wanting to share the load across other senior members of the team. As I've talked to other vice presidents, senior vice presidents in the company, and even the ones I thought I wouldn't get full support from, they've been effusive with their support.
It's been very heartening and enlightening to see. It’s also demonstrated that they're open to have a dialogue and have a discussion. But I'd love to see more of the senior women step up.
Maybe that means I just need to get out of the way a little bit more and give them the room to do that, and they're just being polite and respectful that somebody's leading it, and it's time for the baton to change hands.
Mike: I've had two very specific, and this will be quick, problems. The first is apathy, or almost a sense of giving up. There's not enough women. Go all the way back to elementary school, there's not enough girls coming through STEM so by the time I go to hire, who do I have to pick from? They always blame recruiting and my managers escape themselves from this problem. That's the first problem I've run into.
The second is this idea of, "I'm color blind and I'm gender blind, and I'm just going to hire the right person for the job no matter what."
I always challenge that to say, "Here we are. Six white men sitting around the table. How do we know? We're all going to say the same thing, and we're going to hire another person just like us." Those are the two problems that I experience every day in trying to work through this.
Renata: For me, it's part of my values, I think, to advocate for women. Yeah, I'm swimming upstream in my organization. But to me it's a really important thing to be doing, and to be part of the solution, too, so to advocate for the girls in STEM fields. Fortunately, we've had former‑CEO support of our Women in Networking organization at my company. We have steering committees. We've engaged men to be on our steering committees. We just started a mentoring program where we've got men mentoring, and the men are two levels above the women that they're mentoring.
Based on a survey we did a match, we went through every single person and matched each one of them to try and effect the change that we want to see in the organization.
I think that if you get enough people with enough passion around it that are really willing to act, and I've engaged a lot of people in our organization that are prone to action as well. Some of us have support and some of us don't, but it's our values, it's what we really believe in and it's worth the extra effort to make it happen.
Mike: I have a colleague who says, "How you do anything is how you do everything." Again I look at this as one of those things that if we don't have people that are willing to take action here, how willing are they to take action when I'm running into issues with customers? Again, this is one more aspect. That idea of looking for people willing to take action, in my opinion, cuts across all of what we do. Those are the kinds of people I think we want on our team.
Catherine: Yeah, that's a good point.
Female Audience Member 2: Thank you so much for talking about this. Most of your conversations have been one on one advocacy. Colin talked about the "aha" moment he had from a group of others, and I know of many experiences where senior leadership teams sit down with women in their organizations. Can any of you comment on creating context to help others as an advocate, others have that aha moment or to shake up their thinking? Thank you.
Renata: I had an experience when we were doing our Women in Networking. We had a great college hire program, and one of our inside sales engineers came in, really smart guy, and he was pairing up with one of the women that's on our steering committee, sitting right up there. They were creating some content where they were working to teach some of our sales engineers about our technology so they could be more effective and understand everything that they were trying to sell. We gave it a name, we called it Networking 101, and we thought, "You know what? Let's pilot this with our Women in Networking, a lunch and learn kind of thing."
So we had Ben and Laura get up, and they presented this talk. We had probably about 110, it was 50‑50 men and women, which kind of mirrors the demographics of our organization, because all the women are participating in WIN, and a lot of the men, not 50 percent but close.
People walked out of it. Sales people were saying, "This provided so much value." People in the finance department, "I understand why I'm coding this this way or this way."
So I called one of our champions out in our headquarters and I said, "Hey, you need this talk." And what he thought is, "You know what? Every employee in BRCD needs this information. Everybody needs this. It's like, here's your delivery mechanism. I will champion you to the people in headquarters."
So he was going out there on the trip, and I said, "We're going to squeeze him in." People are saying, "Oh, he can only have an hour." I said, "Oh, no. This is the best hour and a half anybody's going to get. Give him an hour and a half. Give him the biggest auditorium you have."
Standing room only. Not everybody could get in. People started asking for more, and the level of engagement in WIN for the material and the content that we were offering just skyrocketed.
That was one of our huge success stories. It was a movement. It was a whole shift in our company. Everybody's really actively engaged now. The CEO is taking notice of wow, this is a huge success story so that's an example I can think of.
Mike: This is a small thing, but we have a Code of Business Conduct inside of our company and we have to review it and sign it every year. We have a section built in directly to address inclusion and diversity at a high level in the general sense, so you can't escape it. Every year we get reminded of this. Our CEO comes out and makes a very direct statement about the importance of this to us and you sign it off as part of, "Yes, I've read and understand what's in the Code of Business Conduct to work at Cisco."
Catherine: I would say one of the other things that we did, too, was becoming members of NCWIT and becoming members of the Affinity Groups. So we're a Workforce Alliance and Affinity Alliance. But as part of the Workforce Alliance, you're getting all these wonderful tools, but you're also getting access to resources like some of the Aspirations Award winners. That's our future workforce and I'm really excited about watching these women get their scholarships, go through college, and think of them as future employees and I think there's the business value in that and I think companies need to pull out their check books.
Mike: How do you drive that back through BRCD because I didn't even know who our Cisco's rep was at NCWIT until I saw his name in the program and I had to go, look him up because I don't know who he is. We participate but it doesn't come out through the organization, so I'm curious how you guys do it?
Lisa: So, we're really very fortunate in that our CEO is actually a champion of the Women in Networking Organization, and it was sort of a top‑down recognizing that he had a problem from data and surveys, and said "I'm gonna take action around this." He designated a couple of people, one person of his organization and one champion in our HR organization, and through them, we have been able to do NCWIT. We've done Women's Vision Foundation from a leadership standpoint rolling out technology and it's been a really great success story for the last two years.
Catherine: That type of leadership is, I think, really one of the things we know is key to making it permeate more of the organization and not be in these isolated departments where you have individual people making that team awesome, but if there is no top leadership to support, it doesn't spread as fast.
Renata: And engaging, so you know what, you've got to be a part of the solution. If this is what you want, it's the future of your business, you've got to ‑‑ this is one way that you can really make a difference, carrying that flag.
Catherine: It's always good to end on the way you can make a difference from the last line of a panel, and I think that's time, right? I think we're out of time now so a big hand for our panelists. [claps]
Transcription by CastingWords