Women building inclusive cultures, communities, and workforces
By Mackenna Cummings
The annual Wonder Women in Tech Conference has become a top destination for a multitude of women who are doing incredible things in STEM.
Because the industry is still difficult for many women to enter, the conference dedicates panels and brings forth speakers to address, advise, and encourage women in STEM to continue pushing for equality and accomplishing great things.
Mona Lisa Faris, CEO and President of DiversityComm, Inc., moderated one of these panels, “The Strategy Behind Inclusive Cultures: How to get Sh*t Done,” at the 2018 conference in Long Beach, California.
The panel focused on business inclusivity, and panelists included leaders from top tech companies: Erika McKiel, Diversity Program Manager at Google; Caroline Hubbard, Product Strategy and Operations at LinkedIn; Claudia Galván, a Technical Advisor at Early Stage Innovation; and Crystal Tomczyk, Director of Recruiting Programs at Zillow Group. Each wonder woman gave advice and encouragement on how to foster inclusivity in their workplace and community.
Claudia Galván is currently pursuing her PhD, and her doctorate focuses on increasing the number of women in tech and engineering in the workforce. As a region officer for the Society of Women Engineers, Galván helps her own work environment and many other communities support women in tech pursue and achieve careers. From a position of great insight, she stated that, overall, most companies are making great strides in supporting their female employees in tech. Larger companies implement specific efforts to close wage gaps—a change that has slowly but steadily been improving. Nearly 90 percent of tech companies have Affinity Groups and ERGs that support women employees, a great resource that allows women to share their experiences and advocate for equality. “Many of these groups are catalysts for change,” Galván said, which is why it is important for women to join and expand these groups. And, Galván mentioned, there is a lot more transparency with companies as they publish their demographics and how they are achieving their diversity and inclusion goals. It is easier to find companies that are supportive of their women and diverse employees because of this available information.
But once a company has built its diversity goals into something that supports its employees, there is more work to be done. It takes a lot more to sustain these inclusivity initiatives so that each employee feels that he or she belongs.
Recognizing how difficult building, supporting, and finding an inclusive culture at a company can be, the panelists addressed these very issues as well as supported other women who wish to join the field of tech with positivity and inspiration. Each woman shows how success can be found and that the diversity that a woman in tech brings to a company should be celebrated.
Tomczyk weighs in: “What it means to belong versus just be included: Belonging means, ‘I really can
share my opinions, I’m not always right, I may not always get what I want, but I can have the conversations.’” She went on to address the fact that plenty of companies have not quite managed to build an inclusive environment. Therefore, she gave three pieces of advice on how to sustain an inclusive culture as an employee, even when in an environment that lacks one. One: Know who you are and what’s important to you. Two: Be intentional. Three: “Be involved. Be involved in your community so that you’re shaping the opinion of what’s important to you.” While it is imperative as an employee to be inclusive and supportive even when the community is not, it can be difficult to move up and thrive in this environment.
McKiel’s advice for women to move up in their career is to act instead of wait. Don’t sell yourself or your skills short, and be confident in what you can offer to a job. “By taking action, you’re not going to look at a job preference or a listing of what their requirements are and try to figure out where you don’t fit; you’re going to figure out that this is where I do fit,” she said, adding that you can realize that requirement listings may have forgotten about a few skills that you can bring to the job.
This advice is easier for those with years of experience and references, but fortunately, Hubbard addressed how fresh-out-of-college and new employees can stand out at as candidates and recent hires at a company. “Have a rock-solid vision of who you are and what you stand for, and that really translates into the work that you do,” she said. Hubbard recognizes that new employees keep their heads down and focus on work output. This, however, can be damaging because, essentially, what you put in is what you can expect to put out, and if you are not actively building a culture of inclusion, you cannot expect it to exist. Echoing the thoughts and advice of others, Hubbard emphasized the need to be an active employee, regardless of your experience, because supporting others and their belonging will, in turn, help you be supported.
Inclusive cultures and diversity initiatives are being built into our workforce but cannot be successful without active and supportive employees. The importance of knowing your value as a diverse employee and the skills and perspectives you bring to any job is imperative to your ability to thrive and help others thrive as well, as each panelist mentioned. The Wonder Woman in Tech conference is a great resource for women looking to seek more advice and support, as well job as opportunities with the right company. Don’t be afraid to ‘get it done’ because you could be the best person to make these changes happen.