In an article entitled How to be a Male Ally for Women in Technology, the author, Vinay Pai,Vice President Engineering at Intuit, tells the story of how he became aware of the issue within his own company and the process, over the last two years, that was implemented to make a change. The result? Where there were little or no female representation in leadership roles, they now have a much more diverse team.
It didn’t happen over night. It started with the realization there was an opportunity and then it took discussion, buy in and specific actions, including mentorship, in all departments and at all levels, to make a difference.
Here is a snapshot of Vinay’s recommendations for male company leaders to follow in order to make a change in the diversity around the boardroom table:
- Identify mentors for high-performing women, and ensure that mentors meet regularly with their mentees. Many of the men on my staff have been great mentors and sponsors for women technologists: Guy Taylor, Madhav Nair, Dave Pickering, and Siddharth Ram, to name a few. Each of them has invested in meeting monthly with women leaders, including the ones named previously.
- Invite women leaders to participate in your staff meetings and your strategy sessions. This serves two purposes. These women can observe how their leaders operate, and they will understand what is expected at the next level. By having these women present their work, you are creating a natural mechanism for talent reviews and visibility to leaders within your organization.
- Send a woman leader as your delegate to a meeting when you can’t attend.
- Invite women leaders to your staff dinners and informal get-togethers. By creating an informal environment where they can participate in the banter, you are developing more informal and casual connections and making yourself and your leadership team more approachable.
- Identify stretch responsibilities. Shruti and Apparna, who are based in Bangalore, have led innovation programs in Bangalore along with their counterparts in Mountain View.
In a skip–level meeting, upper level management bypasses mid-level management to talk directly to nonmanagerial employees. Although there’s not typically a special position known as a “skip–level manager,” senior managers conducting these types of meetings are considered skip–level managers.
- Hold a monthly skip-level lunch with the women leaders in your team. Manimala leads this forum, where my male peers and I are regular attendees. Manimala has recruited external and internal speakers, hosted panel discussions, and has also encouraged women leaders to present their own “journey lines.” In this forum, women leaders network with their peers and interact regularly with their senior leaders.
The idea of holding skip-level meetings is a great one; a perfect opportunity for those at the top to connect and see the potential of mid-level female employees. The website Let’s Grow Leadership has put together a great guide for conducting a productive skip-level meeting including asking such open-ended questions as:
• What’s the best part of working here?
• How do you know how you’re doing? In which areas would you like more feedback?
• If you were in my shoes and could change one thing to make your work easier, what would that be? • What could we do to improve the customer experience?
• Which of your tools/resources do you find most helpful? Why?
• If you could invent a tool or resource to help you do your job, what would it be, and how would you use it?
I encourage you to read Vinay’s LinkedIn article for the full details of the process and their results to date. While you are at it, look for at least one or two ideas that you can take to your team this month as you begin the process of moving toward a more thought diverse organization in 2016.
JJ DiGeronimo, a speaker, author and thought-leader for Women in Tech and Girls and STEM, empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract Women in Technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.