Why Gender Diversity in the Workplace is Important to Me

OpenMarket – July 27, 2016

diversity, Berners-Lee

I’ve spent most of my career working in software program and product management positions at high tech companies in Seattle. I can honestly say that working at OpenMarket has been one of the best experiences in my professional career..  Part of that stems from the company’s core values of being authentic, valuing people, taking ownership and delivering as a team.  In fact, I really recommend people consider OpenMarket if they are looking to grow themselves and their careers. That being said, there is still room for improvement when it comes to gender diversity in our workplace.

Less than a year ago, I first listened to an expert on the importance of gender diversity in the workplace.  The speaker was a white male, like myself, who provides training on gender diversity.  He cited statistics, shared stories and explained market trends regarding how little progress has been made.  But what really got me engaged was when he asked how many men listening to him had daughters.  I counted myself as one of them.  Then he said, “If everything I said before wasn’t enough information to motivate you to get involved and do something about this problem at your own workplace, then consider this.  Your daughter will be entering the workplace; make it better for her.”  That really hooked me!

Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in recognizing this issue at OpenMarket. Nor were we alone in learning that this is a crucial issue in both our industry as well as within Seattle.  Read how Seattle is failing women in tech.  Seattle is ranked 39 out of 58 best cities for women in tech and only 21% of tech jobs are filled by women, so this city has lots of room to improve.  Additionally, here are just a few other facts to consider:

So we embarked on our own journey to educate OpenMarket employees (otherwise known as “OMies”) about gender diversity, finding ways to attract and hire more women, and creating a more engaging and supportive work environment for them. Tackling this issue has top to bottom support in addition to representation by me and several women across all of our departments. We conducted an internal survey and had over 90% participation to learn where we stood today. To nobody’s surprise, women perceived things differently than men on many key issues. We learned that we had many of the same issues that are common to other tech companies.  But knowledge is power and self-awareness breeds accountability in a healthy organization.  So now that we understand what our issues are, we have already started tackling them and with faster results than I would have expected.

While this journey is still a work in progress, we have already seen quantifiable improvements. I’m really looking forward to repeating the survey next year to learn how much has changed from the viewpoint of our female staff that make our company an interesting and fun place to work.  For me, this feels like I’m “being the change I want to see in the world for my daughter’s sake.”  And I have to say, it feels good. (Shameless plug: if you are interested in working for OpenMarket, please check out our careers section).

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