Whenever I get together with my friend Cathrin, we always have lively conversations about how to change and move things forward in the workplace. Cathrin is a huge force for women and has worked many years to help individual women advance their careers.
Several months ago, I was having dinner with her and her husband. She had just seen some sobering stats from the World Economic Forum about how long it would take to reach gender parity at the highest levels of business at the current pace of change (117 years to be exact), and she was particularly fired up about wanting to do something to bring about change faster and on a bigger scale. As we always do, we started batting around ideas, and while we were debating the pros and cons of solutions such as legislation and quotas, the NFL’s Rooney Rule flashed into my mind.
The Rooney Rule, which the NFL instituted to increase representation of African Americans as head coaches, required every team to interview at least one qualified African American for every senior management position that opened up. In three short years, by committing to a more diverse slate of qualified candidates, the representation of African American head coaches went from 6 percent to 22 percent.
The Rooney Rule was a proven technique that had also been tested at businesses like Facebook and, most recently recommended for Uber. Cathrin loved the simplicity and she loved that it was a practical solution that companies could act on now. After I told Cathrin I talked to Sheryl Sandberg, who gave it two thumbs up and said there was no downside. I also talked to Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, and he had the same reaction and said he would share best practices and would be happy to help anytime, anywhere. Cathrin and I continued to discuss the idea, and in what seemed like a nanosecond after that, Cathrin started Parity.org and the ParityPledge was born.
There are three things I believe the ParityPledge does particularly well:
1. It forces us to expand our network beyond the people we know.
I notice that when a senior position in my company opens up, I naturally think of the people I know well as candidates. The reality is that most of these people tend to be men because they are the ones I’ve worked closest with in the past. I also tend to socialize with more men outside of work hours, so I get to know them better. The ParityPledge, forces me and others in my organization to consciously grow and diversify our pipeline of qualified candidates.
2. It encourages quality not quotas.
I’m gender blind when it comes to hiring, and for that matter blind to all thing gender, sexual orientation, religion and skin color. I want the best person for the job. Period. The ParityPledge makes it easy to stick to those hiring requirements, while giving qualified women the opportunity to advance to the highest levels of leadership by making sure there is representation in the interview process. To me this is a better approach than quotas. When I talk with women about this particular topic, I haven’t met one who wants a title that they didn’t deserve. The women in management positions at my company are the best at what they do. I’m thankful they have joined our company. Their talents and their diversity of viewpoints and experiences, make us a better company and better equipped to serve our customers.
3. It requires that men be a part of the conversation.
Gender parity is not a women’s issue. If meaningful change is going to happen, women and men need to be having a conversation. Men, particularly those in leadership positions, need to understand the many factors that are holding back women who want to advance their careers, and help drive solutions that remove the friction in the workplace.
The Women Tech Council, which is leading an effort with Silicon Slopes to help create cultures in tech companies that are more inclusive, recently shared that only five percent of executive positions in Utah are held by women. In our state, there are many factors that contribute to those paltry stats but we can, and need, to do much better.
At Domo, women currently make up 23 percent of our management team. While it’s better than the state average, we have room for improvement. It’s my hope that the ParityPledge is one step forward, and that it has as positive of an impact for Domo, as the Rooney Rule had for the NFL.
Lastly, at Domo while we are doing this, we are also going to do our best to find minority candidates who are somewhat hard to come by in Utah, but we will create a pipeline there too. And as we tackle this, we look forward to being able to tackle other issues as well to make sure we are building the most effective management team and workforce as possible and to attract and land the best candidates, wherever they may be.
CEOs at some of Silicon Slopes largest private tech companies Qualtrics, Pluralsight, Insidesales have taken the pledge with us today. Tech giant, Cisco, and fashion titan, Polo Ralph Lauren, are leading the charge in their industries. I invite you to do so too – regardless of your company size or industry. Let’s see we can do together today to become positive role models for change, one pledge at a time. Join us in taking the pledge! http://www.parity.org.