With gender equality still an issue in workplaces worldwide, how can we create diversity and inclusion programs to empower women?  Common solutions include formal mentoring, education for employees about diversity, and training on unconscious bias. Recently, women-led initiatives have promoted diversity in the workplace, following research that shows equality is good for business.

Companies must learn how to create an intentional culture for gender inclusion, moving beyond the idea that a few prominent female role models are enough to create gender equality in a male-dominated industry.

To learn more, we speak with two leaders trying to solve this important problem.  

Adriana Gascoigne is the Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization devoted to empowering, educating, and engaging women in the tech industry across 47 chapters in 33 countries.

Sastry Durvasula is the Global Chief Technology and Digital Officer, and Partner at McKinsey & Company. Sastry leads the strategy and development of the Firm’s differentiating digital products and platforms, internal and client-facing technology, hybrid cloud, data & analytics, and AI/ML.

Transcript

This transcript was lightly edited.

About Adriana Gascoigne (Girls in Tech) and Sastry Durvasula (McKinsey & Company) 

Michael Krigsman: Diversity, equality, and inclusion is a large problem that's gaining more attention. Today, we speak with two experts. Our first guest is Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech. Adriana, briefly tell us about Girls in Tech.

Adriana Gascoigne: Girls in Tech is an organization that I founded in 2007. We're focused on providing career development, job placement, and types of resources for women in STEM in addition to educational, skill-building type of programs and communities that help support growth opportunities.

Michael Krigsman: Our second guest is Sastry Durvasula, Global Chief Technology and Digital Officer at McKinsey & Company. Sastry, please tell us about your role at McKinsey.

Sastry Durvasula: I lead the global technology and digital organization as a partner at McKinsey. That includes the strategy and development of our technology, our digital capabilities (both internal and external), data analytics, artificial intelligence, et cetera. I also serve as an expert advisor for our clients.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, how did you become involved with Girls in Tech?

Sastry Durvasula: Yes, I've been active in the industry, Michael, on DE&I and have been working with Girls in Tech for actually several years as a mentor and recently joined the board last year as one of the board of directors working with Adriana and team.

Gender diversity, equality, and inclusion

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, we hear these terms "gender diversity," "inclusion," diversity in general. What does it mean?

Adriana Gascoigne: Diversity, equity, and inclusion is currently a popular buzzword. While we fully support the efforts being made by all organizations towards such goals, we would be remiss if we didn't separate diversity from belonging.

DE&I initiatives tend to be sort of weighted down with metrics, which are necessary for accountability but workplace culture is key. Fostering a sense of community in which team members feel like they belong is quite imperative to an organization's long-term success.

Celebrating and valuing the unique contributions of each person fosters that sense of belonging. This means breaking the executive mold and truly welcoming peers that may look different, talk differently, dress differently, and come from a variety of different backgrounds and neighborhoods. They may practice a different faith. They maybe identify as LGBTQIA. Value systems may differ. There are all sorts of values, right?

The net-net here is that not every CEO needs to be a white male in a hoodie with an Ivy League education. You really can pluck amazing talent from all walks of life.

Michael Krigsman: How important, how significant, how large a problem is this?

Adriana Gascoigne: I would say that it is a large problem because, when launched Girls in Tech in 2007, cut to almost 14 years later, we're still seeing headlines that show that there's a disparity of women and marginalized groups of people within the STEM fields.

There is recently a McKinsey report. It was a hallmark report on the business impact of diversity and inclusion. It also included statistics on the disparity and the work that we need to still do ahead.

Their analysis reaffirms a strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership. It shows the business case that it continues to strengthen a business proposition if we are to focus on diversity, but a lot of companies are still starting out. They don't know what the secret sauce is or how to make improvements in DE&I.

This report is important because it shows that, now more than ever, if companies care about diversity then they're going to outperform their less diverse companies in terms of profitability.

Sastry Durvasula: Mm-hmm.

Adriana Gascoigne: The report also found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with more than 30% of women executives were more likely to outperform companies where the percentage ranged from 10% to 30%. In turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, what do you see in your role at McKinsey for looking at these topics, studying these topics, thinking about the solutions, and so on?

Sastry Durvasula: As Adriana said, Michael, I think the biggest challenge we have is women are underrepresented in technologies. It has been a dominant tech industry issue for a long time. But what's happening is every business is now going through a massive disruption driven by tech, so tech is part and parcel of every industry, every business, every location, every region.

Then technology is also driving intelligent automation. Ten years from now, when we look back, we would not have the same workforce that we do have today. The underrepresentation of women in tech is a compounding issue as we look at all these three aspects.

As an example, we have 47 percent of the U.S. workforce is women. When it comes to the technology and computing workforce, it's 26 percent. It's substantially low in the technology industry and now you're looking at more industries becoming tech-driven and more technology driving businesses and the biases that come with it, so it's a compounding issue for both businesses as well as for corporations and their teams.

Importance of diversity in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: The nature of diversity, equality, inclusion is evolving as the workforces evolve as well. It seems like it's quite a multilayered, multifaceted problem.

Sastry Durvasula: Yep. What was a technology industry issue, I would say it's every industry's mission-critical issue at this point. When you look at the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially with gender and race (a cross-section), I think it's a compounding issue.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, can you give us some examples of the kind of diversity challenges that organizations face, just to make it concrete?

Adriana Gascoigne: Based on the companies that we've partnered with and the peers that I've spoken to, the diversity challenges are focused on recruiting and making sure that companies are understanding different tactics that they can employ within their companies to make sure that they're recruiting fairly and that they're promoting job opportunities to a wider, sort of broader, diverse group of people so that they can hire people that represent the LGBTQIA community, the disabled community, as well as racially diverse and female community.

This is a big challenge, especially in STEM. We are marginalized groups, and they continue to be more of a challenge to access talent within these groups. It's reassuring to see how companies are focused on moving the needle here and taking action.

The other part, I would say, is the company culture. There is a really big disparity there or lack of understanding in terms of what you need to do to improve company culture. It's not just hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion executive and sort of checking that box. You have to do the hard work. I would say, to begin with, a company needs to do a full audit of what they're doing well and what they're not doing well, really understand the overall happiness and productivity of their employees, and understand how the company culture is working or not working.

There's a company called Culture Amp. I love this company because they have helped improve the company cultures of so many different large corporations where there is a lot of structure, a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and it has worked. It has changed for the better.

They help come in and do an audit and then they provide helpful recommendations on what to do, whether it's through recruiting, whether it's doing assessments or surveys with your employees, changing things like policies or management training programs, and then they provide outcomes. This is generating statistics and data that can help underscore what's working and what's not. Typically, companies will do one or two but not all three. I think that that is a major difference.

I would also say that Twitter is a great example of a company that's taking action. They've created programs and policies for meaningful change and they're setting the bar.

In terms of comparisons of tech companies, Twitter performs better than Facebook when it comes to blacks, for example, in technical roles. In August of 2020, they reported having 5.1 percent of blacks in technical roles, and also compelling are 5.7 percent of blacks in leadership roles at Twitter. Twitter goes through great lengths to make sure their employees (known as Tweeps) understand how they contribute to the workplace culture and they make it mandatory—like several courses—how to respectfully navigate through tough topics in the workplace, how to spot and interrupt microaggressions, how to be an ally to underrepresented people.

Sastry Durvasula: Right.

Adriana Gascoigne: They've recently introduced compensation to those group leaders who are taking charge of what historically has been deemed volunteer work. They're making some great strides.

Impact of remote work from home on gender diversity and STEM

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question on LinkedIn from Simone Jo Moore. Sastry, she asks, "What is the impact of working from home on dealing with these gender in STEM issues?"

Sastry Durvasula: Working from home is a complex topic, but I think the pandemic has shed a lot of light on this. Adriana was referencing the study before that McKinsey published, and it's a study we did in partnership with leanin.org. Over 370 companies were interviewed. There was a lot of research done with 40,000+ participants.

What it showed was that one in four women in the workforce has considered either leaving or downshifting their career because of the pandemic and the work at home demands of balancing between work, home, kids, and everything else that goes in life. It gets worse. With mothers, it's one in three. With black women, it's one in three.

I think it has shown what technology disruption and work at home would and could do to our workforce. I think there needs to be a better appreciation for what it brings, as we see in the pandemic and, more importantly, I think, recognizing the flexibility, the always-on mindset that has kind of crept in with work at home, that sort of switch, and a better appreciation for the demands that people are facing at this point, whether they're mothers or fathers, or other aspects of life. It has shown a lot of light on this particular topic.

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from LinkedIn. Jonathan Becker, who I've known for many years, is president of the San Jose Sharks. He says that he's concerned that gender diversity could turn into a counting exercise and don't we need something stronger than that, a sense of inclusion and belonging, which I think Adriana alluded to earlier. What about this issue, going beyond counting?

Adriana Gascoigne: People should be hired based on merit. I do also believe that there are extremely, extremely talented women and people representing marginalized groups out there. It just takes a lot more work to find them. There are different types of programs that enable and educate women that are in college, at the university level, that are going into the workforce—whether it's through internships, mentorship programs, or sponsorship programs—to make sure that they're set up for success.

I know Etsy is a great example of this. They created an incubator at their company for university students. They taught coding classes so that they can learn (for free) and then they hired the employees afterward.

Now, they have over 50 percent of female software developers working for the company. That takes a lot of work, a lot of resources, and dedication but they can meet their quota – the quota that they wanted to, which was 50 percent women and 50 percent men in technical roles.

I don't think just checking boxes is going to help create sustainability over time because if it's not the right person, it's not the right person for the role. But I do believe that that hard work is something that a lot of companies and a lot of people are not paying attention to or prioritizing. It just takes a little more effort.

Creating a culture of diverse teams and inclusion in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. You can see; I prioritize the comments coming in from the audience during the discussion. Arsalan Khan is a regular listener of CXOTalk and always asks insightful questions, so thank you, Arsalan.

He raises the point about culture being such an important factor in any organization. Culture is not only about the people, but also, very importantly, the incentives, the rewards, the recognition. If the leadership in the organization is biased, then these incentives will be biased as well. He's wondering if there are any studies or any thoughts on biases in organizations that affect recruiting. Sastry, maybe you have some thoughts on this one.

Sastry Durvasula: I think, to kind of build on Adriana's earlier point, there are policies and metrics that every company is tracking. I think it goes far beyond that. I think it is in the culture and some of the biases that we do see.

I think the biggest challenge is, do you have a wide enough network to get the word out in a corporation as you hire talent? Do you have a mechanism that empowered the hires to advance? Do you have mechanisms to address the broken rung issue: as women go through their life – advancements? Do you have the ability to celebrate the role models as leaders emerge?

I think some of these things are critically important. The mentoring aspect, empowering women, engaging with the right networks, which is very important because unless a company can walk the walk, this is a very hard issue to tackle. It's a very organic issue, so some of the results may not come right away, so you need to need to be at it.

The other thing, on the bias question—it's an important question—I would say you need to manage the moments. If you don't manage the moments—the microaggressions, the systemic discrimination—they will continue to percolate. Whether women or men, at the workplace, when they see something that's happening that's not right, they need to speak up and call it out. I think if you manage the moment with the necessary other aspects of the culture, I think it will make a systemic impact over time.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, thoughts on this one?

Adriana Gascoigne: It's a really exciting and exhilarating time for DE&I. I think that there are so many companies out there that are pretty much up for the challenge, but it's also pretty exhausting. You're sort of having to reinvent the wheel and, as I said before, do the hard work. On top of that, we're now dealing with COVID and that's further drained efforts.

The reality is, there is so much more work yet to be done. I do believe that there are other things like tying promotions and compensation to success in DE&I, specifically recruiters, but also leaders, managers, directors. If this is a priority for these leaders within an organization, they're setting the tone for the culture.

Also, leading by example. Making sure that they embody the values that are so important to creating a diverse environment and creating an environment of tolerance, acceptance, and, as Sastry said, celebration. If there is a leader or organization that celebrates victories in DE&I like with company-wide emails, features on blogs, or spotlighting employees, maybe press releases, that all does help.

It's not just to promote externally; it does help empower and get people excited internally about what the company is doing to be proactive and stay ahead of the game with DE&I. In addition to ERG groups as well as recruitment tactics, internship programs, all of these things do help and the tools and resources are out there. It just takes a little bit more work.

Michael Krigsman: What's holding women back?

Adriana Gascoigne: Women have not applied for jobs in STEM. There are very basic things like how job descriptions are written in listings to recruit women. Even like "coding ninja" or something of that nature, women tend to not think that they're a good fit for the "coding ninja" roles or even the "coding rockstar" roles. The onus is really on recruitment staff as well as HR staff to understand how their messaging and marketing the companies, as well as the positions themselves.

I also think mothers, people that would love to have a family, women that would like to have a family, at some point in their career, typically around the management level, they have to make a decision. They have to decide whether they want to put all of their chips in and focus on their career or try to have that balancing act between family and work. It is quite challenging, but some women can do it with help, so that is something they're confronting.

Also, it's the whole stigma of the STEM fields. People think that it is a brogrammer sort of dog-eat-dog type of culture, and so that's less attractive to certain people, and a great majority happen to be women.

For instance, when I first joined a startup, my first startup ever in 2006, I was the only woman in a 35-person company. While the company was super cool—a B2C video startup a little before its time—there were microaggressions. People would talk to me differently. I had a guy throw a full water bottle to my head. There was a lot of swearing. There was a beer pong table.

That culture was one that was quite shocking to the system, but it's something that I said to myself, "I guess I have to learn to adapt to this culture to fit in and thrive in the startup tech workforce." We also didn't have an HR division, so they couldn't step in to help out.

I thought to myself, "This is at the core. This is the main problem, the problem that when people come into the door that represents different racial groups, women, or LGBTQ, they don't feel like they can fit in. They don't feel comfortable. They don't feel like they belong." I wanted to change that.

That startup led me to launch Girls in Tech. I was coming to work every day just really frustrated. That is the reason why I started Girls in Tech in 2007.

Sustaining gender diversity and equality in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. This question is, how can we not only create a diverse environment but sustain that environment? In other words, how can we provide growth opportunities that sustain the development of diversity, inclusion, and helps it grow and take hold? Sastry, thoughts on that one?

Sastry Durvasula: This is where I think men have to step in and step up, Michael. Most of the environments, as we commented so far, have underrepresented gender, so when it comes to women. I think men have an equal and important role to play in this when it comes to mentoring, when it comes to empowering and engaging, and when it comes to creating the right level of networks.

I'll give you a simple example. Most of the women networks or women in technology networks in the companies, the majority of those networks are women. Men don't participate in them because they think that they are for women. Men don’t know how to engage in them, and men struggle to figure out what to say and what not to say.

I think there is a responsibility on the men's part when it comes to engaging on this cause and creating that opportunity, as I said earlier, empowering them, celebrating them, calling things out when you see something is not going right and, frankly, putting in the accountability. This is an issue where you can't let the system just decide and assume that policies will auto-enable everything.

I think this is an issue that requires constant focus, constant attention, and, frankly, constant monitoring of how things are progressing. As promotions happen, are we putting the right lens on the promotion decisions? Are we putting the wide enough lens for hiring decisions, et cetera?

Men have to play an important role. I think women, also, through some of these initiatives that are happening, definitely have to show some light on some of these fundamental issues because the KPIs that companies are measuring is not going to be enough. I think it has to be an organic movement to sustain it and that's, frankly, why I engaged with Girls in Tech.

To echo Adriana's comments, as a leader who is an engineer, who grew up with a lot of programmers and product people who were men, I had to figure out, personally, how do I engage? Of course, I have a wife that also teaches me who is also a technologist, but I needed some professional advice and engagement. I think it's important to engage in these networks, learn, and bring that home to your corporation and your own teams.

Michael Krigsman: As I'm looking at the comments on Twitter, there's a discussion. Arsalan Khan mentions that diversity is influenced by a patriarchal society. Lisbeth Shaw is asking, why is the gender gap still a problem? On LinkedIn, Simone Jo Moore is talking about the reluctance of women to engage in STEM management roles because they haven't been coders and maybe there's a confidence issue.

To me, all of this points to this deep-seated cultural dimension that ultimately creates the biases, the subtle biases—some subtle, some not so subtle—that we were talking about earlier. How do we look at the talent pipeline (starting from an early age) to address these issues of which a lot of it is confidence and the willingness, I think, to stand up?

Adriana Gascoigne: What I've observed and what I've discussed with my friends with kids, young kids and, specifically, girls, they have a lot of responsibility, as they should: parents as well as teachers, the media, even movies, and video games, and things that young girls are exposed to. It's the messaging. It's what society portrays is okay for girls.

It is breaking the barriers, breaking the mold to the traditional – sit there, be quiet, and fold your hands. That is different from what is now going on in society. I do believe that there are a lot of supportive type of programs and educational opportunities for girls that didn't exist when I was a young girl.

I think the onus starts with the parents and the teachers to influence and expose young girls to the STEM field, specifically coding, and get them excited about it. Get them curious about it – getting their hands dirty on science projects and whatnot.

There are also different types of things like GoldieBlox, for example. A friend created this awesome company as a Stanford project and it's now a massive, massive company. It is sort of like a kit that gets girls' wheels turning on how to build something, so they start thinking like an engineer. These are the types of programs, the types of books, the types of toys that can help influence a girl at a young age.

I do honestly feel it's the teachers and the parents that can help build that confidence and expose the girls to STEM. There are so many phenomenal stories within the Girls in Tech community of actually dads supporting the growth opportunities for young girls, so taking them to their workplace, getting them signed up for Girls in Tech coding programs. It's really, really refreshing and reassuring to see how that is changing.

I'll have to throw in one little anecdote here. When I was a senior in high school, math and science weren't my best subjects, but they were subjects that I wanted to do well in and potentially have a career in STEM. My high school counselor said, "You should never, ever go down that path because you have a B average in math." She said, "Do not apply for any of the technical schools. Do not apply for the Ivy League schools." It was a lot of just negative influence and negative messaging.

Guess what. I trusted her and I didn't apply for those schools. I went on to go to a great university, but I didn't challenge myself to go down the path of a technical degree, and those influences matter.

Challenges of diversity in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have more questions coming in from Twitter and LinkedIn. This is from @LauRosich. What are some of the most common excuses you hear around hiring more female talent in technology roles and how do you respond to those? I'm interested in both of your perspectives. Sastry, how about you? You're consulting with lots of clients and you must run into this, in various companies. You must observe this at times, I would imagine.

Sastry Durvasula: Yeah, I think the most common excuse is, "We don't know where to find them," and "They don't exist." It's a very common excuse and that tells that you're not looking where you should be looking. I think it's an important aspect of the whole problem.

Yes, we have fewer women and less number of girls taking STEM courses, but if you start recruiting, they recruit more, they inspire more, and they motivate more. I think that's one excuse.

The other excuse is skillset and flexibility, expectations of the leaders, and their own biases. Those are inexcusable. I think some of this has systemic issues, but I think that it's important to have an open network.

Frankly, if I'm a female engineer, which company would I join? I would join a company where I actually think that this issue is top of mind, not just for the company but for the people and the leaders. I look for inspiration and I look for that connection.

I think it's an important element of the whole issue. How do you widen the network and how do you engage at a level that is authentic where a female engineer would want to work for this company? I think that's at least my comment on the excuse part.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, as a woman, do you hear these excuses explicitly or does it take the form of a more subtle bias, as you were describing earlier?

Adriana Gascoigne: Explicitly. Sastry hit the nail on the head with that one. We hear all the time, "Where are they? They're not applying for jobs. We can't find them. There's not enough diverse talent in terms of women or marginalized groups applying for those jobs are fitting the criteria of what people are looking for in terms of technical positions."

To me, it is laziness, to be quite frank. I do think it's hard. I do think it's hard to locate diverse groups of talent, specifically technical women. But it's not impossible.

It's not impossible, and I think that if you were to promote. For example, partner with Girls in Tech. We have a jobs board and we have a great, intuitive way for companies to share their corporate profiles and the company culture, and post job listings to our over 70,000 members around the globe. It's a great way to engage and connect with technical women, also nontechnical women – product development roles or marketing roles.

There are also ways to promote on blogs or networks. We have a lot of great programs that we offer like our Digital Career Fair, the Girls in Tech Conference, which is a great place to recruit. It takes a little bit more effort but partnering with organizations like Girls in Tech can help with employee engagement and help create awareness and exposure of opportunities within your company that a lot of women might not know about.

Now, with remote working being a thing due to COVID-19, you can access talent all over the globe. This is the silver lining that we're seeing everywhere. I think that those excuses are hopefully short-lived and we can start focusing more on the solutions rather than the issues at hand.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion at work?

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, how do we solve this problem?

Sastry Durvasula: Focusing at the granular level, at the systemic level is an important element of solving this problem. Obviously, it's very important to track. It's important to measure. It's important to have strategic initiatives around hiring, retention, and promotion, et cetera.

I think awareness is an important element when it comes to corporations. Engagement of the leaders walking the walk, managing the moment, I think those are very important.

I think the other important thing is the parental side that Adriana mentioned earlier. I frankly feel that the parents need to get a different level of awareness because, also, parents have their own biases based on their own work cultures that they bring home. They don't see the role models at work, so they probably don't inspire.

I think there is some work to be done. The unconscious bias training, as an example, that people go at work, is there a similar version for parents? These are some of the fundamental questions because I think that level of awareness in parenting and schools, teachers, play an important role to inspire.

It's 23 percent of women take advanced AP courses in computer science in the United States – 23 percent. That's pretty low, so inspiring girls to get into STEM and motivating them, I think that's where it starts. It starts growing up, growing in a career, and inspiring others. In all three phases of life and work, I think it has a measurable impact to be made.

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from Twitter. It's a very interesting point that Sriram, on Twitter, raises. He says, "How can we avoid generating the feeling among men that the organization may be providing unfair advantage or compromising on standards while promoting diversity?" I think this gets back to some of the bias issues that you were both talking about earlier. What do we do about that issue?

Sastry Durvasula: The fundamental thing is really for organizations to embrace the business need of having diversity. Diversity for the sake of having diversity is not what we are talking about. There is an actual commercial business impact that every company can make with having a diverse and inclusive workforce. If the leaders in organizations and men are bought into that, then they actually would look at this in a very different way.

I often hear this comment, "Well, are we diverse discriminating? Are we over-indexing on this?" et cetera, in various networks and firms.

I think it's understanding the clear business impact that advancing diversity would have is the key aspect. Then I think opening the network to embrace the talent and giving them the opportunities for learning and development, allowing them to network with others, I think these are some of the other aspects that are critical.

Adriana, do you want to jump in on this?

Adriana Gascoigne: Programs should be for everyone. If you have internal training programs, management training, if you have ERG groups, things like that that can help advance people's careers and provide other resources and opportunities, it really should be for everyone.

We do have an issue with a disparity of women and marginalized groups entering into the STEM workforce, but I don't think that that means that we should diminish or ignore the men. I do think we should engage the men. Offer the programs to them as well, but also, include them in terms of being mentors for the young women entering into the STEM workforce. Engage them.

For example, Girls in Tech, we have a virtual hack-a-thon. We have mentors come and share their thoughts or give lightning talks, serve as a judge. We also have a virtual mentorship program where a lot of companies and their employees—a lot of which are men—will come and participate and engage with a mentee to help them achieve successful outcomes in hitting their career goals.

I think there are ways of being very inclusive and not creating an S&M type of approach, but bringing everybody together and enabling a very positive, productive, and communicative work environment for all walks of life, not just marginalized groups or men. All of us, there is a place where all of us can unite and be successful.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter that's quite interesting, from Sal Rasa. He's asking, "Who is not speaking up on this issue that should and, if they did, it would make a real difference?"

Sastry Durvasula: There are a few constituents that need to speak up. One is women need to speak up and we have a live example in this Zoom room with Adriana. I think she chose to speak up.

It's very important when you see discrimination when you see microaggressions. It is an important element, regardless of where they are. They could be students. They could be working professionals. They could be mothers. They could be teachers. They could be mentors. They could be mentees. I think they need to speak up.

As I said, men need to speak up. Men need to speak up and men need to walk the walk on this.

Companies need to speak up. I think companies need to set the right tone all the way from the top down that this is an important issue.

Of course, the general policies need to speak up. Like every other systemic, large-scale, complex, global issue, this requires a lot of key constituents to speak up.

It is a solvable problem. I think that, fundamentally, women have a very, very bright future in the field of technology because they bring a different level of perspective, a different level of engagement, and more and more opportunities are coming. I think there is an increased focus, obviously, on diversity, equity, and inclusion. As I always say to a lot of my mentees, this is the perfect time to engage in technology regardless of where you are in your career.

Adriana Gascoigne: I have a couple of thoughts on this. I first off think that we do need more role models and people representing marginalized groups speaking up. Executives and leaders in high-tech, or even in other sectors, sharing their personal stories, their trials and tribulations, skills, and best practices that they've built along their career path.

Make it so that it's a realistic outcome for people that might be marginalized like people of different racial backgrounds. The whole concept of "you can't be what you can't see" is very true. It's important to bring out the role models and have them speak at conferences and events and not just have tech conferences that are just filled with older white men. There should be a great diversity because there are brilliant, brilliant executive leaders that represent the minority groups.

I also think that (from a holistic perspective) the government needs to play a bigger role in terms of providing STEM education to public schools. I think this is an area where we lack severely. I don't feel that the government is setting aside enough funds, support, and resources to encourage and provide education in coding, for instance.

We're happy to partner with them but, as a nonprofit, we also need that support and resources as well. But I think that's a couple of areas, I think, where people need to stand up and speak up a bit more.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, what advice would you offer to business leaders? That's who watch this show is business leaders. What advice do you have for these folks to create, that will them create, a more diverse workplace?

Sastry Durvasula: Walk the walk. It's important to be aware, important to engage, important to mentor, important to monitor, and important to network. It's extremely critical and it starts with everyone in any company or in any business. It also is important to set the right tone for the business itself, so that would be my key point.

Also, as I said, manage the moment. As you see systemic issues, call them out. More importantly, celebrate the greatness and inspiration that comes out of the focus that you have.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, as I have interviewed women senior executives on this show, one of the themes that seem to have come up quite a bit is women helping women, supporting each other. What advice do you have for women to support these efforts and to support other women?

Adriana Gascoigne: Once you're on the top – What's the saying? – let the ladder back down so that other women can climb up as well. I do believe that that aligns specifically with mentorship and sponsorship, being accountable to make sure that you help other women achieve certain levels of success and help them get to their positive outcomes within their career goals.

I do see this a lot where there are sponsorship and mentorship. There's a massive difference.

Sponsorship is being accountable and making sure that that person gets that connection or that interview, gets invited to that conference. It is being accountable for the positive outcomes of that person's career.

Mentorship is also very important. It's supporting and answering questions and helping that person along their path, but it doesn't revolve as much around accountability.

I would say we need more sponsors that are female and male mentors and we also need more racially diverse mentors because it does help in terms of Latinx or black women that come together to help support the younger generation. I truly believe you cannot be what you cannot see, and so I do feel like that has really helped bring more young women into the STEM fold. I'd like to see more of that in the future.

Michael Krigsman: Great comments. Thank you so much to Adriana and Sastry. I'm very grateful to both of you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Sastry Durvasula: Thanks for having us.

Adriana Gascoigne: Thanks so much.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching, especially to the folks who participated and asked such excellent questions. Before you go, please subscribe to our newsletter. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website and we'll send you excellent material.

We have great shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and we'll see you again next week. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

This transcript was lightly edited.

About Adriana Gascoigne (Girls in Tech) and Sastry Durvasula (McKinsey & Company) 

Michael Krigsman: Diversity, equality, and inclusion is a large problem that's gaining more attention. Today, we speak with two experts. Our first guest is Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech. Adriana, briefly tell us about Girls in Tech.

Adriana Gascoigne: Girls in Tech is an organization that I founded in 2007. We're focused on providing career development, job placement, and types of resources for women in STEM in addition to educational, skill-building type of programs and communities that help support growth opportunities.

Michael Krigsman: Our second guest is Sastry Durvasula, Global Chief Technology and Digital Officer at McKinsey & Company. Sastry, please tell us about your role at McKinsey.

Sastry Durvasula: I lead the global technology and digital organization as a partner at McKinsey. That includes the strategy and development of our technology, our digital capabilities (both internal and external), data analytics, artificial intelligence, et cetera. I also serve as an expert advisor for our clients.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, how did you become involved with Girls in Tech?

Sastry Durvasula: Yes, I've been active in the industry, Michael, on DE&I and have been working with Girls in Tech for actually several years as a mentor and recently joined the board last year as one of the board of directors working with Adriana and team.

Gender diversity, equality, and inclusion

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, we hear these terms "gender diversity," "inclusion," diversity in general. What does it mean?

Adriana Gascoigne: Diversity, equity, and inclusion is currently a popular buzzword. While we fully support the efforts being made by all organizations towards such goals, we would be remiss if we didn't separate diversity from belonging.

DE&I initiatives tend to be sort of weighted down with metrics, which are necessary for accountability but workplace culture is key. Fostering a sense of community in which team members feel like they belong is quite imperative to an organization's long-term success.

Celebrating and valuing the unique contributions of each person fosters that sense of belonging. This means breaking the executive mold and truly welcoming peers that may look different, talk differently, dress differently, and come from a variety of different backgrounds and neighborhoods. They may practice a different faith. They maybe identify as LGBTQIA. Value systems may differ. There are all sorts of values, right?

The net-net here is that not every CEO needs to be a white male in a hoodie with an Ivy League education. You really can pluck amazing talent from all walks of life.

Michael Krigsman: How important, how significant, how large a problem is this?

Adriana Gascoigne: I would say that it is a large problem because, when launched Girls in Tech in 2007, cut to almost 14 years later, we're still seeing headlines that show that there's a disparity of women and marginalized groups of people within the STEM fields.

There is recently a McKinsey report. It was a hallmark report on the business impact of diversity and inclusion. It also included statistics on the disparity and the work that we need to still do ahead.

Their analysis reaffirms a strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership. It shows the business case that it continues to strengthen a business proposition if we are to focus on diversity, but a lot of companies are still starting out. They don't know what the secret sauce is or how to make improvements in DE&I.

This report is important because it shows that, now more than ever, if companies care about diversity then they're going to outperform their less diverse companies in terms of profitability.

Sastry Durvasula: Mm-hmm.

Adriana Gascoigne: The report also found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with more than 30% of women executives were more likely to outperform companies where the percentage ranged from 10% to 30%. In turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, what do you see in your role at McKinsey for looking at these topics, studying these topics, thinking about the solutions, and so on?

Sastry Durvasula: As Adriana said, Michael, I think the biggest challenge we have is women are underrepresented in technologies. It has been a dominant tech industry issue for a long time. But what's happening is every business is now going through a massive disruption driven by tech, so tech is part and parcel of every industry, every business, every location, every region.

Then technology is also driving intelligent automation. Ten years from now, when we look back, we would not have the same workforce that we do have today. The underrepresentation of women in tech is a compounding issue as we look at all these three aspects.

As an example, we have 47 percent of the U.S. workforce is women. When it comes to the technology and computing workforce, it's 26 percent. It's substantially low in the technology industry and now you're looking at more industries becoming tech-driven and more technology driving businesses and the biases that come with it, so it's a compounding issue for both businesses as well as for corporations and their teams.

Importance of diversity in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: The nature of diversity, equality, inclusion is evolving as the workforces evolve as well. It seems like it's quite a multilayered, multifaceted problem.

Sastry Durvasula: Yep. What was a technology industry issue, I would say it's every industry's mission-critical issue at this point. When you look at the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially with gender and race (a cross-section), I think it's a compounding issue.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, can you give us some examples of the kind of diversity challenges that organizations face, just to make it concrete?

Adriana Gascoigne: Based on the companies that we've partnered with and the peers that I've spoken to, the diversity challenges are focused on recruiting and making sure that companies are understanding different tactics that they can employ within their companies to make sure that they're recruiting fairly and that they're promoting job opportunities to a wider, sort of broader, diverse group of people so that they can hire people that represent the LGBTQIA community, the disabled community, as well as racially diverse and female community.

This is a big challenge, especially in STEM. We are marginalized groups, and they continue to be more of a challenge to access talent within these groups. It's reassuring to see how companies are focused on moving the needle here and taking action.

The other part, I would say, is the company culture. There is a really big disparity there or lack of understanding in terms of what you need to do to improve company culture. It's not just hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion executive and sort of checking that box. You have to do the hard work. I would say, to begin with, a company needs to do a full audit of what they're doing well and what they're not doing well, really understand the overall happiness and productivity of their employees, and understand how the company culture is working or not working.

There's a company called Culture Amp. I love this company because they have helped improve the company cultures of so many different large corporations where there is a lot of structure, a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and it has worked. It has changed for the better.

They help come in and do an audit and then they provide helpful recommendations on what to do, whether it's through recruiting, whether it's doing assessments or surveys with your employees, changing things like policies or management training programs, and then they provide outcomes. This is generating statistics and data that can help underscore what's working and what's not. Typically, companies will do one or two but not all three. I think that that is a major difference.

I would also say that Twitter is a great example of a company that's taking action. They've created programs and policies for meaningful change and they're setting the bar.

In terms of comparisons of tech companies, Twitter performs better than Facebook when it comes to blacks, for example, in technical roles. In August of 2020, they reported having 5.1 percent of blacks in technical roles, and also compelling are 5.7 percent of blacks in leadership roles at Twitter. Twitter goes through great lengths to make sure their employees (known as Tweeps) understand how they contribute to the workplace culture and they make it mandatory—like several courses—how to respectfully navigate through tough topics in the workplace, how to spot and interrupt microaggressions, how to be an ally to underrepresented people.

Sastry Durvasula: Right.

Adriana Gascoigne: They've recently introduced compensation to those group leaders who are taking charge of what historically has been deemed volunteer work. They're making some great strides.

Impact of remote work from home on gender diversity and STEM

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question on LinkedIn from Simone Jo Moore. Sastry, she asks, "What is the impact of working from home on dealing with these gender in STEM issues?"

Sastry Durvasula: Working from home is a complex topic, but I think the pandemic has shed a lot of light on this. Adriana was referencing the study before that McKinsey published, and it's a study we did in partnership with leanin.org. Over 370 companies were interviewed. There was a lot of research done with 40,000+ participants.

What it showed was that one in four women in the workforce has considered either leaving or downshifting their career because of the pandemic and the work at home demands of balancing between work, home, kids, and everything else that goes in life. It gets worse. With mothers, it's one in three. With black women, it's one in three.

I think it has shown what technology disruption and work at home would and could do to our workforce. I think there needs to be a better appreciation for what it brings, as we see in the pandemic and, more importantly, I think, recognizing the flexibility, the always-on mindset that has kind of crept in with work at home, that sort of switch, and a better appreciation for the demands that people are facing at this point, whether they're mothers or fathers, or other aspects of life. It has shown a lot of light on this particular topic.

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from LinkedIn. Jonathan Becker, who I've known for many years, is president of the San Jose Sharks. He says that he's concerned that gender diversity could turn into a counting exercise and don't we need something stronger than that, a sense of inclusion and belonging, which I think Adriana alluded to earlier. What about this issue, going beyond counting?

Adriana Gascoigne: People should be hired based on merit. I do also believe that there are extremely, extremely talented women and people representing marginalized groups out there. It just takes a lot more work to find them. There are different types of programs that enable and educate women that are in college, at the university level, that are going into the workforce—whether it's through internships, mentorship programs, or sponsorship programs—to make sure that they're set up for success.

I know Etsy is a great example of this. They created an incubator at their company for university students. They taught coding classes so that they can learn (for free) and then they hired the employees afterward.

Now, they have over 50 percent of female software developers working for the company. That takes a lot of work, a lot of resources, and dedication but they can meet their quota – the quota that they wanted to, which was 50 percent women and 50 percent men in technical roles.

I don't think just checking boxes is going to help create sustainability over time because if it's not the right person, it's not the right person for the role. But I do believe that that hard work is something that a lot of companies and a lot of people are not paying attention to or prioritizing. It just takes a little more effort.

Creating a culture of diverse teams and inclusion in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. You can see; I prioritize the comments coming in from the audience during the discussion. Arsalan Khan is a regular listener of CXOTalk and always asks insightful questions, so thank you, Arsalan.

He raises the point about culture being such an important factor in any organization. Culture is not only about the people, but also, very importantly, the incentives, the rewards, the recognition. If the leadership in the organization is biased, then these incentives will be biased as well. He's wondering if there are any studies or any thoughts on biases in organizations that affect recruiting. Sastry, maybe you have some thoughts on this one.

Sastry Durvasula: I think, to kind of build on Adriana's earlier point, there are policies and metrics that every company is tracking. I think it goes far beyond that. I think it is in the culture and some of the biases that we do see.

I think the biggest challenge is, do you have a wide enough network to get the word out in a corporation as you hire talent? Do you have a mechanism that empowered the hires to advance? Do you have mechanisms to address the broken rung issue: as women go through their life – advancements? Do you have the ability to celebrate the role models as leaders emerge?

I think some of these things are critically important. The mentoring aspect, empowering women, engaging with the right networks, which is very important because unless a company can walk the walk, this is a very hard issue to tackle. It's a very organic issue, so some of the results may not come right away, so you need to need to be at it.

The other thing, on the bias question—it's an important question—I would say you need to manage the moments. If you don't manage the moments—the microaggressions, the systemic discrimination—they will continue to percolate. Whether women or men, at the workplace, when they see something that's happening that's not right, they need to speak up and call it out. I think if you manage the moment with the necessary other aspects of the culture, I think it will make a systemic impact over time.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, thoughts on this one?

Adriana Gascoigne: It's a really exciting and exhilarating time for DE&I. I think that there are so many companies out there that are pretty much up for the challenge, but it's also pretty exhausting. You're sort of having to reinvent the wheel and, as I said before, do the hard work. On top of that, we're now dealing with COVID and that's further drained efforts.

The reality is, there is so much more work yet to be done. I do believe that there are other things like tying promotions and compensation to success in DE&I, specifically recruiters, but also leaders, managers, directors. If this is a priority for these leaders within an organization, they're setting the tone for the culture.

Also, leading by example. Making sure that they embody the values that are so important to creating a diverse environment and creating an environment of tolerance, acceptance, and, as Sastry said, celebration. If there is a leader or organization that celebrates victories in DE&I like with company-wide emails, features on blogs, or spotlighting employees, maybe press releases, that all does help.

It's not just to promote externally; it does help empower and get people excited internally about what the company is doing to be proactive and stay ahead of the game with DE&I. In addition to ERG groups as well as recruitment tactics, internship programs, all of these things do help and the tools and resources are out there. It just takes a little bit more work.

Michael Krigsman: What's holding women back?

Adriana Gascoigne: Women have not applied for jobs in STEM. There are very basic things like how job descriptions are written in listings to recruit women. Even like "coding ninja" or something of that nature, women tend to not think that they're a good fit for the "coding ninja" roles or even the "coding rockstar" roles. The onus is really on recruitment staff as well as HR staff to understand how their messaging and marketing the companies, as well as the positions themselves.

I also think mothers, people that would love to have a family, women that would like to have a family, at some point in their career, typically around the management level, they have to make a decision. They have to decide whether they want to put all of their chips in and focus on their career or try to have that balancing act between family and work. It is quite challenging, but some women can do it with help, so that is something they're confronting.

Also, it's the whole stigma of the STEM fields. People think that it is a brogrammer sort of dog-eat-dog type of culture, and so that's less attractive to certain people, and a great majority happen to be women.

For instance, when I first joined a startup, my first startup ever in 2006, I was the only woman in a 35-person company. While the company was super cool—a B2C video startup a little before its time—there were microaggressions. People would talk to me differently. I had a guy throw a full water bottle to my head. There was a lot of swearing. There was a beer pong table.

That culture was one that was quite shocking to the system, but it's something that I said to myself, "I guess I have to learn to adapt to this culture to fit in and thrive in the startup tech workforce." We also didn't have an HR division, so they couldn't step in to help out.

I thought to myself, "This is at the core. This is the main problem, the problem that when people come into the door that represents different racial groups, women, or LGBTQ, they don't feel like they can fit in. They don't feel comfortable. They don't feel like they belong." I wanted to change that.

That startup led me to launch Girls in Tech. I was coming to work every day just really frustrated. That is the reason why I started Girls in Tech in 2007.

Sustaining gender diversity and equality in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter. This question is, how can we not only create a diverse environment but sustain that environment? In other words, how can we provide growth opportunities that sustain the development of diversity, inclusion, and helps it grow and take hold? Sastry, thoughts on that one?

Sastry Durvasula: This is where I think men have to step in and step up, Michael. Most of the environments, as we commented so far, have underrepresented gender, so when it comes to women. I think men have an equal and important role to play in this when it comes to mentoring, when it comes to empowering and engaging, and when it comes to creating the right level of networks.

I'll give you a simple example. Most of the women networks or women in technology networks in the companies, the majority of those networks are women. Men don't participate in them because they think that they are for women. Men don’t know how to engage in them, and men struggle to figure out what to say and what not to say.

I think there is a responsibility on the men's part when it comes to engaging on this cause and creating that opportunity, as I said earlier, empowering them, celebrating them, calling things out when you see something is not going right and, frankly, putting in the accountability. This is an issue where you can't let the system just decide and assume that policies will auto-enable everything.

I think this is an issue that requires constant focus, constant attention, and, frankly, constant monitoring of how things are progressing. As promotions happen, are we putting the right lens on the promotion decisions? Are we putting the wide enough lens for hiring decisions, et cetera?

Men have to play an important role. I think women, also, through some of these initiatives that are happening, definitely have to show some light on some of these fundamental issues because the KPIs that companies are measuring is not going to be enough. I think it has to be an organic movement to sustain it and that's, frankly, why I engaged with Girls in Tech.

To echo Adriana's comments, as a leader who is an engineer, who grew up with a lot of programmers and product people who were men, I had to figure out, personally, how do I engage? Of course, I have a wife that also teaches me who is also a technologist, but I needed some professional advice and engagement. I think it's important to engage in these networks, learn, and bring that home to your corporation and your own teams.

Michael Krigsman: As I'm looking at the comments on Twitter, there's a discussion. Arsalan Khan mentions that diversity is influenced by a patriarchal society. Lisbeth Shaw is asking, why is the gender gap still a problem? On LinkedIn, Simone Jo Moore is talking about the reluctance of women to engage in STEM management roles because they haven't been coders and maybe there's a confidence issue.

To me, all of this points to this deep-seated cultural dimension that ultimately creates the biases, the subtle biases—some subtle, some not so subtle—that we were talking about earlier. How do we look at the talent pipeline (starting from an early age) to address these issues of which a lot of it is confidence and the willingness, I think, to stand up?

Adriana Gascoigne: What I've observed and what I've discussed with my friends with kids, young kids and, specifically, girls, they have a lot of responsibility, as they should: parents as well as teachers, the media, even movies, and video games, and things that young girls are exposed to. It's the messaging. It's what society portrays is okay for girls.

It is breaking the barriers, breaking the mold to the traditional – sit there, be quiet, and fold your hands. That is different from what is now going on in society. I do believe that there are a lot of supportive type of programs and educational opportunities for girls that didn't exist when I was a young girl.

I think the onus starts with the parents and the teachers to influence and expose young girls to the STEM field, specifically coding, and get them excited about it. Get them curious about it – getting their hands dirty on science projects and whatnot.

There are also different types of things like GoldieBlox, for example. A friend created this awesome company as a Stanford project and it's now a massive, massive company. It is sort of like a kit that gets girls' wheels turning on how to build something, so they start thinking like an engineer. These are the types of programs, the types of books, the types of toys that can help influence a girl at a young age.

I do honestly feel it's the teachers and the parents that can help build that confidence and expose the girls to STEM. There are so many phenomenal stories within the Girls in Tech community of actually dads supporting the growth opportunities for young girls, so taking them to their workplace, getting them signed up for Girls in Tech coding programs. It's really, really refreshing and reassuring to see how that is changing.

I'll have to throw in one little anecdote here. When I was a senior in high school, math and science weren't my best subjects, but they were subjects that I wanted to do well in and potentially have a career in STEM. My high school counselor said, "You should never, ever go down that path because you have a B average in math." She said, "Do not apply for any of the technical schools. Do not apply for the Ivy League schools." It was a lot of just negative influence and negative messaging.

Guess what. I trusted her and I didn't apply for those schools. I went on to go to a great university, but I didn't challenge myself to go down the path of a technical degree, and those influences matter.

Challenges of diversity in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: We have more questions coming in from Twitter and LinkedIn. This is from @LauRosich. What are some of the most common excuses you hear around hiring more female talent in technology roles and how do you respond to those? I'm interested in both of your perspectives. Sastry, how about you? You're consulting with lots of clients and you must run into this, in various companies. You must observe this at times, I would imagine.

Sastry Durvasula: Yeah, I think the most common excuse is, "We don't know where to find them," and "They don't exist." It's a very common excuse and that tells that you're not looking where you should be looking. I think it's an important aspect of the whole problem.

Yes, we have fewer women and less number of girls taking STEM courses, but if you start recruiting, they recruit more, they inspire more, and they motivate more. I think that's one excuse.

The other excuse is skillset and flexibility, expectations of the leaders, and their own biases. Those are inexcusable. I think some of this has systemic issues, but I think that it's important to have an open network.

Frankly, if I'm a female engineer, which company would I join? I would join a company where I actually think that this issue is top of mind, not just for the company but for the people and the leaders. I look for inspiration and I look for that connection.

I think it's an important element of the whole issue. How do you widen the network and how do you engage at a level that is authentic where a female engineer would want to work for this company? I think that's at least my comment on the excuse part.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, as a woman, do you hear these excuses explicitly or does it take the form of a more subtle bias, as you were describing earlier?

Adriana Gascoigne: Explicitly. Sastry hit the nail on the head with that one. We hear all the time, "Where are they? They're not applying for jobs. We can't find them. There's not enough diverse talent in terms of women or marginalized groups applying for those jobs are fitting the criteria of what people are looking for in terms of technical positions."

To me, it is laziness, to be quite frank. I do think it's hard. I do think it's hard to locate diverse groups of talent, specifically technical women. But it's not impossible.

It's not impossible, and I think that if you were to promote. For example, partner with Girls in Tech. We have a jobs board and we have a great, intuitive way for companies to share their corporate profiles and the company culture, and post job listings to our over 70,000 members around the globe. It's a great way to engage and connect with technical women, also nontechnical women – product development roles or marketing roles.

There are also ways to promote on blogs or networks. We have a lot of great programs that we offer like our Digital Career Fair, the Girls in Tech Conference, which is a great place to recruit. It takes a little bit more effort but partnering with organizations like Girls in Tech can help with employee engagement and help create awareness and exposure of opportunities within your company that a lot of women might not know about.

Now, with remote working being a thing due to COVID-19, you can access talent all over the globe. This is the silver lining that we're seeing everywhere. I think that those excuses are hopefully short-lived and we can start focusing more on the solutions rather than the issues at hand.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion at work?

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, how do we solve this problem?

Sastry Durvasula: Focusing at the granular level, at the systemic level is an important element of solving this problem. Obviously, it's very important to track. It's important to measure. It's important to have strategic initiatives around hiring, retention, and promotion, et cetera.

I think awareness is an important element when it comes to corporations. Engagement of the leaders walking the walk, managing the moment, I think those are very important.

I think the other important thing is the parental side that Adriana mentioned earlier. I frankly feel that the parents need to get a different level of awareness because, also, parents have their own biases based on their own work cultures that they bring home. They don't see the role models at work, so they probably don't inspire.

I think there is some work to be done. The unconscious bias training, as an example, that people go at work, is there a similar version for parents? These are some of the fundamental questions because I think that level of awareness in parenting and schools, teachers, play an important role to inspire.

It's 23 percent of women take advanced AP courses in computer science in the United States – 23 percent. That's pretty low, so inspiring girls to get into STEM and motivating them, I think that's where it starts. It starts growing up, growing in a career, and inspiring others. In all three phases of life and work, I think it has a measurable impact to be made.

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from Twitter. It's a very interesting point that Sriram, on Twitter, raises. He says, "How can we avoid generating the feeling among men that the organization may be providing unfair advantage or compromising on standards while promoting diversity?" I think this gets back to some of the bias issues that you were both talking about earlier. What do we do about that issue?

Sastry Durvasula: The fundamental thing is really for organizations to embrace the business need of having diversity. Diversity for the sake of having diversity is not what we are talking about. There is an actual commercial business impact that every company can make with having a diverse and inclusive workforce. If the leaders in organizations and men are bought into that, then they actually would look at this in a very different way.

I often hear this comment, "Well, are we diverse discriminating? Are we over-indexing on this?" et cetera, in various networks and firms.

I think it's understanding the clear business impact that advancing diversity would have is the key aspect. Then I think opening the network to embrace the talent and giving them the opportunities for learning and development, allowing them to network with others, I think these are some of the other aspects that are critical.

Adriana, do you want to jump in on this?

Adriana Gascoigne: Programs should be for everyone. If you have internal training programs, management training, if you have ERG groups, things like that that can help advance people's careers and provide other resources and opportunities, it really should be for everyone.

We do have an issue with a disparity of women and marginalized groups entering into the STEM workforce, but I don't think that that means that we should diminish or ignore the men. I do think we should engage the men. Offer the programs to them as well, but also, include them in terms of being mentors for the young women entering into the STEM workforce. Engage them.

For example, Girls in Tech, we have a virtual hack-a-thon. We have mentors come and share their thoughts or give lightning talks, serve as a judge. We also have a virtual mentorship program where a lot of companies and their employees—a lot of which are men—will come and participate and engage with a mentee to help them achieve successful outcomes in hitting their career goals.

I think there are ways of being very inclusive and not creating an S&M type of approach, but bringing everybody together and enabling a very positive, productive, and communicative work environment for all walks of life, not just marginalized groups or men. All of us, there is a place where all of us can unite and be successful.

Michael Krigsman: We have another question from Twitter that's quite interesting, from Sal Rasa. He's asking, "Who is not speaking up on this issue that should and, if they did, it would make a real difference?"

Sastry Durvasula: There are a few constituents that need to speak up. One is women need to speak up and we have a live example in this Zoom room with Adriana. I think she chose to speak up.

It's very important when you see discrimination when you see microaggressions. It is an important element, regardless of where they are. They could be students. They could be working professionals. They could be mothers. They could be teachers. They could be mentors. They could be mentees. I think they need to speak up.

As I said, men need to speak up. Men need to speak up and men need to walk the walk on this.

Companies need to speak up. I think companies need to set the right tone all the way from the top down that this is an important issue.

Of course, the general policies need to speak up. Like every other systemic, large-scale, complex, global issue, this requires a lot of key constituents to speak up.

It is a solvable problem. I think that, fundamentally, women have a very, very bright future in the field of technology because they bring a different level of perspective, a different level of engagement, and more and more opportunities are coming. I think there is an increased focus, obviously, on diversity, equity, and inclusion. As I always say to a lot of my mentees, this is the perfect time to engage in technology regardless of where you are in your career.

Adriana Gascoigne: I have a couple of thoughts on this. I first off think that we do need more role models and people representing marginalized groups speaking up. Executives and leaders in high-tech, or even in other sectors, sharing their personal stories, their trials and tribulations, skills, and best practices that they've built along their career path.

Make it so that it's a realistic outcome for people that might be marginalized like people of different racial backgrounds. The whole concept of "you can't be what you can't see" is very true. It's important to bring out the role models and have them speak at conferences and events and not just have tech conferences that are just filled with older white men. There should be a great diversity because there are brilliant, brilliant executive leaders that represent the minority groups.

I also think that (from a holistic perspective) the government needs to play a bigger role in terms of providing STEM education to public schools. I think this is an area where we lack severely. I don't feel that the government is setting aside enough funds, support, and resources to encourage and provide education in coding, for instance.

We're happy to partner with them but, as a nonprofit, we also need that support and resources as well. But I think that's a couple of areas, I think, where people need to stand up and speak up a bit more.

Michael Krigsman: Sastry, what advice would you offer to business leaders? That's who watch this show is business leaders. What advice do you have for these folks to create, that will them create, a more diverse workplace?

Sastry Durvasula: Walk the walk. It's important to be aware, important to engage, important to mentor, important to monitor, and important to network. It's extremely critical and it starts with everyone in any company or in any business. It also is important to set the right tone for the business itself, so that would be my key point.

Also, as I said, manage the moment. As you see systemic issues, call them out. More importantly, celebrate the greatness and inspiration that comes out of the focus that you have.

Michael Krigsman: Adriana, as I have interviewed women senior executives on this show, one of the themes that seem to have come up quite a bit is women helping women, supporting each other. What advice do you have for women to support these efforts and to support other women?

Adriana Gascoigne: Once you're on the top – What's the saying? – let the ladder back down so that other women can climb up as well. I do believe that that aligns specifically with mentorship and sponsorship, being accountable to make sure that you help other women achieve certain levels of success and help them get to their positive outcomes within their career goals.

I do see this a lot where there are sponsorship and mentorship. There's a massive difference.

Sponsorship is being accountable and making sure that that person gets that connection or that interview, gets invited to that conference. It is being accountable for the positive outcomes of that person's career.

Mentorship is also very important. It's supporting and answering questions and helping that person along their path, but it doesn't revolve as much around accountability.

I would say we need more sponsors that are female and male mentors and we also need more racially diverse mentors because it does help in terms of Latinx or black women that come together to help support the younger generation. I truly believe you cannot be what you cannot see, and so I do feel like that has really helped bring more young women into the STEM fold. I'd like to see more of that in the future.

Michael Krigsman: Great comments. Thank you so much to Adriana and Sastry. I'm very grateful to both of you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Sastry Durvasula: Thanks for having us.

Adriana Gascoigne: Thanks so much.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching, especially to the folks who participated and asked such excellent questions. Before you go, please subscribe to our newsletter. Hit the subscribe button at the top of our website and we'll send you excellent material.

We have great shows coming up. Check out CXOTalk.com and we'll see you again next week. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.