Women in Tech: Four Female Senior Executives from Workday

What's it like for women in IT? Four female executives at enterprise software company Workday -- Ashley Goldsmith, Chief People Officer; Diana McKenzie, Chief Information Officer; Christine Cefalo, Chief Marketing Officer; and Robynne Sisco, Chief Financial Officer -- share advice on building diverse teams.


Feb 12, 2018

What's it like for women in IT? Four female executives at enterprise software company Workday -- Ashley Goldsmith, Chief People Officer; Diana McKenzie, Chief Information Officer; Christine Cefalo, Chief Marketing Officer; and Robynne Sisco, Chief Financial Officer -- share advice on building diverse teams.

"I do think that it comes down to the culture of the company and whether or not that culture is one of hiring and promoting the right people for the job, regardless of gender or diversity and background or anything else," Sisco says. "And once you have shown that you are that type of company, then you're going to start attracting more women. We're in our roles here because we were the best people for the job, not because we're women but because we were the most qualified."

Goldsmith is chief people officer at Workday and has global responsibility for human resources, internal communications, global impact, workplace facilities, and the Workday Foundation.

McKenzie is chief information officer (CIO) at Workday. She oversees the company's security and global information technology (IT) organization, with responsibility for the internal deployment of Workday products.

Cefalo is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Workday. She oversees the global marketing organization, with responsibility for building the brand and creating customer demand in markets around the world.

Sisco is the Chief Financial Officer at Workday and is responsible for all aspects of the company's finance organization, including accounting, tax, treasury, and financial planning and analysis.


This transcript was lightly edited.

About Workday: C-level female executives

Michael Krigsman: We have such an amazing and interesting show today. We're speaking about women in technology. And, we're talking with four C-level female executives from Workday. Very briefly, how did you get there? And let's start with you, Ashley.

Ashley Goldsmith: Thank you! So, my job, some people would call "human resources," but at Workday, we characterize it as people's purpose and places, which means I have responsibility for the traditional HR things like compensations, employee development, but also areas like employee communications, philanthropy, and our workplace facilities. And so, my focus is all about the employee experience, making sure that we are creating a great experience so that we innovate and provide perfect customer service.

Michael Krigsman: Next to Ashley is Christine Cefalo, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Workday. Welcome to CxOTalk!

Christine Cefalo: Thank you! Thank you for having us! I'm the Chief Marketing Officer. My job is to generate awareness and build demand for Workday's products all around the world. And, just as important, of course, is to hire and develop great talent to bring our marketing organization into the future.

Michael Krigsman: And, Robynne Sisco, the Chief Financial Officer of Workday. Welcome to CxOTalk!

Robynne Sisco: Thank you! Thrilled to be here! My path to Workday is I was a customer of Workday's and just really enamoured by the Workday technology. And so ended up coming here five years ago as Chief Accounting Officer. And {I} was fortunate enough to be appointed CFO approximately a year ago. I'm responsible for all of the financial functions of Workday, which includes running all of our financial systems within [the] Workday [software] as well. And I'm thrilled to have been here for five years.

Michael Krigsman: Finally, Diana McKenzie is the Chief Information Officer at Workday.Welcome, Diana!

Diana McKenzie: Thank you, Michael! It's a pleasure to be here! I have responsibility for all of the core IT systems at Workday. We also have a team that we call "WOW," which stands for "Workday on Workday." And their mission is to help Workday be the first and best customer of our products. And I have responsibility for that team as well. And lastly, I have responsibility for the security that we provide to our company around corporate security as well as for our platform.

"Workday promotes on ability, regardless of gender"

Michael Krigsman: Fantastic! And we have a question from Twitter. Gus Bekdash asks … "Managers in technology complain about not having enough qualified women." He hires by ability and has never had that problem. And so, how do we encourage women in technology?

Robynne Sisco: I think that it's a difficult question to answer. And you know, I've been in finance, and mostly here in Silicon Valley, for the last thirty years, and you know, I've seen a pretty good shift over time. But, I think it comes down to culture of the company and whether or not that culture is one of hiring and promoting the right people for the job, regardless of gender or diversity and background or anything else. And once you have shown that you are that type of company, then you're going to start attracting more women. And so I think that we're in our roles here because we were the best people for the job, not because we're women but because we were the most qualified. Yet, people looking from the outside in can look at Workday and say, "Well, I know that I can have a successful career there as a woman because Workday has proven that they promote on ability and don't have a gender bias".

Diana McKenzie: And I would add that we can all help each other as well. I find, in some forums that I attend, I'm one of two or three women in a group, maybe of thirty, forty CIOs. And, one of the things that we've all started to do more is to proactively seek out other women that we know that would be great for that forum, and work hard to extend the invitation so that there is more diversity around the table. And when there's more diversity around the table, the conversation changes and the opportunity for inclusion becomes greater. So, I think there's an element of that that we can take on as well.

"Cultural values set the stage for diversity"

Michael Krigsman: So, at Workday, how did you end up having four female C-level executives? Was this by design? Did it just happen naturally? Organically? How did this happen?

Ashley Goldsmith: So, Workday's cultural values set the stage for us to have a very diverse group of executives. So, we didn't set out with a goal [that] we're going to have a certain percentage of women on our executive team. But, it is a priority for us to have a sense of belonging for every single person. We're a company that emphasizes contribution wildly over a person's gender, or their race, or any other characteristic. And so when you have that fundamental, then it makes it much more likely that you are going to select whoever is the right person for the job, and then the case, it so happens that we do have a lot of women in the executive team.

But it's not just there. I mean, if you look across Workday, we have great diversity in women throughout. If you look even in places that are traditionally male — product management, engineering, and development, we have great female leaders and employees throughout those organizations. So, it is something that I do think if you get some diversity at the top, that will be very attractive to others who will say, "Yes, if I work there, I could see myself there because I know that people like me can get ahead."

Michael Krigsman: What about inside IT? Because IT, in particular, is such a male-dominated field.

Diana McKenzie: Yeah, I know. This is a focus area for me and for any other person who's in a role like mine. I think that the statistics show that there are quite a few numbers of women that are choosing to major in the field of science and technology, and they emerge from the university and join the ranks. And there's a point where they decide for whatever reason not to continue. And, I think there's an opportunity there to catch some of the women at that stage of their career and make sure they are getting access to the best mentors and the best sponsors and making the right decisions.

So, I think there's some element of helping women to think differently about how they can push themselves further in this career that will help us to build the ranks and the pool of future leaders and CIOs.

Avoiding hiring bias: Gender and in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: And so, what other advice do you have? Share your thoughts on what women can do or what companies can do.

Robynne Sisco: We tend (if we're looking at promoting somebody, maybe into a role we just got promoted out of), we tend to look for people that are going to do the job the same way that we did the job because that's our comfort level. And I think that the awareness of that bias is important for leaders and managers to think about because maybe the best person for the job is someone who's going to do things completely different from how you did them. And, that diversity of thought can be really, really important.

And so, just ask everybody to think about "How am I looking at the candidates for a job whether it be an external hire or an internal promotion? Do I have an unconscious bias to try and find somebody who's like me? And would the company benefit from somebody who's maybe quite different?" And just kind of open your mind for opportunities for people. And maybe, it's somebody who's never done that role before. I mean, certainly, all of us at one point, had to break through the ranks of the CXO job and that's not an easy thing to do. But somewhere along the line, someone gave us the opportunity to do a role that we had never done before. And so, I think if we can get managers and leaders out there to think a little differently about that and that the best person for the role may not be somebody who has already done the role before.

Christine Cefalo: And, as I was preparing for this conversation, Michael, I was thinking what advice would I share, and maybe this is a result of Ashley. I work so closely together, but I thought the same thing, which is, "Ask, ask, ask." Speak up! You know, have confidence, like you're amazing! Find a mentor, find a sponsor. I look at those as slightly different. Sometimes, it's the same. But I've had great mentors and great sponsors. I'm guessing we all have, and I think those are just all things that you can do. And they're very hard too, I think. To speak up sometimes is hard. To be confident is hard. But I think to remember that and have that confidence.

Ashley Goldsmith: And, just a piece of advice, tilting it more towards the organization, I think most companies do want to have good diversity in their organization but don't necessarily know exactly how to get there. And it's certainly something that we all face. And I think one of the most important things is just having good data. And it does come back to data is so important because it goes beyond just knowing what your percentages are and hoping that you can raise those, but being really intentional with your data and…

So, for instance, with collaboration, with the four of us, we talked about what questions do we need to answer about diversity in Workday. And then, how do we have that data ready for us? And so, we have diversity dashboards that really speak to what are the common questions. And, it's what can get into the heart of where you might be losing your diversity. So, what are your promotion rates? Where does attrition vary within your organization? How does pay parity look? Where are you losing people in the attraction funnel? Are you getting enough people at the top and they're falling out during the interview phase?

So, if you know where you have an issue, you really can target your efforts, and I think that's where you can look at whether you need to look at blocking bias that may inadvertently exist somewhere, or look at better attraction programs. Once you have the data, then it becomes a lot easier to be intentional.

How to create diversity in the workplace

Michael Krigsman: Maybe this is obvious, but maybe not, what are the values and benefits of developing a diverse organization? And, at the same time, what are some of the challenges or the stumbling blocks that you've seen organizations face?

Robynne Sisco: So, I think that one of the benefits is when you get different points of view and perspectives, and people with different backgrounds in a room together, you're going to end up with the best answer you can possibly generate, right? You won't have groupthink. You'll have diverse perspectives on a problem and then, apply your core values like "What's right for Workday? What's right for the customer? What's right for the employees?" Then you can come to the best solution to a problem that likely nobody would have come to that same conclusion by themselves. And I think that diversity of thought, that diversity of experience, and the diversity of background really helps bring all the different perspectives together and you end up with some of the best decisions and best creativity, which is important particularly in a technology company.

Diana McKenzie: I would build on that. We look at our customers, and our customers are all very diverse. And, by being able to reflect that diversity at the leadership table here and within our organization, it just helps us be better connected to them. And to make sure we're truly listening to their needs and their wants, and reflecting those in our products as we develop in our communications as we reach out to them about what our products are capable of doing.

Ashley Goldsmith: And I think it's just a fact. I mean, the demographics, if you take the US, the demographics of the US are shifting wildly. So quickly. And we will be a country where the minority is the majority in just a matter of years. So, companies that don't get this right are going to struggle to have the talent that they need because diversity is part of who we are.

Michael Krigsman: Well, I'm very grateful to Workday and to these four amazing women, Ashley Goldsmith, Christine Cefalo, Robynne Sisco and Diana McKenzie. Thank you so much! We'll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day. Bye-bye!

Published Date: Feb 12, 2018

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 504