2013 NCWIT Summit – Workshop, Male Advocates Matter: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: So thank you so much for coming to the panel on male advocates and influencers. Welcome. Glad to have you. And as many of you may know by now, this panel basically comes out of the male influencer study that we just completed, and it is debuting here at this conference. We’re very excited about that study, and this panel is an opportunity to give us a chance to talk more about kind of the issues in the study itself. And real life experiences of people on the panel with these kinds of issues. So here’s the format for the panel. I’m Catherine Ashcraft. I’m a senior research scientist at NCWIT, and one of the authors of the study. And I’m just gonna give like a really quick background and context, because we want to get to the panelists and to your questions as soon as possible. So I’m gonna give a quick background and then a few, highlight just a couple findings. And then the bulk of the time will be spent with the panelists addressing some of the questions related to these issues. And then about 15, 20 minutes before the end we’re gonna open it up to the audience for questions. So be thinking of what questions you wanna ask. And let’s see if I can get this to work. No? Oh, there we go. Okay. [laughs] So, the first question, in setting up the context for this panel is why this panel? Why study men? And I think if you have been around, paying attention to gender and technology issues you know that most of the time in this area we focus on women, and the research is on women’s experiences, women’s experiences in technical places and with diversity efforts. And both our workforce alliance and us as researchers were very interested in studying men’s experiences because as we all know, or may have noticed, women are not the only ones that are gendered beings. And so gender change is not just an issue that affects women, it also affects men. And particularly, as you see on the slides, some of the reasons summarized there, in technology workplaces that the leaders and gatekeepers are often men, and so it’s really important to get their buy-in. And also in previous research, we know that women frequently report that the decision to pursue a career in technology, or to stay in a career in technology, has often come from men, male colleagues, male family, male peers, that sort of thing. So we felt it was really important to understand their experiences, what motivates them to participate in these efforts, what kinds of things shape their thinking, how they go about advocating, and what challenges they face. So, we conducted a study. We interviewed 47 men in technology workplaces. And I’ll just highlight a couple of the findings in two different categories. The first is the experiences that lead men to advocacy. And I won’t go through all the ones on the slide here, but you can see that there are– [coughs] sorry, professional experiences and personal experiences that motivate men to be advocates and to shift their thinking about these issues. And in terms of professional experiences, having had a female boss or mentor was often a really common one that was mentioned, in either that it provided them with positive experiences with a woman in a you know, technical field, but also they had had a chance sometimes to see their stories, to see them experience bias, or to hear their stories and have a moment where they were surprised and wanted to learn more about that. In terms of personal experiences, you see some of those summarized there as well, but having a minority experience themselves was also a powerful motivator. Either whether it was like a racial, ethnic minority or a more temporary experience of attending like, Grace Hopper conference and experiencing being the only man in a particular environment. So those were one of the key experiences that motivated them. And I keep thinking that the slides are right there. But they’re not. So, the second thing I wanted to highlight were the top ten ways that men say they advocated for women and gender diversity. Oh, I just had to ask earlier, apparently! [laughs] Now they’re there. And so these are the top ten ways that actually came out of the interviews, that the men talked about advocating. And there’s obviously much more detail in the full report. And they’re not in a real hierarchical order, that’s one thing that’s kind of important to say. We do number them one to ten, just to kind of throw you off. But there were actually reasons why we did that. But it wasn’t that these were necessarily the most important. It was based on the combination of them being either mentioned most frequently, being relatively easy to implement. So, listen to women’s stories is number one because it doesn’t take a lot of money to do that. Maybe take her to lunch. But it doesn’t take a lot of money to implement that kind of thing. Talking to other men was also frequently mentioned and up towards the top because those are easier to implement, and also earlier to do in the process, or the journey of becoming a male advocate. So that’s how you can kind of think about those different ways that men say they advocated. And then if you want more information on that, however, you’ll have to get the full report. And there’s obviously copies in the back, or you can get it off the website at those two URLs. And there’s also the Top Ten Ways To Be a Male Advocate, which is a short brochure that you can use to kind of summarize and raise awareness more quickly, with the full report. So, with that background [laughs] I think we’re ready to segue now to the panel questions. And I will introduce our panelists. So next to me, you can just kind of wave as I say your name. We have Renata Collitti O’Day, Senior Engineering Manager from Brocade. And they’re not seated in the correct order, but I’m gonna go with this order. Mike Younkers, Senior Director of Systems Engineering from Cisco. Lisa Neal-Graves, who is our executive on-loan from Intel. And Colin Bodell, Vice-President Website, App, Platform, and Builder Tools, Amazon. And I already introduced myself, so you know who that is. So now we’ll switch to asking the panelists some questions, and then we’ll open it up, like I said, for your questions at the end. So we thought we would start, I think I can get rid of that now, we thought we would start by asking, well I guess I should say that the women are going to kind of focus on talking about their experiences working with male allies and also how they went about identifying male allies, and how men have encouraged them, or influenced their careers. And then the men will particularly focus on their work as male advocates and what shifted their thinking. So to kick that off and start that off, we’ll start with Renata, and Lisa, and just have you tell us a little about your experiences and how men have supported or influenced your career paths.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: Okay, so I have a couple examples where men have been really key to engage with me and advancing my career. The first experience I can think of is I was in a software quality assurance organization and they kept saying software quality assurance engineers could not manage projects. It was done by the development organization. I’m like, well why is that? And so I was able to engage my senior director at the time to say, you know, give me this opportunity, I’d really like to give it a try. And so I kind of managed my manager by engaging him and having the same goal as what I was going for. And so he ended up going out and finding probably the worst project in the entire company for me to work on. But it had a ton of visibility. And basically it was a business management kind of system so I had to pull in resources from across the entire organization, I had to engage people from pretty much every department because it was doing financial management, resource management, resource allocation, budgeting and stuff. But I also had to engage the senior team, because they were the consumers of all of the data and they wanted to be able to dice and slice it the way that they wanted to. So, fortunately through relationships that I had, I was able to build an interdisciplinary team, had a lot of human factors, design engineers, good software engineers, test engineers. And we built a product that is still running today, InnQuest. And he told me when he got this for me, he said you know what, this is really high risk, high reward. Are you sure you want it? I’m like absolutely. And he’s like, I’m behind you all the way. So that was one example of, he really supported me. And when I came into roadblocks or I couldn’t get into the office of a particular VP, you know, he’d help me figure out the way to navigate my way into the office to find out what their requirements were. And then he also advised me that at some point in my career, I needed to get some business background. And so I decided I needed to be a business development manager. Again, well, let me help you out, high risk high reward, $13 million infrastructure program. I went, okay! And my Senior Director at that time, I ended up reporting to somebody else, but he took the time, and we would meet over lunch a couple times a week, and he would give me stacks of business cases. And I’d go do some homework, and he’d come back, well what are the nuggets you took out of the business case? What are you going to do with it? What’s valuable? And coached and mentored me in that way. And I was that much more valuable when I went back to the technical organization, to have that kind of experience and visibility in the business.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Great, yeah, thank you.

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: Well. [laughs] My experiences, well, I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences and because you actually started with a good one, right, I’ll start with a bad one. Because I think that the bad ones actually were the mettle that helped me to become who I am. And so I’m really good with it. I actually was fortunate enough, I was pretty blazing as a youngster, and I asked for an assignment and we were re-engineering the business at US West. And the leader of the business said, well, let’s put Lisa in charge of this. But all of the guys, and it was all guys, and it was me. And all of the guys had been with US West for at least 30 years or more, and I had been with US West for four years. And so I was meeting with them, and they decided that they no longer wanted to really be led by me. And so they would call all the meetings in the men’s room. [laughter] So I figured this out because I kept, you know, I’d go to the rooms where we were supposed to be meeting, and it would be empty and I was thinking, what in the world is going on? So I could hear them, and so I went and just sort of listened to where they were, and they were right in the men’s room. So I would stand outside the door, and I would hear them talking about things, and I would yell in there what my ideas were [laughs] and tell them what I thought. And they were like, you know, she doesn’t go away. What is her problem? And so I told them, look, I’ve got two brothers, I’m not really that shy, I’ll come in, we can talk about it, just don’t have anything showing. [laughter] It didn’t get that bad, I didn’t have to actually go in after a while, after I kept standing by the door and yelling in my ideas, they finally decided that well, clearly she has some ideas. So I was able to sit at the table with them, but they would never take my ideas, they would take my ideas and somebody else would say them. And then they would go yeah, yeah that was great, that was a great idea. And I said yeah, it was great the first time it was said. Thank you. And so after a while, they, you know I’ve tried not to be snarky my whole life but I’ve got brothers, what are you gonna do? And so I was able to actually move them over to, she may not go away, she does have some decent ideas, she is young, but. And I had one of the guys finally, and I think this was a turning point, one of the guys that was on the team he said, you know Lisa, I’ve got more years in this business than you have on this earth. And I just looked at him and I said, and that was never a prerequisite for intelligence. [laughter] And everybody was silent for a minute because this guy was like the lead dog. All right, and everyone was silent for a minute because they were like, Lisa said that to him? And then another guy just cracked up. And he couldn’t stop laughing, because he was like, that’s a great point! [claps] And so from that point on, it was good, I could participate. I didn’t have to stand by the men’s room. It was, you know, when I got tired, and you do get tired because it’s a lot of work. And when I got tired of doing it I finally just said to them, you know guys, I’ve gone to the men’s room with you, I’ve had to be snarky with you, I’ve done everything that I could do to prove to you that I should be at least at the table. I’m tired. And I’m done. And so I decided that I was going to just walk away. And they were like no, no, no, no. We need the contrast. So it’s not about us just being evil to you. It really is about us pushing you so that you push us. So at that point I was really, I felt better, right. And I felt like I was a part of the team, so. I’m good with that. And then there were, of course, other instances where I actually had, because of that experience, they gave me a pretty good reputation for being an action person. So when there were other projects, they would recommend me for those projects. And it was always really cool to find out who was the recommender. Because it was always the most, least likely person that I would ever think. So, you know, a lot of it is, and there is this notion of women have to be fixed, right? We have to be taught to lean in. A lot of it isn’t really about women being fixed and having to lean in. It really is about women being okay about having the dialogue, and being okay with being the outsider for a while. Because we can be outsiders even with women. [laughs]

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah, and I think that’s a great point, being open to the dialogue, because a lot of times there, and I’m sure that we’ll speak to this in a second, but that men want to have the conversation but don’t know how. And knowing how to find those men to talk to. And being willing to talk to them is key.


RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: And I think even, we were talking before this panel. And it was so funny that we had shared the same bathroom experience. Because I’ve had my share of bad ones, too. But my bathroom experience was they were talking about me in the bathroom. And then actually, somebody who decided that that really wasn’t okay, and it was a guy, in the men’s room, came to me and said, you need to know this. They’re talking about you in the bathroom, and this is what they’re saying. And I was able to actually go and have a private dialogue with somebody and say hey, you know, I understand that there was a conversation in the men’s room. My name was mentioned about this and this. And I just said we’re leaders in this organization, and it doesn’t make you look good and it doesn’t make me look good. And so let’s look like we are collaborating, that we are a team. And that kind of behavior is not okay for the office. And several years ago, the company that I was working at with this gentleman, was acquired. And I was the only senior engineering software manager that was retained out of the acquired organization. And he came up to me and other people in that conversation said, we can’t think of a better person to have gone and lead this team into the new organization. And to me, that was just like, it was a huge win. And I was just like, it was worth the torture. [laughs] It was worth the time, but I’m so glad that I had that conversation, too, because if I didn’t, if I let it continue, that dynamic would have never changed. And so that was a big one.

COLIN BODELL: There’s a whole world of bathroom activity that I’m just not aware of going on.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: I was just going to say.

COLIN BODELL: I feel left out. The guys are leaving me out, the women are leaving me out. [laughter] Who’s got a bathroom story?

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And on that segue.

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: Let’s go to the men’s room.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Let’s go ahead and hear what kinds of conversations you’ve had, or experiences that have motivated you to participate in this kind of work.

COLIN BODELL: I mean, there was a a very important event that happened for me, and that caused me to step up and pay a lot more attention to the needs and the growth of women within the engineering community. So I was at the Hopper’s conference, I think it was either 2007, 2008, the one in Colorado. And I’d been subbed in at the last minute. Our CTO was due to go, he couldn’t go. Would I be interested in going? I don’t know what basis they asked me. But anyway, I said, tell me more about the conference. Well, it’s about 4000 women, well, I’m going! That was a no-brainer. So anyway, I flew out to Colorado, and I was in the tech exec forum representing my company. And we were going around the room, a big circle of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, people from academia. I mean, just a very august body around the room. And I’m sitting there, and each person is being asked to talk a little bit about how their organization is doing, becoming a better to place to hire women, and all sorts of develop women’s careers. And I’m sitting there feeling very pleased with myself because I was going to say great things about what Amazon was doing. And luckily for me, they started the questions going round the room in this direction. They were pretty much coming to me last. And as I’m listening to everybody talking about what they organizations are doing, I’m getting more and more depressed. And then the depression moves on to despondency. Because I’m realizing that oh, we are so, I mean we’re not doing a terrible job, but we’re sure as heck not doing anything as good as so many of these other organizations. So when it came round to me, I said well, I’m Colin Bodell, I work for Amazon. And I thought I knew, I thought we were doing well but now I realize that we’ve got a long way to go. So thank you for inviting me to this event. And I’m gonna leap in feet-first, I’m really looking forward to it. Maria Klawe, she’s the president of Harvey Mudd, she’s on the board at Microsoft, stands up from the other side of the room, marches across the room, gives me this huge hug, and just says thank you so much for at least realizing and acknowledging this. And that was kind of a pivotal moment. That I realized that I’m always trying to be as inclusive as I possibly can, but there are different ways and styles in which you need to do it. And it’s all going to be done on the basis of learning and understanding. And I was kind of breezing through life and breezing through work, not really understanding at the level I needed to understand. And being surrounded by 4000 women for three days boy, I got an education like nothing on earth. And I’ve been to the Hopper’s conference every year since, taking more and more women, and also, I took my entire engineering leadership team, men and women, to the Baltimore event. And the guys were asking me, why are we going to a women’s conference? And I just said to them, you’ll see. I didn’t want to prejudice them. I just wanted them to experience it firsthand. And it had the desired effect. Everybody coming up to me afterwards saying, thank you it was very, you know, great impressions. But also we’ve got a lot to learn. And it just began to open up the dialogue. So and unfortunately, you know, not every male, every man in an engineering organization gets the chance to experience that. It’s then, how do you bring those messages back? And there are a bunch of people who are very open to those messages. The vast majority, it’s not that they’re closed to them, It’s how to get the dialogue going, is a challenge. And I don’t, I’ve still never found one big, all-encompassing way of doing it. It’s been a lot of walking the corridors, individual conversations, carrying copies of the little Ten Ways folder with me. I have in my briefcase at any point in time, I’ll have half a dozen of those. And when I engage, and I have the opportunity to engage in a conversation, I feel as though I’m walking around knocking on doors trying to get people to sign up for a religion. Because I’m like, I have a pamphlet for you. Would you like to read this? And because it’s short, because everybody’s ADD and Type A and nobody will spend more than five minutes, really, but it’s a very quick read. And as you’re reading through it, you identify with the things very quickly. And because you identify them, you feel good, it’s all very inclusive. But you also realize that there are a few things you’re not very good at. And that begins to get the ball rolling. But I think that that event, that experience was the thing that caused me to step forward and say yes, I personally need to do more. I want a broadly diverse organization. Not just gender diversity, but diversity in any form. Because it’s more fun, you’re going to get better well, you know all the reasons. It’s the right thing to do. And it means there’s a greater volume of people, if we’re more effective hiring a diverse workforce, there’s a greater volume of people we can go and hire. And that’s going to keep our business growing as well. But that was a very, very significant event for me. And I’ve gone on to be very good friends with Maria. My daughter’s at Maria’s school. So it kind of keeps it all nicely in the family.


CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And I think you had a slightly, complementary but slightly different experience.

MIKE YOUNKERS: I did. So what really sort of jolted me into action at Cisco I’m a part of our inclusion and diversity team in the broad sense. And I had been working through this, but I have a wife who works. And she works in the school system, she’s a librarian, where they’re infusing technology into the school system where she works. And she came home one day and asked me some questions about is this appropriate that someone has said these things to me or approached me in a certain way And as I was listening to her, a classic case of harassment. And where I work, we train on these things and we look to seek them out and deal with them directly. This was a supervisor, not of her, but in the school, who had put her in this environment. And she wasn’t even sure that it was a problem and then she started asking me about, well what did I do to cause this? What should I have done differently? And my immediate reaction, to being the guy that I am, and somebody’s threatening my family, was I was getting ready to go down to the school and deal with it. Because she didn’t do anything, she wasn’t even sure what the situation was. So I was kind of, to Colin’s point, I was part of a team that was looking at this in a broad sense, but I was sort of going through the motions, and didn’t truly understand some of the more subtle, and in this case, very impactful. My wife was considering leaving the school because of this, and I thought, what a shame to the school and to the kids, where she’s very successful, that this environment isn’t safe for her. That she doesn’t feel safe to work in it. So I moved very quickly inside of my company from the broader inclusion and diversity initiatives directly into gender diversity. And that really drove me into action based on that personal experience with my wife. So I think we’re gonna kinda move to some other questions, cause I have a lot more I’d like to address.

COLIN BODELL: Well how did it work out with your wife? Did that situation get resolved to her satisfaction?

MIKE YOUNKERS: Well the frustrating part is there’s a lot of ways this gets dealt with. She was not the only person who had this problem. Other people made complaints. And they just moved the person to another school. They didn’t address the problem, they just moved the problem. And so that’s an extremely frustrating thing, and all I can do, I mean there’s more I can do, but what I do is I channel that frustration back into my own company, to, you know, if I see this, I will address it. And I’m in a team, I support the federal government, there’s about 400 of us in the team that I work with. I’m in a company that has 75,000 employees. And at a high level, we have all the programs you need, all the mechanisms for whistle blowing and all that stuff. But at the local level where I work, this stuff exists every day. And so I do work to seek it out, and try to channel that frustration that I experienced with my wife into making the environment at least that I’m a part of a more productive and safe environment.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah, and so we are going to shift gears a little bit now. But we kind of wanted to start with that because it was, in conducting the interviews for example, it was one of the really interesting and rich topics to talk with so many of the men about. About why they came to be advocates, or what shifted their thinking and motivated them and kept them passionate about these issues. And so now to kind of shift it a little bit, to talk more about what you’re actually doing in companies and how you’re advocating, and so for Colin and Mike to be thinking about addressing the question, what are some of the ways you’ve advocated in your companies or elsewhere? And for Renata and Lisa to be thinking about what are some of the ways you’ve identified and worked with male allies on these kinds of topics? And you can just chime in.

COLIN BODELL: Well I’ll start off with, as a function then of going to the Hopper’s event, I’m very very action-oriented, you know, what can I do? And it was tough coming back and not knowing what to do. I spent a bunch of time talking to folks within our human resource organization, that ran the diversity program. But spent a lot of time talking to women at all levels of the organization, from interns right the way up to distinguished engineer level. And their stories were all very different, but all very similar. And it was the small slights that were the problem. For example, I had a technical program manager a very accomplished woman, engineer, and program manager. And her office was just outside, just by mine. And had an incident one day, somebody had come up and just presumed that she was my assistant. And was trying to schedule a meeting and organize copies of a document and what have you. And I overheard this, and she kind of politely explained who she was and re-vectored him. But once that finished off, I said, we chatted about it. And you know, how often does this happen? And she said, more often than I would like and more often than you could possibly imagine. And what we wound up actually agreeing to do was to move her away from my office. Now the fear was, it was kind of running away from the problem. And no, she was very happy to be able to do that, to kind of make a little bit of distance, so people weren’t making that automatic assumption. But I also used it as an opportunity to talk about it at all-hands meetings and to socialize around, that that wasn’t acceptable. Understand the roles that people are playing in the organization. But I got involved in, what we used to call then, the Hoppers Organization, a group of women that would organize events within the company. We’ve changed in the last 12 months the name of the group to Amazon Women in Engineering. Because it stands for AWE. And you can do a lot with AWE. And we, at the Baltimore Hopper’s event last year, the tech exec forum, we had a session where we were talking about big practical things that we could do. And somebody, I think it may have been somebody from Cisco, stood up and talked about a daylong conference they had run, just a few months beforehand. And talked about the benefits and the outcome from that. And then when we got together in our small teams, I said okay, that’s it, we’re gonna draw a line in the sand, and within six months’ time we’re gonna have a full-day women’s conference. And by the way, I’ve got the name for the conference. We’re gonna call it AWE-some. [laughter] Once you’ve got the name, it’s downhill from there. But we had external speakers, so Maria Klawe was there, Wendy DuBow from NCWIT was there, Carolyn Sumadh, she’s now back at Stamford. So we had just these spectacular women speakers. And then we did a number of panel sessions, aimed at the audience. We had 300 women attend. We live-streamed it around the world, we have 24 different Amazon locations. And then we kept a number of the people back. And then we did an event for the external community. So we had parents of young ladies that were thinking about what they were going to go and study. We had some university students. We had other people not affiliated with the company come in, they listened to a presentation by Maria, and had a whole opportunity to ask a bunch of questions and network around. So, doing something very tangible, and hearing the feedback and allowing us to adjust and getting those stories around, I think sensitized, along with having the 300 women, there were probably 50 men in the audience as well. And we asked them explicitly, fan out and talk to your peers, talk to your colleagues. So I’m making sure that people will understand, that would listen, and will take action every minute of every day, where they see inappropriate behavior or where they see inequitable behavior, that’s their chance, that’s their opportunity to step up.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah, we have found those kind of events to be very effective in raising awareness. And Cisco did do a similar one that we came out and spoke on very similar topics. And so I think you’ve done some similar things.

MIKE YOUNKERS: We have, and I’ll tell you, again back to this kind of big company, small company, I believe very much in the Stephen Covey work in the circle of your control and then build your circle of influence, right? So for me, when I started on this journey I was afraid to have the conversation. I had women on my staff and I didn’t even know if it was appropriate conversation. I went from the US federal government to work at Cisco, and when I was in the government, we got hammered on what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate for conversations in the workplace. So here I am, wanting to make a difference and wanting to do something, and I don’t even know how to open the dialogue. And fortunately, I had a female on my staff who was so gracious in helping me kind of, to say Mike it’s okay, I’m not hiding from this, I’m not afraid of this conversation. What do you want to know? How can we talk through it? And that one little instance got me to kind of think through it that now when I talk to people I just sort of ask them right up front, hey, I want to have a dialogue and I’m seeking to understand and learn and I want to set my team up in a certain way to impact the bigger company that I work for. Is it okay if I ask you questions? If we explore some of these difficult topics? At any point you an stop, if you don’t want to do this that’s fine. I’m coming from a place of trying to learn and change our environment. So if you’re willing to have that dialogue with me I’d love to explore it. If you’re not, no harm, no foul. And I think that that’s critical. I think that’s the one thing that, having that person help me get that dialogue going and knowing it was okay, that’s what I would have and ask of you guys. As you’re seeking out these advocates, you know, men inside the organizations that could advocate on your behalf, test the waters a little bit, and make sure they know it’s okay to have that conversation. That was huge for me, and made a difference for how I approached it.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah, I think also what you said there is key is recognizing that some women may not want to talk about it at all, or right now, or at some point might not want to go into any more detail, that kind of thing. And making that clear is a key, I think, benefit.

MIKE YOUNKERS: It is, and it’s hard. How do you get through it? So I am, in the world I live in there’s two parts to this problem. There’s the recruiting side, like how do I attract talent? And then for me, the bigger thing that I worry about is how do I retain the talent, how do I have an environment where people can thrive no matter who they are or where they come from. And so, having the dialogue that can backfire on you right, you can create a hostile environment just by bringing it up. I’m willing to take that risk because I think I’m coming from a place of good. And I haven’t gotten in trouble yet. But, so the other side of it us when I need role models throughout my organization. So I’m looking for people in my organization and parallel organizations to get it kind of all different levels. And the other thing that’s hard is that I never want someone to think that they’re in a position because, like, I don’t want someone to go well, I got that job because I’m a woman. And Mike needs a Grade 12 woman to run this team. So that’s the other balance of, you’ve got to find, I’ve got to find the right talent and get em in the right place. And then I don’t ever want to undermine them. So kind of the dialogue is an important piece, but then also finding the right people that you can stand up as mentors and role models throughout all levels of the organization to help create that environment.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And Lisa, you chuckled there, it sounds like you had some thoughts.

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: No, well just, it’s easier for a woman to actually start the dialogue, right, because well, it’s sort of easy. Because you still have where there are women who are single that are coming into the organization and you really do want to pair them with a mentor. It used to be that we would try pair women, and I should probably go back just a second and just give a little bit of background, because I started my career as a software engineer. So my background is computer science and math. And a master’s in computer science and then I decided that I wanted to go on the business side for a lot of reasons, but I later got an engineering management degree and then I went to law school. Because I really wanted to understand the full scope of technology, business, and law, because there were so many things that were sort of integrating. And so at Intel, I joined Intel as a business attorney, but most of my work, because my heart is as an engineer, is with the women engineers because I see them come in, I see them full of promise, and then right around mid-career, I see that light go out, it sort of dims. And I was always worried about that. And what used to happen is that you would pair women with other women engineers, and that’s okay. But what that also tends to do, and we talked a little bit about this in the affinity group alliance, is that we tend to whine to each other. You know, that was such an awful day, and because I’ve had those experiences, yeah, girl, it is really bad sometimes. But you can do it, go in there, buck up, right? That’s okay, but what you really want is to pair a woman with a guy. And you want to pair them with a guy because guys. It’s gonna be less likely that I tell a guy I’m having such a bad day, right? Cause a guy’s gonna say, ooh, I don’t know what to do with that, right? [laughter] Hands off, right? But what a woman would say to a guy is hey, I’m having this conversation with this other guy over here and he said X. I didn’t really like the way he said X. I’m okay with it, I can work through it. But can you give me some ways to think about why he said it that way? So that you start to understand perspectives. And so by pairing them with guys what I found is that women tend to actually have the hard conversations. And they’re willing to go there because they now know that they’ve got this person who is supposed to have the conversation with them. But it was a little bit tough, because they’d come in and they’re single, and they’re talking to guys that they’re not sure, are you single? Are you married? Are we gonna be talking? Cause this is, a little bit, we’re doing this kind of dance. And I would just clear the air and say hey, nobody’s getting married here. This is not about that, right? We’re really about building careers. And so guys, I know this is really tough, cause she’s probably incredibly attractive, but get over it. Girls, you probably don’t see a whole lot of guys and you’re looking for a husband, don’t do it here. Figure that out someplace else. And you have that conversation. And I’m so blunt, and I’m so basic that they’re like well Lisa’s real, right? And so they could come to me and say Lisa, I’m having a really bad day, and I’d say go talk to so and so about that. And then they know they’re not going to go and talk to the guy about that. Go talk to him about the real issue that you’re having, not the bad day that you’re having. So what I have found is by pairing women engineers early in their careers with guys as those guys grow up in the company, they tend to remember the encounters that they had with these really smart girls when they came into the company. And they think about them in terms of opportunities later. And so they already have a relationship, they already have a network, they bridge the gap of their networks. They don’t have a problem with introducing them to other people in their networks. So it actually works a little bit better. I think that has been sort of key. It’s harder, it is harder because you also end up with some of the women that you introduce to their male mentors, they may go once or twice. Because guys are a little bit gruff at times. They’re not quite as soft as that nurturing that women tend to do.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And so we also found that in the male influencer research, too, that men talked about the benefits of having both a female mentor themselves, like I had mentioned earlier on the slide, but also of having female mentees, and how much they learned from them in a reverse mentoring way. But also they talked about the difficulties, and what they had to negotiate and learn. And they were very like, human, poignant stories. And the ones who had just treated it that way, and treated it as this is a learning experience. One man told the story of how the woman was wanting advice on going in to ask for a raise, and he’s like well, the thing you need to do is you just need to go march in there, throw the door back and tell em this is what you deserve and that you’ve done this this and this, and she just kind of, he’s recalling it in his head, and he said, she just kind of sat there and smiled and looked at me and said, that’s the perfect way to do it, for you. [laughter] Now could we brainstorm some things that I could actually do, cause that’s not going to work.

COLIN BODELL: You’re absolutely right, though, cause I’ve got a couple of female mentees, and they’ll explain situations, and I’ll always assert that it’s very occasionally that there’s good or bad, there’s just different perspectives. But they’ll explain a situation or circumstance to me and I’ll try to explain perhaps what was going through the guy’s head. And as I’m doing it, I’m realizing gee, I probably said something like that a week ago, a month ago, so it helps you develop yourself. Just through going through that verbal exercise of explaining possibly what was going on in somebody else’s head.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And that’s what he said, yeah.

COLIN BODELL: But just that constant reminder is always a tremendous thing. When you’re having sort of mixed gender mentee, mentor relationships is incredibly powerful, I really like that.

MIKE YOUNKERS: The other point I want to make is I think that we live in a complicated world and I think for certain areas people come to me and ask me questions and other areas they know I can’t help them. Even just purely in technology, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know. So I think in the case of mentors, the expectation is you would have multiple mentors and use them appropriately for the situations you’re trying to work through.

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: And I’ve also encouraged women to not just look for mentors, cause mentors are good, and it’s great to have people that you can go talk to, but what you really need are sponsors. You need somebody who’s going to, when you’re not in the room, and there are opportunities that are being talked about, say hey, Lisa would be a great candidate for that job. And advocate on your behalf to get that role. And that’s a little tough if you don’t have sort of a way in, but that’s why you pair them up with mentors and then those mentors pair them up with other people in their network so that happens.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And that’s what I was thinking when you first told your story, Renata, was would you have considered those men that you were talking about sponsors?

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: Absolutely. And it even translated even later in my career. I had worked for some of these men and we had split up, gone to other companies and stuff, and actually they reached out to me and said because of your spirit, your effective communication skills, your leadership, I have an organization that’s going through an extreme amount of change and I can’t think of anybody better to lead this organization. And so I came in, a new person in an organization where people had been there for 20 years, and kind of reluctant to change. And again, it was probably one of those high-risk, high-reward things, and it turned out to be very successful, and even the people that came back and said you know what, we’re glad, if there was only going to be one engineering manager that went with the new company, we’re really glad it’s you. And I was able to build my own team. And I still have 90% of those people who came with me six years ago. And I would even say too, advocacy in my own organization. I typically have, my teams are mostly men because mostly men are software engineers. I always seek out opportunities to hire women. I bring em in for internships and try to keep them. And they are advocates, too, and I can have conversations with them, too, about what can I do better or how do I help them navigate through the organization. And in return, they’ve done the same for me as well. It’s a mutual thing, and I agree with what Lisa’s saying too, about the sponsorship. I think that’s got to be a key ingredient to mentoring and to male advocacy. Because a lot of men are sitting in those positions that can help women move up through the organization and without that piece, it’s going to be hard to get a lot of women into the C-Suite, and I think that’s when things really, things are starting to shift. And it’s great. But I think more sponsorship is going to be really key. And we’ve talked about NCWIT maybe doing some work and providing some tools around that sponsorship so companies can, people can leave here and make that available in their companies, and how do you do that.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: Yeah, exactly, yeah. So I think we have about 15 minutes left. So I know everybody has tons more that we could talk about. And we’ve [laughs] started talking about some of the challenges even as we’ve been discussing the ways that we advocate. But, and so I think we want to talk a little bit more about the challenges as well. But we want to open it up for questions at this point, from the audience, also. And see where that goes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is this on? Hi! So, I have some colleagues that, god bless em, they’re trying, they really are. And in some ways they’re very good advocates. But they have some, let’s call them, blind spots. Which makes some of the messages that they’re imparting and some of the activities they’re doing more harmful than helpful. So do you have any advice for how you could help male advocates or potential advocates see their blind spots, work on their blind spots, so that they can be more effective?

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: How brave are you?



AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m up for a chair next year, so I do have a pretty big stick I can wield.

LISA NEAL-GRAVES: I think a lot of it is really tied to just having the conversation, it really is about having the conversation. And I can safely say that if I actually had to have a conversation with Colin and said to him, you know, Colin, I really need you to do me a favor. I need you to do X for me, but I want you to know that I’ve seen in the past when you’ve done X, that you do it this way, and for me that’s probably not going to work. What I’d really like to see happen, though, is I really need X, Y, Z to happen. And I don’t know what your style is about doing that, but I need to make sure that as you do that, that you don’t put me in a worse position. I don’t want the backlash, I really want to be able to take this forward. So let’s brainstorm so ideas about how to do that. And having that conversation actually puts on the table that you know that there’s a blind spot. But you’re not holding him, you know, you’re not saying you’re a bad person for having a blind spot, you’re just saying in essence, look, we all got em. I understand that. But let’s work together to come up with an idea that will work for both of us. Cause I’m asking you for a favor. You’re willing to do the favor. But let’s mutually strategize so that we both walk out of it with what we want.

COLIN BODELL: And the way, the approach, I’d like to ask you for a favor, or I’d like to ask for help. Or even starting off a conversation with, I’d like your permission to give you some feedback. And if somebody’s saying yup, it’s okay to give me that feedback, at least they’re open and receptive to it. I’ve had people come into my office sometime and say I’d like to give you some feedback, and I’m like, honestly not right now. I’m not in the right frame of mind for it. [laughter] Why don’t we schedule some time a little bit later? Rather than me sitting there sort of clenching my fists thinking I’ve got to be somewhere else in a couple of minutes. But it’s obviously important to you. So I’m gonna listen. I’m not listening. I’m thinking about the next thing we’re gonna have to go to. So at least people asking for permission, maybe not right now, maybe a little bit later. But I can see it’s important to you, and I’ll be open to take that feedback and then we can work on it. But yeah, being able to frame that dialogue. And unfortunately, you know, a lot of times it’ll work. If you find yourself trying to frame that dialogue multiple times, and it’s not working, then it’s the whole thing, that may not be the right person to have that discussion with. They say people join companies and leave managers. And you know, if you’re finding you’re not working with somebody or for somebody, that’s open to your needs, whether it’s a gender-based need, whether it’s a home life work balance thing, doesn’t matter. If you’re finding somebody just hasn’t got those skills, and is not likely to acquire them out of thin air, in the timeframe that you need, maybe it’s the time to go to something else. It’s tough in a small organization. It’s much easier in a very large organization. Amazon’s now 120,000 people. We have folks that move around all the time. And again, the objective is not to kind of brush things underneath the carpet. But when you’re finally banging your head against the wall and you’re not making progress, well, don’t keep doing the same thing. Go try a different avenue, maybe there are other people you can rope in. Or find another way to follow your career desires, your passions.

MIKE YOUNKERS: I think that context is very important. I’m sorry, and that is, we’re sort of representing an industry, and industry that’s relatively, I think, easy in all the different places you could be. In academia, it might be harder with tenure and that sort of stuff. But in industry it’s pretty simple. And then the relationship becomes important. These are people that work for you. It’s a simple case of setting expectations and holding people accountable to the expectations. And whatever style you do that in as a leader, then that’s the approach you would take. You don’t need to change your style to do that, but here’s what I expect of my employees and you either measure up or you don’t. And this is just one more aspect of that, in my opinion. Peers and higher-ups are harder, right? And then I think the tools that we have available I’ve used as kind of props to open a dialogue. And inside the tools there are things that, you know, specific behavior that hopefully that people become aware of. But if they’re not you can continue to try to lead them towards the specific blind spots they have, just based on the tool. Then it’s about research and it’s backed through other people, not just you pointing it out as in isolation.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And you were talking about holding them accountable as a manager to being sensitive to these kinds of issues and creating the right environment.

MIKE YOUNKERS: Yeah, in fact, you know, I don’t have a corporate policy behind me where I work, but my leaders know that in order for them to excel or for them to bring people forward for promotion and things like that, this is an area we discuss. We actively, it’s not just about technical competency and how well they handle customers. How well do they show up inside the organization? And what are they doing in some of these areas? And I just put it out there. I don’t get emotional about it. So it’s never a surprise in those conversations for the people that I work with inside of my team.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I had a question around being very few and far between male advocates that there are in corporations, what challenges might you have faced in playing this role, you know? Any kind of resistance, or gender-based kind of challenges? Or even as like, women, who have had male advocates. You know, I know we touched on like blind spots, probably as being one of the challenges. But what else might have, might be barriers for you to continue down that path more effectively?

COLIN BODELL: I think one that I’ve noticed is when I get involved with something, I wanna be in all in. I want to leap in feet first. And the danger that I’ve found, or some of the pushback I’ve got from certainly supporting the Amazon Women in Engineering organization is when we did our full-day conference, I did the keynote opening and I acted as the MC throughout the event. And a few people in their feedback summary says isn’t it kind off odd having a man looking after this organization? And yeah, I wanted to get out there cause I’m very passionate about it. But on the other hand, I also almost felt obliged or compelled to do it because nobody else, nobody else senior in the organizations stood up. And we have a number of women technology VPs that I’d love to see getting more and more engaged. And I need to go and have the conversation with them about their, I won’t say lack of engagement, but they’re not really contributing as much as I would expect. And maybe it’s because, well, there’s already somebody doing it, so I don’t need to. And I’d be more than happy to sort of step back, there’s plenty of other, I was going to say, windmills I want to tilt at, but that’s probably not the right way of saying it. There’s plenty of other missions I want to go on. But it’s finding other people to step up. But that’s probably been the biggest challenge that I’ve had is wanting to share the load across other members of the team. As I’ve talked to, you know, other vice presidents, senior vice presidents in the company, and even the ones I thought I wouldn’t get full support from, they’ve been effusive with their support. And it’s been very heartening, enlightening to see. And it’s also demonstrated that they’re open to have a dialogue and have a discussion. But I’d love to see more of the senior women step up. And maybe that means I just need to get out of the way a little bit more and give them the room to do that. And they’re just being polite and respectful that somebody’s leading it, and it’s time for the baton to change hands.

MIKE YOUNKERS: I’ve had two very specific, and this’ll be quick, problems. The first is, you know, sort of apathy. Or almost a sense of giving up. You know, there’s not enough women, go all the way back to elementary school, there’s not enough girls coming through STEM, so by the time I go to higher, you know, who do I have to pick from? And they always blame recruiting, and my managers escape themselves from this problem. So that’s the first problem I’ve run into. And then the second is, you know this idea of I’m color blind and I’m gender blind and I’m just going to hire the right person for the job no matter what. And I always challenge that to say well, here we are, six white men sitting around the table. How do we know what, we’re all gonna say the same thing. And we’re gonna hire another person just like us. So those are the two problems that I experience every day in trying to work through this.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: So for me, it’s part of my values, I think. To advocate for women. And yeah, I’m swimming upstream in my organization. But to me it’s a really important thing to be doing, and I think to be part of the solution, too. Just to advocate for, you know, girls in STEM fields, and fortunately we’ve had CEOs, former CEOs support of our Women in Networking organization at my company. We have steering committees. We’ve engaged men to be on our steering committees. We just started a mentoring program where we’ve got men mentoring you know, the men are two levels above the women that they’re mentoring, based on a survey, we did a match. We went through every single person and matched them, each one of them. To try and effect the change that we want to see in the organization. And I think that if you get enough people with enough passion around it that are really willing to act, and I’ve engaged a lot of you know, people in our organization who are prone to action as well. And some of us have support and some of us don’t. But it’s our values, it’s what we really believe in. And it’s worth the extra effort to make it happen.

MIKE YOUNKERS: I’ve got a colleague who says how you do anything is how you do everything. And again, I look at this as one of those things that, if we don’t have people who are willing to take action here, how willing are they to take action when I’m running into issues with customers. Again, this is one more aspect. So that idea of looking for people willing to take action in my opinion cuts across all of what we do. And those are the kinds of people I think we want on our team.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you so much for talking about this. Most of your conversations have been one-on-one advocacy. Colin talked about the ah-ha moment he had from a group of others. And I know of many experiences where senior leadership teams sit down with women in their organizations. Can any of you comment on creating context to help others, as an advocate, others have that ah-ha moment or to shake up their thinking. Thank you.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: So I had an experience when we were doing our Women in Networking. We had a great college-hire program and one of our inside sales engineers came in and, really smart guy, and he was pairing up with one of the women that’s on our steering committee, sitting right out there. And they were creating some content where they were actually, they were working to teach some of our sales engineers about our technologies so they could be more effective and understand everything that they were trying to sell. And so we gave it a name. We called it Networking 101 and we thought, you know what, let’s pilot this with our Women in Networking, a lunch and learn kind of thing. And so we had Ben and Laura get up and they presented this talk. And we had probably about 100 attendees, and it was 50-50 men and women, which kind of mirrors the demographics of our organization. Cause all the women are participating in WEN, and a lot of the men, not 50%, but close. So, and people walked out of there like, salespeople saying, this provided so much value. People in the finance department, I understand why I’m coding this this way, this way. So I called one of our champions out in our headquarters and I said hey, you guys need this talk. And what he thought is, you know what, every employee in Brocade needs this information. Everybody needs this. And it’s like, here’s your delivery mechanism. I will champion you to the people in headquarters. And so he was going out there on a trip, and I said we’re gonna squeeze him in. And people were saying, oh, he can only have an hour. And I said oh no, this is the best hour and a half anybody’s gonna get, give him the hour and a half, give him the biggest auditorium you have. Standing room only, not everybody could get in. And people started asking for more, and the level of engagement in WEN for the material and the content that we were offering just skyrocketed. So that was one of our huge success stories where it was a movement, it was a whole shift in our company. And people, you know, everybody’s really actively engaged now, the CEO was taking notice of you know, wow, this is a huge success story. So that’s an example I can think of.

MIKE YOUNKERS: We, this is a small thing, but we have a code of business conduct inside of our company, and we have to review it and sign it every year. And we have a section built in directly to address inclusion and diversity at a high level in the general sense. So you can’t escape it. Every year we get reminded of this. Our CEO comes out and makes a very direct statement about the importance of this to us. And you sign it off as part of yes, I have read and understand what’s in the code of business conduct, to work at Cisco.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: I would say that one of the other things too, that we did too was becoming members of NCWIT. And becoming members of the affinity groups. So we’re workforce alliance and affinity alliance. But as part of the workforce alliance, you’re getting all these wonderful tools, but you’re also getting access to resources like some of the Aspirations Awards winners. That’s our future workforce, and I’m really excited about watching these women, you know, get their scholarships, go through college, and think of them as future employees. And I think there’s a business value in that and I think companies need to pull out their checkbooks.

MIKE YOUNKERS: How do you drive that back through Brocade? Cause I didn’t even know who our Cisco’s rep was at NCWIT til I saw his name in the program. And I had to go look him up cause I didn’t know who he is, so we participate but it doesn’t come out through the organizations, so I’m curious how you guys do it.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: So we’re really very fortunate in that our CEO is actually a champion of the Women in Networking organization. It was sort of a top-down recognizing that he had a problem, from data and surveys, and said I’m gonna take action around this. And so he designated a couple people, one person in his organization and one champion in our HR organization, and through them, we’ve been able to do NCWIT, we’ve done Women’s Vision Foundation from a leadership standpoint, rolling out technology, and it’s been a really great success story for the last two years.

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And leadership is I think really one of the things we know is key to making it permeate more of the organization and not be in these isolated departments where you have individual people making that team awesome, but if there’s no top leadership support it doesn’t spread as fast, yeah.

RENATA COLITTI O’DAY: And engaging them and saying, you know what, you gotta be a part of the solution. If this is what you want, it’s the future of your business, this is one way that you can really make a difference. So, carrying that flag! [laughs]

CATHERINE ASHCRAFT: And it’s always good to end on the way you can make a difference as your last line of a panel. [all laughing] And I think that’s time, right? I think we’re out of time now. So a big hand for our panelists. [applause]

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