Why diversity is a winning business strategy

Why diversity is a winning business strategy

In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg revived the conversation about challenges for women in the corporate workplace with her book Lean In. The book ignited an international conversation that made it impossible to ignore the obstacles faced by working women. It also forced leaders to think about diversity and inclusion and challenged many companies to rethink corporate diversity practices.

Within the tech industry, gender and diversity gaps are highly pronounced, with women making up 24 per cent of the work force in advanced technology sectors and of that, only 17 per cent working in core technology roles, according to research from the Conference Board of Canada. Research from HRCouncil.ca shows that diverse work forces exhibit higher levels of both innovation and profits.

Last year, big tech companies in Silicon Valley published their employee demographic data, with discouraging, but not surprising, results; mostly white and mostly male. Symantec globally shows a similar disparity within a work force that’s still only 28 per cent female, and a senior leadership team that is majority male (73 per cent). Despite these statistics, diversity at the company remains top of mind. Symantec’s goal is to increase work force diversity at all levels of the company by 15 per cent by the year 2020. So what can we do to improve corporate diversity?

Since joining Symantec in 2010, I made diversity and inclusion one of my top priorities. I realized that tech leaders need to be at the forefront of change in order to improve these statistics and meet diversity goals. Ms. Sandberg’s book encouraged me to assess what biases were preventing me from recognizing the changes that needed to take place in order to improve our practices and to advance our corporate culture. Things like gender, race, age and economic background all contribute to our personal world view. Lean Inmade me realize that these factors can be blinding and that we all have built-in biases that need to be overcome. Acknowledging these biases was the first step toward change. The second step was action.

One of the several things I did was participate in a panel discussion with other leaders in Canada on the points raised in Lean In. I became one of three North American leaders at Symantec’s Women’s Action Network (SWAN), a global women’s initiative with the goal of increasing the number of women in technical and leadership positions. Globally we made it a priority to increase the number of female directors on our board. In Canada, we brought in a third-party consultant to help identify areas where we could improve diversity and inclusion and we developed custom programs that tackle specific challenges such as public speaking training sessions to help cultivate female leaders.


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