From inclusion to impact, starting at the top
In the short four weeks that I’ve been at Puppet, I’ve learned a lot from the many amazing people across our global team. There’s a quote I recently read that fits the theme of my conversations: “It’s better to have one passionate person than ten interested people.” When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at Puppet, we have an incredible number of passionate people and it is truly inspiring to see how deeply our employees feel about our DE&I efforts.
While we have made great strides in the last year, we recognize that there’s more work to be done in a variety of ways. How will I as CEO of Puppet continue to fuel the progress being made on diversity and inclusion at Puppet and beyond? My plan is to take a page out of the book of Harvey Mudd College, one of the premier STEM colleges in the United States where I serve as a Board Trustee.
Compared to the previous decade, Harvey Mudd College has increased the number of women graduating with computer science degrees from 10 percent to 55 percent. The college has also started to make meaningful progress with other underrepresented groups such as African Americans and Latinxs. Moving the needle on diversity has been achieved through a holistic program sponsored by the president of the college and earned through the work, passion, and dedication of many. The activities have touched everything from the diversity of the board and the professors to how questions are asked in class. To this day, diversity and inclusion are still key topics covered at every board meeting and incorporated into all aspects of how the school prepares, recruits, and teaches the future STEM leaders of tomorrow.
At Puppet I intend to work closely with our DE&I group, my executive team, and the community at large to ensure we continue to mature the diversity, inclusion, and equity of the company and our communities. Similar to Harvey Mudd College, we will look to achieve success through a collection of actions and shifts in mindset that start at the top with me. Diversity, equity and inclusion will be a top C-level priority and a key priority for us as a team, company, and community over the weeks, months, and years to come. I realize this will not be easy and yet I believe it is critical.
Success will mean that we have an increasingly diverse population at Puppet who are working in an environment where hard conversations can be had, minority voices are heard, diverse perspectives are acted upon, and all people can drive impact and be recognized for their full potential. Not only is it the right moral thing to do, but as technology creeps into all aspects of work and life, it is also critical for us as a society to have a more diverse level of social consciousness at the leadership table. Last but not least, it's been proven that the more diverse your company is, the better it performs. It just makes business sense.
To achieve success, we have many activities already underway at Puppet:
- In my first weeks on the job I have made it a priority for my leadership team to participate in the Ally Shift Workshop that Puppet helped establish as one of the key elements of the TechTown Diversity Pledge. The Ally Shift Workshop teaches simple, everyday ways for people to use their privilege and influence to support people who are targets of systemic oppression in their workplaces and communities. This includes women of all races, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folks, parents, caregivers of all sorts, and people of different ages. This workshop is so powerful and necessary, we've cross-trained more than a dozen facilitators so that it can reach more people in our tech community.
- Besides our Ally Shift Workshop, Puppet provides a regular cadence of learning opportunities specifically in support of inclusive behavior, including unconscious bias training and interview skills/inclusive hiring training (required for all employees serving as part of an interview team). In addition, perception and its impact on biased behavior are highly emphasized and woven into the curriculum of other workshops such as Insights Discovery, Crucial Conversations, and Crucial Accountability. Lastly, and possibly where employees find the most value, we provide short, frequent opportunities for employees to “practice” learned concepts in a safe environment. These advanced ally skills workshops are one-hour practice sessions where employees have open conversations on approaches to everyday scenarios.
- Today we are proud to sponsor and host an impactful and engaging conversation “Code Switching or Soul Switching,” moderated by Deena Pierott, Diversity Strategist and BWiSTEM co-founder. The panel will seek to give thought to the complex role of power in constructing and maintaining discursive and societal claims of identity through “code switching” (or what some call "soul switching"). Code switching refers to the actions of a particular person and/or group that are assumed to break from their own “natural” practices to perform codes “not their own” for the purposes of fitting in, acquiring capital, and accessing spaces not easily afforded. The panelists include: Dr. Mona-Lisa Pinkney, Sr. Director, Cybersecurity at Nike; Dr. Debra Jenkins, Developmental Strategist for Equity, Justice and Change at Share the Flame LLC; Lakecia Gunter, VP Programmable Solutions Group at Intel; and Kronda Adair, Digital Marketer.
It is easy for companies to fall victim to self-fulfilling prophecies that diversity is too hard, or that there aren’t enough diverse candidates in the pipeline. Teams can get caught up in tracking the types of diversity in a company versus creating inclusive environments and demonstrating the potential and achievement for diverse team members. Unconscious biases are hard to change without focus, process, and leaders skilled at seeing them and counteracting them in a positive and productive manner. Diversity is rich and yet hard — it requires a higher level of maturity to be able to listen and incorporate different ideas and experiences. But, by working to help educate and train leaders in how to be more inclusive and diverse, by shifting the mindset and actions of key leaders and change agents in a company, and by engaging all players, companies will start succeeding in diversity efforts.
As CEO of Puppet I am committed to mature the diversity, inclusion, and equity of the company and our communities. On the heels of Black History Month and with today's celebration of International Women's Day, I invite you to join me in affirming your commitment to this important journey for you, your company and your community.
Yvonne Wassenaar is CEO of Puppet.