When we started our Women in Telecom/Tech/Comms initiative last year, our underlying goal was to redress the gender imbalance in our male-dominated industry. It's a noble goal, but I've come to realize that creating a culture that values diversity, is respectful of women and cognizant of their differences trumps playing a numbers game any day.
Two things this week highlighted the importance of this for me: First, my conversation with Gender Intelligence Group founder and CEO Barbara Annis about the difference between an equal workplace and gender-intelligent one. And, second, this article on Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)'s company culture.
To me, the most shocking part was the picture it painted of the company's treatment of employees, especially women, during times of crisis, tragedy, sickness or childbirth. It might have been overstated and outdated as CEO Jeff Bezos argues, but more and more stories are coming out about women who were cast aside, deemed irrelevant or even let go when they had to take time off for perfectly acceptable reasons. It's disappointing and, I'm afraid, probably not all that uncommon. (See What Is Your Company's Gender IQ?)
I've been lucky to only have worked for companies that respect that their employees have lives outside of work, and that don't question, judge or complain when an emergency or family situation takes them away from work, but I can appreciate that it's not the norm. Even companies with policies that look good on paper often don't live up to their promises in practice. (See Netflix Ups the Ante on Parental Leave .)
That said, there is no reason it can't be the norm. Productivity, employee retention and the bottom line would only benefit from inclusive, understanding and gender-intelligent company cultures. No amount of women's initiatives, programs and pink-painted press releases can trump a company culture that values, respects and empowers all genders.
So, how do you create this kind of company culture, especially if it's not the norm at your organization today? It takes the buy-in of the CEO and top-level management, evaluation and awareness of unconscious biases, the support of both men and women and much more. It's not an easy task, but it's certainly doable -- and necessary.
This will be the topic of our upcoming Women in Comms networking breakfast ahead of the NFV Everywhere show in Dallas on September 16. Our last four events have touched on everything from how evolutions in technology are affecting women to the realities of being female in the STEM industry to where the biggest opportunities lie, but this time we're going to be all about action.
How can we champion change at our companies? What needs to happen to build a gender-intelligent workplace? How do we get more young girls interested in STEM? We'll tackle all these questions and more with our esteemed panelists: Monique Hayward, director, outbound marketing, Network Platforms Group, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC); Brooks McCorcle, president, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Partner Solutions; Bita Milanian, senior vice president of marketing communications, Genband Inc. ; and Nancy Green, healthcare global lead, Verizon Enterprise Solutions .
And, hopefully, you all will chime in as well. See you in Dallas next month!
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading