One of the things I love about the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit is its ability to draw more and more great minds and business leaders from all over the world to Utah every year. It shows me how much our tech community is growing and gives me a chance to catch up with folks I admire but haven’t seen in a while.
This year was certainly no exception. During SSTS 2019, which took place last month in Salt Lake City, I got to reconnect with a number of my favorite people, including Cathrin Stickney (pictured), who started an organization that we here at Domo have been proud to be aligned with from its beginning: Parity.org.
Parity.org is a non-profit bridging the gender gap in the upper ranks of business. What Parity.org does is ask executives and board members at companies all over the world to take the Parity Pledge, which is basically a promise to interview at least one qualified woman for open positions, VP and higher.
The idea for the Parity Pledge formed back in early 2017, when Cathrin was trying to figure out what she could do to help move women forward. We had a fun and lively conversation about her overarching concept, and I encouraged her to keep things simple and structure it like the NFL’s Rooney Rule. So, we took that idea and the Parity Pledge was born.
Since then, Cathrin has done nothing but charge ahead on her effort to significantly reduce the amount of time some think it will take to achieve balance at the top. The World Economic Forum, for instance, estimates that we won’t get there until—gulp—2234.
“That’s unacceptable,” Cathrin said. “And it’s hampering bottom lines.”
She’s right. A recent survey of more than 21,000 companies by the Peterson Institute revealed that gender-diverse organizations are 15 percent more profitable than those with a more homogenous C-suite. Another study, by MIT professor Evan Apfelbaum, found that when a team is made up of the same type of person, “they tend to think alike and act alike,” Cathrin said. “In turn, they tend to make bad decisions. They perform poorly.”
I took the Parity Pledge on behalf of Domo when Parity.org launched toward the end of 2017, and it’s been a good first stride towards building a more inclusive culture and engaged workplace.
But there’s so much more to do. As a next step, we’re instituting company-wide trainings to help bring to light the unconscious bias that tends to trip up even the best-intentioned plans for a diverse and inclusive work environment.
In other words, we’re embracing the same sorts of tactics that Kamy Scarlett has implemented at Best Buy. Since joining the consumer electronics retailer in 2014 as its chief human resources officer, Kamy has been a key driver in the brand’s resurgence.
During a panel discussion with Cathrin on Day 1 of the summit, Kamy said the strides Best Buy has made over the past few years can be traced to the kinds of moves Parity.org preaches. She then dropped a line that I thought was spot-on when it comes to the importance of having women in executive-level positions: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
That catchy little mantra is not only playing into Cathrin’s desire to get every single company in the world to take the Parity Pledge (there are currently more than 1 million employees working for companies that have done so), it has motivated us to look more intently at the pool of candidates for every job opening across the board.
“Taking the Parity Pledge has really moved diversity to the forefront of everyone’s minds,” said Greg Olson, our Director of Talent Acquisition. “We have a diverse recruiting team, because I think you could just as easily make the case that it has to start there. If you don’t have a diverse recruiting team, it’s more difficult to advance that agenda throughout the organization.”
Led by our VP of Human Resources, Shane Koller, and our newly appointed Director of Diversity, Cameron Williams, we are also expanding our Domo Cares initiative to include a pillar that focuses on D&I. The aforementioned company-wide trainings fall under that. The idea is to infuse new ways of thinking, deeper insights, and broader perspectives into everything we do.
As we drive towards that goal, which dovetails with our mission to make a positive impact internally and in our communities, we are encouraging everyone to become an active member of the Domo Cares team. And every chance we get, we are helping Cathrin spread the word about Parity.org, which now boasts more than 400 members in six continents.
“Imagine a world where at the top of businesses we’ve got a fifty-fifty mix of men and women,” Cathrin said to me with the same level of intensity that has helped make her so successful in everything she’s chosen to pursue. “Nobody’s going to be talking about the gender gap anymore. We’re just going to be doing business—and doing it more profitably.”