Question:

How do I be successful in business without becoming an A type male with all the associated behaviours?

A question Nicole Vanderbilt asked herself during her career, and continues to ask herself and the women around her today. The VP International of Etsy, a company described by Jessica Kiss as “Ebay with Soul” – on the side of small entrepreneurial creative businesses,  was sharing the story of her rise to Leadership.  Now a senior Leader of this multi billion dollar business, they have created some incredible best practice strategies to enable their people the opportunity to bring their whole selves to work.

TLA WOMENINTECH hosted the ‘Corporate Best Practice’ session in the offices of Penningtons Law on Thursday morning with 35 participants. Nicole was interviewed in a fireside chat style by Sarah Luxford, Director of Nexec Executive search and co-founder of TLA WOMENINTECH, about her own journey, as well as the inside story about Etsy and the culture they have created. Men and women are given 6 months parental leave within the first 2 years of a childs life; Flexibility at work is also key, with complete transparency around child care/ home needs being met rather than the old fashioned view of ‘Be in the office and be seen’. Recruitment is done every day, and often those small cottage industries who sell on Etsy are a source of future talent for them, attracting those who believe in the mission.

Nicole Vanderbilt’s parting thoughts were to offer a challenge to women, about taking risks, and that all the best career decisions she made were about keeping her mind on the possibilities rather than the fears. This segued perfectly onto a short learning intervention on Unconscious Bias and Mindsets, led by Nikki Watkins CEO of Tyche Leadership consulting, and co founder of TLA WOMENINTECH. A high energy session, she created insight into how unintentionally bias we all are, and some strategies of how to start to notice and overcome that. The gender agenda is an ALL employee problem – it starts with all of us, our beliefs, our intentions, and our behaviours. The companies that are leading the way are both educating their staff on unconscious bias, but also helping women around their mindset and programming, to encourage both halves of the equation to shift.

This is a working group, trying to move the dial on the issue of Gender Diversity in the tech world. The working part of the session contained some case studies based on different maturity and sized businesses, the team were asked to share their own knowledge, experiences and insights into how to solve some of these common challenges. Whether a new business thinking about diversity during the initial growth phase, or a long term established enterprise who is lagging behind the times, all companies are on a journey, and need ideas on ‘How’ to do this.

Conclusions/Recommendations:

  • Start early – Start Now.
  • Get out there to network with other businesses and understand what they are doing and the impact on their businesses.
  • Engage external support to help accelerate this – Headhunters/ Development consultants.
  • Communicate the business case around how diversity affects innovation/collective intelligence
  • Drive for sponsorship at the top – Business Leaders not just HR
  • Directly align Diversity to the Vision and Strategy – make it part of the business plan, KPIs, performance management