The kind of innovation that we need to find solutions for cancer, climate change, and COVID requires inclusivity. To get there, we need to be willing to mobilize, said Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and the Marshall Plan for Moms. Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, added that companies need to get comfortable with picking up the phone and calling in the experts who understand the underlying levers that drive inequality. Roshan Kindred, chief diversity officer at Pagerduty, and Mita Mallick, Carta’s head of inclusion, equity, and impact, also shared their insights in a Carta Equity Summit 2021 panel that talked about what we need to do individually and collectively to drive inclusive innovation.
Roshan Kindred, chief diversity officer, Pagerduty
Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity, and impact, Carta
Stacy Smith, founder and director, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative
This transcript has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Mita:Hi everyone, I’m Mita. I have the privilege of leading diversity, equity, and inclusion here at Carta, and I’m excited to be moderating this panel about the connection between inclusion and innovation. Whether or not we’re inclusive has a tremendous impact on a company and its culture.
It would not do justice to these amazing women for me to simply read their bios, so instead, I’ll invite you to follow them on social media, and I’ll ask each of them to talk about who they are and what they’re passionate about—as well as where in the world they are.
I’m joining from Jersey City, New Jersey. I’m right across the water from the Freedom Tower, where one of our Carta offices is.
Stacy:Thank you. I’m Dr. Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and professor at the University of Southern California, calling in from Rancho Palos Verdes in Los Angeles. I’m passionate about many things, from reading theologians like Heschel, having conversations with my students in the classroom, to working on research and theory with my team. It’s great to be here.
Reshma: Hi, I’m Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, and founder and CEO of the Marshall Plan for Moms. I’m in Chelsea, New York. I’m a mom of two and a dog mom of one, and I am passionate about making workplaces finally work for moms and for working women.
Roshan:I am Roshan Kindred, the inaugural chief diversity officer for PagerDuty, and I’m in Hancock Park in Southern California. I’m passionate about all things about people, equity, and belonging—specifically global belonging—and making sure that all voices are being heard.
The conversation we need to have in 2022
Mita:Reshma, as you said, you’re the founder of the amazing organization Girls Who Code, and you also recently spearheaded the Marshall Plan for Moms. What are the consequences from a workforce perspective of not being inclusive—particularly, as you mentioned, for moms? As we see what’s happened in the last 19 months in terms of the devastating impact the pandemic has had on women in work, why should leaders care and why should we be paying attention?
Reshma:The consequences are enormous. At the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic, women were 51% of the labor force. All the work that so many of us had done was finally coming to fruition when the pandemic forced almost 3 million women out of the workforce. Labor force participation went back to where it was in 1989. As the CEO of Girls Who Code, I spent 10 years trying to get to gender equality in the tech workforce, and we often forget that we were almost there in the early ’90s, before we pushed women out. Ever since, we have been fighting to get women and people of color back to equity.
What I learned is that it’s not an on/off switch. With so many women and people of color leaving, we can’t just think that when we have a vaccine or pill that everything will go back to normal. The consequences of not having women and people of color around the table are enormous: it means that we don’t find solutions for cancer, climate change, and Covid. We’ve got to have diverse people at the table, which means that we have to finally make workplaces work for people—and for mothers, in particular.
We don’t have a structure of care in our country. We pay more to parking lot attendants than to our childcare workers. And yet, the vast majority of people spend more on childcare than their mortgage. We are one of the only developing nations that doesn’t have paid leave. Among American dads, 70% take fewer than 10 days off when they have a child. You cannot have gender equality in the workplace unless you have gender equality at home. We still don’t have pay equity, because there is still a gap in what we pay women and women of color, versus what we pay men. So we have an opportunity: never waste a good crisis. We were all faced with losing our lives, and many of us have lost loved ones and have gone through pain and suffering ourselves, and it’s still not over yet. Let it not be in vain. We were fighting for equality before, and let’s finish that fight once and for all.
Mita:Never waste a good crisis—I couldn’t have said it better myself. You talked about what is lost when we don’t have an inclusive workforce. Let’s build on that by talking about what the possibilities are when we do have an inclusive workforce. This is something that I’ve struggled with for years, when leaders say to me, “Why are we talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging? Our company is killing it, with targets of 2X, 3X, 4X, and 5X, so why does this matter?”
Stacy:Just staying in my lane to talk about Hollywood, we know that only 4% of the directors of top feature films across the last dozen or so years are women. The research that we’ve done over the past decade or so tells us that when we do have a woman behind the camera, there are more female leads and co-leads; more girls, women over 40, and people of color on screen; and more inclusivity in other positions on the production team. This is what happens with women in leadership positions, in terms of hiring differently and the stories that people can then tell—and this can happen very quickly.
Interestingly, when a woman of color is in a leadership position, the movies’ critical reviews are actually better than when you have a white male director, an underrepresented male director, or a white female director. So they’re the magic cell in some respects. And we can all spout the numbers and the benefits—but my question is, why isn’t this happening if there are so many dividends?
Roshan:The data is very clear: Diversity leads to innovation. I want to have a diversity of mindsets because I don’t want to just solve for right now. As a trendsetter or disruptor, I want to solve for the future that not everyone has thought about yet. If you don’t have diverse mindsets at the table—whether that is in terms of culture, sexuality, or otherwise—your scope is limited. With 3 million women out of the workforce, look at all those diverse mindsets that you’re missing out on. So it is a business imperative to create space for women, people of color, and underrepresented populations to not only be at the table but to be vocal at that table, and to feel that their voice matters. That’s where innovation comes from.
Mita:That’s such an important point. You can have a seat at the table, but is your voice heard?
Reshma:I want to build on what Stacy said, as it’s powerful. I’m just finishing my next book, Pay Upand was looking at the data that proves why it matters that we’re pushing 3 million women out. I’m tired of having to prove the case of innovation, because as Roshan said, the data’s been clear forever. To Stacy’s point, the interesting question is “why?” Why does this happen? What I saw with Girls Who Code is that now I have so many students who are women of color with 4.0s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and they still can’t get jobs at tech companies. It’s not about performance. It’s not about skill. It’s that we’re not having a conversation about unearned privilege.
For too long, we have lived not in a meritocracy, but in a system based on unearned privilege. We’ve assumed that if we crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s and got straight A’s, that they would just let us in: “All nerds are welcome.” But it turns out that no, they are not. So the real conversation that we have to have in our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is about unwinding unearned privilege. How do you give it up? How do people with unearned privilege feel when they have to “step aside”? How do we stop assuming that when I hire a woman of color that I’ve done something for her, that I’ve changed the rules or made some exception? Most of us are beyond exceptional—and all of us this is why imposter syndrome exists. That is, as Stacy alluded to, the conversation we need to be having in 2021 and 2022.
Barriers to inclusivity within companies
Mita: Stacy, what is stopping companies from being more inclusive? A lot of what we talk about at Carta is not just chasing these elusive, inclusive cultures, but about how it comes down to the individual: how each of us shows up every day at work. What are you seeing that’s stopping companies from being inclusive, and therefore innovative?
Stacy:It’s a great question and I’m thrilled with this panel so far. Because often, these companies are not innovative; the conversation never starts. We know that the best predictor of future performance is previous performance. In Hollywood, it can be the case that everybody follows everybody else. So about eight or 10 years ago, the focus was on implicit or unconscious bias, and there was a rush to train everyone. Implicit bias has a role, but it’s only one of the levers, and accounts for a small amount of the problem when it comes to crewing up, greenlighting, financial performance, marketing, distribution, and density of films.
Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, prestigious universities, Hollywood, fintech, or what have you, nobody’s actually reaching out to the experts that know how to change it. There are six to eight levers driving inequality, and unless you know each one, you can’t fix them and will likely end up perpetuating the problem. So we have fits and starts and bandaids, when what we need is collective action. If you look at what happens in hiring at the bottom, amortized over 30 or 40 years, it completely explains what’s going on. It’s a human problem, wherever in the world you are, and you need experts who have studied humans. I want to see the company that calls all the researchers that I know and when that happens, we’ll start to see change. It’s not just about throwing money at the problem because if it were, there would have been change a long time ago. It’s about expertise.
Mita:In any other field, when we’re looking for great expertise, we pick up the phone and call. What is stopping leaders and companies from doing that?
Stacy:I think that’s a great question. If I have a heart problem, I don’t want to talk to somebody who also has a heart problem, other than for emotional support. I want the best cardiologist in the world to deal with my problem. That’s the shift in mindset that we need. Somebody who cares a lot about this topic isn’t going to fix it on their own, though these people need to be involved and heard. When we think about concepts like Sidianius’ social dominance theory, Alice Eagly’s role congruity theory, or ambient belonging—until these concepts are on the tongues of the CEO and their C-suite—we’re going to keep perpetuating the same thing. Looking at case studies isn’t enough. We have to understand how humans are prone to in-group biases, and how you can change these in the short and long term. That requires a major overhaul, and I don’t think any company’s getting it right.
Mita:It may be a bit of what Reshma raised earlier, which is unearned privilege and the fear that people have to work through around these topics. Reshma?
Reshma: In the tech industry, where I work, the vast majority of engineers are white and Asian. When you start talking about unearned privilege, that means that some of these people are going to lose their jobs, right? Most people in the C-suite think that engineers are the most important asset. Stacy, I would argue that this is what happened in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein. Nobody wants to change the behavior of those who they think make the money, because we live in a capitalist society. It’s not that we’re clueless, but there’s a reluctance to take action because people are afraid of who they have to take power away from, and the conversations that we need to have. Google knows what I ate for breakfast this morning—it doesn’t make sense that when it comes to equality, we suddenly have no idea.
An example of this is the conversation we’re having right now around critical race theory and the fear and anxiety that it’s giving many white parents. It’s very hard to talk about unearned privilege and the disruption of power. And it’s easier to say, “We’re trying to hire women, Black, and Latino engineers, but either they’re just not qualified, or they’re going somewhere else.” After a while, when women are 40% of those graduating with computer science and engineering degrees, it just doesn’t make sense.
Roshan:To Stacy and Reshma’s point, you have to amputate the problem; you can’t just keep putting a bandaid on it. And unearned privilege is real, so to address this we have to have bold, courageous conversations. If you’re the privileged class, conversations about race or underserved markets are conversations that you probably don’t really want to have, because it makes you uncomfortable. So we have to build some psychological safety in order to have some very real, honest conversations.
When I’m giving career advice on LinkedIn, I talk about opening doors and sponsoring individuals from underserved markets. As people are stepping into new roles and new responsibilities, they may be the first one to have gotten that opportunity and none of their friends are in that atmosphere, they don’t really have that network and mentorship. So at PagerDuty, I’m working on creating an environment of peer mentorship and peer sponsorship. If I’m new to my role—maybe I’m a brand new senior engineer and this is the first time I’m operating at this level—I want to have someone who is not at my company with whom I can have authentic conversations about what I know and what I don’t. With that peer mentorship, I can be my authentic self at work, and I get comfortable with saying, “I may not know everything, but I’m leaning into the research to become what I am supposed to be.”
Mita:I love that distinction. I always say that I’m over-mentored and under-sponsored. I love mentors, and you all could be my mentors, but the sponsor has to be at least one or two levels above you in your organization. They’re going to use their skin in the game and their political and social capital to open doors for you.
Roshan, talk to us about the importance of ensuring that underrepresented voices are elevated and how that really ties to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts and innovation?
Roshan:Something that I have had the privilege of working with at PagerDuty is blending the role of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (IDE); the IDE practitioner; and the ESG concept. For me, if you don’t have diverse mindsets at the table, you don’t have innovation. How can you approach ESG without innovation? PagerDuty has done an amazing job at blending cultural inclusion with how we impact the world. So we’re looking at climate and climate justice, and we’re calling on different markets to say, “from a global perspective, how are you approaching social governance in Lisbon, and how are we doing it differently in the United States?” So we have a very inclusive mindset.
Obviously we’re in the midst of Covid, a pandemic that none of us has ever experienced before. So as a global organization, we ask: “How are we looking at our health and the health crisis? How are we looking at remote work and what that looks like as we go back to the office while also globalizing our workforce? How does that look when we’re trying to stand up belonging and equity?” And for the governance part, we are all under an enormous amount of governance, and we’ve got to lean in and say, “this is what’s best for our environment and our society as a whole.” And then, there’s a focus on your people, who are your most valuable asset. This is what’s going to help us create a more equitable, valuable world.
Is there a pipeline problem?
Mita:My next question is about something that I’m sure you have all heard in some form: When we’re talking about inclusion and innovation, people say there’s a pipeline problem. Let’s start there. Is that why our workforce doesn’t have the diversity of representation that it should? Stacy, how do you coach a leader through that question?
Stacy:It depends. There could be a legitimate pipeline problem and there could not be, so that’s why you always have to have data on hand. We did seven studies on the animation industry, and nobody could say there was a pipeline problem, because we had the data on who’s graduating at the top animation schools around the country to show that two-thirds are female. So what we typically say when it comes to Hollywood is that you’re framing the problem incorrectly. Anytime you put onto people the issues of mentorship, sponsorship, pipeline, what they want to do, and their ambition, it’s actually shifting the conversation to where the problem doesn’t exist. The problem isn’t about talent and potential, or who is prepared. The problem is with access and opportunity.
Hegemony occurs when we articulate, whether financially or in terms of the pipeline, that the problem is about the talent that has been marginalized. We have to move away from that entirely and say “show me your criteria.” Show me how you pitch, who can apply to jobs, or who you’re recruiting over time. What are your interview questions? Do you say anything that is a stereotype threat so that women, people of color, or other marginalized communities underperform in the moment because you make their identity salient? If you think about, for example, the proportion of Hispanics or Latinos in the top communities around the U.S., there is no pipeline problem. This is something that people bring up to feel better about themselves. The issue is about interdependence, and getting people from all backgrounds to work together to create a way forward that counters biases—and the pipeline idea is one of those biases.
Roshan:Stacy, your comment about solving for innovation and the pipeline with data is so key. When you said that there may be a pipeline issue, it sent a surge through my body as a Black woman, because I know there are so many available positions and I know a ton of qualified individuals. When we look at customer success, 83% of those in customer success roles are white, but there are over 50,000 jobs still available. Is there no resolve to hire from underserved markets? Are we using our traditional recruiting routes because we want to hire someone that either looks like us, thinks like us, or acts like us?
Are we really saying, “I’m going to lean into innovation. I’m going to tap into some areas where I haven’t looked before, but where I know qualified candidates exist? I’m not going to go with the stereotypical ones; I’m going to lean into the research, call on subject matter experts, and find out who is the best of the best in this field.” They don’t always come from Ivy League schools, or even historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), but if you are a recruiter, that’s a route that you may tend to lean into. So we have to broaden our approach. We have to look at the data that’s out there and be real about it. This is what we’re solving for.
Stacy:We did the most sophisticated economic analysis that Hollywood has seen, and what we found gets at this pipeline issue. We constantly ask why there are so few women of color in Hollywood. We know the answer, but we have to ask the question empirically and then present evidence. It turns out that just over the last 13 years, if you have a woman of color, production budgets on movies are at the floor. Marketing budgets for movies are at the floor. Distribution density, in terms of how many theaters there are in the United States and globally, are at the floor. Women of color are not starring in science fiction or action films, and their films are not released in China.
The reparations for women of color are to a tune of billions, in just over 12 years. What we’re seeing is systematic exclusion to ensure that talented storytellers coming out of the independent space, film school, and community-based organizations are cut off at the very beginning. Then we see what’s called cumulative disadvantage: the gap widens over time. The data is very instructive. You want to change? Then level the playing field in production costs, marketing costs, and distribution density. Then you have to say to yourself, what do you owe the folks that weren’t given the opportunity? Data can be powerful in helping people understand where an entire group of people, who might also be diverse themselves, have made choices to exclude really powerful voices.
Mita:The comments in the chat are on fire. I’ll read a few:“There is such a huge talent gap and the industry is growing so fast. No one is going to lose their jobs. There are plenty to go around. We just need to close the talent gap with diverse professionals.”
“Being one of the ‘lonely only,’ as it’s called, is uncomfortable. It makes some turn back, so mentorship is so necessary.”
“It’s also important to talk about hiring women, people of color, and other marginalized communities for junior and entry level positions.”
Whose responsibility is it?
Mita:I want to ask the $10 million question, which is: Who is responsible for inclusivity in the public sector and in the private sector? Is it the chief diversity officer who shows up with a magic wand and fixes everything, the CEO, or the board? Who is in charge?
Reshma:All the above. As we’ve been having this conversation, I’m looking at the chat and am thinking about what’s happening with women. So many women have been pushed out of the workforce, or who have come back in different roles. Right now, 50% of women in tech left by the time they were 35. So you had a problem as women moved up the ranks and now it’s even worse. In three years, we’ll be looking at a cover of Time Magazine asking what happened to all the women—even though we can literally see it and do something about it right now. So that’s the other point: whose responsibility is it to solve these problems?
I think we’re always looking for a few good men and women CEOs who are going to take the lead. But for the vast majority of us, I don’t know anyone who got an email from their manager during the past two years that said “What do you need? I know there’s the Delta variant and half of all daycares are closed. I know that your kid’s school could be quarantined, that your elderly parents might need your support. What do you need?” Nobody got the memo. Even though we know that 86% of the care and domestic work is done by women and that 70% of Black mothers are single caretakers and single breadwinners. The data’s clear. Whose responsibility is that?
For so many of us, we are waiting for that email from the CEO or the chief diversity officer or the head of human resources (HR). It’s not going to come. So what we’re trying to do at the Marshall Plan for Moms is to build that muscle, for both women and our male allies, to start asking for what we deserve and to say that we can vote with our feet. Only 4% of companies subsidize childcare, but it should be 100%. Only 20% of companies offer paid leave, but every company should have mandatory parental leave. And there should be no pay gap at any company because there are systems that can root that out tomorrow; I can recommend plenty of software. There’s no excuse.
So I’m excited about building this workplace. I’ve written an op-ed about how we can create a moms’ union and start to mobilize. A bunch of women held a massive strike 20 years ago in Iceland. They said, “we’re taking a nap,” and it literally shut the country down because the country doesn’t work without us. So what are we doing to mobilize, educate, and start building and harnessing that muscle as employees?
Mita:All great points. Roshan, you’re probably often seen as the person with the magic wand.
Roshan:Mobilizing is key, but for me as a chief diversity officer, I come in saying it is not my job to make every single department inclusive. It is all of our jobs. I am providing you with the information, resources, and tools for you to become your most inclusive self. And when you lean into that, with the support that I’m going to give you along the way, then you’re the subject matter expert of HR, of engineering. You can make our workplace inclusive. And as the senior leadership, we are all responsible. It is a mandate for us to lean in because if our people don’t see us doing it, they won’t either.
When we’re talking about uncomfortable conversations, if you don’t create psychological safety for people, they’re not going to lean in. So I’m not going to bash you for being who you are. If you have privilege—if you’ve had doors opened for you, and sponsorship that maybe I haven’t had—I want to lean into that. I want you to teach me what you know so I can mobilize, so that we don’t stay stuck saying, “Where’s our next champion? Where’s our civil advocate? Where’s our social advocate?” Take a look at the person in the mirror, becauseyou’re that person who is going to get us from point A to point B. With conversations like this, I’m so amped right now—I feel ready to change the world, because I’m looking at the inclusive mindsets of individuals who have subject matter expertise that I don’t have.
Then I’m going to take that into my conversation and say, “Stacy, I need some help pulling up this data. Reshma, can you help me talk to a tech audience about X, Y, or Z?” That’s where your bandwidth comes in. That’s what mobilization looks like. It is not something that has to be a long, elongated process. It’s just taking one step and allowing someone to come with you on that journey to get to the next.
Stacy:One thing I feel really lucky about, being on a college campus, is working with 18 to 24 year olds all the time, and this is already within them. They have experienced an inclusive world. It’s just part of their values, and they are so much more evolved than the generations before them. I got to teach a class on inclusion in Hollywood this term, and I have a class of 16 or 17 and they’re on it. But that’s the blessing and the curse: We’re about to have a workforce crisis because when these students graduate, they’re going to look around and say, no way—
Stacy:And the data on young people’s mental health crises show that these are hostile environments. So not only are they not inclusive, but the research is clear that exclusion can be processed as physical pain. Some folks will interview or have an internship, then lose interest because they would rather do something on their own or find a better fit. Inclusion is not only everyone’s problem—you also have to listen to those folks that have spent the most time steeped in this culture. And that’s young people. Their views are very different, which is exciting, and we have to listen and respond differently because they’re helping us unlearn those things that have become ingrained over time. But how much time are most CEOs spending with folks in the mail room or other roles at the bottom? Because that’s what needs to happen.
Organizations and people to watch
Mita:Who do we think is doing this work well? Other than the three of you, are there organizations or people we should be watching and learning from?
Roshan:I absolutely love how Peloton has revolutionized the exercise market. They’ve brought in diverse cultures and diverse mindsets, and have combined this with psychological safety through all of their trainers. They’re obviously focusing on your physical health, but what I love most is that you don’t have to look stereotypically like anything but yourself. If you are getting on the bike for the first time, you’re celebrated. You’re celebrated in their advertising, in how they reach out to communities, in how they engage in ESG. They’re an exercise company, but they literally have changed people’s mindsets. And personally, they helped me to get through the pandemic psychologically, without the pandemic 20. It was a physical journey, but it became an emotional and a mental one as well. Everything that they do stands that up.
There’s also Merck pharmaceuticals; I am a huge fan of Celeste Warren and I love how she leans into the front line. And obviously there’s my partner, Salesforce.
Mita:Reshma, who’s on your list?
Reshma:I’m not ready to shout anybody out yet. With the work that we’re starting to do on women in the workforce, we’re analyzing who’s doing returnships well, who’s subsidizing childcare, who’s pushing male employees to take paid leave, and what are we doing to support folks—so ask me in six months.
Mita:OK, we’ll have you back.
Reshma:Have me back, because I do think it’s important to shout out good actors. And we did that at Girls Who Code. Jack Dorsey as the CEO has done everything I’ve ever asked him to do, and he believed in Girls Who Code when it was just an idea. I had Beth Comstock and Mindy Grossman. Richelle Parham lifted the organization up, as did Marissa Shorenstein at AT&T. I can go on—and I think it is important to shout them out. Right now, I’m trying to learn who the role models are, and when we uncover them—because I know they’re out there—we will lift them up.
Stacy:I would love to shout somebody out, but this is going to sound a little strange because it’s a person, not a company. And this is what we like to do—we like to zero in on who, when given the opportunity, makes different choices than the mainstream? Taylor Swift has been putting out a lot of stuff recently, but it’s not Taylor that I have in mind, it’s Blake Lively. Watch Taylor’s “I Bet You Think About Me,” music video, which Blake directed. You will see people from all backgrounds, all shapes and sizes, and all different abilities. We should try to understand the choices that Blake made and the resistance that she probably was faced with when she said that the wedding scene should look like a cross section of humanity. These choices are qualitatively different from those in the top feature films from any of the big Hollywood companies. That’s a shout out moment because somebody with privilege and power chose to do things differently when giving people jobs—not just on screen, but behind the camera as well.
Turning a behemoth of a Fortune 500 company is going to be a lot harder, but it gives me hope to see somebody with power and influence and privilege do something different. So if I were Carta, I might want to reach out to Blake and say, I heard you did a good job. How can we blow this up? Because that’s what we need to do for people in her position. Like Ava DuVernay, she was on a list yesterday—yes!
I get excited about people. I don’t think we’re at a place where companies are doing this.
Mita:That’s still important, because people make the company. And if we were at an award show now, Stacy, the music would start playing because—
Stacy:Oh my god!
Mita:—Yes, we’re coming to a close. I wish we could have another hour together. A shout out, Reshma, to your TED talk and the impact it’s made on the people who are talking about this. If I were live tweeting, I would have so many gems, but I’m just going to thank you all and close with three ideas: Never waste a good crisis; limited scope leads to limited growth; and bring in the experts. Meaning, if you have a heart issue, you’re going to call the cardiologist and not go to a car mechanic. Thank you all so much.
Roshan:Thank you all.
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