How to Create an Equal Work Environment

Professional Development


It’s 2018. And as my CEO has said, this is the year to stand for something. As a woman who knows more about SEO, whiskey, and coding than housekeeping, I stand fearlessly alongside those who are focused on making the world a more equal and less gender-defined place. When I think about the strong and powerful people who have paved the way for me, I am determined to ensure that those who come after me in the workforce have an equal work environment. Click To Tweet

I take March as a time to reflect on how far we’ve come and also as a month where I plan how I can improve the world around me. When I started my first job nearly 20 years ago, I adhered to a dress code that required I wear a skirt and pantyhose to work every day. Just 55 years before that, my grandmother got her college degree in home economics as it was one of the few majors available for women. The progress we’ve achieved is tremendous—but this is by no means a time to pat ourselves on the back and become complacent. Quite the contrary. As my colleague Alexandra Nation said in a blog post last week, there are still many opportunities to make the workplace a more equal and inclusive place, and I’m motivated to do my part.

To further my reflection and improvement plans, this month I’ve been talking with prominent people in the tech space about what we can do together to create a better path for those who come after us.

As Amy Chang said, “I’m grateful to be surrounded by strong women, and I’m passionate about empowering women to pursue careers in tech. Together we can change the face of technology.”

In this blog, I’ll cover how we can best work together to create an equal work environment as well as advice from several influential industry experts.

Stop Gender Pay Gap

“I’ve been in the B2B space for 20 years—I think before anyone even came up with the acronym B2B. The time for the “good old boys” club is over. First and foremost, to create equality in the workplace, we must ensure equal pay. There should never be a scenario where a woman who is filling the same role as a man is not getting paid equally. It pisses me off that we’re sitting here in the year 2018 and we’re still having that conversation.”—Carlos Hidalgo, Founder and CEO of VisumCx

Gender does not determine skill level. Full stop. It’s time to be open and honest about compensation and to have zero tolerance for gender pay gap.

Can’t Find Diverse Candidates? Look Harder

“I regularly have event planners tell me they can’t find women speakers. This is pure laziness. The reason we have events is for experts to share their expertise, experience, and outcomes with the intention of driving revenue for business. It’s ridiculous to consider an event successful when it avoids half of the customer point of view—women. Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing. And we know that what influences B2C buying also impacts B2B decisions. If you want to be better at customer centricity, then bring the voice of your biggest customer to the stage.”—Carla Johnson, Author and Chief Experience Officer of Type A Communications

If you can’t find a female speaker for a panel or find any women to interview for a particular role, you’re not looking hard enough or might be looking in the wrong places. It’s also vital to examine the language you’re using in your job postings. Unconscious bias is a real thing—and could be keeping your team in an unbalanced state. Recognition of bias within your organization is the first step toward equality. It’s okay to not be perfect right away.

This Isn’t a Women’s Issue

“Men in technology have a responsibility to encourage women to seek tech leadership roles, and to actively drive the normalization of women being successful in tech rather than focusing on how ‘special’ it is. When women being successful in tech roles becomes business as usual, we’ll create a positive feedback loop that encourages more women to seek success in technical positions.”—Jim Ruberto, VP of Technology at Intelligent Demand

“I believe that not only do women need to champion and mentor other women but also that men (who currently control spending and decision-making) need to inspire other men to hire, mentor, and ultimately promote qualified female candidates.”—Nancy Shenker, Founder and CEO of sheBoom

In the immortal words of The Doors, ‘the time to hesitate is through.’ We have a duty to each other to make a seat at the table for everyone, regardless of gender. If we only have women championing diversity and change, we will fail.

It Starts at the Top

“In terms of inclusiveness, especially if you’re an organization leader, you need to not only check your own behaviors regularly to ensure you’re getting different perspectives but also be a leader in terms of mentoring. Find opportunities for even those who may not be quite as outgoing that might seek their own. Make it really clear that the culture of your team and your organization has zero tolerance for anything that doesn’t encourage diversity. By being a leader and actively encouraging engagement, involvement, different perspectives, different slants, being respectful and incorporating those, I think that sets the tone for the rest of the organization.”— Jim D’Arcangelo, SVP at UpCity

“If we don’t get more young girls interested in tech, we will continue to be underrepresented. With the fourth industrial revolution, of a truly digital transformation, the world has moved from analog to digital. Soon, every company will be a technology company. My whole model is see it, be it. If you can see it, you can be it. Amy Chang was a mentor of mine and it is now my duty to inspire others as she did for me.”—Jill Rowley, Chief Growth Advisor at Marketo

“Both men and women in tech need to acknowledge that the industry currently has a problem and step-up to train, encourage, and inspire women to take on more leadership roles in the industry. I always loved technology but didn’t see it as a career path. I was introduced to the SaaS world by Jim D’Arcangelo who engaged me to develop top-of-funnel content for a site targeted to entrepreneurial women. I learned the lexicon of MarTech from him and realized that you don’t need to code to play a significant role in the space.”—Nancy Shenker, Founder and CEO of sheBoom

Who mentored you? Who are you mentoring now? What can and will you do to make a better space for those who come after you? Sure, “the struggle is real,” but the point of fighting for change is progressing beyond the status quo. I can tell you that the undergrad and graduate students I mentor are as hungry, smart, and motivated as we were at that age, if not more so. They deserve mentorship, leaders, and role models just as you and I did. And if you didn’t have a solid pipeline of mentors available to you early in your career, it’s time to be the kind of mentor you wished you had.

What are you doing to make the workplace a more diverse and equal place? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments.