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Women’s Tech Council Discusses Wage Gap, Workplace Diversity

Lehi—It’s no secret that Utah, despite the overall health of the state’s economy, still has a long way to go in recruiting, retaining, promoting and fairly compensating women in many of its industries. Recent figures by Voice for Utah Children show that Utah only pays women 70 cents on the dollar (as opposed to the national average of 79.2 cents), which leaves $1.6 billion in personal income that would be added to Utah’s economy each year if Utah’s wage gap were no larger than the nation’s. The technology industry, despite—or perhaps, because of—its recent boom in the state, is hungrier than ever to attract female talent.

Now, initiatives like the ElevateHER challenge and groups like the Women Tech Council are doing what they can to promote women professionally in the state. In order to address and hopefully help solve some of these issues, the Women’s Tech Council put on its Talent Innovation Summit last week, including a panel specifically built on how to recruit and promote diversity in companies. The panelists included Jill Layfield, former CEO of Backcountry.com; Dianne Rivera, VP of talent acquisition at Goldman Sachs; Denise Leleux, VP of global services in North America and Europe for eBay and Alison Lutjemeier, senior manager at Adobe.

Through their recruitment efforts, Goldman Sachs, Adobe and eBay have all seen their diversity numbers increase. But that doesn’t happen by accident—unconscious biases, lack of awareness and reluctance to change mean that recruiters need to be strategic in how they up their diversity hire numbers.

For Leleux, one of the most basic and important things when trying to increase diversity hires is to tell recruiting teams that they must present a diverse slate of candidates for any position. Then, work hard at eliminating unconscious biases however you can.

“I cover the names of all the resumes or CVs that I get so that I won’t be influenced by gender,” says Leleux. “We work a lot at eBay with the Clayman Institute at Stanford. We actually have a list of words that we know that more women will use versus men to talk about their performance and what they’ve achieved.”

Layfield continued, saying that there are technology companies that have created applications that will remove names from resumes and delete or replace some of those key words—but whether it’s done manually or with technology, it’s a good place to start.

Furthermore, it’s not just the interviewees that should be diverse—try to keep the interviewing panel diverse, as well. Not only does a diverse interview panel make sure that several perspectives are included when judging a candidate, it also puts interviewees at ease—after all, it’s difficult to entice a female candidate to join a company if she feels as though she may be virtually the only woman there.

“My own interview story at Goldman, I had interviewed probably with 20 people. The first five people were male, and the sixth person was female—and I started to feel really good about it. At the end, I interviewed with a good number of women and men,” said Rivera. “But if I’d interviewed with all males? …I would not have been as positive about it. I know that’s a given. But I think a lot of people miss that.”

Rivera says Goldman Sachs goes the extra mile to put interviewees at ease.

“When we do interviews, we’ll call them a Super-Day and we’ll have 20 people come and interview. The night before, we’ll have a networking event. We’ve found women like to come in and meet who they’re going to interview with,” she said. “Having those events the night before usually helps especially the women feel comfortable the next day coming back into our offices to interview. They’ve already met that person. They feel comfortable talking about themselves because they’ve already done it. They see what the office looks like. That has yielded better numbers in our female recruiting. That’s been a game changer for us.”

Letting female candidates know that the work environment is flexible, or that the company cares about their concerns, is also important, said Lutjemeier.

“Find out what’s important to this person and make sure that they understand ways that you can alleviate any of the concerns that they have,” she said.

Many companies are quick to pat themselves on the back after they’ve begun hiring female employees—but by no means is the hire the endgame, said Layfield. Making sure the compensation is fair, that career development initiatives are in place are just as important as that initial hire.

Leleux mentioned that eBay, knowing that many women are unfairly compensated, takes care to make sure that they don’t do the same—especially right out of the gate.

“You might be hiring someone that didn’t ask for the money or wasn’t paid what they were due. So we can’t just kind of say ‘but you were making this and now you’ll make that,’” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re paying fairly—so, kind of ignoring the past, if you will. We pay on performance.”

In terms of career development, mentorship programs and learning initiatives geared toward diversity hires have been implemented in Adobe, Goldman Sachs and eBay. Striking a balance between teaching leadership qualities and teaching solid business strategies is the way to go, according to Rivera.

“The goal is that we’re going to teach the women that come into Goldman Sachs the skills that they need to one day be a CEO if they want to,” said Rivera. “I think that too many times, we spend time teaching women leadership and assertiveness and things like that. All of that is very important, but you also have to teach them the business that they’re running, so that they can be in that board room with other men and women and actually talk shop.”

In terms of leadership qualities, Lutjemeier preaches listening and being perceptive of what’s going on with hires, while Rivera stresses that female leadership needs to be an example for junior hires.

“One thing we talk about is competence versus confidence,” said Rivera. “We feel that women, before they feel the confidence to raise their hand or ask a question, they feel like they have to have competence. We teach them that it’s okay to be the person in the room that doesn’t know, that raises their hand and asks the question. You don’t have to have a 100 percent competent before you can be confident. That’s something that we teach over and over, especially to our junior population. And then, you have to be that example, too.”