Changing the Conversation

Changing the Conversation: Spring 2018

Over a hundred inspired individuals listened on intently as our panel of trailblazing women, each bringing a unique perspective to the stage, discussed the business case for diversity, introduced the idea of “culture add” vs “culture fit,” and presented actionable recruiting strategies for attendees to employ in informing the Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at their own organizations. Read on for some key takeaways from the evening!

Panelist Spotlight: Stephanie Sandberg, Out Leadership

We're thrilled to feature panelist Stephanie Sandberg, Director of Out Leadership and President of Sandberg Consulting, in a spotlight for our upcoming Changing the Conversation event on April 26th! Below, you can read about her experience with a challenging boss, trusting your gut, and the correlation between corporate diversity and greater equality. 

From the Ground Up: 5 intentional recruiting practices for building diverse and inclusive organizations

White, Male… We can’t deny that those are still the primary descriptors that come to mind as we move towards the capstone of the corporate pyramid. How can we progress towards a leadership team reflective of the ethno cultural and gender diversity embodied by our population? To increase the number of women at the top and create more diverse and inclusive organizations, we need to consider our recruiting practices.


We asked our panelists--Ashley Babinecz, Director of Talent Acquisition at AppNexus; Kamilah Mitchell-Thomas, SVP Human Resources and Global People Management at A+E; Stephanie Sandberg, Director of Out Leadership and President of Sandberg Consulting; and Diane Herz, Chief Diversity Officer at Mathematica Policy Research--for our upcoming Changing the Conversation event (April 26th at AppNexus!) for some tips on intentional diversity recruiting, and they offered a wealth of wisdom. Here are the highlights:


Be intentional and transparent about Diversity Recruiting. Set clear goals and track progress. Establish diversity incentives at the pipeline level and aim for a diverse set of qualified candidates (a good rule of thumb: include two diversity candidates in every hiring slate). It’s critical that you not only advocate to ensure Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are part of your company’s strategic plan but that, in conversation with decision-makers and colleagues, you refer back to these initiatives often and drive home why they’re important to the success of your teams and broader organization. Everyone has a role to play in building inclusive teams, so make this work central and imperative to everything you do, and make it visible so the accountability is shared and owned by your entire organization.


Proactively reach out to diverse sources of talent. It’s hard to find a vegan at a butcher shop… let us explain: in order to attract the candidates you’re seeking, you have to reach them where they are. At the very least, promote job openings on job sites, professional organizations and colleges where there is a greater percentage of women and minorities underrepresented in your organization. Forge alliances with individuals and organizations who can assist with that outreach and help you garner a stronger presence in those communities.


CFW ProTip: Consider Cultivating a Talent Pipeline: Some organizations like Jun Group are reaching as far back as high school to cultivate that future pipeline of talent.


Write job descriptions that attract diverse applicants. Think tabula rasa—your job description should be a blank slate that any candidate can see themself in. Be attuned to the way you describe the role and the qualifications you’re seeking that will attract or dissuade women and other under-represented candidates. There are tools like Textio, Unitive, and Gender Decoder that are designed to help you write job descriptions to attract diverse talent.


Hiring diverse talent means you also have to acknowledge differences in opportunity afforded to underrepresented populations and how they feed into a candidate’s experience. A willingness to offer wiggle room within certain requirements will take you far. Consider how you can open the qualifications to embrace diversity. IBM, for example, stopped requiring 4-year degrees for many programming positions once they realized they weren’t necessary in order for an otherwise qualified candidate to excel.


The interview process is key. In addition to building pipeline through all sources, your interview panel needs to reflect the diversity you're looking to hire. Your panel, just as your candidate pool, should take into account multiple perspectives and personalities. A diverse panel will help enrich the interview process as these members will be able to formulate questions that probe more broadly and deeply into what the candidate brings to the table, and the value the candidate brings to the organization. That can make all the difference.


Think of your interview panelists as your company ambassadors; If candidates are able to identify in some way with their interviewers it makes an astronomical difference in terms of how they see themselves fitting into your team. Don’t forget that candidates are assessing how they fit into the puzzle as much, if not more, than you are throughout their interview process.


Take a look at your Employer Brand. Who is, literally, the face of your firm and what do potential employees see when they visit your website and view your marketing materials? If your organization presents cookie-cutter it will be less appealing to candidates who break the mold. If you find that your employee population is predominantly white male, you can still begin to message your aspiration to become more diverse and inclusive—sponsor events like Changing the Conversation, openly support organizations working to close the pay gap, send your executives to speak at events on/about diversity as a key organizational goal, use social media to show a commitment to diversity.


One more thing: When was your last checkup? To successfully execute the above, dig deep into your own cultural expectations and unconscious biases; awareness is half the battle (intentional execution is the other half). Try this exercise: draw the ideal individual for the job you're filling. Include attributes and competencies. Then read this piece from The New York Times. Ask yourself: Are all of your figures also male? Did you think about not only gender but other aspects of diversity, and did that go into your drawing? Is there an arrow that indicates difference? Free-form sketching tends to bring out your real thinking.


Add these diversity dimensions to your next sketch, and hold onto it as a reminder that diversity is in fact a core competency that you need to solve for in the hiring process. Come join us on Thursday, April 26th to learn more about successful D&I initiatives from the experts themselves.

Panelist Spotlight: Diane Herz, Mathematica Policy Research

The next featured panelist for our April Changing the Conversation event is Diane Herz, President, Director and Chief Diversity Officer at Mathematica Policy Research. Diane describes the struggle and importance of authenticity, being intentional as you build your professional toolbox, and creating buy-in for diversity & inclusion programs at all levels of an organization. Get a sneak peek at Diane’s thoughts around D&I below:

Five Tips to Reduce Female Attrition in the Workplace

Photo by Martin Barraud/OJO Images / Getty Images
Photo by Martin Barraud/OJO Images / Getty Images

According to a 2017 study by McKinsey about women in the workplace, women continue to get siphoned out of the corporate pipeline, and it starts at the first key career juncture. Women earn only 18% of promotions from entry-level to managerial positions. There’s been finger-pointing in all directions; is the confidence gap between men and women responsible? Is the corporate world a boys’ club with a disparate amount of opportunities available to men and women? Could the caregiving responsibilities accompanying the life milestones (e.g., marriage and children) coinciding with this stage in a woman’s career be to blame for the stagnation and attrition rates?


The good news is that corporations are starting to address the gender gap, if only because the research in favor of more diversity at the top is overwhelming in its findings — diverse teams drive greater revenue and exceed virtually every metric of success. Taking on the daunting yet hopeful task of equal access, pay and opportunity across culture, race and gender boundaries, many executives find that they don’t quite know where to start. If you’re looking to even the playing field for women at your organization, here are 5 simple steps you can take to reduce female attrition in the workplace and move women up the corporate ladder:


1. Avoid the "Happy Hour" penalty.

Company-wide social events are great networking opportunities, and often provide insight into new projects and roles. While happy hours are ideal for the young and untethered, they often become missed opportunities for married employees and/or those with families to go home to. While dual income households are increasingly sharing after-work childcare hours, research shows that women still bear the brunt of the burden, and thus, they are more likely to skip the optional Happy Hour at work and miss key opportunities. The best way around this is to shift the timing of intra-company social time by creating opportunities to socialize and interact with coworkers during the workday — lunch is a great option. You’ll find that the dads on your team eager to get home and see their families before bedtime will be grateful for this shift as well.


2. Create opportunities for women to connect with executive-level managers.

Everyone needs a little nudge sometimes. Give the women on your team the confidence, time, and tools to interact with executives at the company by making them a part of the conversation. Invite occasional guest speakers to your team meetings, schedule luncheons with the executives, or open up a digital channel of communication such as a monthly "ask anything" webinar with company leaders. Offering stretch assignments and a seat at the decision-making table are other key ways in which you can foster cross-rank collaboration and give high potential women greater exposure and career-building experience.


3. Create a sponsorship program in-house. 

Along with all the transformative good that has accompanied the rise of the #metoo movement in recent months, there have also been some not-so-great side effects, one of which being that the number of men open to mentoring women has taken a nosedive. Men’s hesitancy to mentor women in their organizations, no doubt, isolates women from their managers and decreases opportunities for career advancement. Male executives at Oath, Facebook, and Linkedin, among others, have all made a commitment to mentor more women, because studies clearly show that intentional programs connecting leaders with junior talent are instrumental to career growth. This sponsorship — actively championing someone else outside or inside the organization for leadership positions, in-house promotions, or project leadership — has happened naturally between men over the years. A formalized program with KPIs for managers can ensure that it happens for women as well. Tip: put a formal structure in place for the sponsorship program that provides clear guidelines so that male mentors feel less hesitant to take on this kind of relationship.


4. Build goals for developing high potential women into KPI's.

Accountability is key. Build goals for the professional development of high-potential women into your manager KPIs. For example: goal: achieve 40% female leadership in middle management by 2020, action steps: mentor two high-potential women on your team in 2018, identify one high-potential female team member for a stretch assignment, host three executive lunches with the internal women’s group this year.


5. Flexible schedules.

Build a team that operates on trust and results rather than face time. The ability to work from home and to manage the delivery of non-time-sensitive assignments with a certain degree of flexibility is extremely valuable to women with caregiving responsibilities. In order to successfully implement flexible policies, it’s important to set clear expectations and ensure employees understand when flexibility is permitted vs. when specific hours or deadlines need to be met.


Maria Carolina Simon is a Corporate Relationship Manager at a popular crowdfunding platform and co-founder of “CFW: Changing the Conversation”, an organization that works to empower women in business via networking and training.

To learn more about our events, please visit: or send us a note at

Panelist Spotlight: Ashley Babinecz, AppNexus

Our upcoming Changing the Conversation event includes a presentation and panel discussion with power-house women leading power-house organizations, and we’re excited to feature them in a spotlight blog series. The series asks each panelist to describe a challenge that she's faced in her career, offer a piece of advice to her former self, and comment on why she cares about diversity in the workplace. Our first spotlight features presenter and panelist Ashley Babinecz, Director of Talent Acquisition at AppNexus. See what she has to say below, and learn more about Ashley’s thoughts on diversity recruiting at our event on April 26th at 6:30pm!