Disrupting Tech Culture: Seek Difference
Sharon Tom, Product Lead from BCG Digital Ventures’ Manhattan Beach Global Center, discusses our commitment to evolving tech culture through diversity.
The 4th Annual Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Summit took place this past weekend in the Castro District of San Francisco and we were pleased to return as sponsors for the second year in a row. For three immersive days, 15 DV’ers from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds and regions took part in a series of networking events, career fairs, lectures and panels alongside 2,200 other current and future change makers — a diverse and inspiring group of lesbians, queer women and allies.
In response to seismic changes across the socio-political landscape, LWT Founder, Leanne Pittsford, chose to pivot strategies this year, shining a light on the complex and often intersecting issues of power and freedom. By expanding content beyond technology, the Summit has given a public voice to some in the community for the very first time, empowering those who identify as LGBTQ and allies alike with a powerful call to action: Disrupt the future of technology and the culture around it.
Women represent the largest pool of untapped talent in STEM fields, but an estimated 40% who receive engineering degrees never pursue the field or leave it entirely. Recent studies point to work environments rife with gender-bias as one of the biggest challenges women in STEM careers face, but the problem begins much earlier. According to Girls Who Code, 66% of Middle School girls express an interest in STEM subjects, but that number drops to 4% by the time they reach college. Lack of technology education is partly to blame, along with the stereotype that STEM fields are masculine. A shortage of female role models in leadership reinforces this perception, creating a negative feedback loop, where one begets the other.
Companies that adapt their culture with innovative solutions can help retain female talent, and BCG Digital Ventures has done just that, having recently updated our parental leave policy to provide greater flexibility, for example. The Boston Consulting Group has long pioneered equality in the workplace, winning a spot on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “Best Places to Work” for LGBTQ employees for the tenth consecutive year, as well as being named one of the best companies for women to work.
As BCG’s corporate innovation, incubation and investment arm, BCGDV has had the privilege to build upon their best-in-class model, creating a platform wholly unique to our industry specific needs. Some of our efforts to date include: DVDiversity, DVWomen (workshops, training, mentorship program), DV Values committee, DV DesignKind (working with nonprofits donating creative resources to design assets that support organizations in line with our core values).
Chris Darby, Senior Venture Architect and founding member of the BCGDV LGBTQ network, is currently organizing a hackathon out of our London Center in partnership with Intertech LGBT to benefit LGBTQ charities. Chris has played a large part in developing our core values, one of which, “Seek Difference,” speaks directly to our belief in the holistic strength of diversity. We live this value not just through our multidisciplinary teams and cross-functional approach, but through our people — the lifeblood of our business.
One of the highlights from the Summit was the chance to reflect on our values through the lens of our peers, and the panel moderated by Amazon proved to be especially relevant. When speaking about the four years of development the “just walk out” technology Amazon Go required, Gianna Puerini, VP, Amazon Go emphasized:
“There is a difference between not possible and hasn’t been proven yet.”
Meanwhile, Stephenie Landry, VP, Amazon Prime Now offered this sage advice: “Don’t fall in love with your own ideas, and don’t wait on what you love to get started.”
Another panel that resonated with our team was Turi McKinley, Executive Director at frog, who spoke about the importance of cultivating a collaborative environment within your organization. By applying the same methodology used in client processes internally, thereby creating “user experience research” from your very own teams, leaders can help gather insights to strengthen their organizations.
We, as a business, cannot grow the way we aspire to grow, bring the creativity and innovation spark our partners expect, or build the capabilities the market demands unless we embrace a talent model built on diversity which must inherently be woven into the fabric of everything we do. If we design all of our products for people just like us, we will not succeed. If we design products for people from different backgrounds, we can better understand their needs and therefore build better businesses.
In the three years since inception, BCGDV has maintained a commitment to diversity by hiring, retaining and advancing women, LGBTQ and ethnic minority talent, but we still have work to do– and we see no finish line to these efforts. For this reason, it has never been more important to ruthlessly examine all of our practices and the methodologies behind them, seeking out areas of friction where we may disrupt tech culture from the inside out.
If this type of culture speaks to you, join us for the adventure of a lifetime: careers.bcgdv.com.