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To Create Gender Equality, Companies Must Open Up About Failure

4 minute read
Irving is the CEO and Board Director of GoDaddy.

I’m a firm believer that companies with global scale have an unparalleled opportunity to affect real, positive change on major issues, if we operate with a purpose that extends beyond profit. That doesn’t mean we quit pursuing growth. If anything, infusing a meaningful purpose into the business in our social age makes it more likely that the business will be incredibly successful. Today, there’s a hand-in-glove relationship between building a business that does good and building a good business. To have a purpose-driven business, you have to code that purpose into its cultural DNA.

Consider gender balance and pay equity for women in the workplace. It’s a problem that extends far beyond any business’s walls, but is also contained within them. And it won’t change without bold and consistent leadership. Change begins by looking inward.

In many ways it’s odd that, for instance, the tech industry has struggled for so long with so little progress to show for its effort. It’s beyond any doubt now that diverse teams are more thoughtful, more innovative, and better at processing information than homogeneous ones are. That alone should make everyone in tech who’s looking for a competitive edge work overtime to build diverse teams. When you compare those facts with trends in the tech industry, it becomes obvious there’s still a serious disconnect.

Another challenge stemming from the “gender disconnect” is in understanding and empathizing with customers. That’s not to say that one gender can’t ever understand the drives and motivations of another. But poorly balanced teams often never even try. For example, the first engineers testing airbags just defaulted to using larger man-sized test dummies; they never thought to test for the typically smaller frame of female passengers. It was a lethal mistake.

Offices should also be places where anyone with a brilliant mind and strong work ethic can thrive. For diversity in tech — and really, in any industry — to succeed, companies need to convert their “diversity initiatives” into cultural bedrock. There should be no diversity officer, because every employee is a diversity officer. The industry also must be willing to take a clear, hard look at where we are today. Too many of us in tech just issue reports and press releases announcing our micro-successes, all the while shielding our backtracking and initiative failures — and we all have them.

Every company should be transparent — about the good and the bad — about where each of us is in our push for an inclusive workplace. For instance, each year, GoDaddy shares the results of our gender balance and pay equity studies. We’ve made strides that tell us our methodology is working, but we haven’t come nearly as far as we’d like; in some areas, we’ve lost ground. But my overriding hope with this data is that transparency will help us shine a light on the dark corners within our culture that would otherwise be ignored.

I like to say, “lead from the front—but do it in the mosh pit, not on the stage.” At GoDaddy, I’ve personally found myself in a mosh pit of nearly 7,000 employees who see the value and integrity in a culture of diversity. Though we still have a long way to go, our dedication to doing right by the world also gives me hope for the future of inclusivity in all of tech. I hope you’ll join us in the mosh pit, too.

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