Highlights of the HCI 2017 Inclusive Diversity Conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at HCI’s 2017 Inclusive Diversity Conference, which was attended by over 300 professionals committed to advancing gender parity.

This was HCI’s first conference on the topic of diversity and inclusion and was the direct result of requests from their members. It’s very much in synch with the renewed focus on gender parity which we are hearing about from our corporate partners.

I am pleased to share an overview of my presentation along with four others that resonated with me.

The Corporate Conundrum: How to Amplify the Impact of Diversity Initiatives

I shared with the HCI audience that no one initiative is going to achieve gender parity. It is a “long game,” a multi-pronged approach that, in addition to the women themselves, needs to engage:

  • Line Managers: Once women have developed career-advancing skills and attitudes, managers need to become their “decoders” in applying those talents to the particular needs of the specific organization. Additionally, managers must become more willing and more adept at providing specific, honest feedback to women, which research shows is sorely lacking across most organizations.
  • Top Management: Corporate leaders need to make their commitment to gender parity clear and specific, and provide parameters for measurement and accountability. They also are key players in helping reshape the corporate culture. Often they must get past their own complacency with the status quo and their own discomfort at changing the look at the “top of the house.” By practicing “conscious inclusion” and demanding others do the same, corporate leaders will significantly accelerate gender parity.
  • Mentors: Developmental relationships are key to women advancing their careers. But plain and simple, women are not availing themselves of mentors as well as men and it’s a major barrier to their success. By seeking out mentors, within and outside their organizations, women receive honest advice and specific guidelines for their advancement. It’s a necessity, not a nicety. Interestingly, mentoring is also a two-way street, especially for male mentors, who gain a new found perspective on the challenges corporate women face.

This integrated approach to gender parity allows organizations to speed up the process by combatting the major challenges to diversity: engrained corporate culture…fatigue and frustration with little or no progress… and second generation gender bias.

4 Presentations Provided Often Overlooked Perspectives on Gender Parity

I also had the opportunity to hear a number of outstanding speakers discuss their experiences, their research and their points of view on Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Why Diversity Programs Fail: In his presentation, Frank Dobin, Professor of Sociology at Harvard, indicated that programmatic approaches are not working. He pointed out that “learning what matters” to support diversity can be threatening at a number of levels. It requires managers to step out of their comfort zone and do something different. It is also frequently ego threatening to male, white leadership since they may sense blame and finger pointing.
  • Getting D&I Unstuck: Three top executives from Target: Damu McCoy, Director of Talent Diversity, Vadula Bal, VP Learning & Development and Caroline Wnga, VP Diversity and Inclusion talked about evolving an inclusive ecosystem. They demonstrated how success was not driven by one area or department, but resulted from a shared commitment and responsibility, which at Target encompasses the guest experience, the workforce, and the work environment.
  • The Business of Diversity and Inclusion and How to Make Progress: Intel’s Danielle Mastrangel Brown, VP Human Resources and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer shared how Intel provides managers with information and tools to engineer bias out of activities. Additionally, Intel builds accountability into every employee’s bonus, by tying it to D&I goals.
  • The Science of the Brain: How We Can Leverage the Brain to Build Smarter Teams: David Rock, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, pulled no punches in talking about bias. In stating that “Like Likes Like” he pointed out that we are all, in some way, biased. It is what we do with that awareness that makes a difference. He noted that practicing inclusive behavior will feel uncomfortable. However, it is important to accept the discomfort to leverage the power that diversity brings to an organization.

My all-in involvement in this year’s HCI Conference was an outstanding experience. I look forward to sharing insights gained from future conferences.

Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.