Pipeline Equity’s founder Katica Roy spoke to Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, on his reasons for championing gender equity and the critical role men play in the gender equity conversation, as well as Microsoft’s commitment to gender equity.
What is your professional mission?
I want to “achieve with integrity.” From a very young age, achievement and over-achievement have been personally fulfilling for me. My parents also taught me the importance of personal integrity and the value of good, hard work, and these things are core to who I am.
Why do you believe it’s important to be a gender equity champion?
Part of being a leader in any line of work is creating an environment and culture where every person is comfortable being themselves and feels empowered to contribute in meaningful ways. I believe this can only happen when you understand how equity impacts a workplace.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your journey to becoming a gender equity champion?
Firstly, I think gender equity is a business imperative. If we want to build solutions for the entire world, we need to have the world represented in our teams. Otherwise, we do not have the perspectives and inputs required to deliver solutions for everyone.
Second, as I’ve spent time with underrepresented people and teams at Microsoft, I’ve learned a lot from their stories. I think every individual and leader goes through a learning process — and putting yourself into a position to learn is very important.
Third, I’ve seen the challenges my three daughters navigate every day, and this has taught me even more about how to remove cultural and institutional barriers to equity.
What motivates you daily to be a gender equity champion?
As an engineer, I love building things and I love to see the people I work with pursue the things they love doing. None of this can happen if we’re not inclusive and not constantly making [our workspace] a place where everyone feels safe sharing big ideas and contributing.
Why do you feel gender equity is not just a “women’s issue”?
Equity allows people to bring their whole selves to work — and this is true for everyone. When everyone is given equal opportunity, flexibility and support to commit to meaningful things, like family, it diminishes the presumption that women are the default family caretakers, or that only women have meaningful lives outside of work.
A great example of this: Microsoft expanded parental leave for both women and men. It’s a recognition that men also want to spend this time with children. This might not have happened without the acknowledgment of how important parental leave is for retaining women employees.
Why are men’s voices critical in the path toward gender equity?
The simple answer is because men hold the majority of the seats of influence and power in so many organizational structures. I wish that wasn’t the case, but, at the moment, it is. This means men in leadership positions have a responsibility to be proactive and address this directly.
Why is it good business for tech companies to embrace gender equity?
I’ve had an opportunity to talk about this topic a lot, and as someone who uses data constantly in my job, I can tell you the research speaks for itself. Companies that have more diversity see better business results across the board.
Microsoft has a global workforce of more than 120,000 employees. How does it foster an inclusive environment within a large, global workforce?
It starts with leadership, but comes down to individual interactions and accountability. We’ve prioritized three inclusive behaviors: awareness, curiosity and courage. We want to see these in every interpersonal interaction we have.
Microsoft has become a strong voice in the gender equity conversation. What positive economic growth has Microsoft experienced as the result of moving toward gender equity?
Our stock price is great, but that’s just a small way to gauge success. The best part about our focus on equity is how it will impact the work we’re doing, the perspectives we’ll have and the leaders we’ll cultivate. This is what will really make us successful.
How has Microsoft worked to bring gender equity to its employees?
Aside from working to grow the number of women at leadership levels, we’re working to transform our culture to one where everyone feels they belong, has a voice and are valued. That comes from a culture that prioritizes healthy interpersonal actions among people.
At every level, every function and within every business, we’re holding each of ourselves accountable for inclusive, equitable behaviors. On a more basic level, we pay attention to our pay, and even report annually on our equal pay numbers.
What can all employees do to become gender equity champions?
There are a few things:
– Increase your awareness.
– Understand your own behaviors and biases.
– Take the time to learn about gender equity and the traits that define success and leadership.
But, most importantly, display courage. Use your voice or help others be heard. Small, everyday behavior changes can make a difference.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self regarding gender equity?
Do the smart thing and look for teams that are investing in this great talent pool that the rest of the industry has been overlooking for way, way too long. A place that’s doing this is a place that’s planning for the future and investing in its people.
Who is your favorite female role model?
Someone that comes to mind right away is Margaret Hamilton. Not only did she write the code that made the first moon landing possible, she also basically created the profession of “software engineering” as we understand it today. If you’re not familiar with her incredible story, I really recommend checking it out.
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