International Women's Day at VMware - Passion, Purpose and Progress
A Passion to Understand Gender Inequality
Every year on March 8 ― International Women’s Day ― we celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness of women’s inequality and advocate for gender parity. This year’s theme, “Break the Bias,” has been my passion since I was 12 years old. My mother took me to a talk by psychologist Mary Pipher, who writes about cultural influences in our society. She is the author of a groundbreaking book, “Reviving Ophelia,” in which she wrote of the implicit bias that can negatively impact the self-image of adolescent girls. I listened and developed a passion to understand gender inequality.
I wanted to learn as much as I could. While earning my bachelor’s degree in political science at Yale, I studied gender bias in Sweden and later at the London School of Economics, where I received my master’s degree in Gender and Social Policy. Starting my career at Catalyst and then Deloitte consulting, I advised companies on creating inclusive workplaces and, in 2014, I was asked to drive change from within and came to manage VMware’s (at the time) newly launched women initiative, VMwomen.
Through my research and experience, I learned that women’s issues are not monolithic but that women have unique experiences around gender equality. At VMware, we look at women’s challenges through an intersectional lens. We apply a wide framework to take into account a combination of a woman’s influences and unique experiences. This includes not only gender but also influences such as ethnic identity, gender orientation, mental and physical ability and race. Since 2014, our women’s initiative has not only expanded to include a wider swath of underrepresented groups, but it has also strengthened, for we continually apply the lessons learned.
Breaking Down Barriers
We aim to understand employee experiences and break down systemic barriers through our worldwide grassroot organizations of employees. We call these groups Power of Difference (POD) communities. Each of our 26 PODs are empowered to drive initiatives important to their communities ― not only where they work but also where they live. The PODs help us develop the intersectional lens. For example, our Women@VMware POD helps us address global gender equality in an informed and nuanced way.
The information we seek greatly inspires our programs. A great illustration of this is our VMinclusion Taara program, designed to help women in India return to a career in technology. We’ve learned that in India’s IT sector, nearly 50% of women drop out of the workforce after five to eight years and don’t return to work. Later, when they want to return, they find that the rapid pace of technology innovation has made their skills outdated. VMinclusion Taara helps address this gap by providing free courses on the latest digital transformation technologies. With 16, 000 women enrolled in the program, Taara has helped 3,600 women return to work with certification to become VMware Certified Professionals (VCP).
We also work to break down barriers through our community partnerships. The VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University is one partnership that’s dear to my heart. The Innovation Lab conducts research to advance women’s leadership by diagnosing barriers and bias, developing and evaluating interventions, and disseminating research-based solutions. Our support for their research and continued thought partnership informs our practice and helps to drive meaningful change at VMware and in our communities.
We believe in the power of communities. That’s why we created Women Transforming Technology (WT2): a consortium of corporate, nonprofit and academic organizations to solve some of the biggest problems in tech that women encounter. WT2 commits to building community and tackling issues that are top of mind for women in technology. It inspires, supports and connects women in all areas and levels of technology. I’m excited that each year we get more than 5,000 attendees ― from students to executives from around the globe.
We Strive for More
At VMware, we’re always moving the goal post. For 2030, we have aggressive goals. For example, we aim to hire 50% women and gender nonbinary people and 50% men. We are also moving toward 50% of our managers being women or coming from an underrepresented group.
Another significant goal is to have our DEI efforts fully integrated into everything we do. To accomplish this, we’ve launched a network of DEI Change Agents. They focus on driving DEI within their organizations and ensure the organization’s work aligns with the company’s DEI goals, so we emphasize accountability and metrics. Our strategy is to amplify and embed DEI into the very rhythm of the business. Whatever we do, as both leaders and employees, reflects our commitment.
We’re also embracing new ways to work ― not only where and how jobs can be done but also who can do them. We look beyond a narrow set of skills to focus more on broader experiences, outcomes and capabilities. It’s been a fascinating study. We found that if we rewrite job descriptions, twice as many women applicants come through and three times as many applicants of underrepresented communities. This is pushing our leaders and hiring managers to think differently about talent.
Sponsorship is key to advancement, and we know that women and underrepresented groups are less likely to be sponsored. According to research by Coqual, sponsorship is mutually beneficial. People who are sponsored are more likely to ask for pay raises (and get them), request to join a more influential team and experience greater career satisfaction. In turn, data shows that sponsors themselves benefit from career advancement by developing protégés. We are working to build a “sponsorship mindset” with our senior leaders and provide them with the tools and resources to help close this gap between those who are more likely to be sponsored and not.
Our Journey Continues
At VMware, we continually learn and strive for greater diversity, equity and inclusion. I call our work a “marathon of change.” Along the journey we’ve seen it’s OK to fail if we can learn something in the process and share it with others. The more we collaborate and share our learnings across the industry and around the world, we’ll all reach our goals faster.
I am privileged to be able to pursue my passion for understanding gender inequality and creating inclusive, equitable workplaces. Though we’ve come a long way since 2014, at VMware we remain humble. We understand the breadth and depth of work that still must be done.
We help women gain equal access to opportunities within our company by breaking barriers, as well as in our communities around the world. It is this progress that fuels our energy to go further. Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate our progress and move ahead with renewed energy, focus and commitment.