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A business case for diversity in the heart of ‘Brotown’

George Nott | June 5, 2017
Recruitment practices and culture key to inclusion says CA Technologies.

Silicon Valley is not known for its diversity. And its 'brotown' image is not helped by the too-frequent horror stories that come out of the companies based there.

Take former Uber engineer Susan Fowler's explosive February blog post describing sexism and misconduct at the ride-hailing firm. Or April's US Department of Labor lawsuit against Google for "systemic compensation disparities" between males and females.

The likes of TwitterAppleOracle and Tesla have all been publicly accused of gender bias or racial discrimination in recent years, helping to render the small corner of California a particularly unwelcoming place for women and people of colour.

But let's not be too hasty to stereotype. Not all tech firms with offices in the valley are as unwelcoming as they might seem.

Increasingly, big brand corporates are realising that a diverse workforce is a commercial advantage; leading them to better decision-making and better products. And as the battle for talent continues, they are keen to tap people other than the usual suspects.

One such company - 41-year-old software giant CA Technologies - has just been named one of the best companies for multicultural women and scored full marks on an index rating companies on LGBT equality.

"It's not just because it's the right thing to do. It's not just because it's 2017," says CA chief product officer Ayman Sayed. "It's also because it's good for businesses."


How we roll

At CA's Silicon Valley offices in Santa Clara, amid the trendy sofas carved from oil barrels and the standing desks, are posters of a DNA helix entitled "How we roll".

Alongside the corporate culture tropes like 'Agile', 'results orientated' and 'customer-centric', are written values like 'socially aware' and 'self-aware'.

"We take culture and DNA very seriously," says Sayed, an Egyptian who joined CA in 2015 from Cisco. "This is not just a marketing slogan, we actually live by this. This is a distillation of who we are and what makes us different. And we spend a lot of time reflecting and focusing on this."

Although culture in itself can't improve diversity, it informs the company's recruitment approach and the staff benefits package.

For each job vacancy, CA's 'diverse candidate slate' requires at least two candidates in every pool to be 'diverse'. And the interview panel must also have minority representation.

"We're consciously trying to avoid bringing in a bunch of people who think the same way; because we know we need new perspectives and new ideas. [We're focused] on reducing bias in the recruitment process and managing against individual unconscious bias," explains CA's HR head Beth Conway.

"It's not okay to open a position for an SVP or a VP or a developer and have 10 male applicants," adds Sayed.


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