Everybody can be a D&I role model in supporting a diverse and inclusive organisation. How they mentor and advocate on behalf of others helps to encourage a more open environment.
That is the view of Tendu Yogurtcu, PhD, Chief Technical Officer at software company Precisely. The company, previously called Syncsort, was rebranded following the Pitney Bowes software and data business acquisition at the end of 2019.
“The new brand reflects our identity with the new company we have become through this transformative acquisition,” Yogurtcu explains. “It also reflects our value proposition of delivering trusted data to achieve better business decisions. It’s fresh, open, and in some sense, the colour palette also reflects our diversity.”
Precisely recently appointed a woman as chief data and information officer and there are now three women on the leadership team, a representation of 22%. Overall, the company is around 30% of women, with 20% in engineering. However, the figures are down on last year due to the acquisition and the associated incorporation of additional staff.
Aligning values with D&I
Pushing the D&I agenda further is considered crucial. At the beginning of the year, Yogurtcu discussed how to align the company values more fully with D&I with leaders, including the CEO and the chief HR officer. Yogurtcu aimed to create an open and fair environment, providing opportunities for people from different backgrounds, setting examples with leaders and embedding the culture.
Precisely’s core values will drive her D&I ambitions. “The first is Openness, which means we listen, and so we learn,” she says.
“Then comes Determination; always focusing on doing what is best. Individuality; as what makes us different makes us stronger. And Collaboration; highlighting we love working together.
“These values, especially Openness which speaks directly to diversity and inclusion, are driven by our employees and are embraced throughout the organisation – from senior leadership down.”
Precisely launched its new values before purchasing the software and data business in 2019. It came as welcomed bonus to find the acquisition had the same core values and enabled a smoother transition and stronger foundation from which its inclusive culture could evolve.
There is now a diversity and inclusion council, led by a steering committee of representatives from around the organisation; including all ethnic backgrounds and genders. It aims to ensure that diverse talent is treated openly and fairly and has equality of opportunity.
Impact of Black Lives Matter
As with most organisations, the racial unrest experienced across the globe during the summer and the impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented communities has heightened discussions around ethnic equality within Precisely.
Black Lives Matter has had an impact. “Our employees felt more compelled to speak up and voice their views on how we can advocate this internally, look at our data and make sure we are giving more opportunities to people of colour,” Yogurtcu reveals.
“For companies like Precisely, where we are really promoting open-minded and transparent communications, it helps employees to come forward and speak about it and also be part of the D&I council so that they can drive change.”
Driving gender equality too
Working with a group of women leaders, she has set up the Precisely Women in Technology programme, which operates as a council sub-committee. “Our mission is to promote diversity and women in the workforce as a business imperative and to work with women at Precisely towards empowerment for career advancement and longevity,” she reveals.
“We want to make sure that we can work with women through coaching, mentoring, engagement and activities to showcase various career tracks within Precisely for long-term retention and improve the representation of women.”
Yogurtcu adds that it requires, what she describes as “evangelising internally”, to emphasise the proven business benefits of gender, ethnic and cultural diversity, which attracts a broader range of talent and enables the company to engage with a broader and diverse customer base.
For other companies experiencing integration through acquisition, she has three top tips. First is ensuring that talent is represented at the leadership level. “That sets the tone for the rest of the organisation and provides more role models having a seat at the table,” Yogurtcu states. “Then increase the accountability of that leadership team for promoting diversity and inclusion.”
Secondly, it is important to collect data, set goals around mentorship and training and monitor the percentage of open positions and the diversity of candidates being considered. This helps to create a talent pipeline.
The third tip is making sure that openness, fairness and transparency become part of the fabric of the organisation and not to allow discriminatory behaviour.
She stresses the importance of role models: they don’t have to be gender, ethnic or colour specific. “Everybody can be a role model with how they are setting the tone in the organisation. And how they are mentoring and advocating on behalf of others.”
Visionary women leaders
Yogurtcu has been in the tech industry for more than 20 years. She became CTO in 2017, a role which encompasses leading product innovation, and research and development teams across the entire product portfolio. As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated sector, she recognises the importance of creating more workplace equality.
She recently participated in the Visionary Women Leaders panel, who were selected for their work in pioneering D&I initiatives. Events like these encourage open discussions, acknowledging that there is a gap and the sharing of experiences. Yogurtcu is also involved in Turkish Women International, which focuses on women entrepreneurs and sponsors and mentoring young women entering the workforce.
The best way of addressing D&I is, Yogurtcu believes, through the education system. She says: “There’s an underlying problem starting from childhood, how we are trained in negotiation skills, and with a mindset that certain things are a privilege. That has to change for transformation to happen.”
She points to McKinsey’s 2019 survey, which shows that Female representation on executive teams in the US and UK is around 20% in 2019. Across a global data set, this percentage point is 15%. More than a third of companies still have no women on their executive team. Progress is occurring, albeit slowly.
“I think in general this is an evolution for how we are moving forward, creating awareness, accepting that we have a challenge that we have to address, especially in the technology industry,”
Yogurtcu concludes.” I think it will be important for all of us to stay committed to it and make sure that we are not talking about the same problem in 10 years from now.”
“And that we make that progress and we can go to the next phase of challenges once we achieve the initial set of goals. It will be very important for everybody at every level of the organisation to be committed to increasing diversity and women representation because every single person can have an impact on creating a workplace that is rooted in equity.”