“I believe socially-conscious, mission-driven organizations attract more diverse candidates because they prioritize DEI and put policies in place to promote a happy, productive staff,” says Sarah Walker, VP of Engineering at Ribbon, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk. Ribbon
ET Bureau: Inclusivity in the workplace is both a feel-good factor and a real driver of growth for a company. What are your thoughts on the matter? Particularly when it comes to productivity and brand value?
Sarah Walker: As a woman with over 20 years of experience in the tech industry, I have firsthand experience being the only female in the room. I experienced many times where there were no DEI efforts or support for women in the field. On the opposite end, I’ve seen companies that ensure pay equity and implement people-based hiring initiatives. I’ve intentionally included women in leadership roles throughout my career and have impacted change in hiring processes. At Thorn and Ribbon, the leadership teams I built were composed of at least half women – a more accurate representation of the population than we see in most leadership roles.
I believe socially-conscious, mission-driven organizations attract more diverse candidates because they prioritize DEI and put policies in place to promote a happy, productive staff. For this reason, I’ve sought out inclusive organizations with meaningful missions. Before Ribbon, I worked as the Head of Engineering at Thorn where my work focused on helping end child sexual exploitation. I also worked in cybersecurity alongside the FBI to take down two major botnets as the VP of Engineering at HUMAN. In my current role, I am helping make homeownership achievable as the VP of Product and Engineering at Ribbon. Having a strong mission and culture that supports their employees and values DEI is critical to brand value and company success.
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ET Bureau: Some companies are still having trouble embracing diversity and inclusion (D&I), and the issues usually start with the first step – the hiring process. How can companies leverage technology to hire a more diverse workforce?
Sarah Walker: While online resumes are a great place to start when evaluating candidates, your recruiting efforts should be people-focused, not looking to check a box. For example, instead of telling candidates your company is looking for women in tech, you should be pointing out what qualifications in their profile stood out to you. At Ribbon, I’ve implemented people-focused recruiting practices that take DEI and mission-driven traits as well as professional qualifications into consideration.
To attract a diverse pool of candidates in the hiring process, you must have the right policies in place that you can point to during interviews. For example, working mothers need to know that they’ll have flexibility and support, so it’s important to highlight company benefits on fertility and paid parental leave. At Ribbon, we practice pay transparency, meaning there’s no negotiating salary. All employees get paid at the 75th percentile above the market rate for their role and have a framework for advancement to ensure pay remains competitive and transparent during promotions. Policies such as these let candidates know they won’t be subject to any discriminatory pay gaps at your company.
On top of explaining DEI efforts to applicants during the interview process, make sure you’re highlighting the meaningful work candidates can expect to be part of and make sure your interviewers are representative of the diversity present at the company.
ET Bureau: What do you feel are some of the best workplace initiatives that can help promote gender diversity? What do you believe we should do to encourage more girls to pursue a career in technology?
Sarah Walker: It’s crucial to have hiring practices, such as structured interviews, that promote gender diversity. At Ribbon, I implemented structured interviews geared towards our operating approach and values while evaluating all candidates fairly.
We’ve found that pay transparency is the foundation of DEI hiring at Ribbon. As a company, we deliver the same inclusivity internally that we do for the homebuyers we serve. Pay transparency is the only way to guarantee that all roles receive fair, competitive compensation and, without pay equity, all other efforts to recruit diverse talents are meaningless. From our experience, we’ve found that pay transparency attracts the diverse, representative pool of applicants that constitute our workforce and eliminates all possibilities of a gender pay gap.
To encourage more girls to pursue a career in technology, we need to eliminate the idea that there’s a pipeline problem or lack of qualified candidates and instead acknowledge that any lack of women in tech is a company problem. Companies need to have the procedures and policies to support women in tech and be upfront about DEI initiatives in the hiring process.
Sarah Walker is a seasoned engineering leader with more than 20 years of experience, currently serving as the vice president of Product and Engineering at Ribbon to make homeownership achievable for all. Sarah has a unique ability to combine exceptional technology expertise with a soulful mission-driven approach to applying technology for good. In every step of her career, Walker looks for roles where she can make the most societal impact through the use of technology.