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Microsoft Partner Takes Action To Bridge Gender Gap

While many partners are making progress attracting and retaining women in the Microsoft ecosystem, a visit to most any partner's leadership page reveals a continuing challenge: Women are not proportionally represented in leadership roles.

Recognizing the problem, one partner moved beyond rationalizations to look for specific ways to break down barriers and tap the value of its entire workforce.

In a recent Inc. article, Tribridge CEO Tony DiBenedetto described facing the realities of Tribridge's employment data. The pride in achieving a 40 percent representation of women in Tribridge's workforce was tempered by the absence of women represented at the leadership level.  DiBenedetto wrote, "The company I spent years building may have failed some of our women team members. As CEO, I'm holding myself accountable for the mistakes of the past and helping to drive much-needed change."

Facing the realities of gender disparity in your own company is hard. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella famously illustrated last year, the perceptions of advancement in the workplace are different for men and women. Most CEOs undoubtedly think that they provide equal opportunity. The hard data for most partner organizations do not support the success of those good intentions.

At Tribridge, a cloud and Dynamics system integrator, uncovering the root causes of why women were not advancing into leadership roles was the first step. "The conversations were extremely uncomfortable for a long time," said Holly Grogan, vice president, People Team at Tribridge. "We weren't sure how to talk to the team about it. We weren't sure how to talk to each other about it. It was the elephant in the room and it was uncomfortable."

"But we didn't stop. We kept going and now we are really glad we had the conversation," Grogan said. "We are seeing real benefits -- not just the women, but for the entire organization."

Through confidential interviews, Grogan and her team uncovered communication challenges and unintended barriers that women in Tribridge felt were holding them back from advancement. Grogan noted that during the interviews, the women consistently said that they did not want preferential or different treatment. 

Based on feedback and recommendations, Tribridge took action to implement programs and cultural development to help every team member -- men and women -- achieve their full potential. Communication training, paid maternity/paternity leave and the Tribridge Women's Network (TWN) are just some of the outcomes that are advancing balance within Tribridge.

Tangible Benefits of Bridging the Gender Gap
Grogan said that Tribridge is realizing significant benefits for all team members through the initiatives. "One of our initial goals was to make sure we had an easy way for women to develop their career path, finding and applying for new positions," she said. "What we have found is that the changes we made have benefited everyone."

Promoting recognition and respect for different communication styles, a common concern exposed during the interviews, is another top priority. Grogan said team members have seen a significant improvement in collaboration, sharing knowledge and learning from one another more effectively.

The TWN has been a particularly well-received program. With a multi-pronged focus on recruitment, retention and development, the TWN is supporting gender initiatives inside and outside the company. Working with the Boys & Girls Club, Tribridge women are giving back to the community and helping the next generation embrace technology.    

On the business side, Grogan said that Tribridge believes diversity makes its workforce more creative. That creative energy is a competitive advantage to differentiate Tribridge from the rest of the market. Many competitors aren't yet tapping the full value of their workforce.

For partners trying to foster a more inclusive corporate culture, Grogan suggested looking objectively at the data for your organization as a first step. "Regardless [of] the size of your business, you have to be willing to own your numbers and realistically set goals for improvement," Grogan said. "If it's a general lack of women in the organization, then recruiting should be your focus. If women are well-represented in the workforce but not in leadership roles, look for barriers that may not be obvious to you."

Above all, partners need to start the conversations, uncomfortable though they may be, to understand how to promote a more inclusive corporate culture. In his article, DiBenedetto cited a study that found most employees don't think their CEOs make gender diversity a priority. What would your team say?

How are you promoting diversity in your organization? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on December 09, 2015