Top Female Tech Leaders on Creating Inclusive Cultures

Gender-diverse leadership teams are more innovative, more inclusive, and better-prepared to break barriers in business. A global McKinsey survey found that companies with the “greatest proportion of women on their executive committees earned a return on equity 47% higher than did those with no female executive.”
Today, three leaders from the world’s most impactful technology companies gathered in The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos to discuss how inclusivity and better business intersect. Watch the full conversation here with Shelley Zalis, CEO of the FQ, Alison Wagonfeld, Chief Marketing Officer at Google, Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, and Alicia Hatch, Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte Digital. Here is how they are changing the game of leadership in tech and creating cultures of belonging.

Shelley Zalis, Alicia Hatch, Alison Wagonfeld and Alicia Tillman sitting on a panel in The FQ Lounge at Davos

Shelley Zalis, Alicia Hatch, Alison Wagonfeld and Alicia Tillman discussing leadership in tech

We need a new definition of leadership to inspire a diverse workforce.

Lead with your heart
Alicia H. observes that, until now, we’ve been leading with our heads. And while these leaders know the business of equality — the metrics, the benefits for it — they don’t always know how to tap into the potential of their diverse workforce. In order to do this, she explains, “the next level of leadership really comes from leading with your heart.”
Have real conversations
Alison adds that the new definition of leadership is about being authentic, vulnerable, and real. She notes: “It’s about being able to call out when you see things that can be better — in yourself and others — and being able to have open conversations about that.”
Convey purpose
Alicia T. notes that we live in an experience economy, and in order to build better human experience in the workplace, leaders should emphasize trust, authenticity, and convey that their employees are doing things that matter. She explains: “Purpose matters. That is what is at the core of creating stellar experiences in today’s marketplaces  — and that’s where leadership is necessary.”

Passion and purpose are key ingredients to an inclusive workplace, but they aren’t automatically part of an organization’s DNA.

You can’t fake passion
Alison believes that true passion and purpose come to life at the grassroots level. She explains, “When people genuinely care about something, purpose comes with it. You can tell when something is just marketing, just as you can tell when it’s authentic.”
Empower your people
Alicia T. adds that this happens when two forces come together: “Top-level leadership has to recognize what the ingredients are of a successful culture; we need to create a space where all 97,000 of our employees have a voice and an ability to change the world.” When that happens, she notes, purpose comes alive.
Connect in the moment
Alicia H. spent time discussing that it isn’t enough to simply talk about diversity at the leadership level: leaders need to model how diversity works in specific and small ways. Alicia H. shares that she often randomly IMs the most junior staff to make them appreciate that they are a valued member of the organization. This action inspires the staff to connect in similar ways. She reflects: “As leaders, we have a huge platform and are very visible, but it’s the little moments that inspire connection that drive inclusion.”

In order to get more women into technology roles — and faster — organizations need to be willing to rewrite the rules.

Believe that you can create change
Alison notes that there is a defined sense of what executive presence should look like: “if you asked a pool of people, they would come up with pretty similar characteristics.” (A Harvard Business Review study, for example, found that words like analytical and versatile are commonly used to describe male leaders). She urges the new wave of leadership to redefine that definition, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if it was confidence, capability, and competence instead?” Alicia T. adds that the best leaders have the confidence to know that rules have the right to be rewritten.
Measure success by results rather than time spent working
Alicia H. notes that the future of work itself is being rewritten, too. She reflects: “The rule that there is only one way that work can get done has gotten in the way of many women who are fierce prioritizers and who are capable of juggling so many things at once.” Shelley adds that it’s time to rethink what a career trajectory should look like and that employees should be rewarded by what they do, rather than how much time they spend doing it.

Leadership goals and diversity and inclusion goals should go hand-in-hand.

How you do things matters as much as what you do
Alicia T. notes that leadership goals and business goals should sit alongside one another. She explains: “There will always be your tangible goals — what the business holds you accountable for delivering on. But it should also be balanced by leadership goals. How did you go about achieving that goal?”
Note the nuances in diversity
Alison says that it’s important to learn what diversity, equity, and inclusion look like globally: “In the past, we were really domestic in how we thought of diversity and inclusion. But there is a lot of nuance in different parts of the world.”
Create space for everyone
Alicia H. shares that Deloitte Digital just reorganized last week with the goal to create more space. She explains: “I distributed leadership as deeply as possible within the organization and pushed decision-making as far down as it could go so that every single level felt more empowered.”
Although Alison, Alicia T., and Alicia H. all work in different areas of the tech sector, they all share a commonality: they lead with inspiration. And with this approach, they inspire their organization to bring purpose and passion to work with them every single day.
For more on The FQ Lounge @ Davos, check out:
The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos Agenda
What Happened in The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos: Day One
Why Diversity Should Be a Business Goal