Beyond the massive discussions regarding “bro culture” at Uber or “biological differences” at Google, diversity in the Software Engineering community is a huge topic. It’s time to go beyond the hype and turn gender equality into something real. Accenture’s goal of 50/50 by 2025 triggers all kinds of discussions in our communities, whether they are recruiting/hiring, staffing, or performance management related.
But diversity is not only about gender – ethnicity, age, origin, disability, sexual orientation, and religion play a role too. Simply hiring more women does not change anything with regards to attitude, parameters of working in this industry, or simply people’s perception. Watch Accenture Managing Director Jeff Wilkinson’s keynote on why should we care about diversity – specifically in testing.
Here’s the full transcript
Jeff Wilkinson: Thanks everybody and thanks to Tricentis for allowing us the opportunity to present to you guys. And actually, this is going to be a slightly different topic than I think you’ve had the last couple of days. It’s going to exercise your right brain as opposed to the left brain which is more analytical and mathematical and technological and engineering and that sort of stuff. So we’re going to get in a little different sort of a discussion today.
But it’s an important one, because I think you’ll find that this right brain topic informs your left brain. It’s very important that we talk about diversity in the work place, okay? So I usually don’t talk about this sort of thing. I run a testing practice in North America, I started a practice globally about 17 years ago.
And so I’m usually talking to clients about quality engineering, right, about illuminating manual testing and illuminating scripted testing and we even talk about illuminating the word testing from the English language. I usually say that because if I want to claim an insanity defense later on, that would be the phrase that would allow me to do that.
But so Matthias Rasking is our European lead and he was actually supposed to be here to deliver this but he just had a baby. Actually, his wife did. But he’s on paternity leave right now so he’s left this to me. And as you can see, I don’t look diverse. I’m a white male, I will tell you this, I am 1/64th Cherokee-Indian, so I’m a little diverse.
And it’s not enough for me to actually get a Native American scholarship at an American University so I didn’t quite make it enough but it’s a little bit anyway. I have with my Esther Spitzenberger and Trishna Gupta, who are going to help me out. They are diverse in that sense. And I’m going to spend the first 10 minutes or so, just kind of doing a Ted Talk and give you some anecdotes and to talk to you why this is an important discussion.
Accenture has mandated, our chairman, Pierre Nanterme, has mandated that by the year 2025, 50% of our leadership, not our workforce, but our leadership would be female. Also, this year, we just finished our performance management process. Just finished the compensation process for my folks and the mandate that we were given and I say mandate, I’ll explain that in a second but it was 33% of the people we had in promotion categories or in the highest ranking levels had to be from a what we call a protected class, they had to be female, they had to be a non-Caucasian male.
And this has led to some controversy as you can imagine, some discussion. This is a dialogue and I’m that kind of guy that likes to as we say in the US throw the fish on the table. Right, get the smelly topic on the table so you can talk about it and dialogue about it and understand what it really means. And I think we can have this discussion here today and see what you all think about that.
But let me take you back for a second. In the last three or four years, in the United States there has been a dialogue around college entrance admissions. First year students at college classes, we call them freshmen. Do you want to have all of your people be the highest on the testing scores, we call the ACT or the SAT in the United States or the highest grade point average, have all your people be like that? The answer, surprisingly, is no.
Colleges don’t look for everybody with uniformity
They don’t look for people with the highest grade point averages, the highest test scores. They also don’t look for people, the best colleges, the Ivy Leagues in North America, the Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, don’t look for well rounded people. You think that they did, back in my day, you wanted to be well rounded. They don’t care about well rounded, they care about who has world class skills in something.
Who is the best cellist, the best actor, the best basketball player, the applied physicist, the best mathematician, the best ballet artist. Right? If you make out your freshmen class, your first year class with everyone having world class skills in something, that optimizes the quality of your first year class. And that has been held up in the courts over and over again.
So when people say, and they do, they’ve tried to sue, saying, “I have higher test scores than this individual that you let in,” well, that individual that was let in has some world class skill that made them more attractive than others.
Now apply that to the working world
At Accenture, do we want to have everybody be trained engineers from the best engineering schools in the world to come in and do quality engineering, do development, do pattern analysis, do whatever it is that we do from a technological perspective, we are a technology consulting company after all.
Well, the answer that we have decided on is no, we don’t. We want to have people with accounting backgrounds, people with a history backgrounds, people with philosophy backgrounds, people with engineering backgrounds, mathematical backgrounds, right? We want to have a mix of people that have different skillsets. And you can extend that to demographics. We want to have people from different demographic backgrounds, different races, different ethnicities, sexes, sexual orientations. By doing that, we’re getting an optimal mix of people without optimal skills that bring different ideas to the table on a consistent basis.
So when I’m on a project or I’m running a project and we’ve got 150 people in a small town in central Iowa in the United States and we are the social life of that town, we don’t want them all to be uniform and the same type of people. We want them to be diverse, different. People that can stay up late at night with you and have those conversations that you never would have had unless you have been meeting with and talking to people that are different from you. We want to have people that reflect the diversity of the society that we have, that we live in.
Now, we are going to get occasional discussions and questions from people that say, “Hey, I had better grades in school than that person, I have more experience in this particular skill than this individual. How come you didn’t pick me, how come I didn’t get promoted, how come you didn’t hire me?” And the answer is, “We will always hire people that are relevant.” We’ll always hire those people that have world class skills.
As I was saying before, the very best schools look for those people with world class skills in something. If you have something that’s differentiating about you, you’ll get hired. If we think about it from a testing perspective, I’m not just looking for people that have experience, you know, testing Oracle schema or SAP. You know, I’m looking for people that can bring different ideas.
Because we try to be transformational in what we do, right, we try to think out of the box, we try to bring different ideas. We try to be at the forefront of the testing industry and we can’t do that unless we have people that try to think differently, that step out of the box every single day and to think innovatively. And it’s showing, we’re getting great feedback from the market place on this particular point.
So when our leadership mandates that 50% of our people in leadership be women, when they mandate that one third of the people considered for promotion to managing director or considered for a certain ranking within Accenture, they’re not putting artificial numbers around something. If you think about it, when you talk about our quota system or the way that affirmative action in the United States has come to be thought of is that you put artificial numbers on something and when you do that, any time you put artificial numbers on it, then you actually reduce the pool of people that are available.
And you don’t want to do that, right? The more people that you have available to consider for a particular role or a particular job, promotion, the better off you’re going to be, the more likely you’re going to reach the critical mass, the more likely that you’re going to have the optimal mix of resources.
So when our company puts these boundaries around it, they’re not really putting hard fast boundaries on it. When we’re not going to get shot if we don’t have 50% in year 2025 of female leaders, we’re not going to get shot if we don’t consider at least one third of all people being promoted to managing director at the time it comes to promotion.
What they aren’t saying is, “Take a hard look at who you are promoting. Take a hard look at who you’re hiring.” And when you do that, you consider those conscious and unconscious biases that we all have and we all have them. And we think about what is best for the particular mix or resource on a particular project. This is really the philosophy that Accenture has and I think it’s served us very, very well.
Okay, we have a … so I’ve introduced Esther and Trishna and they’re going to come speak and we’re going to show you a video, I think this video outlines very well what I was just saying. So, can I ask you guys to come up and take us to the next step?
E Spitzenberger: Thank you. So thank you everybody for coming, for joining this conference and thank you for being here. My name is Esther Spitzenberger and I have been with Accenture for more than five years. I’m working as a test manager and test analyst in our teams, in our projects and I’m also the team lead of our Accenture internal team, ASG testing and diversity.
And then I would like to introduce or would like to hand over to Trishna for introduction.
Trishna Gupta: Hello everyone, my name is Trishna Gupta, working with Accenture for almost 11 years now, mainly a test automation architect. I’m the test factory lead and at the same time, I’m the Tricenta SPOC for EALA and really happy to discuss over here now diversity and testing.
So as mentioned by Jeff, we would like to really showcase you the video and especially on diversity.
E Spitzenberger: Yes. I probably will need to come back. One moment. So, I can actually already start.
What is diversity?
when we talk about diversity and inclusion, we see visible differences and we see invisible differences. The visible differences for instance the gender diversity but also the race, the ethnicity and we have invisible differences like the culture and disability for instance. Also, the social thinking types.
But when we create, in Accenture, when we staff our teams, due to our global setup, diversity happens. There is … yeah, we have diverse teams. But what is important when we talk about diversity is inclusion. Because those teams can only perform best when their team members feel included and this is a big part and we take … and it’s very important to us so we take a focus on inclusion and diversity in three dimensions.
On one is that it’s important for our employees, for the perception and expectation. I work for Accenture and I know we have a global company so I expect to work with people with different backgrounds, different cultures and different expertise. I just expect it. And what we, and as Jeff already mentioned, we try to mirror the setup in society. And in society, we also have female and for the technical aspect, users. We have female users, we have male users. And we also would like to have this in our teams.
And for the second part, we have one of our core values is best people. We want to get the best people. So attracting and retaining the best people and to have the best ideas is one of our targets. And the third one is you know in order to get your teams to perform best, you give them the right setup and you include everyone from the team. Because if you have a team where you have a setup where all of your team members are think-alikes, let’s say you throw in a question, the question is answered immediately and everyone is just nodding, is that helping you? No.
Why is it not helping you?
Because discussions and different backgrounds, different thinking, social thinking styles, different knowledge leads to valuable discussions with a valuable outcome and that brings you further.
We take a wide view of inclusion and diversity. We have gender diversity, ethnic diversity, then we also include people with disabilities, for instance we have a company, we are working in corporation with a company that works with people with Asperger’s syndrome and those people have really incredible skills, they are lacking social skills but this company is bringing them in. They’re bringing them into our business so they can deliver the best IT for our clients.
Then we have cross cultural diversity and we also include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender diversity. We were by the way in Vienna on the Pride Parade, we had people which supported there.
And from our numbers, where are we today? So nearly 40% of our employees are female. We are … and this about 150,000 people. Then 40% new hires, that was our goal, we have a goal and which we already surpassed of 40% new hires, female new hires which is pretty great. Then we have 30% in promotions to managing director last year that were female and we are pretty proud of that numbers. We know we are not there yet, we have not 50/50 percent reached yet. But we are on the way. And the last one is 25% women are managing directors by 2020, that’s one of our targets.
Then we have in order to foster and to promote diversity, we have some, in various areas, we have some approaches and some actions we drive and you can see in recruiting, for instance, we noticed, since the discussion about diversity came up, we analyzed our recruiting processes and we took a clear look at the numbers. And we figured that a lot of female recruits drop out after the telephone interview. Because we have a process and in this process is a telephone interview involved.
And well, we analyzed and we found that it’s a pretty much improvement if a female interviewer interviews a female recruit. And then we have less dropouts after those telephone interviews. It’s something we saw and we improved. We also have a close look on our ads now, we are reworking our ads that are on StepStone and on the internet to really meet the right target group and to not include any specific words which repel then a female target group.
Of course, our target group is male and female and includes also the other diversity aspects but you know, you have to start somewhere and we are getting from one diversity factor to the next one.
Then yeah, let me pick another one. So also inclusion also happens there where for instance when you have a family, when you have kids, then your flexibility is a little bit limited and we all know that. And inclusion here is for instance action for inclusion is that we allow our people … I mean, working from home is not a problem. And then we have the Skype calls which we usually have with client meetings and so on and it’s not a problem if then in the background, there is maybe a dog barking or there is a kid making some noise. This needs to be included and it’s not … our people shouldn’t feel awkward about that because we are happy to have them and we are happy to have them working for us and bringing in their brilliant ideas.
So yeah, we have lots of events also, diversity events and promote, like this one, for instance, I mean, conference events and yeah, I’m happy to be here and talk about this topic.
Trishna Gupta: So while we are talking about diversity …
how does diversity help your testing forum?
Because as a tester, having diversity, how is it going to help as an organization. So any tester should be having a critical thinking because testing comes from a techno-functional architect. It’s not only data functional testing but the current digital world coming up, only the traditional testing is not real and important.
Technology is changing day by day.
So that’s a reason a tester needs to have a critical thinking. At the same time, creativity, how is the testing approach? Is it going to be a optimized testing from a testable requirements or not?
Then the communication. Because in today’s world, communication and presentation seems to be really a key note or I would say the key success factor for any tester. So we really need to have a diverse testers in our testing field as well. We just cannot rely on one geography or one skill set. So for that, we really I would say promote diversity in testing field as well. Maybe we can give an example that currently, is like India or the Philippines, maybe we have a consulting domain in North America, ASV
I myself work in ASV for the last eight years and really currently working on the third insurance client. So it’s really a very diversed one. Like yesterday, we had two people winning the TOSCA tournament. So this diverse skill set is really helping us.
With the, I would say, technology trend, the requirement from the testing perspective are really changing. It’s not only the traditional, functional testing or a manual testing. We have performance testing, non-functional requirements are there and to really perform it in a very effective way, we really need diversity in every part of this skill set whether it’s the performance testing, technical testing or the automation testing.
So that’s why we would like to promote diversity.
Jeff Wilkinson: Yeah, I think the punch line, if you are going to take away anything from this is you need to have diversity to be optimally successful in your company. Right? We need to unlock, unleash the value of diversity. You saw the video, there are a lot of people in there that just want to work and want to work hard but maybe they haven’t gotten a chance. We have the power to give them that chance. Thank you.