Continuing the IWD conversation with Avanade Executives

  • Posted on March 13, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

On March 7, Avanade celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 with a Global Marquee Event and livestream broadcast from Seattle. The broadcast coincided with numerous local events coordinated by our executive sponsors and volunteers across the country. Many are still taking place throughout March (as part of International Women’s Month), which is why we’ve asked our Execs to dig a little bit deeper to address gender diversity, opportunities for women and inclusion as strategic priority for the company.

This is the second in a three-part panel series on I&D at Avanade. Our participants include:

  • Ellen Cowan, Executive, Digital MU Lead
  • Dave Gartenberg, Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Pam Maynard, President, Products & Innovation; Executive Sponsor for Avanade’s Women’s Employee Resource Group


In your opinion, what are the greatest benefits to gender parity at Avanade and beyond?

Dave: Given my role as CHRO, I’m concerned when any member of talent communities faces a headwind in their ability to show up and do their best work. When that happens, we have failed them as individuals, and the business cannot realize its potential. Achieving gender parity removes a significant headwind, and we all benefit from that. Gender diversity obviously allows us to innovate and provide better solutions for our clients, while also empowering our people. An empowered workforce, that allows people to do their very best work, will help us win the future and grow our company at a more rapid pace.


Pam: Gender diversity and inclusion are obviously necessary for any company that wants to remain competitive today and Avanade is no exception, but it requires buy-in across the organization, not just from leadership. Similarly, before an organization can create the environment for diverse talent to do its best work, the rest of the organization needs to understand where the company is headed and get equipped with the right attitude and approach to embrace that diverse talent.


I think it’s important to identify change agents within our organization and enlist their help to get the full company on board with the changes. But as far as benefits of gender diversity are concerned, they are quite numerous. Of course, innovation is a major benefit, and we’re all about innovating for our clients and for our people. But it’s even more important than that. As we learned from our speakers at the Marquee Event, companies with the highest degrees of gender diversity significantly outperform those with lesser degrees. I think the benefits speak for themselves.


Let’s do a deeper dive, given your areas of responsibility, can you tell us what’s important to you in regard gender diversity and inclusion. Let’s start with Ellen Cowan. Ellen in terms of the impact of women in technology, what are your hot button issues as related to gender in our sector?


Ellen: Sure, and while gender and other types of diversity are important—very important—I’m very interested in the relationship between innovation and inclusion overall. The body of evidence is solid and shows how important it is for us to consider a diversity of skills and complimentary works styles to foster better performing and innovative teams. We know that great ideas, innovative ideas, often come from unexpected sources.


I recently read a compelling Google study that confirmed the link between diversity/inclusion and what they referred to as “psychological security.”  So, it’s important that we consider tools like Strengthfinder to be more deliberate in our efforts to ensure our strategic and tactical teams have a diversity of thought and perspectives to achieve better outcomes. According to an ever growing body of research, companies demonstrating the highest degrees of inclusion are almost twice as effective in confronting and embracing change (innovation); and 1.7x more innovative. Given that we need to consider all aspects of inclusion if we’re going to deliver on our value proposition for our clients and our employees.


Pam, can you speak to your role as the Executive Sponsor for our Women’s Employee Resource Group ERGs, why do you do it, and why are ERGs so important at Avanade?


Pam: As a senior female, I am honored to support initiatives that help elevate fellow women, and the Women’s ERG is a group that influences and advocates for women at Avanade. As women we need to pull each other up and push each other to take risks and excel. The Women’s ERG can give women the network and the confidence to do this, which is why ERGs are so important. ERGs create structured opportunities for people who are part of (or simply want to support) underrepresented groups to drive awareness and progress their agenda.


What would role do you believe men play in helping us realize the value of I&D at Avanade?


Dave: Firstly, all employees have a role in helping us realize the value of I&D at Avanade.  I don’t really give different guidance to men. For each of us, our job is to ensure that we are mindful about our own behaviors and to ensure that we are creating an environment where the people we work with can be themselves, have equal access to opportunities, and those with less loud or assertive voices are given space to be heard in meetings and discussions. That said, multiple studies show that women tend to wait until they are ready before applying for a new role or promotion – where men tend to apply for stretch opportunities.  Of course, this may vary on an individual level, but the data is pretty convincing across a large population. So, the role that men (and women) can play is to help support their team members and team mates to remove self-limiting beliefs to allow them to flourish in new roles consistent with their aspirations.


Thanks Dave, let’s close by addressing your role as CHRO: what are you doing to ensure greater gender diversity at Avanade?


Dave: As CHRO, my job is to remove any barriers that make it harder for people to do their best work.  In all companies there is an invisible tax that some people pay because they are different – my job is to ensure that we are holistically looking at our work environment and ensuring we are creating a friction-free, level playing field that makes it easy for people to be themselves and to flourish. Systemically, that means things like ensuring pay equity; environmentally, that means ensuring the people we work with know the importance of creating an inclusive culture and workplace. 


Click here to read all our archived 2019 IWD Blogs and stay tuned for our next round table blog for International Women’s History Month.


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