3-Pillar Approach to Diversity: A Q&A with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek January 17, 2019
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3-Pillar Approach to Diversity: A Q&A with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce takes a multipronged approach at Symantec, a cybersecurity software and services company headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is leading that effort.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf Name: Amy Cappellanti-Wolf
Title:
Senior vice president, chief human resources officer, and global diversity and inclusion lead at Symantec.
HR background: Leadership positions at Silver Spring Networks, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, the Walt Disney Company and Frito-Lay. Member of the Forbes Human Resources Council.
Accolades: One of the California Diversity Council’s 2018 Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology.
Education: Master’s degree in industrial and labor relations and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University.

She is senior vice president, chief human resources officer, and global diversity and inclusion lead at the Fortune 500 company. Symantec employs more than 11,000 people in more than 35 countries. 

Diversity in technology is one of her focus areas at Symantec, whose far-reaching diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals are:

  • To build inclusion change teams to drive D&I initiatives across the organization. 
  • To invest more in and develop a close partnership with internal and external stakeholders to improve the impact of its employee resource groups (ERGs). It launched Pride ERGs in Ireland and India, for example, and published transgender-inclusion guidelines to assist any employees transitioning during their tenure.
  • To increase the percentage of female leaders globally and underrepresented minorities in its U.S. workforce. Symantec set a target of increasing racial minority representation by 15 percent and raising the number of women in leadership positions by 30 percent by 2020. 
  • To invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education from kindergarten to college to increase its pipeline of diverse, global technology talent in STEM and cybersecurity fields. 
SHRM Online talked with Cappellanti-Wolf to learn how Symantec is working to achieve these goals. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

SHRM Online: What are the strategies Symantec is using to build a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Cappellanti-Wolf: We use a three-pillar approach.

Pillar 1: Build an awareness around the business case. We have several employee resource groups that are very successful. The ERG for black employees, for example, sponsors activities to build a sense of belonging among black employees and creates opportunities for development and advancement through company-sponsored workshops and participation in accelerated development programs.

And in 2017 our CEO [Greg Clark] signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge [a CEO-driven commitment to advance D&I within the workplace].

Pillar 2: Remove bias from people practices. We have diverse interview panels, require diverse candidate slates, and look at our promotional practices and pay equity.

We are looking at how we bring men into the [D&I] discussion and planning workshops to help them understand their role and challenges so they can be as open as possible to the opportunities [to develop women]. It's come to the point where my CEO says, "I don't want to make a hire unless there is evidence of a diverse slate of candidates and a diverse panel of interviewers." Hiring for diversity requires hiring managers to be a lot more involved and invested in recruiting from a wider pipeline.

Pillar 3: Promote inclusive leadership. [Inclusivity] starts at the top, and HR helps leaders understand their role as a servant leader to help employees be more successful. We have some choke points at the senior-manager and director levels for women. We need to increase the pipeline, internally and externally, for female candidates at the executive level. It's not just [choosing] the obvious candidate but pulling people up internally and giving them experience to prepare them [for senior-level positions].

To increase the percentage of women globally and underrepresented minorities in [Symantec's U.S. workforce], Symantec has invested in new and diverse recruiting channels, launched an executive inclusion council, and targeted mentoring and development programs.

SHRM Online: Lack of diversity in the technology field is an old story, and Silicon Valley in particular struggles with diversity and unconscious bias, which can stifle innovation. A study released in May by the National Urban League, for example, found that while black Americans are frequent users of technology, their employment rate in the tech industry is low. Why does the tech industry have so much trouble changing its culture, and what steps do you think it should be taking to recruit and retain black workers?

Cappellanti-Wolf: Silicon Valley is very insular; in a startup you tend to bring your college schoolmates with you or people you know very well. It's easier. But you've got to start on day one to build a diverse workplace. You can't say, "When we get bigger we'll worry about diversity." [Hiring diverse candidates is] not just a nice thing to do; it's an imperative, and you have to start early. Tech startups wait until it's too late, and they have to reverse the trend.

It's up to us [as employers] to cast a wider net and take the time to invest and build when there's a scarcity of talent. It may mean starting [college outreach] earlier and getting those applicants interested [in your company]. Unless you seed it … it will be harder to attract them after college. Very often, African-Americans look at the technology sector and say, "There aren't that many people who look like me and share similar experiences."

Symantec joined the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, which has dedicated $12 million to doubling the number of black, Latina, and Native American women with computing degrees by 2025.

SHRM Online: What advice would you give to employers and HR professionals on recruiting and retaining women?

Cappellanti-Wolf: You have to … pay special attention to onboarding and be clear with them about moments of truth in their career—when they go on caregiving leave, for example―and what strategies you have for offboarding and re-onboarding when they return. Mentor and support women to give your organization access to that talent. [Women] are not asking for favors; they're asking for access.

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman trying to push diversity; you have to have hard conversations. There was a male candidate that I and some other members on the interview panel didn't think was qualified for the job he was seeking. A colleague claimed we were discriminating against white males. What became apparent to me is that we were all having side conversations about the candidates and not meeting face to face as a hiring team to share our feedback about the candidate. Having a feedback discussion as a group allows for calibration and holding people accountable for their decisions.

SHRM Online: It can be challenging for some organizations that are in mostly homogeneous areas to have a diverse workplace. How can those organizations recruit for diversity?

Cappellanti-Wolf: People most often tie diversity to gender, ethnicity, national origin; it also includes diversity of thought. You've got to look for different types of diversity. It's so easy to hire in your image. [Hiring for diversity] requires that hiring managers look for people who bring a different set of perspectives to the table.

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