Category Archives: D&I Nudges

Do you want to achieve diversity, inclusion, and equity in 2023? Embrace impossible goals

Message pinned with three pushpins to a whiteboard that reads "Nothing is impossible only improbable".
Image by Davie Bicker from Pixabay

(5 min read)

Happy New Year 2023! I wish this year brings you professional and personal success.

This post is inspired by a great conversation I had with my lovely mother-in-law this morning. She’s a fantastic woman that — as myself — is ambitious. Unlike myself, she didn’t have the support of her parents to attend university or to do any other kind of studies after secondary school. But her brother did have that opportunity. The reason? He’s a man, she’s a woman.

The same happened to my grandmother, an extremely brilliant woman. Her only brother was sent to pursue further studies after he finished school. Neither my grandmother nor any of her 3 sisters were given that opportunity.

Until this point, hopefully, none of this surprises you no matter where you live in the world.

So what made that conversation relevant? My mother-in-law told me that believes that things will continue to improve steadily for women in the next years and that they cannot be speeded up.

When I reiterated that I don’t want things to improve “steadily” for women and people of underrepresented groups but that I want them to improve “dramatically”, she reminded me of all the progress achieved for women’s rights since she was young. As proof, she compared what happened to her professional ambitions with her great expectations for the professional future of her 10-year-old granddaughter — who happens to be my goddaughter.

She also conveyed to me that she believed that I was being unreasonable. After all, it has taken centuries to get where we are now regarding women rights.

I used two arguments to support that (a) we need to upend the status quo now, (b) that it’s possible to deliver that change in an extremely short time.

Why we need to upend the status quo now

My mother-in-law told that whilst none of the two of us would see equality in our lifetime, my goddaughter would because

  • She’s intelligent.
  • She’s ambitious.

My reply? As Dame Stephanie Shirley, my head is flat from so many people stopping me from my ambitions and creating artificial ceilings for my career.

I told her that her granddaughter may be very talented and determined and still have bosses that won’t promote her because

If that wasn’t enough, I told her that the UN estimates that it will take more than 150 years to reach gender equality.

To be more precise, only four months ago — on September 7th, 2022- the UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released the report Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022 that forecast that at the current rate of progress, it will take up to

  • 286 years to close gender gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws.
  • 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace.
  • At least 40 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.

That is, we’ll have to wait three centuries to achieve full gender equality!

After that, my mother-in-law was more willing to see the urgency for change but she was adamant that systems cannot be toppled on a whim.

Why systems of oppression can be knocked down swiftly

If there is a useful learning we can get from the covid-19 pandemic is that extremely fast change is possible.

Within a year

  • Three vaccines were developed.
  • In many countries, people were house-bounded and were required to use masks when stepping outside their homes.
  • Many employees worked from their homes even when previously they had been told it was impossible.
  • Millions of people without previous medical training learned about pandemics, how to perform covid-19 tests, or what a coronavirus looks like.

All that with the support of many democratic countries and billions of dollars.

What does that tell us about change? That dramatic change at a worldwide level is possible when that change becomes our priority.

Moving from SMART goals to impossible goals

I’m currently finalising my certification as a life coach. One of the topics covered is how to set goals and develop a plan to achieve them.

After 20+ years working for corporations, I’m very well acquainted with SMART goals. This is how you set annual objectives, 5-year plans, and roll out new initiatives.

This is how it works: You pick the objective/deliverable/goal and you ensure that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound; hence the acronym SMART.

And that’s how you get things done in organisations.

So I was very surprised that in the coaching certification they taught us how to set and achieve impossible goals.

That is, a goal that is so extremely bold that you don’t know how to achieve it. Yet.

What’s the value of impossible goals:

  • They remove limiting beliefs you didn’t know you had about what you can achieve.
  • It enables you to embrace uncertainty.
  • You allow yourself to entertain the idea that you can learn on-the-fly what will take you to achieve that impossible goal.

Case studies: Impossible goals to advance DEI

Imagine that Mahatma Gandhi, Emmeline Pankhurst, Nelson Mandela, or Florence Nightingale had used SMART goals instead of impossible goals to achieve the kind of changes they led.

And I’m sure a lot of people tried to “knock some sense” into their heads — told them that the transformations they were pursuing were foolish, unreasonable, unattainable.

What if they had complied?

What if they had said “Yes, you’re right. This is not a SMART goal”? Or “Indeed. I don’t know exactly how to achieve independence, get the vote for women, end apartheid, or found modern nursing, so I better stop until I figure it all out.

Maybe we’d still be grappling with those issues…

My 2023 impossible goal

In 2022, I coached five women and nonbinary people that got promoted.
 
In 2023, my impossible goal is to coach another 50 women and underrepresented people to get the promotion they deserve!

Is it a SMART goal? No.

Do I know exactly how to achieve it? No.

Will not knowing how to achieve it stop me from trying? No.

Is it worth it? Absolutely yes!

What am I doing towards achieving my impossible goal? I’m running again the Joyful Annual Career Assessment Week in February, after the sucess of the first edition in January. This is a one-week event from February 13th to February 17th where I help women and people from underrepresented groups get a clear picture of their professional accomplishments in 2022, tell their career story in a compelling manner, and be ready to discuss their career aspirations for 2023 and beyond.

“Patricia talks about how to frame our accomplishments without seeming arrogant, declare our desires in the professional sphere, and get managerial support for them, and learn about how to advance, despite upbring that may teach us to downplay our skills and contributions. It is amazing!

I wish I had learned this in my 20s- my career path would have been different, and I would have known the invisible rules, so that I could advance in the way I wanted to!”

VHA, Director, Business Development

BACK TO YOU: What’s your impossible goal in 2023?

Let me know in the comments!


Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate.

How to move diversity, inclusion and equity forwards three articles at the time

I feel I’ve been neglicting the readers of my blog, that is, YOU, this year.

On the bright side, I have continued to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in organisations, technology, and workplaces through opinion articles and fiction.

I’m delighted to share with you that my writing has been featured in three magazines in the last three months.

Artificial Intelligence and the Global South

Scattered white plastic figures resembling humans sitting at tables in front of laptops. The white background makes their environment look bleak.
Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Clickworker Abyss / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

In September, the economics e-magazine The Mint published my article How artificial intelligence is recolonising the Global South.

In the 5-min piece, I discuss how the Global North exploits poverty and weak laws in the South to accelerate its digital transformation.

Have you ever asked yourself:

  • Who moderates our social media?
  • Who annotates the images for our self-driving cars?
  • Who extracts the metals needed for our smartphones?
  • In which populations AI algorithms are tested?

Being accountable for the books we read

A computer-generated photographic style image showing piles of distorted books with some surreal landscape features in the immediate foreground, such as a kind of beach and games board. The books merge into each other in an impressionistic, digitally blurred way, and rising out of them and taking up the main part of the image is a huge undefined concrete structure topped with more books and folders that get bigger as they go up.
jbustterr / Better Images of AI / A monument surrounded by piles of books / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

In October, Certain Age Magazine published The DEI Booklist: Five books to think and act differently, where I reflect on the fact that whom we read matters as much as what we read.

In the article, I review 5 books:

  • Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly
  • Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  • Data Feminism by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
  • Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence by Kate Crawford

I also share how I overcame the inertia of only reading books written by White, able, American, heterosexual cis-men.

Scoop: It took two years!

Using short fiction to get people talking about emerging technology

Black and white photographs  of the faces of White people scattered across a white background and grouped by similarity.
Philipp Schmitt & AT&T Laboratories Cambridge / Better Images of AI / Data flock (faces) / Licenced by CC-BY 4.0

Last week, the Medium magazine The Lark published my second short fictional story, The Life of Data Podcast. As in the previous one – The GraduationI’ve used future fiction to question the interplay between humans and technology, specifically AI.

Have you ever thought what happens to your photos circulating on social media? That’s what I did in this 10-min short fictional story.

In a nutshell, I imagined what the data from the digital portrait of a Black schoolgirl woud share about how it moves inside our phones, computers, and networks if it was invited to speak on a podcast.

How does the story resonate with you?

And the cherry on the cake

In August 2022, I was featured in the Computer Weekly 2022 longlist of the most influential women in UK tech.

Each year, Computer Weekly publishes the longlist of all of the women put forward to be considered for its list of the top 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech.

And I was nominated!

Looking at the names of the other 600 women in the UK that were nominated as well was such a boost of energy! Among them, I’ve found great role models, IT leaders, community builders, and amazing raising stars.

One thing that I love in the list is that not only women in software development were nominated, dispelling the myth that tech is only about coding. Tech is so much more! Women investors, CEOs, COOs, non-tech founders…

If you’re unsure if there is a place for you in tech, please have a look at the list and get inspired. We’re waiting for you!


As I mentioned on a previous post, I’m writing a book and I need your help!

I’d be immensely grateful if you could complete and/or share with your network of women in tech this short survey about your/their experiences at work.

What do I mean by “Women in Tech”? Women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance, CXO) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions in other sectors (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…).

Whilst the survey is anonymous, you’ll have the option to get involved in the project before submitting the form. Thanks for your support!


Inclusion is a practice, not a certificate!

How Sustainability and Diversity Can Boost Company Success

Illustration of hands in different skin tones surrounding the Earth. The image has heart shapes sprinked liberally.

Image by Ray Shrewsberry.

Early this year, I received the following post in my daily digest from the Ada’s List [source], a supportive community of women who work in and around technology.

Over the next few weeks, we’re collaborating with long time Ada’s List partners Bulb for a 3 week blog series – and we need you!  The blog series will be split into the following topics, with all places allocated on a first come, first serve basis:

Growth – All places taken
Branding and Company Values – Places available
Sustainability – Places available

I wrote back

Hi,

I’ll be very interested in talking about embedding diversity and inclusion practices as a part of the sustainability agenda, both footprint and handprint.

Best, Patricia

I was invited to participate in the post. I was very pleased when I received the questions sent by Bulb to guide my contribution. There was one explicitly mentioning diversity and inclusion.

As you’ll read below, I didn’t limit the value of diversity to one answer.

Continue reading

Reading as an antidote for indifference and exclusion

Drawing of a white young woman looking through a telescope to a 13 book covers. The books are named in this post.
Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from images from Pixabay and Goodreads .

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

Toni Morrison

(5 min read)

In 2018, I discovered that in spite of considering myself a diversity and inclusion evangelist, the books I read were mostly written by white, anglophone, American, and heterosexual men. I was appalled at the homogeneity of the voices to whom I was paying attention. Decided to do something, I began to record not only if I liked a book, but categories such as the gender and ethnicity of the authors, where they were born or their religion.

As a result, in 2019 I read 40 books written by a much broader range of voices. The experience was so energizing, that a year ago I launched the #CuriousMindsDiversePeople2020 challenge [source]. The aim of the challenge was to serve as a quarterly accountability check for the diversity of the voices participants heard in 2020. Subscribers to the email list received quarterly emails reminding them to check the diversity of what and whom they were reading, listening, and watching and sharing with them the list of books I’d read in the previous three months

Continue reading

Who are you reading and who are you silencing? The tale of how I diversified the voices from whom I learn

Three figures. One covers the mouth, other the eyes, the third one the ears.

Image by Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay.

(6 min read)

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is […] that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Before using the term diversity and inclusion advocacy, I had already identified the need for it. I’m a woman, STEM studies, work in tech, and I’ve been an immigrant all my life. This intersection of out-group identities has often resulted in being seen as the other. It has also prompted me to consciously endeavour to listen and empower members of other out-groups.

However, a little more than a year ago, I realized that, unconsciously, I was silencing those other voices.

Continue reading

Ditch empathy and embrace curiosity: Be a better manager, improve customer experience, and become a stronger diversity and inclusion ally

Child hand pointing to a blackboard with the words what, where, when, why, how, who.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

The term empathy has been steadily gaining visibility for years. It’s not a hunch; as per Google Trends, its popularity has doubled in the last 10 years. This shift can be explained by empathy expanding from the personal sphere (partner, family, friendship) to the business arena (emotional intelligence, management, customer service, HR, diversity and inclusion). What’s more, empathy appears to be the cure-all for any human interaction mismatch (and for machines too: if only they would have empathy…).

But, is this based on hard evidence or wishful thinking?

I believe that betting on empathy is unlikely to make the positive change in human relationship we are looking for. Continue reading

5 Strategies to make Unconscious Bias Training Effective

A man throws a bag with the sign "unconscious bias training" in a trashcan with the label "Nice to Have".

Unconscious bias training being thrown in the trashcan of the “nice to have”.
Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from this original image by OpenIcons from Pixabay.

“I’ve studied cognitive biases my whole life and I’m no better at avoiding them”

Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences

Four years ago, my interest in human behavior — crucial for my work as head of customer service — led me to Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, fast and slow”. The book details how biases and rules of thumb play a crucial role in our decisions in the back of our minds. Serendipitously, around the same time, I started some initiatives to further diversity and inclusion at my workplace and I stumbled on a wealth of studies naming unconscious biases as one of the major barriers women encounter to thrive at work.

The more I learned, the more I realized — in hindsight — how unconscious biases had plagued past decisions. I read books and articles, talked to experts, and watched Continue reading

Salary transparency or how to eradicate the gender pay gap

Tech companies such as Buffer and Verve had implemented transparent salary. A realistic strategy to end with the Gender Pay Gap #genderpaygap #womenintech

Two weeks ago I attended the Ada’s List Conference 2018. The Ada’s List is an email-based community of more than 6,000 subscribers (me among them) “for women (and those who identify as) who are committed to changing the tech industry”.

The Conference was structured as a blend of presentations and concurrent workshops covering a vast array of topics related to women in tech. Inclusive design (‘Leaving No One Behind: Building Apps for The Next Billion Users’ by Aygul Zagidullina), new technologies (‘How can we use advanced imaging technology to build a better food system?’ by Abi Ramanan), self-care (‘Discover your self-care non-negotiables” by Babs Ofori-Acquah), and UX (‘Personalising the user experience and the playlist consumption on Spotify‘ by Mounia Lalmas-Roelleke) are some examples.

If there was a talk that both challenged my preconceptions and fuelled my optimism that a diverse and inclusive workplace is achievable was that of Åsa Nyström, Director of Continue reading