Category Archives: Women & Tech

How are you losing business today by skipping diversity and inclusion in business operations and how to fix it

Photo of a wooden staircase in a bamboo forest by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

(10 min read)

I’ve been beating the drum of the business value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in tech since 2015. Many moons later, still every time I engage in this discussion with business leaders, they invariably default to either the diversity of their workforce or the McKinsey reports correlating the gender and ethnic makeup of their leadership teams to increased financial returns such as higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

In my experience, it’s hard to use correlation to convince the skeptics or to support D&I champions. On the flip side, through my professional and personal path, I’ve witnessed innumerable instances where D&I has played a crucial role in the success and failure of initiatives and organizations.

How did I come to witness all that evidence? I’ve been a unicorn all my life. I became an emigrant before I was a year old and I’ve had the opportunity to live in 6 countries and 3 continents. As a woman, my professional path is “atypical” by Anglo-Western standards. I studied engineering and computational chemistry, which are considered typically male occupations. Beyond academia, I’ve worked for chemical and tech companies. I don’t have children. I still remember talking to colleagues in December 2015 about the need to put in place a strategy to retain women in tech as half of the young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35 [source]. To my surprise, often my puzzled interlocutors would ask me if “diversity and inclusion was an American thing”.

Fortunately, nowadays there is much more awareness about diversity and inclusion in business, including the tech sector. Also, there are some companies that are getting tangible value out of understanding the value of developing solutions for underserved populations. As I’ve written in the past, people with disabilities and their families constitute a market the size of China ($8 trillion/year). Closer to home, the UK’s 12 million people with disabilities have a spending power of £120 billion as per AbilityNet, a British charity focused on the digital inclusion of people with disabilities.  

But how to go beyond preaching to the converted? Moreover, how to engage with organizations that don’t have the budget for a Head of D&I?

What business leaders want to know about the value of D&I

Early June this year, I launched a survey asking business owners, managing directors, CXOs, and board members their top question about the business value of diversity and inclusion. In return for answering the survey, I offered respondents to email them my answer to their question.

I categorized the 50 answers I received into four buckets. Even in such a small sample, still we can trace a roadmap for how organizations approach D&I at workplaces

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Women’s battle for fair access to leadership positions in tech

I’m delighted to be featured in the last issue of The Mint Magazine on the digital economy. My first contribution to an economics journal!

In this article (5-min read), I highlight how the pervasiveness of patriarchy, exceptionalism, and meritocracy in the technology sector is at the core of women’s battle for fair access to leadership positions in tech.

I also share how we need to overhaul tech so it moves from extracting to contributing to society and the planet.

What are your views on the topic? How does my story resonate with yours?

Picture of a computer motherboard that illustrates my article Motherboard Matters in The Mint Magazine.

The graduation: My first experiment with future narratives

Green road sing with the text "Welcome to the future".
Image by mykedaigadget from Pixabay.

(9 min read)

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

For the last 6 years, I’ve been very vocal about what’s wrong with products, services, and workplaces that exclude users and employees. I’ve designed visual tools, given talks, and created communities to highlight the problems and build a business case for diversity and inclusion. Whilst all those efforts have contributed to increasing awareness about the issues, change has been incremental at best. What’s more, the pandemic is already threatening to reverse any progress made in the last decades.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

R. Buckminster Fuller

What if instead I’d draw a picture of a better future? The occasion was the final assignment for a creative writing course sponsored by  Arts Council England: A 2,000-word story related to World War II.

Keep reading to discover my assignment, which is now part of the book “VE75 An Anthology of Short Stories” by Trafford Libraries.

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Unlocking change with ethical and inclusive design

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

(9 min read)

I’m not Black on Monday, a woman on Tuesday, and left-handed on Wednesday.

Annie Jean-Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion at Google

My journey into ethical and inclusive design was prompted by embarrassment, fear, and impatience.

Embarrassment: When in December 2018, six months after launching my website on diversity and inclusion in tech, an expert in disability asked me if it was accessible and pointed me to the post 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment on the site Life of A Blind Girl . Reading the article was transformative. It made clear to me that, irrespective of my intention — promoting diversity and inclusion — my impact was the opposite: 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

UK Gender Pay Gap Awareness: How to broaden the conversation at the workplace

3DSGenderPayGap_Coventry

Chairing an employee awareness session about the UK Gender Pay Gap in Tech at the Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry.

Recently, I was invited to chair a “Breakfast & Learn” session at our Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry (UK). The topic: UK Gender Pay Gap. This article is a reflection on that great learning and interactive experience.

What is “Breakfast & Learn”? One-hour monthly awareness sessions organized by our Great Place to Work (GPTW) ambassadors around a specific theme. Ideally, the presenters should keep the topic light and open, avoid the profusion of slides, encourage the audience participation, and limit the use of jargon. A healthy breakfast is provided along.

Why me? I founded the EuroNorth Dassault Systèmes Lean In circles in 2016 to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at a regional level, I’m a member of the EuroNorth Diversity and Inclusion Council, and I’ve had the pleasure to host virtual employee meetings with our UK HR team to discuss the findings of our gender pay gap reports for 2016/2017 and for 2017/2018.

Why this topic? I learned that the recent publication of the Dassault Systèmes Gender Pay Gap report had been a hot topic for discussion in this office. There were different views regarding the scope, key indicators, and impact of the UK gender pay gap as well as the usefulness of reporting the data. Continue reading

Two Alpinists in Mount Tech. Take #1: Meritocracy

A woman and a man climb a mountain with the inscription “Mount Tech”. They have reached the same altitude, which is marked by a dotted line pointing to a vertical ruler labeled as “meritometer”. The woman has attached four weights of four different colors. The man has climbed the mountain using four pitons colored in the exact four colors of the woman’s weights. A legend indicates the colors represent bias, society expectations, stereotypes, and salary. At the top, a man thinks “That’s what true meritocracy looks like”.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Piton  \ ˈpē-ˌtän \ a spike, wedge, or peg that is driven into a rock or ice surface as a support (as for a mountain climber).

Weight \ ˈwāt \ : a heavy object to hold or press something down or to counterbalance.

Meritocracy \ mer-ə-ˈtä-krə-sē \ : A system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.

How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings

HowToBeSuccessfull_SarahCooper

Last weekend I finished Sarah Cooper‘s third book “How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings“, out on October 30th. Given that I thoroughly enjoyed the previous one, “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings“, and my interest in female leadership, purchasing her new book was a no-brainer. Sarah is a writer, comedian, Continue reading

Women, Tech & Systems Maps: My alternative to the magic bullet

Woman of Asian ethnicity with a worldmap in the background. The countries in the worldmap are creeated using 0 and 1.

Women, Tech & Power (Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from Pixabay images).

As a woman joining the university in the late ’80s to pursue an engineering degree, I took for granted that gender parity in the workplace was around the corner. The few female professors in our science and engineering faculties reassured us that we were on a good track. They shared how as students they were only 2-3 women per chemical engineering cohort, whilst we could be counted by tens! The message was clear: “”Don’t complain and work hard. Women’s presence is scaling exponentially”.

It’s 2018 and the World Economic Forum reports that the workplace gender gap will not be closed for 217 years. This disappointing realization has sprung a flurry of expert Continue reading