At Xero, we have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion. We believe in creating a culture and environment where everyone feels like their voice and background matters. Last week, our Denver and San Francisco offices celebrated International Women’s Day with panel discussions that explored this year’s theme, #balanceforbetter.
Our Denver panel featured our very own Bethany Parker, VP of Operations along with Cristina Garza, Owner and Chief Number Cruncher at Accountingprose, and Tami Door, President and CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership and the Co-Founder of The Commons on Champa and Denver Startup Week.
In San Francisco, our panelists included Liz Hanley, Owner and Chief Number Cruncher at Liz is All Biz and Emily Ritter, Head of Product Marketing at Gusto. From the Xero team, we had Nancy Giere, Xero U Manager and Hady Osman, Xero Development Manager.
Overcoming systemic challenges
In Denver, our panel touched on some of the challenges they faced throughout their careers and how they overcame obstacles to access more opportunities.
“There’s just certain programs that don’t exist,” Bethany noted about her time as an expectant mother at a company that had no maternity leave program. While it was challenging for her to put a plan in place, it was a huge success once she found the right balance. She went on to drive efforts to support new parents in the workplace.
Tami brought up that we don’t often think about the way our cities and buildings are designed and how they aren’t inclusive towards women.
“We need to not only think of programs inside the companies, but outside as well,” she explained. Tami leads an initiative called Designing a City for Women as an Economic Imperative that aims to transform Denver into a city that is more accessible to women. She believes in building a city that supports women, which will in turn help attract and retain women in the workforce. As she explains, “Creating a safe space for both men and women starts outside of the office.”
Making the case for diversity
In San Francisco, our panelists discussed making the case for diversity in an organization and effective strategies for developing diverse teams.
Liz shared that as the owner of a business with an all-female finance team, she realized this difference became a strength and set her apart with the unique perspectives her team could bring to clients.
At Gusto, Emily and her team recognize that the world is extremely diverse, so if you want products to resonate with the world, that needs to be taken into consideration.
“When starting a team or thinking about adding to it, think about values and how they manifest in your organization,” Emily said. “These core values will guide you in hiring and it’s how you can think about diversity on a small scale.”
Making sure your voice is heard
A big part of creating an inclusive workplace is making sure people feel as if their voices are heard. In order to make sure everyone feels like their opinions and talents are valued, Nancy urged, “As leaders, it’s our job to make sure everyone has a voice at the table.” She explained that sometimes extroverted personality types might take over a conversation in a meeting, giving little space for introverts to speak up. Nancy encourages people to seek out those individuals and connect 1-1 to ensure we’re always gathering feedback in an organization — otherwise, it can be dangerous if that feedback doesn’t exist.
Tina echoed a similar message to panelists in Denver, “Sometimes women are just trying to hold their own, so we don’t speak up where we need to. Be someone who can recognize these issues and speak up as an advocate.” Above all she noted, “We’re all humans and we should treat each other that way.”
Becoming an advocate
When it comes to becoming an advocate, our panelists shared their advice on taking the first step. “I think it’s about being active — it’s not a passive pursuit. We need to be active in participating and helping people reach their goals,” said Liz.
Similarly, Hady shared that for any one who wants to be an advocate, it’s important to role model these behaviors. “For instance, if someone gives great ideas in a meeting, you should give them that feedback after the meeting,” he said. “Feedback is something that has made a difference for me and it shows that people are comfortable sharing different perspectives in your workplace.”
Emily agreed about the importance of being an advocate. “If it’s not something that you’re thinking about every day, you should make sure it is,” she recommended.
The ways you implement being an advocate can be small gestures that add up. “In our weekly meetings, we do a shoutout to another team member,” Nancy shared. “It’s simple, but I think it makes a difference in making people feel like they’re part of a team.”