By Alison Weiss
Recently, the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure group hosted a meetup for presentations and networking after the first day of the Hopper x 1 Seattle conference, which brought together 1,500 women technologists. Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, Oracle Women’s Leadership held a three-day Emerging Leader Summit to inspire and guide 200 female leaders across Oracle EMEA. And at Oracle OpenWorld Singapore, the forum Diversity, the Future of Tech, and Overcoming Bias had packed attendance.
What did these three Oracle events in three different locations have in common? They all shared a similar focus: to encourage and empower women in the field of technology.
Such efforts are vital if you consider that worldwide, women account for less than 30 percent of those employed in scientific research and development, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. But these events also demonstrate that by working to encourage diverse communities, promote inclusion, and foster action, the future of women in tech is wide open.
Mary Ellen Kassotakis, executive director of Oracle Women’s Leadership, notes that what really makes great tech companies stand out is the insatiable drive for innovation, disruption, and performance improvements. “If we want to attract, retain, and grow diverse talent, it’s critical to have a pipeline of qualified, diverse job candidates,” she says.
For her part, Traci Wade, director of Diversity and Inclusion at Oracle, also believes that there is a real opportunity today to leverage the innovation and creativity women and other minorities bring to the tech industry. She leads Oracle’s Diversity and Inclusion team to foster a diverse and inclusive culture within the company with the goals of increasing innovation and engagement. Wade manages employee resource groups, affinity groups, diversity strategic partnerships, and diversity internship programs. Creating a supportive culture to elevate women—and men—of color as well as all underrepresented minorities is important to Oracle.
“If you look at data from McKinsey, it shows that if you have gender diversity, then your profits can go up 25% just from their thought leadership and 33% if there is ethnic and cultural diversity,” she says. “I engage with executive leaders and their teams in the conversation to look around to identify the opportunities on their teams and who is not represented. When you have homogenous teams that come from similar backgrounds, have similar experiences, are we really the creative company we want to be?”
Just as there is not just one type of woman working in technology fields, there is not just one solution to boost employment and leadership opportunities for women in tech. Oracle offers a variety of mentoring, professional development, and networking programs across the entire company to serve both internal employees and women in the wider community.
Since its inception in 2006, Oracle Women’s Leadership has been at the helm of developing, engaging, and empowering current and future generations of Oracle women leaders. Kassotakis reports that there are 105 active Oracle Women’s Leadership communities in 46 countries led by Oracle volunteers who have a passion to make a difference by bringing women together to support and inspire each other.
“Our success is measured by a number of methods, including the number of active events, the retention of talent, and career advancement,” she says. “Our programming is linked to corporate leadership competencies and career navigation skills with ample opportunities to step up, influence, and lead others.”
In the last fiscal year, Oracle Women’s Leadership has spearheaded over 400 events serving more than14,000 Oracle employees who registered to attend the events. The group has also put particular focus on developing tomorrow’s women leaders by hosting four regional summits across the globe for emerging talent at Oracle, including summits in Amsterdam, Bangalore, and Singapore. Mentoring is definitely an important component at the summits and is a fundamental element of Oracle Women’s Leadership, because it gives women opportunities to engage in helpful career conversations, adopt new skills, and hone leadership capabilities.
Kassotakis believes that creating mentoring relationships between younger and more experienced employees to share perspectives, abilities, and new ways of working is valuable for organizations to address critical skills gaps and to set up female employees for success in terms of salary and promotion.
Oracle offers a variety of mentoring, professional development, and networking programs across the entire company to serve both internal employees and women in the wider community.
Shaida Hiekali, senior consultant, Oracle Women’s Leadership, agrees. As a member of the millennial generation, she believes that mentoring creates a positive work environment because experienced employees have ample knowledge to share and can connect with millennials, who can bring a creative outlook to the workplace. “Younger employees often express that a sense of purpose and passion is the highest priority for them at a company, and many may leave due to feeling a lack of purpose and opportunity. Mentoring can be a tool for employers to connect more employees and enable them to feel a part of a network of support,” she says.
Wade also sees mentoring as critical to helping women of color advance in the workplace. She encourages those she works with to seek out mentors who are similar to themselves as well as mentors who are different. “Mentors should look different and bring different things to your life and work experience,” she says.
In looking for ways to elevate and empower underrepresented women and minorities in the workplace, Wade strongly advocates creating employee communities that encourage collaboration and connection. Today, strategic employee resource groups at Oracle build employee communities and identify allies to support an inclusive workforce and retain talent.
However, members of Oracle’s employee resource groups are equally dedicated to external community engagement. Today they mentor in neighborhoods, visit high schools and community colleges, and host hackathons. Oracle also works closely with organizations such as the East Bay National Society of Black Engineers and Great Minds in STEM in support of their Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Advancement Conference to provide scholarships and learning opportunities.
Wade understands that to reach underrepresented female students of color and encourage their future careers in the tech industry, it’s critical to begin at the elementary level to support young girls interested in math and science. “We’re intentionally diversifying our speakers to ensure they look like the community we are touching and speaking to about opportunities related to tech. When the students see individuals that look like them, it encourages students to go into the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields,” she says.
Another way Oracle connects with the wider community of women technologists is by hosting creative events. For example, in December 2018, members of Oracle Women’s Leadership worked with Girl Geek X, which has an impressive 10-year trajectory of bringing women in technology together, to host the second Oracle Girl Geek dinner. For over 300 external and 100 internal attendees, it was evening of humor, exploration, and connection—as well as an opportunity for the company to showcase its commitment to workplace gender balance and diversity. It also gave Oracle a platform to highlight its technology with hands-on demos of everything from virtual reality to the Oracle Internet Intelligence Map, which is powered by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and shows real-time internet outages worldwide caused by weather or geopolitical events.
Oracle Women’s Leadership also partners with AnitaB.org, a global nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California, with the objective to recruit, retain, and advance women in technology. The Seattle chapter of AnitaB.org hosted the recent Hopper x 1 conference, where the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure team held its successful meetup. During this year’s conference, Brenda Darden Wilkerson, AnitaB.org’s president and CEO, pointed out in a speech that women today are outnumbered by men three to one in the tech industry, but AnitaB.org has a goal for women to account for 50% of tech employees by 2025.
That’s an aspiration that both Kassotakis and Wade can definitely get behind. They look forward to a day when there are so many career opportunities for women that the work they do is no longer needed. “When I think about diverse women talent in corporations and the technology industry specifically, I’d like to work myself right out of job,” Wade says. “That’s the ultimate goal.”