#WomenInTech: Creating a Naturally Diverse Workforce with Top Talent
This week I sat down with Julie Persofsky, VP of Customer Strategy and Account Management at Influitive, to discuss diversity in the tech industry and the benefits of collaborating with people from different backgrounds.
Menaka: Let’s start with your own journey into marketing. In school, did you know you wanted to go into business?
Julie: No, I had no idea. I started in psychology, and I very much fell into this.
When I was graduating from McGill, I tried to figure out what I was going to do. So I interviewed twenty business professionals and asked them a series of questions. I went on a whole bunch of informational interviews with anyone I could sit down with.
I always asked the question, “what is one thing you wished you did that you never did?” The most common thing everyone said was, “I wished I had moved to New York.” So I just moved to New York. I didn’t even have a job, I just moved and figured I would find a job.
I ended up getting a job in advertising in Manhattan. And that’s what kick-started things.
Menaka: Do you find that people are coming into the business world from all over these days?
Julie: Absolutely. When I’m hiring people, I want to hear about their journey. It really helps me identify who would be a great candidate. It’s not necessarily about what they know how to do: it’s more about what they’re curious about, if they have an appetite to learn new things and if they can learn new things. That, for me, makes a better employee than someone who has been there, done that, over and over again.
Menaka: Have you come across anything that really stands out as a particular challenge for women in business?
Julie: It may be the career path that I’ve gone down, but personally I’ve only seen being a woman in business as a positive point now.
I think where I see challenges is just in communication styles, which I think is more of a training and upbringing thing. How men communicate tends to be a little more aligned with how businesses operate.
I hate making generalizations, but if you are making generalizations, men might be more comfortable in the negotiation stage, and ask for more money. But I actually see, in the generation that’s coming up, that is no longer the case. They’re growing up in a different world.
I think, in general, we need to look at diversity in the workplace. We need different skill sets and perspectives, whether they’re male, female, different culturally, racially, religiously, from the LGBTQ community, etc. I’d like to see the conversation be a little more about that. I know there’s still a gender gap, but there are so many more issues, and I think if we just talk about bringing different people, opinions and styles to the table, then we’d all do better.
Menaka: Is it better to speak about diversity in more general terms then? Have we talked about gender issues too much?
Julie: Yes and no. If I look at where I sit, I don’t think about it. But I haven’t sat in the seat of a CEO for a very large organization that has this problem. I’m thinking about a company with hundreds of thousands of employees, especially one that has been around for decades – they started at a very different time, when it was only men who went to work, and left their wives at home with the kids. If that’s how the company culture started, it’s hard to evolve, and it’s very hard to turn a large ship. I can see how a company like that still needs to focus on it.
Influitive, on the other hand, started five years ago, and the world was a very different place by that point. So of course we should look very different. I think if our company focused heavily on gender equality, it would be unnatural for us.
Menaka: What’s the best way for companies to develop a more balanced workforce?
Julie: Just focus on finding the best talent. I’ll take a lesson here from the show The Voice (which I’ve only seen Youtube videos of). The most important mission of that show is to find the best voice, so they remove other distractions at first. Companies and hiring managers need to focus on the talent and skill set first and foremost, remove their personal biases and just look for the best candidate for the job.
Check out the previous #WomenInTech post: Interview with Kristine Steuart, CEO and Co-Founder at Allocadia