The world’s largest data company is tackling “the war on talent”

By Kitty Knowles 22 February 2016
EMC² . Pic: CC/Flickr/EMC Corporation.

Business, STEM & advice for your daughters: Meet Jackie Glenn, Global Diversity Officer at the world’s largest data company.

You might not have heard of EMC², but you’ve almost certainly benefited from its expertise. With over 70,000 employees, the global firm is the world’s largest provider of data storage systems (that’s where you save your computer files), even beating bigwigs like IBM and Hewlett-Packard to the title.

Tomorrow Jackie Glenn, the company’s Chief Global Diversity Officer is flying from Massachusetts to London to speak at the 2016 everywoman Forum: Advancing Women in Technology.

We caught up with the businesswoman to find out why diversity is such a hot topic, where businesses are falling short, and how we can all improve.

Inside EMC²

The EMC workforce is around 25% women and 75% men, Glenn told The Memo. It’s also about 3.7% Hispanic and about 3.5% African American, and while the company doesn’t track LGBT employees, around 400 people are registered in its ‘LGBT Circle’.

But the big message from Glenn this morning was that “there is always more to be done”.

“We know we’re not where we want to be, and we know there’s much more to do,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone can tell you that they’re proud of where they are, especially in the US, and I would venture to say that in Britain you’re experiencing the same thing.”

“One company might have a percentage or two more of one group of people than another, but when you look at big technology companies like EMC, Intel, or Facebook, we’re all in the same boat.”

“It’s always a work that you’re constantly doing, a work in progress.”

Speaking at the #WMMulticultural Conference

What’s the problem?

The major issue digital companies face is that there is not a diverse workforce to hire from, says Glenn.

“The pool is very small from the beginning,” she explains. “If you have a small pool of women, and of people of colour, then for every person, there might be fifty companies looking to recruit them.”

“There’s a war on talent, there’s a shortage.”

The biggest solution to this shortage starts with parents and children; it starts in schools, and with early education, says Glenn.

“As parents we have to educate our young kids, our young women, and kids of colour, to go into the STEM fields. We need a far bigger focus in kindergarten and in those elementary years. We need to show these young people that the STEM fields are a place that they can really have a robust career.”

Keeping STEM graduates

The problem isn’t just about supply, but about keeping STEM graduates once they’re in the building, says Glenn.

“Right now it is a male-dominated field,” says Glenn. “Once people get in they’re often not staying and I think that’s because they don’t see enough women or people who look like them.”

“Companies have to do a better job, of shining that mirror onto the women in STEM, or people from different backgrounds,” says Glenn.

“We have to show them examples of people who are having great careers, to make people feel valued and encouraged to stay in the industry.”

Creating an environment that people want to work in is key, adds Glenn. “One of the first things that we do with employees is around awareness – around implicit bias, and unconscious bias,” she says.

“We put all of our managers through that training, and we also have our employee group where our executives are involved as sponsors.”

Can we build better pipelines?

There are many other ways for businesses to nurture a diverse pipeline, says Glenn.

“We’re constantly partnering with colleges and universities,” she says of EMC. “We have summer programs that targets Hispanic and African American kids for summer internships. When they’re finished, we hire them as EMC staff – we build a pipeline of kids coming to the company.”

“We also sponsor computers and laptops for areas where kids and their parents can’t afford to have those amenities so they can really get the exposed to the technology they need,” she adds.

“You have to make sure that you include the best and the brightest by working out new ways to get these kids in, develop them, and pay them.”

Slack developers champion diversity in tech. Pic: TechCrunch.
Slack developers champion diversity in tech. Pic: TechCrunch.

Increased visibility at events

Last week the messaging company Slack put diversity in the spotlight when four of the team’s black female developers took to the stage to receive an industry award.

This visibility is what is needed to inspire new recruits, says Glenn. “Studies have shown that people will leave their job if they feel like they’re stuck and they’re not being developed,” she adds.

“At EMC we try to make sure that we get our women out to events to help their development, and events like everywoman are great for motivation, for helping women to feel inspired, get new tools, make new friends. At EMC, we know it’s a retention program that works.

“Companies have to spend the money so that women can get out and hear from other women, and develop themselves.”

Push the pay-off

Reminding companies that diversity is good for business can also encourage dialogue, adds Glenn. “People are often so uncomfortable speaking about diversity, and I think the minute we get more comfortable speaking about having difference at the table things will improve.”

“We know that difference drives innovation, and innovation is the lifeblood of any company,” she says.

“When people know how having a more diverse workforce will impact their bottom line favourably, they will want to talk about it more.”

Parting advice

As an influential businesswomen, we were keen to hear what advice Glenn has for women or minorities considering entering a digital workspace.

“I’m originally from Jamaica, and yes people have sometimes treated me differently: I would be lying if I said they didn’t,” says Glenn.

“I tell my daughters when you go into an industry where the first thing you have to do is know the industry you’re in, and that you’re doing a good job. While you’re doing that if you encounter any type of biases, really understand where it’s coming from and seek to understand it and ask questions.”

“Educate the people around you. I try to educate people around who I am as a woman of colour, and the more I educate people around me about who I am, the less bias I get.”

“Don’t just sit there and take it,” she adds.

“I’m a big proponent of speaking up and speaking your mind.”

Jackie Glenn will be speaking at the 2016 everywoman Forum: Advancing Women in Technology on Tuesday 23 February, London.