Pegasystems is practicing inclusion and diversity, not diversity and inclusion

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez September 10, 2019
Summary:
We speak with Pegasystems’ recently hired Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Claudia Rodriguez, about the vendor’s ambitions to embed a culture of inclusion across the company.

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Just a few months into the job, Claudia Rodriguez - Pegasystems’ newly appointed Inclusion and Diversity Leader - is already making an impact. One of Rodriguez’s first asks of the company was that her job title, and the rest of Pega’s internal messaging, put ‘inclusion’ before that of ‘diversity’. This is somewhat unusual, given that the industry standard is typically ‘diversity and inclusion’ or D&I. So, why was this important? Because Rodriguez believes that by driving an agenda of inclusivity for all will enable a number of critical pieces for a 2019 software business. 

This includes the fostering of diversity as one element, but more importantly, allowing people to bring who they really are to work...and to have that celebrated. 

As we’ve noted time and time again at diginomica, this isn’t a ‘nice to have’ or just to make people feel good, but it is about building a strong, stable, modern business. A company that internally reflects the communities it serves not only builds better products, but also builds more trust with its customers. I recall a recent event I went to where a large customer of the vendor in question (not Pega) said that they were buying more products from that vendor specifically because their cultures aligned. This stuff is not only socially responsible, but it adds numbers to the bottom line. 

Rodriguez understands this. And with her she brings a wealth of experience. Prior to joining Pega back in June, Rodriguez was a senior manager of inclusion and diversity in Accenture’s Global Center of Expertise, driving global I&D strategies and assisting in the deployment of cross-cultural, enablement, ethnicity, gender, and LGBTQ programs for 78,000 employees in nine countries within the Americas.

On her first few months in the job, Rodriguez is impressed with the existing culture at Pega and the company’s future ambitions. She said: 

As I walk the hallways, I already notice there are inclusive behaviours. They might not yet be a formal programme, but Pega wants to continue to foster that healthy work environment. This is not only to attract the best talent - but once they’re here, they are then in an environment where they can bring their true selves. 

Also, as we continue, it will help us build our products. We are very client and customer centric. Our customers and clients are not homogeneous. So the more we can attract talent that reflects our customers, the less likely we are to have blind spots in our products and our deliverables.

I&D, not D&I

Rodriguez has spent her first few months talking with employees, spending time with Pega’s people. So far she has connected with approximately 170 employees. Rodriguez’s key aim is that everyone at Pega feels included in the Inclusivity and Diversity agenda. She is aware that when people hear diversity, they immediately think ‘gender’. Whilst gender parity is clearly important, Rodriguez wants everyone at Pega to feel like they can be who they are and not isolated. She said: 

I’m going full out on the inclusion piece, because I want everyone to feel part of the conversation. We say inclusion and diversity, not diversity and inclusion. We want to start with all, with all employees. With the couples that don’t have children, we want to make sure they don’t get lumped with all the work because parents have to go pick up their kids. For the person that’s colour blind, we are being mindful of the colours we use. 

Another example is that a person who doesn’t identify as a woman may come to an inclusion and diversity session, or workshop, and feel either defensive or think that the conversation is not about them. And they may not bring up things that are prohibiting them from being their best at work. It’s broadening that conversation to make sure that everyone can celebrate their successes and that everyone is being valued.

And Rodriguez is entirely aware that this is all good for business. She adds: 

When employees are in a place that they feel like they can thrive, they’re building better products. By bringing in people with different abilities, different types of education, different points of view, we are getting closer to reflecting communities we serve. And by doing that, we are maximising the market potential of our product.

Initial steps

Whilst it’s still early days for Rodriguez and the I&D programme at Pega, the initial focus is on education. Rodrigues is prioritising getting people to really understand why the company is leading with inclusion. She said: 

Part of that education is doing tiny exercises with employees to continuously practice those inclusive behaviours. We can send them out quick little daily exercises, to challenge themselves with for the entire day, focused on certain types of inclusive behaviour.

Long-term Rodriguez has a number of aims. For one, she would like to see Pega step forward with leadership that is aggressive in its public speaking on the topics of inclusion and diversity. She said that having bold leadership in external messaging brings credibility to the company and shows people that they’re supported. 

Equally, in the future, Pega’s visuals and linguistics will become more inclusive. Whether that be regarding gender neutral descriptions, or how leaders speak about employees, or the messaging around the company’s purpose, Rodriguez believes linguistics and visuals are important. She said: 

I want the long term linguistics and visuals to portray that sense of belonging, that sense of being valued, and that shows our connection to the employees. And the goal is that people will want to proactively seek out Pega and want to work with us, want to do business with us, because they see themselves reflected in the products we make and the people in our company. 

Measuring success

One point that I’m always particularly interested in when interviewing a D&I - or I&D - leader is to better understand how they’re going to measure their progress and what action they will take to correct behaviour or shift the needle in the right direction. Some vendors and companies take more aggressive tactics, such as gender pay reviews or team quotas, whilst others believe that creating the right culture will naturally change behaviour. 

Interestingly, a lot of what Pega is going to be measuring is how much the company is actively doing to address I&D. Rodriguez explained: 

I’m very data driven. But data is one piece of the measures of how people are performing and how people are creating better products. One thing we’d like to measure is, how much education are we actually putting out to our employees? What are the key programmes we are creating? How are we positioning our conferences in terms of the people that we bring, the environment in which we set up, etc.

We also have some construction going on in some of our buildings around the world and I made sure to meet with the global facilities group to think about inclusion, workplace design and accessibility. Are we progressing? Do we see a change from our starting point? Data is one piece, but it’s not everything.

Finally, Rodriguez’s biggest challenge is a common one in a large enterprise. It’s about moving as a single entity, and bringing everyone with you. She said: 

The number one challenge I see is functioning as one company. With the move to virtual and technology, there’s things that prohibit us from communicating unless we are very proactive in reaching out to people. There are people in different timezones and there are people not in the same office as we are. 

I’ve noticed that’s something that a lot of people are asking, how do we become more of a ‘one company’ and how we can bring remote in closer.