Synchrony's Margaret Keane: Everyone Can Be An Ally to Someone
Synchrony's President and CEO speaks out about diversity
Below is an article originally written by Ellen McGirt, Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine, and published on June 21, 2018. Go to Synchrony's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
I spent a delightful morning with Sallie Krawcheck, Kristy Wallace, and the exceptional team behind the Ellevate Network's annual Action Summit. This year's theme is Mobilizing the Power of Women.
As I mentioned yesterday, I had a chance to talk with Margaret Keane, the President and CEO of Synchrony Financial, to help kickoff the event.
Keane, as one of the few women chief executives in the Fortune 500, has been thinking seriously about how to embed inclusive practices into the company since it spun out of GE Capital in July 2014. It's a touchstone in chaotic times. "I can't change the world," she told the crowd. "But what I can change is how we treat employees inside the company; understanding what they're going through when they walk outside of their house and come to our office."
By way of example, she says, Synchrony was on board early in support of LGBTQ rights, decrying Charlotte's "bathroom law," that excluded gender identity and sexual orientation from anti-discrimination protections. Keane also showed up personally after the police shooting and riots in Charlotte, to participate in candid dialogs with employees there. "As CEOs we can't just assume that what is happening in the outside world doesn't work its way into the office." When asked for advice on how people can handle these tough conversations she says, "I think the word that is missing a lot is kindness."
But now, four years out from Synchrony's IPO, it was a good time to look back and see what's worked. "We had to think about the brand itself, coming out of GE, an iconic brand. Okay, what do we want to be?" Numerous town halls and long executive team meetings later, Keane set on a vision to become a more diverse and welcoming company that better reflected their customer base and the world at large.
She recruited a diverse board, created new inclusion networks like one to support employees with disabilities, and then — in a huge move — opened up all existing resource groups to hourly employees. Keane, who famously began her career in finance in a call center, says that it's made a difference. "We want to be a place where people can grow," she said. Hourly employees are a naturally more diverse group than "professional track" employees, and now have access to a two-year development program called STEP, which offers them training and exposure to other parts of the business. "About 70-75% get promoted out," she says. "It's been a big success, and it's changing the face of our leaders and rewarding people who come to work every day and do a really good job."
We ended on a poignant note.
We all have the power to be allies to each other, she says. "Women in the past didn't always help each other," a natural outgrowth of a competitive system where there was only one seat for a token woman at any given table. "Now, there's a lot of power coming up in the pipeline and I think all of us have a responsibility to each other."
But you have to wave your own flag.
"I'm going to give you one piece of advice. Take that little voice that's in your head, write down what that voice is saying to you on a piece of paper, and then throw the paper away," she said, to immediate laughter. "I think our biggest challenge is ourselves. We tend to constantly question ourselves – am I ready? Am I good enough?"
"Put that voice aside – go for the job, be clear about what you want," she said. "The worst thing that happens is that you don't get this job but you get the next one." And don't overlook the support that's all around you. "There are people close by who want to help you," she said. "Tell them what you want to do."
A Look At The Challenges They've Faced & How Their Companies Support Them
We know that the ratio of women to men in software engineering is overwhelmingly low. Scroll through just about any company's roster on Linkedin and see for yourself. It's depressing.
If you're not in the mood to engage in that little experiment, just check out this PwC study that found that only 15% of employees in STEM roles in the U.K. are women, and that women hold a mere 5% of leadership roles in the tech sector.
However, we also know that diversity is the top priority for 78% of talent leaders. This is good news for us, because our goal at PowerToFly is to close these gender gaps as quickly as possible - and the more companies that get on board, the faster we can do that.
We partner with companies that are not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but to fostering a sense of belonging for underrepresented candidates once they accept job offers.
In the meantime, we know that the struggle for many women and other minorities in tech is still real, and that being a woman in this male-dominated industry is no cake walk. That's why we invited women engineers at some of our partner companies to share their experiences in their own words.
They shared some of the biggest challenges they've faced as a women in tech and how they overcame them, as well as why they feel supported and enjoy working at their current companies.
We hope reading about these experiences will make other women in software engineering realize they're not alone in the challenges they're facing, and that there are lots of companies making strides to better support women in tech. We also hope that reading this will inspire more companies to follow suit, especially given that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men.
Hats off to these 7 women and to the companies that support their work:
What's the coolest thing Promptworks does to support women engineers?
"One of my favorite things about Promptworks is how all the female engineers support each other. Having an amazing group of colleagues to lean on, vent to, and seek advice from has been vital to me. As soon as I joined the engineering team, I felt immediately part of this amazing family of women who also have my back."
—M.K., Software Engineer at Promptworks
Want to join Promptworks' team of Women Engineers?
- Senior React Native Engineer
- Senior Software Engineer
- Contract Software Engineer
- Software Engineer
- And more
More about PromptWorks:
Promptworks builds custom software for companies by creating amazing technologies that help achieve their vision.
Monthly work-from-home flexibility, Collegial atmosphere with family-style lunch twice a week on us, ergonomic work stations including seated & standing pair programming stations, 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching and more!
Why did you choose to work at Yelp?
"The best thing about Yelp is the culture. I had an amazing interview process which reflected how much Yelp values their employees. Once I got through, I received a welcome card from my team and AWE group and I still feel very loved at Yelp. Also, I love the people! They are very smart and innovative and Yelp gives us all the freedom to vent out our creativity."
—Supriya, Backend Engineer at Yelp.
Want to join Yelp's team of Women Engineers?
More about Yelp:
Yelp engineering culture is driven by our values: we're a cooperative team that values individual authenticity and encourages "unboring" solutions to problems.
Medical, dental, and vision insurance - 100% covered for Yelp employees, 401k program with company match, parental program: Bright Horizons, mother's rooms, paid baby bonding leave, well being and stress management resources, and more!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced at Ubiquity6 and how did you overcome it?
"One of the personal challenges I've dealt with at Ubiquity6 is imposter syndrome, which was definitely amplified by working with so many incredible engineers. Thankfully, my team is really supportive and I have been able to take ownership over some important projects. The combination of getting great constructive feedback while framing my mindset towards improvement has really helped build my confidence as an engineer."
—Robyn, Software Engineer at Ubiquity6
Want to join Ubiquity6's team of Women Engineers?
More about Ubiquity6:
We work with the design, infrastructure, and game engine teams to help guide the user through complex workflows involving spatial mapping, dynamic code loading, and game engine orchestration. Our challenge is to tie together all the different pieces of technology in a way that feels seamless to the end user.
Generous PTO, flexible work hours, work-from-home, remote positions, medical and dental benefits including family coverage, and more!
What's the coolest thing Verisign does to support women engineers?
"Verisign has been extremely warm and welcoming. Your opinions and ideas are heard irrespective your gender and position in the company. Verisign has a Women in Technology group which organizes monthly workshops and seminars, encouraging women to participate and demonstrate their skills. It is attended by the entire company and not just women. The company is full of empowering women who constantly motivate you to break the stereotypes and fulfill your passion."
—Shreyashi, Software Engineer at Verisign
Want to join Verisign's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Engineer - Information Security Compliance
- Mid-level Software Engineer
- Sr. Infrastructure Software Engineer
- And more!
More about Verisign:
Verisign, a leader in domain names and internet infrastructure, enables internet navigation for many of the world's most recognized domain names.
Medical, dental, vision and prescription plans, traditional and Roth 401(k) with company match, basic life insurance, optional life insurance for employee, spouse or child(ren), home and auto insurance and more!
What’s one of the most impactful things One Medical does for women engineers?
"I recently attended a fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg who pointed out that while there are increasing programs aimed at bringing women into technical roles, there aren't as many women being promoted. One of the most impactful things I see that One Medical does is actually hire and promote female engineers into both senior engineering roles and engineering management roles. Not only are they being promoted, but there is noticeable support before, during, and after the promotion. Growth and learning is a big part of the culture here, and I am excited to take part in such a fulfilling company."
—Vanessa, Data Engineer at One Medical
Want to join One Medical's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Principal Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Staff Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- And more!
More about One Medical:
One Medical builds amazing end-to-end solutions to connect patients and our care team in new and innovative ways.highly collaborative environment, not only will you be partnering with designers and product managers, you'll also be sitting shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who deliver care daily to One Medical patients.
Top-notch dental, vision, and health insurance, paid parental leave, PTO, paid holidays, and sabbatical at 5 and 10 years
401K Match, One Medical membership for you and your family and more!
What's the coolest thing Fair does to support women engineers?
"Gender equity is a big thing at Fair. I once received a Fair-branded jacket that didn't quite fit right in the sleeves and waist. I tried to return it, but my boss wouldn't hear of it, citing Susan Fowler's leather jacket incident. Fair immediately offered to cover the jacket alteration costs for myself and other women in the company. I'm grateful to work at a place that values and includes its female employees as much as Fair does."
—Michelle, Lead Software Engineer at Fair.
Want to join Fair's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer - Search & Discovery Team
- Senior Platform Engineer
- Support Engineer
- And more!
More about Fair:
We are looking for highly motivated engineers interested in delivering the next level of innovation to product search and discovery at Fair. You'll be designing and implementing new search features and the systems behind them, including the integration of natural language processing, heuristics, and machine learning systems used to generate and rank search results. You'll work with microservices on AWS, multiple languages, and a great engineering team with a fun culture.
Equity incentives, 100% coverage of medical, vision and dental premiums for employees and their families, 100% paid parental leave for 4 months, 401(k) retirement plans and free lunch 5 days a week for every employee and more!
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
"Coming from coding school, my background was not in computer science nor did I graduate from college with a degree in engineering, so it has always been a bit of a struggle to build myself up. I remind myself that everyone is going through a learning process. I have spoken to my mentor about having imposter syndrome when I first started working at Yelp. He let me know that even he has moments of imposter syndrome. It is easier to relate to somebody when you hear that they are going through the same struggles as you and it's a good reminder that nobody is here to judge you. I think it's great that even when you mess up you don't have to be worried about getting fired. Yelp has a very supportive environment. In times of adversity I try to calm myself down and realize that everyone makes mistakes and tries to learn from them to be better."
—Julie, Full Stack Engineer at Yelp.
Scroll up or click here to learn more about Yelp & how to join their team.
Want to see more great roles at companies committed to recruiting more women in software engineering? Check out our job board!
A Look at Fidelity's Approach to Women's Career Growth and Engagement
Whenever I reflect on my experience as one of the relatively few women in the gaming industry, I think of a student I met at a Game Writers' Roundtable the last time I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
"The floggings will continue until morale improves." We've all heard the saying, a tongue-in-cheek way of criticizing workplaces that are neither healthy nor productive — and no employer or employee wants to be that workplace. Create a healthier, more productive work environment with these tips.