Growing up the youngest of nine kids (six girls, three boys) felt like being on a ready-made sports team. Instead of differentiating between the boys and girls, I simply felt part of a team.
Fast forward to my adult career, and I treat work the same way. Recently, I have been researching the documented benefits of diversity — it became more important to me as a leader in the technology industry, where the average IT workforce is 75 percent male. We need more diversity.
Diversity, respect generate growth
My experience on leadership teams in health care and technology has validated the benefits of gender parity and diversity. Yes, in a strong management team, you have different opinions and friction. But if you turn friction into dialogue, you gain valuable insights and ultimately, innovation based on collaboration and mutual respect.
Having a more balanced team is logical and beneficial. Your business results are better because of diverse perspectives and viewpoints. People approach problems differently and everyone adds something to the equation. This often translates into better solutions for your team, client or business.
The key is respect and ensuring every voice is heard. At times, you might disagree, but the trick is to learn from different perspectives to build the best plan of action.
Valuing gender parity
I’m proud to be on the advisory board of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Columbus Chapter, with its focus on valuing gender parity in the workplace. As part of the HBA initiative, we explored a variety of challenges and data on the topic. We also conducted workshops to gain insight on the challenges facing women in today’s market and how we could and should try to solve for those challenges.
Don’t be afraid to ask
A couple of things I have learned over the years: Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise, promotion, help or advice. Develop a support system of those you admire or are inspired by. They don’t have to be your boss or higher than you in the organization structure. They might have a skill you do not possess … yet. Throughout my career I have benefited from having mentors I can call to gain perspective or advice, or to just run something past them.
Regardless of gender, let’s proactively manage our careers, tackle roadblocks and keep pushing. In fact, it’s more of a push and pull. Find people who will help pull you and surround yourself with people who keep pushing you to grow and develop.
Women tend to compete with each other, but we need to support each other. That’s where a mentor’s insights can be a great resource. Don’t judge a mentor by their title. A mentor is someone who listens and can provide insight, alternatives and approaches based on experience.
The path to growth, in terms of revenue, geographies and experience, is through diversity. I love the openness I’ve experienced since joining ICC. The team has welcomed me and my ideas, and I’m excited to be part of such a growth-oriented organization.
Kelly Gratz is the President of ICC. Kelly joined ICC in May, as the Columbus-based IT consulting firm deepens its focus on expanding to more Midwest markets. ICC’s focus on gender parity and diversity includes sponsorships and board memberships for Columbus Women in Tech, Women in Analytics and the Ohio Diversity Council. The company recently announced several director-level promotions of women and is forming an internal workforce diversity and inclusion committee.