March 8th is International Women’s Day—a day for the world to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also marks something more: a call to action for accelerating gender parity. At Teem, we want our voices to join the chorus, but we also want to take action.
While we as a company embark on a renewed focus on advocacy, we want to share our perspectives and growth along the way.
Parity.org and the ParityPledge™
Teem became a Founding Member of Parity.org when Shaun Ritchie, our CEO, and the executive team signed the ParityPledge™. The pledge is simple; it reads:
“I commit my organization to simply interview and consider at least one qualified woman for every open role, VP and higher, including the C-Suite and the Board. That’s it. No quotas. No deadlines.”
Raising awareness of underlying parity issues is paramount, so signing the pledge was an important step. But genuinely demonstrating our commitment to gender parity means walking the walk. As a company, Teem is at a stage where we’ve already established our C-Suite and Board of Directors.
With no open positions, how can Teem still do our part in advancing gender parity? Seeking direction, our HR Manager Miki Loveless spoke with Cathrin M. Stickney, Founder and CEO of Parity.org to glean advice from the woman behind the movement. Cathrin’s guidance both encouraged introspection while inspiring actions we can take today to make a difference.
Acknowledging Destructive Homogeneity
First, Cathrin explained that Teem needs to define the kind of diversity culture that we want to be. To accomplish that, we must collectively acknowledge that diversity makes a better team. Which is pretty easy considering the research. The Peterson Institute found that companies with 30% female leadership could see increases of 15% in profitability compared to similar companies with no female leadership.
One potential source of this phenomenon, noted Cathrin, is the destructive nature of homogeneous teams. A lack of representation leads to deficiencies in perspectives, opinions, solutions, and a propensity towards the ever-feared groupthink atmosphere. It’s simple: diversity fosters success.
Asking Questions, Challenging Assumptions
Central to defining our own diversity culture at Teem is asking ourselves some important questions. Furthermore, discussing the answers only heightens internal awareness of the overarching issue. Cathrin offered three items for everyone at Teem to consider. As we continue to examine these internally, we wanted to share the perspective of our founders.
Shaun Ritchie, CEO, and Zach Holmquist, CWX, purposefully built a culture at Teem where everyone can feel safe, seen, heard, and valued. But more than that, these two built an environment where people feel safe to question the status quo.
Q. What does diversity mean to Teem?
Shaun Ritchie (SR): “Achieving broad diversity is central to our aspiration—it’s one of the reasons our location in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City is so important to us. Within Teem, we work hard to promote a culture of awareness and empathy, where we actively seek inclusion.”
Zach Holmquist (ZH): “The tech community—particularly in Utah—is susceptible to a lot of groupthink. Where there’s a lot of commonalities, ideas stagnate. That’s where diversity is paramount: it’s the infusion of different viewpoints from different backgrounds that results in progress.”
Q. What value does diversity bring to Teem?
SR: “The value of diversity manifests in countless ways. But perhaps one of the most immediate manifestations is simply awareness. In my own life journey, when I’ve been able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and better understand from their perspective, especially any type of minority group, I’ve grown as a person. Recognizing our own personal deficiencies and differences fosters an open discussion on challenges we all face—and how we might solve them.”
ZH: “It may sound strange, but we encourage a healthy dose of skepticism at Teem. Which means always questioning what we’re doing now and how we can do it better. Diversity brings more voices, and more voices support that very effort. Advocating for diversity is our commitment to a united willingness to evolve. Our business, leadership, and product would not be what it is without the active engagement of many voices and the constant questioning of if we’re doing things right.”
Q. What opportunities are provided to women to rise within Teem?
SR: “We’ve worked to ensure people feel safe, seen, valued, and heard. As such, it’s our responsibility to identify factors that are acting as barriers and break them down, then forge a path to success. For example, the structure of an organization can restrict access between certain roles and make advancement difficult. We try to do this across the board at Teem, and have found new positions for people as their skill set has grown and their career arc has taken a new path.
ZH: “At Teem, when we hire someone it’s because they’re exactly who we’ve been looking for and we support them no matter what. And when it comes to career advancement, sometimes you just need someone to “vote for you”—and extend a helping hand without any expectations of reciprocity. That means giving a platform for women to progress and grow, so all they need is their own initiative.”
The responses of Shaun and Zach underscore the driving values behind the company’s advocacy for gender parity. Ultimately, our collective acknowledgment of the proven importance of diversity matters more when we start taking action.
Awareness that Changes Behavior
Companies are already taking action to increase gender parity. Sysco, for example, makes sure that women are involved in the job interview process. Other companies take steps to ensure that a woman is present at every meeting. More than just guaranteeing presence, companies are also making sure that women feel comfortable to speak and be heard at every meeting they attend.
Sometimes, this means making a conscious effort to engage women directly in meetings and giving them the platform to be heard. We’re all responsible for cultivating a workplace where parity is the rule, not the exception.
“Speak up. Support. Celebrate.”
In honor of International Women’s Day, we encourage all of you to speak up, support and celebrate the advancement of women in all corporate roles. It is here, in the levels of the C-Suite and Board where the lack of gender parity runs most rampant. It is here that we all can lend our voice to the chorus—all the while practicing what we preach with purposeful action.
Many of Teem’s employees have taken the individual ParityPledge™ to show their respective commitment to advocating gender parity. You can join the movement, too. Take the ParityPledge™ for individuals and exhibit your commitment to equal representation, right now.
To borrow (and slightly modify) a send-off used by our co-founder Zach Holmquist: the future is one of inclusion, parity, and diversity—and it certainly is amazing.