Abadesi Osunsade, founder of Hustle Crew and NonTechTech, and Pippa Dale, Head of Fixed Income Roadshows at BNP Paribas and Founding member of LBWomen.org, discuss ways to make tech more inclusive, the importance of focusing on intersectionality, the power of digital networks, the value of the OUTDirectory, holding companies accountable to greater social values, and expanding gender pay gap reporting across the board.
Abadesi Osunsade is the founder of Hustle Crew a career advancement community for the underrepresented in tech, NonTechTech a mentorship community for non-technical techies and author of careers advice book “Dream Big. Hustle Hard”. She also works on growth at Product Hunt / AngelList. Previously she was a team leader in growth-oriented roles at Amazon, Hoteltonight and Groupon, where she joined as one of the first partner managers and helped scale the department 5X in her first 8 months. Abadesi graduated from LSE in 2009 with a BSc. in Government and Economics and wrote for the Financial Times before joining London’s tech scene. She was born in Washington DC and grew up in East Africa, before moving to the UK to complete secondary school.
You can follow Abadesi on Twitter @Abadesi.
Pippa Dale is the Head of Fixed Income Roadshows at BNP Paribas. Pippa Dale joined BNP Paribas in 2008 and has spent much of her career working in the financial sector for many of the top tier banks; Barclays, UBS, SG and others. Her work has demanded she spends time in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the UK; and her present role is currently Head of Global Markets Roadshows at BNP Paribas where she engages with senior management, clients and manages a team in both London and Paris . She has also spent some years running her own holiday company in SW France, which has left her with a love of France, its food and is a pretty proficient cook.
Pippa founded BNP Paribas Pride’s Network (and help launch their Women’s and Parenting Networks) and is now determined to continue raising the profile of lesbian and bi women with LBWomen.org, an organisation to encourage Lesbian and Bi women to join her in being an inspiration and role model. She believes her openness about her sexuality allows colleagues, suppliers and clients to have a honest and more trusted relationship with her. She came ‘out’ in the 90’s to her firm, when work required her to travel to Asia. Pippa believes strongly in the need to remain involved in workplace politics and is determined to influence changes to create a more sustainable and more enjoyable working life.
You can follow Pippa on Twitter @thepippadale.
Series Three, Episode Nine Transcript
Julia: Hello. My name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. Today, I’m joined by Abadesi Osunsade and Pippa Dale.
Abadesi Osunsade is the founder of Hustle Crew, a career advancement community for the underrepresented in tech, a membership community called NonTechTech for non-technical techies, and author of careers advice book, “Dream Big. Hustle Hard.” She works at Product Hunt, AngelList and has held positions at Amazon, HotelTonight, and Groupon. A graduate in government and economics, Abadesi was a writer for the Financial Times before joining London’s tech scene, was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in East Africa before moving to the UK to complete her secondary education.
Abadesi, welcome to the show.
Abadesi: Thanks, Julia.
Julia: Pippa Dale is the head of Fixed Income Road Shows at BNP Paribas, and has spent much of her career working in the financial sector for many of the top tier banks. Pippa’s current role is of a truly international nature, heading global market road shows in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and she manages a team in both London and Paris. Pippa founded BNP Paribas’ Pride Network, and helped launch their Women’s and Parenting networks, and is now determined to continue raising the profile of lesbian and bi women with LBWomen.org, an organisation encouraging lesbian and bi women to join her in becoming inspirational role models.
Pippa, welcome to the show.
Pippa: Thank you for having me.
Julia: So, always at the start of the show, we invite all our guests to take a minute to tell us what they’re focused on. Abadesi, let’s start with you. What are you focused on at the moment?
Abadesi: I’m really focused on making tech more inclusive. All of our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology in ways that we don’t even understand, and technology plays a role in making very important decisions about how society operates, from who in prison gets put on parole to what students get given a university place. Artificial Intelligence is being designed by a very homogenous of people that don’t reflect society and don’t reflect the people interacting with the technology. So, for me, it’s really all about, what can I as an individual do to make tech more inclusive? One of the things that I can do is to empower underrepresented people with opportunities and education to access roles within technology, or potentially become tech entrepreneurs themselves.
That’s really what the Hustle Crew mission is about. Through talks, training, and mentorship, I work with young women, people of colour, and ensure that the things that they should learn at university, but don’t, about navigating the tech world, become a part of their tool kit, I guess. I also work with organisations who want to attract and retain more diverse talent, but don’t. So, yeah, I work with progressive tech leaders to help them get better at that. Then the idea with NonTechTech was to start a mentorship community. Mentorship is a really powerful way for people to progress within their careers.
What frustrates me about the media’s narrative around tech is this obsession with STEM. You know, “We need more coders! We need more women engineers!” And while that’s absolutely true, engineering really is only a small fraction of all the roles available within tech. So, what I’m trying to do with NonTechTech is showcase the fact that tech needs editors, creatives, marketers, customer success people, everyone in between. We match mentors with students and young professionals to help them get into non-technical roles.
Julia: All right, so there’s a lot in there for sure.
Julia: But let me at that moment turn to Pippa. Pippa, what are you particularly focused on with your network?
Pippa: I’m particularly focused and very excited by the network that we started about 18 months ago, LB Women. I come from a world of corporate life where women in general find it difficult to express themselves, find it challenging to get through the career progress structure. A few years ago, we started to discuss, “Where are the out women in the workplace, in general?” Not even just in finance, but in general. I think it’s very difficult to help a group of people unless they start helping themselves.
So, we have set up a digital network, really, so we can encourage women, anybody who identifies amongst the lesbian and bi community, to raise each other up, celebrate each other, inspire each other, and then with the going forward idea that once we start helping ourselves and becoming known as a community to be courted, then other people will know how to court us and maybe bring us more forward into making sure that LB women identify themselves as their orientation, as a super positive string to their bow, as maybe less something that they should be private about, but something that they should welcome into the space of diversity as bringing a wider and more unique view on the world.
So, that’s the objective of LB Women, and I’m hoping, and after doing this for 18 months it still seems to be the case, that we’re doing something that’s fairly unique in the fact that we’re already going straight for a global view on it, and we’re delighted to have recently in the last few months launched in New York, and we’re hoping to operate in other countries really soon.
Julia: Let me come to you, first of all, about the NonTechTech initiatives.
Julia: There you were talking about how it’s partly about empowerment, it’s partly about membership. I was very interested in the letter that you wrote to Sadiq Khan, or you’re one of the authors of the letter, I should say, to Sadiq Khan, talking about that there are a number of unrepresented women who are perhaps disappearing in the context of tech.
Julia: Tell us a bit more about that.
Abadesi: I think it actually relates very closely to the work that Pippa does. What we often see happening in diversity initiatives is a focus purely on gender, with a complete lack of intersectionality. This letter was in response to the fact that media had heralded this trade mission that Sadiq Khan’s office had organised, sending a cohort of female founders, representing the London startup scene, to Silicon Valley. And they came back and were paraded across the press, like, “Look how diverse London startup scene is! Look how amazing it is!” Every single woman there was a white woman. As a black woman, a woman of colour here in London, participating in the startup scene, I was really, really frustrated and angry to see this. Because you might think, if you’re not in the scene, that that’s really what the scene represents. That those are the only women in the startup scene.
We talk about the next generation of people entering tech, and you can’t be what you can’t see. If what the media always sends is, when there are women participating in tech, they’re only white, then that continues to discourage other people from participating in this space. So what we’re trying to say is, we are here. Women of colour are here, doing great things. Why do we continue to be ignored? Why do we continue to be excluded? We should have been a part of that mission, or there should be other missions that specifically speak to underrepresented groups – LGBTQI women, women of colour, disabled women, mothers – the list goes on.
I think we really need to just be more aware of the dimensions that womanhood includes. So many initiatives are just far too lazy, and Sadiq Khan should absolutely not be praising his diversity efforts when there weren’t any women of colour in that group. So, that’s really what it was about.
Julia: And you talk about your interaction with corporates as well.
Julia: Are they beginning to appreciate that they tend to see the world through one lens, or do you feel that organisations are perhaps waking up to the importance of true representation?
Abadesi: I think if things were changing the way we wanted them to, we wouldn’t have to be at this table. You wouldn’t have to do the work that you do, Julia. You wouldn’t have to do the work that you do, Pippa. Unfortunately, there’s always a disconnect between what we consume, in terms of stories that we might read in the press, like, “Oh, look at these companies hiring more women onto their boards!” And what we actually see happening in reality, when you actually look at the data and you look at the numbers and you see what’s changing, it’s certainly not changing quickly enough.
Funnily enough, I’ve been doing Hustle Crew for about 18 months, the same amount of time that Pippa’s been running her network, and I’ve only just had, within the last month, the first straight white man booking me in to his tech company to work for him. Prior to that moment, the only other decision-makers who found my work valuable enough to invest in were women, women of colour, or gay men, because they are the people who have experienced exclusion, and therefore understand the value to be gained by fostering inclusion, helping people become more productive. But if you have the privilege of being the typical person in the workplace, which is, you know, cisgender heterosexual white male, probably a bit posh as well, then you never notice these things. So it was really only people who’d ever noticed being the outsider, or who had faced some kind of discrimination or micro-aggression, that decided to invest in Hustle Crew. I think that’s very telling of the progress that we’ve been able to make.
Julia: And Pippa, let me come to you at this point, about your network in particular. 18 months in, you’ll have great stories, war stories, the two of you, about setting up networks. I also love the fact that you’re doing that on a digital platform as well, and taking that out globally. There’s a lot of argument for the power of intersectionality between networks. We’ve had a lot of people talk on the podcast about that. But you have a very clear intention and a very clear constituent group, if you like. What’s the reason for that?
Pippa: The reason behind that is, it’s not to either exclude ourselves or to stand apart from anyone else. It really comes from, historically, that I’ve been in the workplace for a hideous number of years, over 30 years, and I’ve always noticed that people have asked, they’ve wanted to help the lesbian and bi community. It’s very difficult to help a community if they don’t offer you something to be helped. Even if you’re just doing career advice on someone, they have to want to have a better career. It’s the same with networking. It’s the same with raising each other up, that you really want to be able to offer something structured for someone to help you.
What is also useful for LB women in particular, and, in fact, there’s a gender issue more about women in general, that the face-to-face networking can always seem very time consuming, can seem very much a scatter-gun approach. Whereas if you bring networking on to a digital platform, you can be more structured, you can certainly reach an audience which suits your own personal way of wanting to connect, whether that’s either by the FinTech space or the tech space, or it might be geographical. As soon as you have face-to-face networking, all those opportunities, I sense, shut down, but on the digital platform they’re wide open.
Julia: I think one of the things that I read with grave concern is the number of young employees who are out at university and then come into the workplace and go back into the closet. To the point you made actually, about if you can see it, you can be it. The whole importance of role modelling and mentoring as well. Is mentoring very much part of your model as well?
Pippa: There’s two parts to our model which we are super-proud of. One is that we have, again, a geographically open mentoring scheme, which we are being very kindly given by an organisation called Work In, which is a uniquely well-placed mentoring scheme. I’m delighted to say that we’re discovering that, and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I’m not 100% sure, but it seems like LB women really want to mentor each other. They’re going to go that extra mile with the people that they’re mentoring within their own community, which is something that we are really having some amazing success stories with.
Secondly, is that we have, again, I’m really hoping it’s unique, but we have started something called the Out Directory. We’re asking any LB women of any form to list themselves in a completely and utterly just your name, just your occupation on pretty much a blank page, to try and demonstrate that we have numbers within our community. We seem to be so shy and so awkward, and in the last eight months I’m delighted to have said that we’ve got 300 names to sign up. With the idea of talking about going back to students, if you list yourself on that out directory and you are at university, what’s the point of going back in? It’s not a big demand. You’re not putting your name on the front page of a newspaper, but you’re quietly, confidently and standing next to a large number of others, proudly saying, “This is who I am.”
Julia: That’s really interesting in terms of the way that women support each other and mentor each other and also want to interconnect. I was thinking very much, Abadesi, about what you were saying earlier around how we don’t go through our careers in isolation, and I’m wondering where the intersection between the two of you lies – the empowerment of women, in a sense.
Abadesi: I think it’s really interesting the point Pippa made about women within the LB community being very interested in mentoring each other. What I think there’s an opportunity for between, let’s say, the Hustle Crew community and NonTechTech, and LB women is really talking about what it’s like to be a woman in a world dominated by men. What’s really interesting now, let’s say, versus 10 years ago when I graduated, and I’m sure was certainly the case when you started your career, is that we talk about things like patriarchy. You might open your newspaper and see it, and go, “Oh my gosh, look. It’s mostly men in the board. It’s mostly men in leadership. It’s mostly men earning more money.”
Let’s say if you were a gay man, you might still gain some of those privileges of being a man in a workplace, whereas we as women in a workplace ruled by men, I feel, have a lot more affinity and share a lot of the same, unfortunately, really negative experiences.
Julia: I think that’s a really interesting point, because in the LGBTQ community often it’s a bit like in the BAME community, people go, “Well, we put one label on it and that will define everybody.” It can’t. Tell us what you think?
Pippa: I definitely sense that my strongest asset in other areas of minorities would be the straight women community. I, again, don’t mind whether they are BAME, or people of disability, or of anything. It’s being a woman and it’s the gender that drives us all forward. We need to raise each other up. I definitely from my point of view, as I said, I make reference to being in the workplace for a long time, and I haven’t seen the change that I would have expected. As a 21 year old entering into the workplace and now as somebody some years later finding myself still asking the same questions. I think women need to come together across all the spectrums and actually be more forceful in their demands. Education, showing the statistics that it’s the right thing to do, showing even the business case is not proving enough. We need to maybe be a bit more … I love your letter to Sadiq Khan. I think it’s about lobbying. It’s about being a lot more aggressive and a lot more demanding.
Abadesi: I think if gender pay gap reporting never came into law, it absolutely never would have been done, because it’s always the case that people in a position of power will do whatever they can to maintain that power. We just turn to the history books to know that. If men are paid more than women for the exact same role, it might be in their interest to keep that out of public knowledge, so that they can continue to enjoy that privilege. Once it became law, it’s only for companies with over 200 employees, I hope at some point it’s for all companies, all employers, because, like you said, it’s not happening. It’s not happening quick enough. I’d feel really, really ashamed to tell a young generation of girls now at school that it’s going to be the same experience for them. I want them to have a better opportunity at earning more and learning more than I have had, for sure.
Julia: Where do you think the accelerating factors will be? What will drive that change faster? Policy is clearly one. Networks and organisational lobbying…
Pippa: I think women coming together using the digital platforms that are now available. I think the MeToo campaign has obviously just stratospherically made women realise that they actually do have a voice. It doesn’t have to be a voice that does not provide solution. I sense that the idea of saying, “Yes, it’s great to have gender pay gap discussions, but are you 100% right about the fact that why is it limited to 200? Why do you have to be a medium-sized company?”
Pippa: That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Abadesi: I also think that one of the things that probably has to shift, almost, is capitalism itself. People are having lots of conversations about this in the press at the moment. Typically we’ve just been optimising for profit, we’ve just been optimising for growth, but society is changing very rapidly. The gap between the richest and the poorest and the most privileged and the most vulnerable is spreading quicker than ever. Maybe we have to start thinking about holding companies accountable to more social values like diversity. What are you doing to make your workplace an environment that feels safe and equally productive for parents, people of all identities, people of all backgrounds? Previously we’ve never really held companies accountable to principles like that, but if we as individuals in communities, speaking to each other on social media, writing about it on the internet, start doing that, and start holding more people accountable to that, perhaps that could accelerate change as well.
Julia: Let’s take a moment there to turn to Cynthia and Robert for some research to support the discussion today.
Cynthia: Here are some stats about women in tech and the size of the gender pay gap. Only 5% of startups are owned by women.
Robert: Only 28% of computer science graduates are female.
Cynthia: Only 7% of partners at the top 100 venture capital firms are women.
Robert: After peaking in 1991 at 36%, the rate of women in computing roles has been in steady decline, currently standing at 25%.
Cynthia: Women hold only 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies.
Robert: 41% of women quit their jobs in the high tech industry, compared to just 17% of men.
Cynthia: On average, women under 25 in the tech industry earn 29% less than their male counterparts.
Robert: A whopping 63% of the time, women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company.
Cynthia: About 74% of young girls express interest in STEM subjects and computer science.
Robert: There’s clearly a lot of work to be done to improve these figures. The tech industry has put numerous schemes in place, and we look forward to seeing what effect they will have in the future.
Julia: Thanks Cynthia and Robert, and links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you’ll find all our episodes, and you can sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter, @DiverCityPod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating. It all helps to promote the show.
I’m interested in, when we think about the new generation of talent coming through, and we talk a lot on the podcast, but we’re deeply mindful that it’s probably mostly diversity and inclusion people who listen to the podcast. We’re having a big initiative to push that into the commercial conversation. What do you think, when you’re working with organisations, when you’re working with young talent, how do you think we can drive change and accelerate change?
Abadesi: That’s a really interesting question. I was really struck by a very well known tech CEO, Stewart Butterfield. He’s the CEO of Slack, which is a internal comms tool, where he said that he didn’t want to actually hire any diversity and inclusion people into his company anymore, because he felt that he should be accountable for that as CEO, as should everyone else within the company. I thought that was setting an incredible standard for other leaders within the corporate space to also follow. To the point you’ve just made, what you often find is that people who are most affected by the problem will be the ones that want to champion change. Whether it’s women, whether it’s people within the gay community, disabled people, they’ll be the ones that try to make the office environment more welcoming and more productive for themselves.
Unfortunately, they are also often the people with the least influence or power to drive change within the organisation. Something that often I come across and which I find frustrating is where are the leaders? Where are the CEOs in this room? Where are the CTOs? Where are the CFOs? Where are the real top of the pile, big dogs that can actually make a difference, and why are they absent from the conversation, from the initiatives, from the room?
I would just like to see that change, because otherwise we just fall into an echo chamber, and I think in a way that’s almost why perhaps there hasn’t been enough change over the last few years, because people have been appointed to a diversity and inclusion role, and then almost left in a silo to then be the sole person in a thousand-person organisation accountable for driving change, which is absolutely ridiculous when you think about it. I think trying to understand where the power really lies, and then making sure that the people with that power and influence are a part of it, is the thing that we need to do, which isn’t being done.
Julia: Certainly that works at organisations, as you were saying, up to a thousand people, etc. Pippa, I’m thinking about BNP Paribas, not to single out that institution specifically, but this is a huge global organisation-
Pippa: This is a really nice moment, I think, for BNP Paribas, if we want to be ahead of the game, and if we want to be ahead of the curve. I have been party to seeing some senior-level meeting notes with our top-rated clients, so it’s a large organisation talking to large organisations. We are being asked for gender stats. We are being asked by our client base how is BNP Paribas looking after the minorities of their communities within their massive great big office spaces. That will drive change. Middle management will not be able to answer the question. If they cannot answer the question with positive numbers, they will start losing these accounts, and they cannot afford to do that.
Right at this very precise moment, I really do see a very profound, very early moment of change where we are being questioned about gender. I have seen two meeting notes where we’ve been questioned on our gender balance within the organisation. If we can’t give the right numbers back, we will suffer. They will go to another organisation.
Julia: One of the dynamics which comes up time and time again is about working practices and thinking about traditional working practices versus … you have a multifaceted career, and to be attracting talent like you requires a slight shift of mindset about thinking about working practices. Pippa, do you see some changes in that?
Pippa: I look across at the trading floor that I’m based in, and I do not see the future workplace looking like that. The five day week. If we are going to want to champion the talent that is out there, if we want to have the talent within our organisation, we are going to have to move the way that we work to be able to accommodate this new way of thinking. People want to work portfolio-wise. I think they will look back on the five day working week and especially the hours that they put in in the financial industry, and I think they will just think, “What were you doing for all of those hours of the day?” I think the new working practice of fluid in work, fluid in, not only in your colleagues, but actually fluid in how you work, is definitely something that maybe diversity can encourage. I think it will be the talent that wins the day.
Abadesi: I feel like they go together, because if you think of the corporate world as we know it, it’s hundreds of years old and it was started by men, mostly straight men and they got to decide what time we begin our day. They got to decide what we wear. They got to decide what time the day ends. As time’s gone on, and civil rights movements have happened, other types of identities have slowly crept in, but we’ve crept in and just followed in single file, and tried to conform. Now, suddenly we’re reaching this point where it’s like, “Actually, I don’t want to wear a three-piece suit. I’ve got kids. Or I want to live out in the country, or whatever.
Pippa: I don’t want to go in on rush hour.
Pippa: The working week has created a rush hour. There’s not a single person on the planet who likes the rush hour.
Abadesi: Exactly. I definitely think that the two are so closely tied – inclusion and flexible working – absolutely.
Julia: This is all really good on paper, which I love. I love the energy of the conversation, but it does come down to that middle management layer you were talking about there. I’m interested in your directory. Do we want to call it a directory? It just feels a little one dimensional, because actually it’s a community.
Pippa: It started off as being one dimensional. I actually had the idea, because we were approached by so many people who were going back into the closet when they went into the workplace. They started in a role, they say they’re going to come out next week, but then next week becomes two years. Then they feel they’ve been lying to their colleagues. How do I out myself? I want to out myself at work.
We started putting names on a Post-it note, a digital Post-it note. After a while, a few of my fellow ambassadors, we call ourselves, for running the LBW network, said, “Pippa, you’re not using this properly.” We brought the Out Directory alive by making it a LinkedIn connection. Very simple. What we have discovered, and it came about very organically, is that every name that is listed on the Out Directory, and we have CEOs of major corporations, and we have young people who are working in tiny schools outside of London. They are all on this directory. They have the same typeface, they have the same font. It’s the one moment that an LB woman can stand next to anyone who identifies with their community, and there is no hierarchy whatsoever. For some reason, LB, well, I think women, love that concept.
Julia: Just to add. I’m a gay woman in the city who spent 25 years mostly not wanting to talk about what I did at the weekend. I would add my name with pleasure to that directory.
Pippa: We would love to have you.
Julia: You’re very kind. I really support everything that you’re doing there. I’m keen on reasons to be optimistic as we end this show. I think that’s an amazing initiative, and an amazing space to do that, which will ultimately drive the change around not only working practises but also recognition and role modelling around middle management and senior management layers, as well.
What are you particularly optimistic about as you think ahead, you look ahead at your career? We’re exhausted! We are certainly of an age. I’m just really fascinated … What are you excited about?
Abadesi: I think that what I’m most excited about is how the status quo is changing, and the opportunities that creates for people from all types of backgrounds to get involved in innovation, and the creation of technology, and the creation of products and services. I think the world’s alright, but it could be so much better. Now that people from all backgrounds have an opportunity to participate in the process of building and creating, it’s just going to be an even better place to live. With stuff like the Out Directory, it just means that no matter who you are or what you feel like, you don’t have to be ashamed of who you are. I certainly know as myself being a woman of colour growing up, I never really saw people like me doing the types of things that I wanted to do. It’s only now that I’m connected to other incredible women, like Pippa, and you Julia, through technology, that I feel possibilities are endless. If more and more of us continue to do that work, then more and more people will also feel that way. That’s what I’m optimistic about.
Julia: Wonderful. It’s been a fantastic discussion. I just want to take the moment to thank you both. I know you’re both exceptionally busy, so I really appreciate it. Thank you for joining the show.
Pippa: Thank you.
Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you’re there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed in iTunes or your favourite podcast app. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review. It all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.