The Benefits Of Success Measured By The Effectual Stretch

It wasn’t exactly the romanticized version of backpacking through an exotic land, especially if you consider a cheap roller suitcase a backpack, which unfortunately I did. But that was me then in 1998, when my then girlfriend (now wife) had bitten me with the travel bug. Prior to that my travel was limited to North America. When I was 13 I went to Hawaii, which I actually thought was another country.

My wife had traveled extensively prior to us meeting, including the romanticized version of backpacking through Europe after college, only to get most of her belongings stolen in Prague after only two days into her trip. She could’ve got home after that, wanted to go home after that, but regrouped, bought a few new things, and went on to travel for another few weeks.

Mama and Me Costa RicaAnd so our first big journey together was to Costa Rica. A lovely country, it was the first time I had been to such an exotic land, and to travel with someone else who lived boldly, to experience such visceral sensations I had never before experienced was amazing in and of itself. But the meeting of people I had never met before, some of whom had alien worldviews compared to mine, and exchanging those worldviews with one another, was the epitome of the “effectual stretch.”

The “effectual stretch” meaning pushing oneself to learn and expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in a way that’s produces desired yet diverse effective results, whatever those results may mean to each person. It could mean the literal extremes of success or failure, or that fatty layer in between that gives sustenance to our tenuous journey of sinew and bone.

We’ve attempted to impress the same approach and attitude on our daughters, teaching them to be bold yet aware, to protect themselves but not live in fear, to keep getting back on the bull like they own the beast, horns held tightly in hands. This includes exposing them to travel, new locales and people, experiences that we hope will shape their adult lives and those they interact with for the better.

Listening to a recent Freakonomics podcast about empowering a better workplace and the cities where those workplaces are, I had to smile when I heard American economist and Harvard University professor Edward Glaeser talk about how he was taking a sabbatical while “…attempting to civilize my children by taking them to a variety of different cities.”

Glaeser believes that encouraging industrial diversity would contribute more to economic growth. Cities that embrace a people-centric view of community (around infrastructure, education, services, etc.) means that businesses are more likely to thrive in said communities. The same podcast includes commentary from Glaeser on Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s ambitious Downtown Project, which is primarily an urban revitalization effort, but also an effectual stretch project on a grander community scale due to the emphasis on business and workforce diversity. It’s a “collision” strategy that encourages others to live and work together, continually exchanging ideas in order to create positive and effectual change while powering sustainable business.

Which brings me to the live TalentCulture #TChat Show we did from Cork, Ireland for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit of over 400 attendees, as well as the tech talent diversity panel session that Meghan and I moderated at the summit. The panelists and guests included a diverse group of business leaders, an academic and one inspirational young student: David Parry Jones, VP UK and Ireland VMWare; Noelle Burke Head of HR Microsoft Ireland; Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering and Science CIT; student Ciara Judge, one of the Kinsale winners of the 2013 Google Science Award; and Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, and Vice Chair of IT@cork.

ITCork Diversity panel

Not only is the city of Cork (and much of the Republic of Ireland for that matter) investing in business-friendly infrastructure and creating competitive tax codes, they embrace the above collision strategy. The not-for-profit IT@cork European Tech Cluster, the organization behind the European Tech Summit, represents the interests of the IT industry in Ireland. This includes indigenous and international IT professionals, executives, multinationals, government leaders, public sector, academia, entrepreneurs, investors and the legal and financial professional services community joining together to drive thought leadership, collaboration and global strategic alliances.

ITCork15 TChat Show

Amen. The good news is that IT@Cork is being replicated in various iterations throughout communities worldwide. Even less formal, but no less impactful, events take place, including the likes of Event Santa Cruz in my own backyard, founded by Matthew Swinnerton, brings together local entrepreneurs and the community every month, again to facilitate the effectual stretch and diversity of ideas.

Although our core theme of the IT@Cork panel session and #TChat Show was gender diversity, what became crystal clear was the theme of broader diversity and inclusion. It’s all about attracting a wider array of backgrounds and worldviews of both women and men who support one another. This is what can lead to a competitive advantage in business and an equitable advantage for cities and communities around the world.

According to PwC’s 2015 CEO Survey, talent diversity and inclusiveness are not just the softer issues only given lip service, but instead are now considered crucial to being competitive. Of the CEOs whose companies have a formal diversity and inclusiveness strategy, 85% think it’s improved their bottom line. They also see such strategies as benefiting innovation, collaboration, customer satisfaction, emerging customer needs and the ability to benefit technology.

So it’s clear for me and many others today that the best business outcomes for organizations today can only be achieved through diversity and inclusion growth collisions. However, it’s also important to note that no matter progressive and elevated organizations are, complex regulatory changes and an increase in Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) audit frequency and intensity abound. This means many organizations need assistance to ensure diversity programs and Affirmative Action plans are documented and compliant, while at the same time magnifying their overall diversity impact.

Ever since my wife and I had met one day at the beach nearly 18 years ago, it’s been one growth opportunity after another. Not always travel related, and certainly not always successful, it’s been more about having an explorer’s mentality and approach to mindful and agile living both at home and at work. Business and community leaders who invest and sustain this approach will reap the benefits of success measured by the effectual stretch.

True Diversity Is Much More Than A Drive By

“For you and me, sex is not a competition
For you and me, sex is not a job description
For you and me
We agree—
But that’s just us
Reaching for the alien shore…”

—Neil Peart (writer and musician)

At the tail end of my run, I walked engrossed in my cool down, my music and my thoughts. I half-looked back over my right shoulder to make sure there were no cars coming – and whoosh – a black blur shot past me on my left.

Startled into flight or fight I spun around and just about fell over. But it sobered me quickly, elevating my heart rate and focal strength to new heights.

What was I thinking? I thought. About everything else but where I’m at obviously.

Yes, I made it home intact and more in touch with my immediate environment, but it actually got me thinking about everything else ironically. Like the article I had read earlier in the Washington Post about CEO Marc Benioff reviewing the pay of his entire workforce (all 16,000 employees) to make sure both males and females are compensated fairly based on the work they do and their performance. He was quoted as saying, “When I’m done there will be no gap.”

Right on. Admirable and exciting not only for how this may impact’s overall employee and business performance, but also how it may help spur further change at other companies.

But why now? What’s the motivation that shot past Benioff and other progressive business leaders doing similar change management initiatives around gender diversity and performance?

Is it the fact that study after study now reveals the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance is powerful (which includes pay equity as well)? According to a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a teams’ collective intelligence rose with the number of women in the group. Is this possibly because of the women’s higher performance on tasks that required social sensitivity? I would say yes. Gallup research does show that women leaders tend to have significantly happier, more highly engaged teams.

Also, according to economist research referenced in an amazing report from Mercer titled “When Women Thrive Businesses Thrive” from November of 2014, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the US by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%. The fact that women invest more of their household income than men the overall wellbeing of their children and their communities, greater gender diversity in the workforce could dramatically impact quality of life globally.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Also according to McKinsey, an investigation of 89 European companies with the greatest gender diversity at the top management level found that, on average, these companies’ financial performance was higher than average for their business sectors. In particular, these companies demonstrated superior return on equity, earnings before interest and taxes, and stock price growth.

There are business leaders who are doing more than just being accountable according to the same Mercer research report referenced above, and those organizations where leaders are actively involved in diversity programs have more women at the top and throughout the organization as well as more equitable talent flows between women and men.

Plus, more women will move into top roles over the next decade globally, everywhere but North America unfortunately. The TalentCulture #TChat will be live in Cork, Ireland this week for the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, and according to a University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others. And academic institutions in Ireland are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In fact, there’s been a lot of exciting work over the past decade developing talent pipelines in Ireland for example, developing and sustaining new models of industry-academic partnerships. For example, VMware in Cork has grown from 1 employee 10 years ago to 800+ employees today by adding approximately 100 employees per year to its workforce. In excess of 40% of these new employees have been recruited from partnerships with local academic institutions.

The approach adopted in this case is an example of how organizations in Ireland are now innovating in the talent pipeline space and generating competitive advantage from partnering with academic institutions such as the Cork Institute of Technology, as distinct from following the more traditional option of just simply hiring from the pool of graduates that the academic institutions decide to produce.

It’s not lost on talent acquisition leaders about how hyper-competitive it is out there to recruit the best people – both women and men alike – with the skills needed for the work demands at hand. I’m sure there are many other examples of the whoosh-blur changes from around the world culminating in and not a moment too soon. The new State of Talent Acquisition survey data from ERE Media underscore how vital speed-to-hire and workforce planning are to organizations (as well as current hindrances).

In a recent interview with on the topics of diversity and inclusion, PeopleFluent SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Alys Reynders Scott, an inspirational mentor to me and many others, states that leaders – the big L’s and the little l’s – should be all about building a palpably inclusive culture that delivers the promise of a diverse workforce with business success is the best thing any organization can do to attract the next wave of highly qualified diversity candidates into the business.

Because the investment to attract and retain with a true diversity agenda that impacts the world of work for the better is much more than a drive by.

#TChat Live from Ireland: The IT@Cork European Technology Summit

We’re very excited to announced that the TalentCulture #TChat Show will be live from the IT@Cork European Technology Summit in Cork, Ireland on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, from 6-7pm GMT (1-2pm ET, 10-11am PT).

This special #TChat will focus on the impact of gender diversity on technology business performance around the world.

A University of Cambridge study has observed that Ireland is fifth in the world for female economic power, ranking just behind Australia, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In Ireland, women are in positions of seniority in a staggering number of large global tech businesses – Apple, Microsoft, PayPal and many others.

But the current state of women in technology isn’t great, especially in the U.S. For example, the leadership at all of the top tech companies is overwhelmingly male. The good news is that academic institutions are now seeing businesses and STEM-based industries focus more heavily on the gender diversity agenda.

In January of this year (2015), McKinsey released a study showing that gender diverse companies had financial performance that was 15 percent higher than the national industry median, and ethnically diverse companies had performance that was 35 percent higher than the national industry median.

Sneak Peek:

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation every week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

Thank you to all our TalentCulture sponsors and partners: Dice, Jibe, TalentWise, Hootsuite, IBM, CareerBuilder, PeopleFluent, Jobvite, Predictive Analytics World for Workforce and HRmarketer Insight. Plus, we’re big CandE supporters!

Special Live #TChat: The IT@Cork European Technology Summit in Ireland


#TChat Radio — Wed, May 6th — 6 pm GMT / 1 pm ET / 10 am PT Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-founders and co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we welcome our special guests from the IT@Cork European Technology Summit: David Parry-Jones, VP UKI Vmware; Caroline O’Driscoll, Tax Partner at KPMG, Vice Chair of IT@cork; and Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering & Science at CIT.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, May 6th!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, May 6th — 6:30 pm GMT / 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our very special guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community from around the globe. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why is there still such a gender gap in technology and business today? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2:  How can business leaders create an inclusive culture that encourages and sustains gender diversity? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What are the primary benefits of closing the overall diversity gap? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until then, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!!

Also at the IT@Cork European Technology Summit, Meghan and Kevin will be moderating a Tech Diversity Panel Discussion and Meghan will be a panelist in a Digital Marketing Discussion! Join us!

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Photo: Cork, Ireland