Coffee chats with executives: Lindsey Siegel

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The technology giants are known for many things: the young talent, the unlikely success stories and the unparalleled opportunities. Yet, despite external success, issues still run deep in the veins of these booming companies— especially when it comes to diversity in the workplace. Today over 400 CEOs of major companies, from Adobe to General Motors and even Major League Baseball, have signed The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. This is an active pledge taken by these CEOs, promising to advance practices that will create more diverse teams and a more inclusive company culture.

Lindsey Siegel graduated from California State University Chico with a sociology major in 2013. She was hired at Salesforce three years ago as a recruiter and then shifted to working on the Executive Development team within Global Talent Development at Salesforce for the past year and a half. In this role, she aimed to integrate an inclusive mindset into Salesforce culture and managed their “Cultivating Equality at Salesforce” workshop which is offered globally. In a phone interview with The Wire, Siegel talked about how she got to her position at Salesforce, and what it means to build a diverse and inclusive corporate climate. Since this interview, she has assumed a new position at Pivotal Software in San Francisco as the Senior Program Manager of Leadership Development, where she will be focusing on the same topics.

What are some of the things it means to be an inclusive leader?

It can be little things. It’s asking individuals on your team “How are you doing?” and holding space for them. We’re really focused on giving people managers this new lens that there are people who come from different walks of life and people who have different experiences. Different people have different needs and essentially you need to pivot to modify your leadership style to every single different person to ensure that they feel like they can bring their full authentic self to work. We all have a voice it’s just we need to feel safe to actually speak, and when you don’t feel safe or you’re not invited to speak, the collective group is missing out on so much intellect. They are missing out on all this knowledge capital.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

So diversity is essentially all these different experiences and all these different things in life that make us who we are. If you imagine a room full of people, there is a bunch of diversity in the room. Diversity exists beyond race and gender and status. It goes really deeply into your experiences. And inclusion is really a behavior. Inclusion is an action. It’s saying and treating someone fairly because you empathize and you understand their background. There is a big difference between diversity and inclusion and it’s not really talked about that much.

You first worked for Salesforce in a recruiting position. How did you move into your current role?

In that recruiting role I was constantly in the field. I was out of the office and I was having daily meetings with some of the top sales talent in the Bay Area. But, throughout this time, I really started looking at the types of people that I was meeting and the types of people that were in my network and I realized that the network wasn’t that diverse. It didn’t reflect how I identified and I am half-black half-jewish. I was like, “Where are all the Blacks, the Latinex, the Native Americans? Where are all these salespeople and why don’t they exist in tech?” And so I started really working with our recruiting teams to start asking that question of “What’s going on here? Why are our companies not diverse?” And essentially, through networking internally, I joined my current team.

Why did diversity and inclusion resonate with you? Why were you the person that stepped up and said “Hey, what’s going on here?”

I grew up in the East Bay and my mom is African American and my dad is Eastern European Jew. So for me it was really interesting growing up. I got to experience these different worlds and these different cultures. Also in the East Bay it was very normal to have friends that didn’t look like you. My best friends growing up were Chinese and Mexican and it was normal if you had a sleepover on a Saturday to go to church with that family on Sunday. Even if your family didn’t go to church, you go to church. If it was Dias de los Muertos, you are celebrating. So I just grew up with a very vast world of different experiences that I was exposed to. So the reason I’m so passionate about diversity and inclusion is because I truly believe that sociability and empathy, at the heart of it, drives evolution and it drives innovation. Without us being able to sit down at a dinner table and have a discussion, especially with this political climate, then we are only hurting ourselves.

What does a day at work look like for you?

It’s fun! Every day is different. Some days I am focused on the workshop which is called “Cultivating Equality at Salesforce,” other days I am meeting with senior executives and talking about their strategy on how to talk about diversity and inclusion or I am coaching individuals. Really, at the core of this, it’s all about partnership. It’s all about how can we all work together to achieve this.

Can you touch a little bit more on the workshop that you plan?

It is offered globally and there are about 50 of them per year. I am essentially the program manager. I am not going to these locations and facilitating each program because that’s not scalable, but we work with an external vendor and I help design the content and I drive attendance. We also have each workshop co-led by Salesforce executives so I ensure that that executive is prepped to go in there and really lead authentically and tell their story.

Have you seen direct impacts from this workshop?

We have. I think first and foremost leaders and people who’ve had the workshop come out with a better understanding of what diversity and inclusion mean. They also have a better understanding of what they can do in their daily life to be a more inclusive leader and really think about what they are doing around hiring, promoting and retaining talent and how they can be more inclusive there. One key point is that diversity doesn’t mean the same thing globally. So, depending on where you are at in the world, diversity is different things and we tailor the workshop depending on where we are.

What is your team’s goal? Where do you see this all going?

Our goal is to really see companies become more inclusive at the end of the day. There is such a return on investment by being an inclusive company. A lot of us also feel like we are doing social justice work in the corporate world. I love working with executives, and if there is one thing I have learned in the last year, it’s that we have some amazing leaders here at Salesforce. We have people who truly care about their communities.

What is something you would say to the incoming workforce as they look for jobs and perhaps share some of your same interests?

I would say if you care about social justice then tech needs you. I think a lot of us in college think about going to social work, but you can actually practice sociology or philosophy or legal studies in tech as well. It has the same kind of elements and the same kind of desired changes that we are all used to seeing. Also, people don’t even need to be in a role like mine to practice diversity and inclusion. You could become a manager and really focus on more equitable hiring practices. Through being a manager you can change an entire or team or an entire organization.


And this idea is applicable on all platforms and in all settings. Creating an environment in the classroom, in club meetings and even in social settings where everyone’s ideas are valued can lead to incredible results. So next time, ask the person sitting next to you about her day or turn to a quieter group member to see what his opinion is— you never know where it could end up!

 

*THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN LIGHTLY EDITED FOR STYLE AND CLARITY. THE OPINIONS OF THIS AUTHOR DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT WOMEN IN BUSINESS AS A WHOLE.

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