On February 9th, HPE’s Black Employee Leadership Council held its 8th annual Black History Month Global Celebration and Webcast. Broadcasted from the corporate offices in Palo Alto and seen by employees around the world, the event gave visibility into the positive impacts of diversity in the workplace and the accomplishments of HPE’s diversity efforts. The event included remarks by CEO Meg Whitman and a fireside chat with Reverend Jesse Jackson, HPE’s Alan May (Executive Vice President of Human Resources), Brian Tippens (Chief Diversity Office), and Marilyn Crouther (Senior Vice President & General Manager U.S. Public Sector).
During the event HPE honored the legacy of Roy Clay, Sr, an engineer hired by Dave Packard in 1965 to start a computing division. During his years at HPE, Roy was responsible for driving diversity programs at the company and was also the first African American to serve on the Palo Alto City Council. Now in his late 80s, he continues to be an active advocate for diversity in tech.
Brian Tippens, Chief Diversity Officer, prides HPE as having a long history of making diversity a priority. For example, HPE was among the first companies in the Silicon Valley to have Black Employee Networks. We sat down with Brian to discuss the importance of diversity in the tech industry and at HPE.
Q: What are some of the struggles in bringing diversity to tech?
BT: I think it’s, in part, about building a pipeline. There is a lower representation of women and underrepresented minorities in computer science and computer engineering programs in universities for a number of different reasons. This means there is less of a feeder pool into Silicon Valley companies.
Companies also tend to grow organically. Someone starts a business, and they tend to hire their friends. The lack of diversity isn’t from malicious intent, but leaders grow their teams from the networks they know.
And some of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The best and the brightest talent want to go to companies where they see people that look like them, and where their career aspirations can be met. Because of these factors, diverse candidates may be less likely to target tech companies as a place to spend their careers.
There is also a lack of role models. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said the reason there aren’t more women leaders in tech is because there aren’t women leaders in tech. We have to highlight role models at the highest levels.
Q: How does highlighting and celebrating Black History Month emphasize this desire for better inclusion and diversity within HPE?
BT: This event is one of several initiatives that highlights the inclusive environment here at HPE. We have a series of big events we’ll be focusing on throughout the year – Black History Month, International Women’s Day in March, Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Veterans’ Day. It’s one of the activities we undertake around the world to bring visibility to diversity and the things that make us unique. We focus on inclusion to create an environment that brings the full power of our differences to work. Black History Month is one such event we do to show this type of inclusion.
Q: What types of programs does HPE offer that encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the tech world?
BT: When we talk about diversity in tech, the measure tends to be largely around the numbers surrounding diverse employees and diverse candidates. What’s important to us is to create the environment of inclusion as well. If you ensure the systems and policies and practices are done right, then the diversity follows. It’s an end-to-end lifecycle approach to diversity.
At HPE, this is done in four pillars. The first pillar is talent acquisition. We visit universities and hiring fairs throughout the year to ensure we are creating a pipeline for diverse talent. We even invest pre-pipeline through involvement with organizations in high school and college that focus on the STEM fields and diverse groups.
The second pillar is creating an environment that leads to inclusion. Once we have a diverse population inside the company, we want a workplace where people can bring the full power of their differences to their job. We sponsor employee resource groups, with more than 150 chapters around the world, such as the Black Employee Network and Pride Network. While our employee resource groups are based around a specific affinity, they are open to anyone who wants to join.
The third pillar is developing a leadership pipeline to grow the careers of our diverse population. We work with learning and development partners inside the company, and we also work with senior leadership to identify how they do their succession planning and leadership development.
And the fourth pillar is all about business development. It’s not just diversity for the sake of diversity. We believe that inclusion is a business imperative and helps us to attract the best and brightest talent and to drive innovation.
Q: What do you hope for the future of diversity at HPE?
BT: The goal of every inclusion and diversity leader is to work themselves out of a job (laughs). We are working to make diversity a goal – and a requirement – for the entire company, not just a small group in HR.