Cathrin Stickney
CEO & Founder Parity.Org Follow

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 284. Today we’ll be talking to Cathrin from Parity.Org about the use case or business case for why her customers choose Parity.Org.

Parity.Org’s pragmatic approach has helped hundreds of organizations worldwide quickly and significantly move the needle through the following solutions.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.

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Show length: 29 minutes

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Announcer (00:02):

Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

 

William Tincup (00:24):

It’s jumping this William Tincup, and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Cathrin on from Parity.org and we’ll be learning all about the business case, the use case, or how people work with Parity.org. So let’s do some introductions. Cathrin, would you do me and the audience a favor and introduce both yourself and Parity.org?

 

Cathrin Stickney (00:46):

I’d be happy to, thank you, William. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you. Sure. I’m Cathrin Stickney. I’m the founder and CEO of Parity.org. We’re an organization that launched five years ago to simply do one thing, close the gender and racial gap for women, gender and racial gap at the top of companies in leadership, which is where the gap is the widest.

 

William Tincup (01:12):

And we’re not just talking about pay, we’re talking about all gaps, right?

 

Cathrin Stickney (01:16):

That’s right. Representation is a big one, and we actually start with that, but it covers the whole gamut of DEI, so diversity, you want representation, and for the EE, we are looking for equity and pay and promotions, opportunities, that sort of thing.

 

William Tincup (01:38):

What’s good and bad? We’ve talked about diversity since I can remember actually being in the workplace, but it’s only been recently that we’ve actually, that I’ve seen as a person that studies HR and recruiting, it’s only until recently, and I don’t know if his Me Too or Love is Love or Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, or maybe a combination of those and some other things, but I see more budget. I see more people in positions. So I see executives in DEI positions, which is great. I see budget being put there, which is great. So first of all, do I have any of that right? Do you see more of an action layer as opposed to a talking about the problem layer?

 

Cathrin Stickney (02:33):

Yeah, that’s a great observation question. The companies have been trying to do this for decades, particularly with women. Only recently with people of color, and as you know, the dial really hasn’t moved, even for women since that’s been going on longer. You would expect to have seen more progress than what we’ve got, but I do think it is a combination of things. You mentioned many of them, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, and what companies have come to realize is that their values are their brand, for their customers, and really, I can add also for their employees, and employees want to know that they’re in a place that respects them no matter how they come, gender, race, sexual persuasion, et cetera, and the companies are finally starting to get that and putting more money into it. In fact, I’ll add a factoid to that, to your comment, is that the fastest growing job last year was head of diversity for organizations, and you see now that there are thousands and thousands of companies that have put in budget and people to back up what they’re trying to do.

 

William Tincup (03:57):

So dumb question learned. How does a company know that they’re actually moving the needle? I guess some of it optically, especially when you deal with representation and pay, I guess people in comp would know pay. Okay, there’s equity there, so that someone would know there, I get that, and representation, you could if women are, what, 52, maybe 53% of the population, I guess, okay, so…

 

Cathrin Stickney (04:29):

51.

 

William Tincup (04:29):

Is it 51?

 

Cathrin Stickney (04:29):

It is.

 

William Tincup (04:30):

So 51% of a company should be women. Great. 50% of the leadership team should be women, okay. Well, I’m just making things easy. If that’s optics and we can see that, then what else? How else do you help people? Or you think about, you’re on the path, you’re not quite there, maybe you never get there.

 

Cathrin Stickney (04:52):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (04:53):

But you’re on this path, and how do you know that you’re achieving and moving the needle as opposed to regressing?

 

Cathrin Stickney (05:00):

Yeah, that’s a great question as well. We like to think about companies path as it’s a journey to getting to parity. It’s not easy to do. Diversity is a very hard thing to do, because it goes against our natural inclinations to hire and work with people who are like us, and that’s what’s been happening over the last millennia, is that people hire and work with people that they know that are like them, and generally that’s been white men hiring white men, but the best way that companies know that they’re there is they just have to measure it, and it’s not always enough just to see it, that’s valuable, that’s good. Representation is really the starting point, but what does it look like in up and down your organization and across, within certain job types? What does pay look like, and not just pay overall for the company, but what are people getting paid by certain jobs, but how are women and men getting paid?

(06:07)
How are they paid compared to each other? How are people of color paid against, compared to their white counterparts? It’s important to know all of those things in order to really tackle the issues of inequities that are going on in an organization. So unless you’re measuring, we have our parity index that help companies to measure what’s going on beyond representation. Representation plus the employee life cycle from recruitment to attrition. Those things are really key to watch, because they tell stories about what’s going on in the culture of your organization. I’ll give you a for instance, is that when you see in your measurements of attrition say, people of color leaving the organization more than their white counterparts in the first three years?

(07:01)
Well, something might and is probably going on there, and it’s probably a cultural issue, could be a pay issue, could be a number of things, and if you don’t measure that, you’re not even going to know that you have a problem like that. So one of the things we do in the parity indexes, we measure attrition by gender, we measure it by race and so on. So it’s really critical to measure.

 

William Tincup (07:25):

So attrition. First of all, fancy word for turnover, and so I always look at turnover not necessarily as a bad thing, and it might sound a little counterintuitive. I look at regrettable turnover. So turnover as opposed, turnover sounds like a bad word. Oh, we have turnover. Well, actually, it’s like a forest. Some trees die. It’s okay. That just gives life to other things in the forest. So I don’t look at turnover or attrition or retention in the same way. It’s regrettable. It’s like I wanted to keep Susan, and for whatever reason, I couldn’t keep her. I didn’t have the ability to, I was blindsided. I didn’t know that she was leaving, et cetera, and it’s a person that typically, a high performer, high potential, someone that’s really talented. Now, that ability to keep that talent, I’m really interested in that. Do you bifurcate and look at it? Do you look at attrition in that way, or you just look at the raw numbers of, again, turnover?

 

Cathrin Stickney (08:38):

I think the reasons for turnover are important to track, voluntary involuntary. Involuntary is one thing, and voluntary turnover is another. That might be in your regrettable category, but we think it’s important to look at all reasons, both reasons for turnover. The reason being that, do you have unconscious bias going on for those that are leaving the organization voluntarily or involuntarily? So you will add a point to your thinking that you may want to consider, is that the involuntary ones, it’s really important to find out, is it mostly women and people of color?

 

William Tincup (09:22):

Hundred percent.

 

Cathrin Stickney (09:24):

Not white guys.

 

William Tincup (09:24):

No, no, a hundred percent. It’s…

 

Cathrin Stickney (09:24):

That’s an important…

 

William Tincup (09:29):

Sorry to interrupt Cathrin but it bring up a wonderful point because at the end of 2020, women had disproportionately, especially in HR, had disproportionately stood up and held the organization together, and at the end when there was massive layoffs, they were disproportionately and women of color were even more disproportionately, affected, and I found that, I found it weird on some level because on one side of it, we were saying, diversity DEI is really important to us, and I didn’t know if it was, they didn’t have the visibility insights into the organization as to who they were laying off. They didn’t do it proportionally, because they just didn’t know, or if there was something malicious was, or if there was something else were dangerous at play, I couldn’t figure that out. I don’t know, with the index or you all’s research. Was it a visibility thing? Did they just not have the analytics and couldn’t see in, or it was just a crazy time and they didn’t care?

 

Cathrin Stickney (10:32):

More likely lack of visibility. Not everybody measures this sort of thing, and when you’re just looking at your records and who to let go, if you will, if you need to downsize, you start doing it by job, or you do it by what level in the organization, maybe pay rate. There’re a number of considerations that might be in play there, but it’s likely they didn’t have visibility into race and gender of those, because you’re trying to get, what often happens is that the lower end of jobs, we see this in our index when we’re measuring companies, the lower level jobs are heavy with women and people of color, and if you’re reducing, and also those are the jobs that are the most populated with employees. The lower levels tend to be not the single engineer or specialty groups.

(11:29)
They are the backbone of the organization, and that might be the opportunity to trim your staff there at the bottom. Well, you’re going to trim more people of color and women than you will their white male counterparts when you start cutting that way. So it’s really important to be able to have that visibility into gender and race, so you understand what you’re doing, because your future pipeline will depend on that.

 

William Tincup (12:01):

Two things. One is, are we thinking more in terms of proportionate hiring, proportionate promotions and proportionate layoffs, in the sense of, “Okay, we’re going to hire a thousand people. Let’s be intentional about what we’re doing in our hiring so that we’re hiring with great intentions to be proportionate as to all of the different ways that we would, and also with internal mobility or promotions, et cetera.” And then the same thing could be true of layoffs that we, “Yes, we need to reduce headcount, or we need to reduce salary or whatever. Whatever we need to do that it needs to be proportionate.” Am I getting that right?

 

Cathrin Stickney (12:51):

Yes. There is a lot of value in what you’re saying. Let’s just start with hiring. You talked about hiring, layoffs and then opportunities in the organization and how we are intentional about it or not. For hiring, it’s really important to be intentional about who you’re bringing into the organization. For years, companies, various universities, talk about meritocracy and bringing in merit.

 

William Tincup (13:21):

Oh, that was just a code word.

 

Cathrin Stickney (13:22):

Yes it is, and meritocracy, I’ve written an article on this, is a myth, and because we wouldn’t be where we are today if meritocracy included everybody.

 

William Tincup (13:35):

Hundred percent. It’s really meritocracy between white men.

 

Cathrin Stickney (13:39):

That’s right. Exactly. That’s right. There you go. Well, that’s the way it has been, and we have corporate partners that have taken our parity pledge to agree to interview at least one woman, one person of color, for new jobs, and what they have said is by making that public commitment, it’s made them more intentional, and so what they’re talking about is more intentional in hiring, but they’re also talking about more intentional internally, to see that they’re not just allowing their unconscious, rarely conscious, but unconscious bias to play out in who gets a stretch assignment or who gets a sponsor or a mentor, or who gets this opportunity or that, they’re being much more intentional internally as well, and I believe that’s extremely important if you expect to have a well balanced organization from a people standpoint, and it’s critical that you do this for hiring, for promotions within the organization.

(14:48)
And I think at least for layoffs, it is one more consideration than just some of the other things that you think about when you’re thinking about who am I unfortunately going to have to lay off, but you should be looking at it to see what impact you’re having. Clearly there are maybe stronger reasons for layoffs than that, but if you’re not at least looking at the impact of what you’re doing, you may have some unintended consequences down the road with your culture, your pipeline, a variety of things that you didn’t mean to have happen when that last layoff occurred.

 

William Tincup (15:24):

Well, do me a favor, because I’ve got a couple follow-up questions, but I want to make sure that we talk about the parity index and the parity pledge in particular.

 

Cathrin Stickney (15:32):

Sure.

 

William Tincup (15:33):

Explain those for the audience.

 

Cathrin Stickney (15:36):

Sure. The parity pledge is a… There, let me preface it with, there are a lot of studies out there that show that making a public commitment, achieves faster, higher results than not making a public commitment. As we started out by saying, companies have been committing to parity for years, and the dial hasn’t moved.

 

William Tincup (15:59):

Right?

 

Cathrin Stickney (16:01):

Barely a smidge, but when you make a public, that’s because they made private commitments within their organization that everybody forgot about after a year, and nobody did anything about it, but when you make a public commitment, like our parity pledge for instance, you are saying to your employees, the world, your customers, your suppliers, that we believe in this and we’re going to follow through and just interview at least one woman and or person of color for every open role, VP and higher. That’s what the pledge is, and lo and behold, when a company takes that pledge, and has to follow through, because they made it public, women and people of color are hired more often.

(16:47)
And we’ve seen that in our results, which have been pretty astounding even to us, that it would have such a big impact, and the parity index is our… It’s a SAS product that we created to measure the level of diversity in an organization, and it also tells the story of equity and inclusion with the stories that the data start to tell when you look at it. So it’s the DEI tool for DEI leaders, HR leaders, to be able to see what progress are they making on their DEI strategies and plans, and what changes have happened. They can even do an ROI on the budget they spend with diversity in their organization and show leadership, show the board, if you will, that look, we put this budget in eight months ago, and these are the things that we did in with our strategies, and look, we’re moving the dial in the company.

(17:47)
They can show that they look at our data every morning, it updates 8:00 AM Eastern, and they, no matter when the CEO or the chair of the board says, “where are we on this and that on in DEI”, they can go right to it and say, “Here’s the latest data.” It’s really important to do that, and that’s the difference between the two, the pledges, the public commitment and the parity index is the measurement tool.

 

William Tincup (18:12):

So, well, when you bring up ROI, there’s countless studies and I just, it’s common sense to me, but you’re in the trenches and you’re dealing with DEI professionals day to day. How much do they still have to actually push this boulder uphill to then justify that DEI will help the company? I’m having kind of a mental moment where it’s like, I don’t understand why this is so difficult? Moreover, there’s at least a hundred different research studies that have been proven. Why is this a thing? Why?

 

Cathrin Stickney (18:55):

Yes. 15% greater profitability with diverse leadership teams, right?

 

William Tincup (18:59):

Yeah.

 

Cathrin Stickney (19:01):

How can you not move forward with that, knowing that.

 

William Tincup (19:04):

I don’t understand it, but again, you’re in trenches dealing with professionals, so what are they facing as it relates to ROI?

 

Cathrin Stickney (19:12):

I think that in some companies, not all companies have embraced all of this, but those companies that have embraced it, we believe it’s really important that it starts at the top. If you don’t have the buy-in of the CEO, that’s just for starters, and the C-suite, those that report to the CEO, you, you’re probably not going to get very far.

 

William Tincup (19:34):

Right?

 

Cathrin Stickney (19:38):

And you’ll be DEI in word only, and you won’t really see the dial moving. It really takes, because that’s the way we’ve been doing it for 50 years is, we didn’t have a DEI department, but we had an HR department who cared about this sort of thing. That diversity does matter, and then all these studies have come out, as you say, to show the profitability and greater innovation and oh my gosh, so many other things, employee loyalty.

 

William Tincup (20:03):

Well it’s almost like, what’s the counter argument? That’s what I’m, I want someone to, actually…

 

Cathrin Stickney (20:08):

Have never heard a car in five years of doing this. There is no counter-argument to doing it. Everybody wants that, but the, it’s the difficult, as I think I started out saying, diversity’s not easy, its difficult to do, because we tend to want and make decisions around bringing in people around us that are like us, and so that’s the essence of it. It’s all in our recruitment. It’s in our leadership representation. If those two things alone were resolved, we would see not a trickle-down effect, but a waterfall effect in an organization. So if you were to ask me, William, what are the two things you would do at an organization to turn that around, because the use case for doing this is quite high?

 

William Tincup (20:59):

Right.

 

Cathrin Stickney (21:00):

I would say focus on recruitment, internal and external. Making sure that your pipeline and those candidates coming in on candidate slates, give you the opportunity to see diverse candidates and hire them, and making sure that you’re focused on your leadership representation. That’s going to have a huge impact on all of your employees down every rung of the ladder, if you will, but until that happens, companies tend to make the same decisions they always have, because they’re speaking to themselves. I wonder if I can give you an example of a study that’s out there. Professor [inaudible 00:21:45] , MIT, did a study and showed that when there’s a group of homogenous individuals, let’s say they’re all white men, for example, in a conference room, and you’re making decisions about who to bring in or who to recruit or this or that, and your decisions are going to be faulty, because everyone that speaks up, everybody else will agree with them because they’re clones of each other, essentially.

 

William Tincup (22:13):

Right?

 

Cathrin Stickney (22:14):

When they’re thinking, there’s no healthy disagreement. So it perpetuates itself as the answer to your question, and because we don’t have that diversity to create that healthy dialogue, well, it’s hard.

 

William Tincup (22:28):

Oh, I’m sorry, Cathrin, go ahead.

 

Cathrin Stickney (22:28):

Well, let’s start at the top, and mind your recruiting.

 

William Tincup (22:34):

I’ve said this for years, that diversity, if done well, creates conflict, and conflict can create innovation. You want in that room, in that conference room, you want so many different opinions to where it isn’t obvious. Maybe the meeting takes a little longer, and I think that’s one of the things that I think history has shown, that people have shied away from is, they want to ease, they want less friction, and it’s like, well, we need more friction to actually hear different voices and different opinions so that we get to different outcomes, better outcomes.

 

Cathrin Stickney (23:11):

Yes, yes.

 

William Tincup (23:12):

Two questions left. One is around communication and transparency around, as you mentioned earlier, where people are in their journey. What are you seeing, the best practices, because I’ve heard of people doing annual reports and different ways even on their career page, and things like that, have just kept showing where they are in their process and in their journey? What are you seeing that you really, really like?

 

Cathrin Stickney (23:38):

Yeah. When I look at and start to partner with companies, we take a look at their websites particularly, and I am tickled to say that a lot of companies are starting to put their actual facts on, and these, they aren’t always pretty, but what they’ve done was they’ve started internally, a communications process with their employees from leadership to say, “We’re dedicated to this. We’re focused on this. We’re not perfect.” They say that right up front, “We’re not perfect. We’re on a journey, and we want you to go on that journey with us, and we’re going to show you that we’re on this journey by sharing the data with you.” And I admire that.

(24:24)
I think that’s a very brave thing to do for a company, to put everything out there, they’re doing it in terms of, these are our goals for women, these are our goals for representation of people of color and putting numbers next to those and progress that they’re going up or down and what they’re doing about it. That takes a lot of guts for a company to put it out there, but I admire it greatly.

 

William Tincup (24:53):

I think it’s also, first of all, it’s tied to the next question I have, but for me, you don’t want people to be afraid to fail, especially with DEI, people need to try different things, whatever they may be, recruiting from different schools, et cetera. You want people to try things and not everything’s going to be a success. Not everything. Not every program is successful, and so I think not only that, transparency around the numbers, but also transparency around programmatically the things that they’re trying and experimenting with, and seeing if they can do different things, I think is wonderful. Now, you mentioned at the very beginning, you meant values are your brand, and that’s fascinating to me, is both millennials, engine Z, as it appears now, they’re less apt to deal with the status quo, squarely Gen X. So I’ll say this, that I would’ve probably just accepted the way things are.

(25:59)
It’s like, right, well, it is what it is. Maybe I got to change this, so let’s just kind of go along to get along, but I see Gen Z in particular, just unwavering in there like, “Yeah. I’ll just work in a different way. I won’t, not going to try and change the system.” I guess I grew up in a world where people probably fought the system from within the system, which I’m obviously, probably didn’t work, but I see it an unwillingness, which I love actually, of just like, “Hey, if you’re broken, yeah, I’m just going to go over here.”

 

Cathrin Stickney (26:38):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (26:40):

I’m not going to try and fix you from within. First of all, that’s just me talking. Do you see any of that yourself with the?

 

Cathrin Stickney (26:49):

Oh my goodness, yes, absolutely, and it does start with younger generations, but even others and more older generations, are looking at the quality of their life, the values that they bring to their life, and they want to work for a company these days, that share those values, and your best people probably care about this sort of thing, and we’ll go find a company or start their own company with those values in mind. Women now are starting to look at who’s in leadership at your company. I want to see that you have women up there, or I’m not going to waste my time, coming to work for you if I have no opportunity to move up, and people of color are doing the same thing.

(27:41)
It’s really important that, and I believe companies are really starting to experience that, and they hear it now directly, Gen X, Gen Z, that they’re talking about, you don’t share my values, I can’t work here anymore, and they’re having to recalibrate what they thought was important to not just employees, but their customers. I think we’ve all seen the stories of when brands have a misstep, either when an advertisement that they did, a shirt logo that they created that was insensitive, let’s just say that at the least, and that they were boycotted.

 

William Tincup (28:25):

Oh, yeah.

 

Cathrin Stickney (28:25):

Because their brand didn’t represent what the expectations were of that brand. They didn’t meet expectations, and they’ve had to then recover from that. Values are your brand these days, and I think that the sooner a company understands that, you’ll see more of what we see in investing in diversity, investing in communications around diversity and understanding it. It’s really important.

 

William Tincup (28:55):

It’s funny because it’s, when I think of values, I think of the words, but you’re talking about the practice of those values, what you actually represent, not just the words on a page or carved behind the whatever, but what you actually represent.

 

Cathrin Stickney (29:14):

You have to walk the talk.

 

William Tincup (29:15):

Yeah. Well, thank goodness. Yes, Cathrin, you’re doing wonderful work. Thank you so much for carving out time and been on a Use Case podcast.

 

Cathrin Stickney (29:23):

Ah, thank you so much, William. I’ve enjoyed it. Enjoyed talking with you.

 

William Tincup (29:27):

Absolutely, and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.

 

Announcer (29:32):

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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