I’ve used this space often to talk about the important steps Mathematica is taking to ensure we are fostering a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work and among our staff. In past blogs, I have discussed leading a company where women make up almost two-thirds of both the overall workforce and senior leadership positions. I have also discussed our ongoing efforts to create a culture where every employee is able to feel the same sense of belonging I felt from my very first day here. I also believe strongly that our staff’s varied backgrounds and experiences help us develop deep insights to share with our partners and help address their toughest challenge. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken at Mathematica so far to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a central part of our company and our work.
But the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion has many facets, and a conversation with a colleague in 2019 made it clear to me that our progress on this journey together isn’t going to be linear. We’re going to do things that work, try things that don’t, and have the opportunity to learn when things don’t go quite the way we planned.
First, a bit of background. When we updated our logo and branding last year, we also adopted an emerging best practice of giving employees the option to signify their preferred pronouns in email signatures and intranet bios. It was a step I fully supported, and one that I thought was an important piece of our company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion journey. I assumed that staff would appreciate the opportunity to proactively identify their preferred pronouns, but what I didn’t fully understand was the important signal that I would send to others.
Shortly after the rebranding, a colleague asked me during a town hall meeting why I hadn’t updated my email signature to include my chosen pronouns. Did I not support the specification of pronoun preferences? The ensuing exchange became my opportunity to learn a new perspective on a topic I had not discussed much with anyone before that town hall. The discussion gave me a better understanding of the desire to have everyone specify their pronouns, as well as the intensity and breadth of that desire among my Mathematica colleagues. It also reminded me that as CEO, I am watched closely, and I need to set the tone for the organization in everything I do.
In trying to make it clear that Mathematica is a place where everyone, no matter their gender identity or expression, feels fully included and respected in our community, I had missed an opportunity to truly be an ally. But I learned from the exchange and focused on the change that was needed. I asked my direct reports (some of whom were already ahead of me) to specify pronouns in their email signatures and employee profiles, and to convey that same request to staff throughout the organization. In addition, when I meet with staff at Mathematica, I make a point of looking up colleagues’ pronouns ahead of those meetings so I can use the appropriate pronouns at the right time instead of relying on my own assumptions about identity.
As we honor Celebrate Diversity Month at Mathematica, I’m also proud that we continue to reach higher. I’m proud that the Human Rights Campaign saw fit to honor our progress by naming us a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” last year. I’m proud that we’ve hired Ralanda Nelson to steer our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and help ensure the employee experience is at the heart of everything we do. I’m proud that we have an LGBTQ Employee Resource Group as an invaluable source of guidance and support. I’m proud that our employees across the country took the time to bring colleagues together for Remembering Stonewall listening parties. I’m proud that we’re continuing to use our online platforms to highlight the people behind our work, and to underscore how Mathematica values, appreciates, and thrives through our diversity of experience. I’m proud that we’re continuing to invest in trainings focused on applying an equity lens to our work.
I’m proud to take these steps and many more—both large and small—to ensure that more people can bring their full selves to work at Mathematica. Our company and our work are at their best when we include different perspectives and draw on diverse networks.