International Women’s Day, which is observed this Saturday, March 8, has been celebrated in the United States since 1909. Since that time, women have continually broken new ground in the technology fields – from Elsie Eaves becoming the first female member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1927, to Stephanie Kwolek inventing Kevlar® in 1965, to Susan Hockfield becoming the first female president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004.
The celebration of International Women’s Day serves as a reminder that we must continuously strive towards full gender equity, particularly in the technology fields.
We are proud of our efforts to make opportunities at Symantec and within the technology sector as a whole more accessible to women. This is not just the right thing to do; it also ensures a broad pool of talent, contributes to a diversity of perspectives, and helps our business remain a world-class leader in our field.
Following are highlights of two initiatives demonstrating our commitment to gender equity and world-class performance.
Women on the Board of Directors
Among the largest companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, women comprise only 11.2% of corporate directors. In an effort to ensure that women are represented at the highest levels of leadership at Symantec, we have committed to increasing the representation of women on the Symantec Board of Directors to a minimum of 30 percent.
When working recently to fill two available seats on Symantec’s Board of Directors, the nominating committee took special care to consider all qualified candidates for the roles. Selection criteria at many companies implicitly limit their pool of female candidates. But by looking at broader Board membership experience, rather than just at candidates who had been CEOs, Symantec’s nominating committee was able to identify a number of extremely well-qualified female candidates.
As a result, when the Board welcomed two new Directors in October 2013, not only did the company deepen its highly qualified leadership, it also met the goal of 30 percent representation of women. Anita M. Sands joined Symantec after most recently serving at UBS Financial Services as Group Managing Director and Head of Change Leadership. Major General Suzanne M. Vautrinot came to Symantec after a 31-year career with the US Air Force, most recently having directed 14,000 people as part of a multi-billion dollar cyber-focused enterprise conducting military, law-enforcement, and intelligence operations.
Going forward, Symantec will continue to apply inclusive, rather than exclusionary, hiring and advancement criteria to ensure access to a wide and diverse pool of qualified applicants.
Gender Equity Image Project
As the public face of our company, our marketing efforts are a particularly important area in which Symantec must address gender equity. Through the Gender Equity Image Project, Symantec is conducting an organized effort to reduce stereotypical imagery in our promotional, sales, and advertising communications. As part of this project, Symantec conducts an annual audit of gender representation in its communications with the public. While we have worked on this informally for several years, the project was formalized in 2013.
The goal of the project is to increase the percentage of imagery that is considered a positive representation of gender roles. After completing the first gender representation audit, Symantec worked with its marketing agencies and key stakeholders to set a target of 5% improvement in scores over the first year. We have also used the lessons from this project to update our Visual Guidelines and our Corporate Editorial Style Guide in order to educate all groups involved with marketing and sales on the company’s commitment to positive gender representation.
Our work to promote gender equity in the technology field demonstrates our deliberate and systematic approach to continuing this world-class performance, as in our achievement in FY13 of increasing the participation of women in management from 25 to 27 percent, matching the overall percentage of women who are employees. As we move forward, we will continue to pay careful attention to these issues, as well to focus on increasing opportunity for women within management roles.
To learn more about Symantec’s commitment to gender equality, visit the Diversity and Inclusion page of the Corporate Responsibility website.
Cecily Joseph is Symantec's Vice President, Corporate Responsibility.