- A moment of public anger a year ago made OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles take a very public stance on women in tech.
- She later vowed to bring her company to 50% parity of female employees and to really work in the lagging diversity in the engineering team.
- She says the company is now hiring one woman engineer for every male engineer it hires and is still taking issue with any company that says it can’t do the same.
A year ago on a stage in Aspen, Colorado, the CEO of OpenTable Christa Quarles lost her temper in front of several hundred people in the room and thousand more online and shouted out ‘Bullsh$t.”
On Tuesday she stood back up on the same stage, still angry, and told attendees of the same conference, Fortune Brainstorm Tech, that they needed to step it up. And she offered OpenTable’s own progress in hiring women as an example.
A year ago, she was reacting to an audience member during a discussion on sexual harassment in the tech industry. He had said that one of the problems of women in tech is the lack of women who support each other. He was reiterating an old trope of the cat fight, the idea that women inherently can’t/don’t get along.
Quarles made news with the passion of her response, posted on YouTube.
A few months later, she publicly declared in a post on Medium what she was going to do at her own company. Of OpenTable’s 600 employees, 42 per cent of its workforce were women as was 37 per cent of its executive team. That’s better than average for a tech company but not perfect 50% parity, which, in that post she vowed to do.
However, it was the engineering team that really worried her. Women engineers are vastly under represented in tech everywhere. And this has resulted in a “bro culture” at tech companies that has been written about ad nauseam.
OpenTable was no exception. On stage she said OpenTable’s engineering department was about 14% of women in the first quarter of last year. Since then, half the new engineers hired at the company were women.
Quarles again called BS on the idea that hiring female engineers is a “pipeline” issue. This is again a trope, that companies would have to “lower their standards” to hire women.
The bigger point she was making is one that is also well documented. Companies who hire more women make more money. She quoted a McKinsey report that found if women were paid equally, this would add $US12 trillion to global GDP.
She pointed out, that it’s not just about making women richer, “men would be richer too if women reached parity.”
And so her challenge was a leadership one. She calls on every company to report on diversity hiring numbers alongside reporting on revenue, expenses and other business metrics. By focusing on that stat, she made the case, the whole world should get richer.
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