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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not just words but values that are exemplified through our One Cadence—One Team culture and the importance of sustaining it as we learn from diverse perspectives.
"What is the best way to motivate employees to do creative work? Help them take a step forward every day.” - "The Power of Small Wins” by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, Harvard Business Review
It was around this time last year that I attended my first Cadence Voice meeting. The Cadence Voice initiative got its start at the very first Cadence Women Conference in 2022, with conference attendees breaking out into groups and sharing their perspectives regarding a variety of topics related to women, diversity, equity, and/or inclusion. After that first conference, Cadence Voice groups were formed to take those perspectives forward into actionable initiatives.
There were four women already on the video call; they were in the middle of sharing various stories from their days and commiserating with one woman’s difficulties with her laptop’s unpredictable habit of restarting itself at the worst moments. This is different, I thought. When my manager asked me to help with our Voice initiative groups, I had been expecting something else. Task force groups, in my experience, involved furrowed brows, piles of slides, and an overwhelming sense of imminent dread. Instead, I was met with a virtual community of women who had volunteered to be a part of this group outside of their usual scope of work. I would later find out they had never met each other in person and were from various business units, locations, and stages of their careers, yet were bonding over shared insights and a common sense of purpose.
After the initial talk subsided, we quickly transitioned to the business of the day—reporting back on their various projects. One team member, Mamta, was comparing the various parental leave best practices amongst similar companies; another woman, Farhana, was sharing several types of inclusive training that she thought would benefit women the most.
As I listened in on their call, I reflected on how this project was different than other projects I had been involved with in the past. I had never worked towards changing company policy and culture in this way before. Some teams, like the first one I had joined, were advocating for policy change or additional training; others had projects that they could run themselves with a bit of direction and seed funding. Some teams were still formulating their proposals, sometimes facing the challenge of finding just the right project that would have an impact but also have a chance of going somewhere.
Behind the scenes, I was quickly trying to figure out how we would get the projects out of incubation.
Admittedly, some of the ideas out of the gate were just too big. Some were so costly to scale that I hesitated even pitching them to our stakeholders. Some projects had clear next steps, while others needed rethinking. Some projects swirled and sometimes, I thought the teams might give up. I heard the words “I’m not sure if this will get anywhere” more than once. But then we had to work harder to find better ways to pitch our ideas, to find champions who believed in our idea and who could help make it happen, and to keep identifying those small wins that would help ladder up to big change.
After several cycles of refactoring, we pitched our ideas to various stakeholders and collaborators. Gradually, some of our projects started getting greenlit.
Another Voice initiative team got the news that their proposal to officially be part of the McKinsey Women in the Workplace survey was approved. The wins, small and large, kept accumulating.
Now, a year later, our four Voice initiative teams have several projects that have been implemented with others in the pipeline. Meanwhile, we also kicked off four teams based out of EMEA and four teams out of India. We recently had a chance to share our progress at the Global Cadence Women Conference in San Diego, where we presented our work to women from across the company.
My biggest learning from this experience is that what brought me the most meaning was not necessarily the results achieved, but the process we crafted to get there. Over the course of the year, I got to work alongside four groups of amazing people from across our company with varied interests, superpowers, and experience levels. I also realized that working with a set of people with diverse backgrounds adds to the learning as well as collaboration, and truly exemplifies the DEI values at Cadence.