The Token Man: Facebook's Steve Hatch on diversity as a 'competitive advantage', banning bossy and getting out of your comfort zone

Steve Hatch discusses diversity and equality at Facebook

Steve Hatch, managing director of Facebook UK & Ireland, talks to Emma Perkins, executive creative director at MullenLowe Open about the social network's policies on gender diversity, saying that they offer a competitive advantage when attracting new talent.

Emma Perkins: Perhaps a good place to start is for you to tell me why you wanted to be involved in Token Man?

Steve Hatch: One of the reasons I came to Facebook is because, as an organisation, it’s quite progressive in the area of gender diversity. I like working in an environment where equality is seen as a given. It’s often discussed how positive this is for women; I think what’s less noted is how positive it is for men.

I’m also interested in learning from the other Token Men, although at Facebook we have some interesting ways of approaching some of the challenges, I’m sure we don’t have all the answers.

Then at a basic level, I’ve got a son and a daughter and I want them to not only have equal opportunity, but equal belief in whatever they see as their path. To know that there are no obstacles based on their gender, or their own sense of self. As soon as you have children this issue becomes very sharp. Parenting is the biggest life change after puberty ­- how you thought the world worked suddenly changes. As a parent a part of your heart is out there so you want to take more responsibility for the world.

EP: My parents told me I could achieve anything and be anything, and I was told the same at school. Then when I had a baby it was as if the world said 'now you’re a mother you can’t do that anymore', which is why so many women drop out of careers at that mid-life point. What was your experience of this growing up?

SH: I grew up in Southampton and my dad was a plumber and my mum a hairdresser. She was a bit of a rebel really - on her way to South Africa to fight against Apartheid she made it as far as Southampton docks and met my dad, then I came along. My mum had a reawakening after the birth of my sister, where she wanted to get back to that, so she went on to do a sociology degree. She would cut out quotes like ‘Everyday racism is not perpetuated by the assassins of Martin Luther King but by our own ignorance and inactions’ and stick them up in the kitchen. It definitely shaped how I thought about the world.

EP: Let’s talk about the progressive approach at Facebook. What effect has that had? What are the percentages of men to women on the board?

SH: Why do you go and work somewhere? The first thing you look at is what the leadership of that organisation looks like.

In terms of the UK and my team here, it’s 55 per cent men, 45 per cent women - not equal, but close. The EMEA team is pretty consistent, then when you look at the leadership track that I follow there’s Nicola Mendelsohn - vice-president EMEA, Carolyn Everson – vice-president global marketing, David Fischer – vice-president of advertising and global operations, Sheryl Sandberg - chief operating officer, then Mark Zuckerberg - chief executive officer. A column of awesome people.

EP: Stats like that are uncommon, sadly. How do you feel about that?

SH: It’s a business differentiator, a competitive advantage in the broadest sense. If you want to have the best talent in the world you don’t want to limit yourself to 50 per cent of that talent, you want access to all of it. When asked why he was so successful, Warren Buffett said: ‘Well, I’ve only been competing against half the population’. We don’t want it to remain a competitive advantage but that is how it feels right now.

EP: What have you done personally as a leader to help solve the issue of gender equality?

SH: Being comfortable to enter into those environments and to be part of the conversation. I was very proud to sit alongside Tom Knox at Gather last year. Taking up and grabbing those opportunities to champion diversity, to be present.

If you recognise it as an issue, be present where it’s being discussed. If men feel awkward discussing gender diversity, get over yourself. Your awkwardness is not really the issue. Let's help other people feel empowered so we can get to the day when women feel the system is working for them.

EP: What are you doing to attract more diverse talent groups?

SH: I hope Facebook has a reputation for openness, but there is always the challenge of how to systemise it. So, although it’s not our culture to conduct mandatory training we wanted everyone to have the unconscious bias training to stop people from defaulting to what they already know.

Step two is, while we’re not looking to positively discriminate, what we are doing is making sure that at the top of the funnel, when it comes to internal and external recruiting and promotions, we are as diverse as we could possibly be. In the end we want the best person, but we do that by creating the broadest opportunity for that person to come from anywhere.

EP: How do you do that?

SH: In interview loops, we always make sure there’s a diverse mix of candidates. Therefore the interviewing process is better because you’ve got the widest breadth of talent that’s out there. It’s also about how you work with your recruiters.

EP: Have you updated recruitment processes to take unconscious bias into consideration?

SH: You cannot conduct an interview at Facebook unless you’ve had unconscious bias training. The training was just so interesting, because by nature you’re not conscious of it. The stats are unequivocal; diverse teams give you better decisions and better performance with the inclusion of women in the boardroom. You need metrics to have the discussion, but the metrics are becoming clearer and clearer.

A stark example was shared at the training: Two resumes were shared, identical in every way, except one of them had parent teacher association coordinator on the resume. When people were asked to look at the resumes the candidate with the PTA experience on their resume was 79 per cent less likely to be recommended for hire, half as likely to be recommended for promotion, and they were offered on average 11k less per year in salary. So what is the actual impact of this bias? It’s very real. I came away thinking, 'wow I’m not as aware as I thought I was'.

EP: At events that I run we know how empowered women feel to be in a room full of other women, but it also creates a false environment so I always try to have a handful of 'manbassadors' who champion diversity. Clearly you’re comfortable in that role?

SH: The year before last I was lucky enough to do a fireside chat with Helen Calcraft, founding partner of Lucky Generals. It was great to have someone amazing like her, a recognisable female leader to talk to the room. I will happily declare 'manbassadorship' if it’s available to me. It enables a different conversation with the men in the team as well.

EP: I’m often told that gender diversity at board level is an issue that the organisation wants to do something about, something the chief executive is thinking about a lot, but as the team is currently predominantly male, it will take time. What can be done to accelerate the process?

SH: If that’s the case you need to identify what the barriers are. It can be a recruitment question but also an exposure and experience question. Is it a supply issue? Are there genuinely not enough women in this area? Not enough at an entry level? Not enough coming through in your sourcing? Are they not being brought into the right meetings? I always think who you take to a meeting with you is a really important signal to the team, but also gives people exposure.

You’ve got to get a little bit out of your comfort zone and rhythm of business if you’re trying to change. Look at acceleration programmes. Previous to Facebook I was in the media world and I’m so impressed with what the media industry has achieved in this area, but it’s taken a decade. Christine Walker was the only prominent female, now you have Karen Blackett, Sarah Hennessy, Pippa Glucklich, Tracy de Groose, Verica Djurdjevic, Claudine Collins, Philippa Brown, Sally Weavers, Aki Mandhar and Helen McRae. You can’t list them all because there are now so many incredible women running media businesses.

EP: What do you think was the media world’s secret to cracking the diversity problem?

SH: Media businesses are really entrepreneurial. They had a real ambition to modernise, an absolute desire to not be what they were. That hunger to stay relevant drove so many positive changes for that part of our sector.

EP: What do you think the biggest challenge is for women who are in the minority in senior leadership roles?

SH: Having your voice heard. Like any minority, when there are less of you it can be hard to be heard. So it comes back to who is leading that room. Are they keeping it balanced and ensuring everyone is being heard?

This challenge we have around perceptions of gender and speaking up starts so early - I really do love the Sheryl Sandberg quote about girls: ‘She’s not bossy, she’s showing executive leadership potential’. That certainly changed my behaviour at home with my own daughter. I stopped using the word 'bossy'.

Speaking at events like Gather is so important for me because it gives me a sense of what it feels like to be in a minority, and a fear of being clumsy around those discussions, and the feeling of 'do I have the right to be in this room?' I think perhaps it’s a business advantage that I know nothing about football, so I can't default to that as a topic of conversation that then excludes people.

EP: Sir Martin Sorrell has suggested that women need to be more aggressive to succeed. Do you agree, and if yes, why? If not, do you think women need to change in any way to succeed?

SH: I was at the WACL event where he said that. I don’t like ascribing behaviours to gender. If we’re starting from a point that one gender needs to exhibit a gender trait that we’ve declared is more closely associated with another gender, you’re starting from the wrong place.

It’s about diversity of thought. In business you’re always trying to minimise your blind spot so you need different character types around you. The last thing you want is to make people behave more like each other. That quote aside, my experience of WPP and Martin in particular was pretty positive and a lot has been done to make the senior women in the organisation such as Karen [Blackett] and Lindsey [Pattison] feel supported.

EP: What are Facebook's current policies on parental leave?

SH: In the UK we offer one year’s maternity leave as we believe it’s important for every new mother working at Facebook to take the necessary time away from work to spend with their newborns and family. This is strongly encouraged and culturally reinforced among all levels at the company - including those in very senior positions.

If I point to the thing I’m most proud of, it is the shift in our paternity leave policy. We now have four months' paternity leave, which sends out a message to the business that parenthood is not a barrier to your career. Not motherhood, not fatherhood but parenthood. I was so proud of Mark [Zuckerberg] taking his paternity leave. It was incredibly helpful to me as a manager of men and women - it's one thing having the policy and another thing having the culture.

Let's be really clear, at the moment it’s a really big competitive advantage. The notion that men aren’t interested in that part of their life is just not true.

EP: Does your company have a policy on the gender pay gap? Is there a gap?

SH: At Facebook we think about equal pay all year long. We regularly review our compensation for pay equity, as we have done for many years. We complete thorough statistical analyses to compare the compensation of men and women performing similar work. I’m very proud that at Facebook women and men earn the same and look forward to a time when we don’t even need to call it out.

EP: I’m conscious that the conversation around work/life balance, and in particular family life, becomes about women. How do you encourage both male and female parents - and everyone, in fact - to take advantage of flexible working?

SH: This comes down not only to company policy, but what the cultural norms are within an organisation. We do a survey called Pulse quite regularly to work out what the needs of the business are and how you make sustainable careers and lives (and not see those things as two different elements).

If you’re going to drive the culture you need to have role models you can point to that say 'this is OK'. Take-up of paternity leave has so far been very good. If someone says to me they're too busy to take their paternity leave, I can say ‘You’re busier than Mark Zuckerberg? If that’s the case, what support can we put around you to help you with that?' It ultimately helps the wider societal challenge of the re-integration back into work for mothers too. We think this policy helps women who don’t work at Facebook but whose partners do. We’re also putting things in place to make sure, as much as we can, that work doesn’t end up just falling to the team around that person on leave.

EP: Which female business leader has inspired you the most? And why?

SH: Sheryl Sandberg, because she has an incredibly analytical mind and an incredibly compassionate heart - two super powers in business.

EP: What’s the one behaviour change that men can make now which will make an immediate difference in the workplace?

SH: It starts with understanding your biases; knowing that helps make better choices.

EP: Is diversity in danger of becoming a buzzword? How can we ensure it stays an important priority?

SH: To me it's about the actions, that's the important output. I'm interested to know what other men are doing - when I look at some of the things to come in from Lean In as a group to create different stock footage, that's an execution. I'm a big fan of sharing the unconscious bias training as much as I can. It needs to be talked about but I'm interested to see the execution that will create the change.

EP: What’s the one thing (if any) you commit to doing as a result of this interview?

SH: I want to get in touch with the other Token Men to ask what they are doing as a result? And what does execution look like?

EP: Finally, who would you like to nominate for the next Token Man interview?

SH: David Grigson, chairman of Trinity Mirror PCC.

Token Man is an initiative from the founder of Creative Social, Daniele Fiandaca. Previous interviewees have included James Whitehead, joint chief executive at J. Walter Thompson.

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