I sold [gender diversity at Microsoft] as a business case. I redid all my information and sold it as a business case. [Afterward], I had people, men, come up to me and say, ‘I get it! I actually understand why we think this will be important.’
Robert Lichter from Merrimack Consulting, LLC, pointed out that one voice workshop participants had not heard from is the voice of employers (e.g., in industry) who are significant in the “gender” conversation. Jane Prey, the senior research program manager at Microsoft Research, responded to Lichter’s comment. She discussed her professional experience working on the strategy for gender diversity and research at Microsoft and the difficulties in motivating employees to buy in. However, opinions changed after she reworked her gender diversity pitch. “I sold it as a business case. I redid all my information and sold it as a business case. [Afterward], I had people, men, come up to me and say, ‘I get it! I actually understand why we think this will be important.’” Prey emphasized that phrasing diversity strategy as a business case makes it much more salable. McNeely concurred and noted that strategically shifting the way people frame the message makes people feel they have some kind of investment.
Alice Popejoy, the public policy fellow from AWIS, followed up on the discussion on messaging, observing that “messaging is not about what is right but about what is smart.” Sending the message smartly is not only to get politicians’ buy-in, but it is also to adjust women’s perspectives on the gender issue, because women sometimes have the same bias as men against women in science. Research demonstrates that having one or two women on an award selection committee does not actually improve the number of women getting awards, but having a woman chair the committee does make a difference. In addition, it is important to engage leadership while implementing policies and programs in disciplinary societies. Popejoy pointed out that disciplinary societies and academic institutions have usually been given general guidelines to implement better practices. However, given the different cultures and issues within the disciplines and societies, it is important that their leadership enables change rather than placing the responsibility for change solely on committees that are dedicated to women’s issues.
Cohoon also commented on messaging and how messages are framed. She noted that a review of successful social movements revealed that a critical part of the process was to shift the argument away from the personal to the political. Making the moral argument is an important step toward achieving the success of a social movement.