WIE: Encouraging Diversity to Drive Ideas, Innovation and Success

Sep 11, 2018 | Posted by: Sherry Hess

This blog is the second in a series based on research and writing I did for the NIWeek 2018 Women’s Leadership Forum panel, which I am sharing in hopes of encouraging dialog and action to further diversity in engineering. The first blog talked about building a legacy of empowerment for women engineers. This blog talks about diversity in ideas and how that drives innovation.

It is a well-known fact that diversity is more than a social obligation—it translates into business success. The more diverse the people, the broader and more innovative the thoughts and ideas will be, driving smarter business practices and more compelling products. Diversity in the workplace starts with empowering yourself and your co-workers. I have two main mantras. The first is to believe in yourself.  Stop the voice of self-doubt in its tracks.  Push aside the “imposter syndrome” that makes you feel like you are inferior to others and tell yourself how amazing you are.  I do this not only for myself but for my employees, co-workers, and especially for the other magnificent ladies* I’ve met through my activities with the IEEE MTT-S.

The second is to encourage the behavior you want. We can empower others by being inclusive, asking for participation, input and feedback that might not be as forthcoming without encouragement, as well as validating ideas. Positive feedback is key, whether it’s a smile, a “good job,” or a more extensive and intensive employee performance conversation that accentuates the positives and presents shortcomings as opportunities to grow and achieve a fuller potential.

Believing in yourself and putting ideas out into the world is what drives innovation.  A great idea stuck inside your grey matter does no good.  But having the courage to speak up is something we need to remember to do.

I believe that my investment in diversity and encouraging ideas has contributed to my own success throughout my career. I’ve been quite good at avoiding group think. Sharing an alternative viewpoint gets others to think, reflect, and take notice, and elevates the entire team’s decision making.  Along this same line, I often scan the room to see who is not speaking up and be certain to ask them if they have anything else they’d like to add or remind them of something they said prior that perhaps they’d share with the larger group. Pulling out insights from all the people in the room so that we have a collaborative conversation is the goal here. The more information we have, the better our thought process and ultimate decisions will be.

Including a broad range of people in business discussions and decisions and encouraging diversity of ideas is good for the company, good for employees, and good for customers. Believe in yourself and inspire others to believe in themselves.

*Shown in picture (left to right): Diana Aristizabal engineering manager at TRAK Microwave, Bojana Zivanovic, senior MTS RF engineer at Keyssa, Charlotte Blair, lead application engineer at ANSYS, myself, and Vicki Chuang, RFIC design engineer at Northrop Grumman.