Music drove her into technology. Fairness keeps her here.
After graduating from Rice University in 1989 with a degree in operatic vocal performance, Paige Cox traveled across Europe for 18 months, performing on stages singing in operas. A complication with her voice required a switch for that career.
Now “Chief People Officer” at Catalyte, Cox says the shift from music to tech is not all that unusual.
“A lot of musicians are in the tech industry. When you are on a stage, anything can happen. You can fall down, forget your music, and you have a problem to solve in the moment. That has helped me throughout my career,” says Cox, who heads HR for the Baltimore-based tech company with offices also in Portland and Chicago.
“In technology and human resources you have to be able to resolve the problem in the moment,” says Cox, who began her tech career in 1992 and moved into technical leadership in 2005.
Catalyte reports it is a leader in driving gender parity in hiring for the company that leverages artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to increase the efficiency of today’s labor market, close the talent shortage in the technology industry and assemble teams to help companies scale digital innovation.
In the Chicago office, Cox says, 50 percent of the employees are female, with the average age of 25, and 78 percent have a bachelors degree. In the Baltimore and Portland offices, the demographic of the employees reflects the demographic of the city. Half of the employees company wide work remotely.
“Artifiical Intelligence (AI) is how we find our talent,” Cox says, “and we have 5,000 variables of data. So far we have screened 50,000 applicants online,” in a recruiting process that aims at building a diverse and equitable workforce.
“One of our core tenets is we firmly believe that aptitude is equally dispersed, but opportunity is not,” says Cox. Which is why the online application can cast a much broader net of applicants.Aptitude is equally dispersed, but opportunity is not. This is why #innovative application and hiring techniques are being employed by companies such as @Catalyte_io. Click To Tweet
This approach can work to achieve equity. According to Wired, “One of the reasons for this may be the way companies try to recruit talent. Stanford researchers observed more than 75 recruiting sessions held by more than 60 companies and identified countless seemingly obvious ways the recruiters might be alienating female recruits, from sexist jokes to presentations displaying only slides of men. Others have found that male-dominated industries tend to use masculine language that doesn’t appeal to women.”
“You have to break down the barriers to find the talent,” says Cox. “In this male-dominated industry, you have to make people feel like they are welcome and that software engineering is not only for the few.”
That notion is an evolution from the self-selection of predominantly white and male pool of software engineers in tech companies for the last few decades.Companies like @Catalyte_io are working to make people feel like they are welcome in the male-dominated software engineering field. This is an evolution from the predominantly white, male engineers in tech for the last few decades. Click To Tweet
According to a new report from Melinda Gates in partnership with McKinsey & Company, “Executives at tech companies say gender diversity matters. They opine that there aren’t enough women in tech, and express outrage and frustration that just 11 percent of senior tech leaders are women. But in reality they spend very little of their philanthropic dollars attempting to close this gender and race gap,” Wired reports.
In 2017, “only 5 percent of companies’ philanthropic giving went to programs that focused explicitly on women and girls in tech. And less than 0.1 percent of their grants went to programming for women of color—a group whose representation in tech is getting worse. Over the past decade, the ratio of black, Latina, and Native American women receiving computing degrees has dropped by a third, from 6 percent to just four percent,” writes Jessi Hempel.
As a result of that report, Reboot Representation Tech Coalition has launched to double the number of women of color in tech by 2025, according to Black Press USA. The founding companies include Minnesota-based Best Buy, along with Adobe, Applied Materials, BNY Mellon, Dell, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Oath, Qualcomm and Symantec.
“It is an honor to now broaden this focus by joining the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition and, under the leadership of Melinda Gates, work to double by 2025 the number of women of color graduating with computer-science degrees,” says Hubert Joly, Best Buy chairman and chief executive officer.
Some of the under-representation in tech positions may come from a lack of representation by gender on the small screen, according to a new study from the Lyda Hill Foundation and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, men outnumber women 2 to 1 on characters in STEM roles, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The lack of female representation in popular culture stands to threaten not just the future of the STEM industries but also efforts the industry and educators have made to encourage girls and women to enter the male-dominated fields, said Nicole Small, president of the Dallas-based Lyda Hill Foundation, which funded the study.The lack of female representation in popular culture stands to threaten not just the future of the STEM industries but also efforts the industry and educators have made to encourage girls and women to enter the male-dominated fields.… Click To Tweet
“Over the last decade, the percentage of female lead characters who work in technical fields peaked in 2012 at less than 15 percent. White women were more likely to be featured as leads and portrayed as heroes than women of color,” Ally Marotti writes.
To move beyond societal messages and a pipeline that contributes to the inequities, Catalyte approaches hiring for its tech positions in a new way.
“We use AI and analytics to identify people with innate potential and cognitive ability. There is no correlation between a resume and the ability to write code,” Cox says. “A pedigree school is not what we need to solve the talent gap.”
Disregarding the resume and referrals, Cox says relying on online screening where anyone can apply opens up the talent pool. After the screening, a score is rendered on the aptitude to write code.
“When we have that score, we have a meet and greet to make sure the individual is a cultural fit,” says Cox.
Catalyte then offers a two and half year apprenticeship to matriculate into the company. The first five months is training and for two years the apprentice is writing code and building skills and industry knowledge, she says.
“I do think there is a hesitance (to enter software engineering) because people may not know that Catalyte exists and that the industry has not closed its doors to them,” Cox says.
Cox says she works on creating a “truly organic culture.” She adds that after decades in the tech industry, she knows what can be missing and what needs to happen.
“We have employees come to us out of high school or making a mid-career change. They need to find a path they are excited about.”
Cox says what makes a culture welcoming and inclusive, particularly in tech, is continuous learning. “We have 360-degree mentorship whether it is a first year developer or someone 15 years into a career, there is always something to be learned. A senior developer seeks out someone junior for instance.”
While the tech industry continues to evolve from its narrow roots drawing from a specific pool of mostly male workers, some companies are taking deliberate action to change that. “I do think there is a want to become more inclusive and diverse,” Cox says.
“Most important in any work we are doing is recognizing diversity of experience. What many bring to the work and to the industry is going to move the industry forward,” Cox says.
According to a new docuseries abut women in tech, “Even though the tech sector is growing, the data show little, if any, progress for women in tech for more than a decade. More than 25 million American jobs are classified as tech jobs, and it’s anticipated that there will be 3.5 million U.S. computing-related job openings by 2026 according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Yet, just 25 percent of computing positions are held by women – representing a year-over-year decline since 1991 when it peaked at 36 percent. Additionally, 56 percent of women in computing occupations leave mid-career.”
The Chasing Grace Project Episode 2: Progress & the Power of Community, screening in November in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, “will explore where we do see progress – in the individual stories of women who have started companies, nonprofit organizations and women-in-tech groups. The episode will take an even deeper look at the power of community – including virtual and online communities and women in tech groups both inside and outside of companies – in helping women rise above the challenges they encounter when they do speak out, stand up or challenge the status quo.”