Strength in Numbers – Changing Self-perceptions

Corporate policy makers and leaders have never had more incentive to implement inclusive policies and create inclusive teams. According to Forbes, inclusive teams make better decisions up to 87% of the time, make decisions 2x faster with half the meetings, and deliver 60% better results.

However, mainstream rhetoric is often concerned with what people in the minority can’t do as opposed to what they can. This view can manifest itself in individuals who hold back their contribution to a team because of gender, orientation, race, or other factors that they feel set them apart from the majority.

The pay-off is big, but so is the challenge to effectively implement an inclusive and diverse workplace. We know that cultural change happens from the top down with the creation of transformative policies. But it’s more than executive policy-making. Cultural change takes people at every level in the organization including team leaders, anyone striving for more diversity, and individuals dealing with discrimination to become a part of the daily process that creates real change over time.

In our search to understand more about companies that are successfully implementing workplace diversity, we interviewed Kathy Washenberger, newly appointed Director of Information Security/GRC at Deluxe Corporation. Kathy shared her experience from both a corporate and individual perspective on how an actionable approach to diversity can remove inclusion barriers.

MNAiC: Tell us a bit about your role.

KW: I am the new Director of Information Security/Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) at Deluxe Corporation. As a life-long Minnesotan, I have a history as a leader in Information Technology; but my passion has always been around areas involving information security, data privacy and compliance. At Deluxe, my team supports services such as information security due diligence, risk management, policy/standards controls, compliance to PCI, SOX and other related areas, vendor security assurance, and awareness and training activities.

MNAiC: What were the greatest influences on your technology career choice, and direction?   If something specifically happened that triggered your career decision, what was it?

KW: I started in Information Security very early in my career through my persistence in asking to do new innovative work. I was given the opportunity to join the Information Security team, which at the time (1995) wasn’t the big deal it is today. Throughout my career I have led teams in IT, but always found myself drifting back to my passion of protecting data.

MNAiC: As a whole, women in tech in the U.S. leave the industry at a 45% higher rate than men, further reducing the potential for women to assume leadership roles within tech. What do you think are some of the unique challenges women face in this male-dominated industry?

KW: I think times are changing and women are becoming increasingly a part of this industry. No longer is there an unspoken requirement for women to stay home or the limitations of job opportunities that there were in the past. In fact, I see more women in technology each year! With three adult children of my own in the technology field, who are women, they are more supported now than ever!

MNAiC: Have you helped other women overcome these challenges?  If so, what did you do?

KW: Early in my career I did have some challenges of having to prove myself more often than my male counterparts. Now, I don’t see that occurring as much. If it happens, there are so many resources available to assist. The one thing I see more often is the personality differences in women where they may not feel they have the authority, or the opportunity to speak out. That is the one area where I give advice on ways to overcome those “blind spots” that are often unknown until pointed out.

MNAiC: What do you think are three things MN Businesses can do to help remove these barriers in order to promote and retain more women leaders in technology?

KW: I think each company needs to take a look at their culture and determine if it is one that supports diversity in general. If companies could take a focused approach on diversity as a whole, and take actionable steps to be inclusive, it would remove this and other barriers.

MNAiC: What barriers do you think are most challenging to address and why?

KW: The fact that companies are working to “check a box” rather than take actionable steps to improve the problem.

MNAiC: What can young aspiring women technologists do today to prepare themselves for a future career in leadership?

KW: Be the strong individual that you are and set your goals high! Go forward with confidence in yourself and your abilities. Challenge the norm.

MNAiC: Why do you think it’s important to move toward more gender consciousness in tech leadership?

KW: Back to my point on diversity. It’s not just gender we must embrace, it’s all forms of diversity, even down to the way we construct teams. Ensuring we have a diverse set of skill sets to approach tasks and problems differently is key.

MNAiC: What advice would you give to women who aspire to advance their career in tech?

KW: Technology is very broad and there is quite a bit to choose from in this field. Keep your options open and explore the various aspects of roles and responsibilities. Don’t limit yourself to one niche area. Technology is embedded in everything we do, and it’s constantly evolving. Be a part of the path forward!


About Deluxe Corporation

Deluxe is a trusted, tech-enabled solutions company, serving enterprises, small businesses and financial institutions, offering a range of solutions to help customers manage and grow their businesses. Approximately 4.8 million small business customers access Deluxe’s wide range of products and services, including incorporation services, logo design, website development and hosting, email marketing, social media, search engine optimization, payroll services along with customized checks and forms. For our approximately 4,600 financial institution customers, Deluxe offers industry-leading programs in data analytics, customer acquisition and treasury management solutions, including fraud prevention and profitability as well as checks. Deluxe is also a leading provider of checks and accessories sold directly to consumers. For more information, visit us at www.deluxe.com, www.facebook.com/deluxecorp or www.twitter.com/deluxecorp.

About Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC)

MNAiC collaborates with businesses, organizations and schools to inspire, support, and empower young women in high school to become our next, best Minnesota technology talent. Want to get engaged with the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing program? To learn how your organization can support the computing interests of young women in Minnesota and lead the movement to disrupt gender equality in tech, contact Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships, Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence, at russell.fraenkel@metrostate.edu, call (612) 659-7224.