Life Lessons: Kathleen Mitford on Why Diversity Drives Innovation

Erin Horiuchi

July 19, 2020

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PTC's (Parametric Technology Corp) Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Kathleen Mitford delivered the keynote fireside chat at the recent WITI (Women in Technology International) 2020 virtual summit, hosted by Parna Sarkar-Basu, V.P. of Brand Marketing for WITI and founder of Brand and Buzz Marketing.

Parna kicked off this important dialogue by saying that the word �"diversity” can have different meanings to different people. When she thinks of diversity, the first thought that comes to her mind is cultural and regional diversity. She also added that the word can take on a life of its own, depending on the political climate. For example, currently the emphasis is on diversity of race.

To add to Parna's definition, Kathleen believes that diversity includes gender, race, skin color, ethnicity, age, and disabilities, but to truly capture the power of diversity, it's critical to be open to understanding people with different backgrounds, life experiences, and cultural upbringings.

Parna shared that according to a recent study, public companies that have a diverse management team see a 95% higher return on equity. And these days, diversity is a must in every organization. PTC is no exception to that rule, as Kathleen championed creating an inclusive culture. This is evident in the way that she builds relationships and how she leads. Kathleen shared her thoughts on how to get others to embrace diversity:

- Goals: Set concrete goals with definitive milestones amongst the leadership team and the organization.
- Measure: Ensure that everyone is aware of the goal and provide regular updates on progress.
- Understand: Get involved and explore internal and external educational resources, employee resource groups (ERGs); talk to people to hear diverse experiences, and seek out what other companies are doing through organizations like WITI and the Mass High Tech Council.

To Parna's question on the correlation between diverse engineering teams and the impact on business, Kathleen said diversity definitely creates tangible results. Not only has PTC achieved growth that can be attributed to increased innovation from diverse teams, but employee engagement scores have increased dramatically and attrition has also improved due to retention and happier employees.

Parna discussed the role of the technology ecosystem, including public companies and STEM educational programs that all play a role in ensuring that the future generations of innovators are exposed to diversity early on. To that, Kathleen added that although society still has a ways to go to improve gender diversity in technology and organizations in general, she offered optimism and advice on how we can support youth to create a more diverse, innovative, and inclusive community:

"Every one of us has the responsibility, both with our own children and with the society that we live in, to encourage them to embrace different cultures, different backgrounds, different diversity. I do believe it is important to focus on STEM but also focusing on teaching that in the schools as well."

You can view Parna and Kathleen's full conversation here.

Erin Horiuchi is a marketing specialist for Brand and Buzz Marketing and WITI Boston volunteer.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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