Eddie Pate: Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Avanade

Avanade Inc.

May 23, 2016

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As the vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at Avanade, Eddie Pate is responsible for developing and implementing all diversity and inclusion efforts at Avanade. Before Avanade, Eddie was the principal and founder of Pate Consulting & Associates. His areas of subject matter expertise are diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and cultural competence. Previously, Eddie was the director of diversity and inclusion for Starbuck's Global Diversity.

He was responsible for driving diversity, inclusion, and accessibility into every aspect of partner (employee) engagement worldwide. This responsibility includes the integration of divers knowledge, tools, and capability into training at Starbucks.

Before joining Starbucks, Eddie was a director of Microsoft's global diversity & inclusion team and was responsible for overseeing the implementation of Microsoft's global diversity initiative company-wide.
Eddie holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Washington and has been married for 28 years with two grown children.

Digital Fluency: Can This Be One Answer for Gender Parity?

I wholeheartedly believe that technology can be the great field leveler we've been looking for: access to the internet and all of its vast resources, the ability to produce professional documents, the ability to create innovative, creative videos in a matter of minutes, to connect with anyone, anywhere at any time, and so on. Technology, and our use of it, has changed everything. I imagine the pace of change and the vast possibilities will only speed up and become more and more mind-boggling.

We hear daily about the cloud, digital innovations, and the Internet of things (IoT). These technologies impact both our lives and our work lives in hugely significant ways. In fact, at work, we demand the same sort of digital experience that we are accustomed to outside of work. For me, this is the point to zero in on. This is the point where we can honestly have a shot at impacting gender parity.

It won't be the end all, but it can play a significant role in addressing the issue of gender parity. Gender parity isn't just about pay, but it is about access to jobs at all levels, it's about inclusive work environments, it's about women being at the point of impact and innovation as key partners with a seat at the table . . . it's all of this and more. So what needs to happen? How can women get in front of digital fluency?

For me, digital fluency has multiple meanings and subtle contexts. Words like eloquence, articulacy, confidence, ease, and effortlessness are synonyms for fluency. It is about embracing the meaning and intent of those words as we strongly encourage girls and women to make digital their own . . . to become digitally fluent. What is the connection and why does this matter?

There are two key points.

First, it is still a new, uncharted area, so women have an opportunity to get out in front of this area and innovate.

Second, most digital success or innovation is reliant on design thinking, and research clearly shows that diverse teams are inherently better at this type of methodology. The bottom line is having women involved, and creating diverse teams will result in more creative and innovative solutions. Digital fluency seems "ripe" for women to become major players and in doing so continue to push parity to the point that it is no longer relevant to discuss.

But here is the catch. We can't hope to make women and girls more digitally fluent and think we are done. This strategy would end up being one of those that intends on "fixing the women" and expecting that to solve everything.
This "fix" will be of no use if our work environments aren't made to be more inclusive, if we don't challenge entrenched unconscious biases, fix structures and processes that maintain the gender inequities and status quo, and deal with both conscious and unconscious stereotypic perceptions of what a technologist is and looks like. In other words, digital fluency is a strand of work that needs to fit in side-by-side with some seriously important work that has begun throughout the technology industry but isn't anywhere near finished.

So get digitally fluent, get out ahead of what is coming, support one another in this digital-innovation race, and continue to demand that inclusion and access be simply a given.

At Avanade, our vision is to be the leading digital innovator, realizing results for our clients and their customers through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem.

Through thousands of projects, we’ve transformed businesses for the digital world. We’ve helped them create compelling experiences for their customers and employees. We’ve reduced costs, increased productivity, enabled collaboration and enhanced agility—and ultimately improved performance.

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

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