Written by Julie Mitchell for DiversityQ
Diverse leadership attracts top talent and boosts business
Jeff Stone, CEO of Compeat, a leading US restaurant management software company, reveals how having an equal mix of men and women in the boardroom leads to better decisions.
How to get more women into senior positions has long been high on the gender diversity agenda. While progress is being made, women around the world are generally under-represented on corporate boards.
One company that is bucking the trend and leading by example is US company Compeat. Nearly 60% of its directors are female. What’s more, it’s in the traditionally male-dominated technology industry.
Savvy business leadership
This is no accident but a conscious decision by CEO Jeff Stone. He joined the company four years ago, bringing to the table an extensive experience in business leadership and driving optimal performance to help organizations grow.
Compeat is based in Austin, Texas, one of America’s fastest growing cities. The company is equally dynamic. It prides itself on being the “only restaurant management software that provides a true end-to-end solution, all built in house”. This includes everything from back office and accounting to workforce management and payroll.
Jeff was attracted to Compeat by the chance to lead a company that, he says, “provided solutions, helped businesses to grow and keep them afloat. Also, I have a hospitality background and who doesn’t love restaurants?”
When he arrived, there were just 30 employees but no management team. So, Jeff set about recruiting one, making sure it was at least split 50-50 between men and women.
It was an opportunity to redress the imbalance. He explains, “Women have 60% of degrees, around 40% of law and medical degrees. They make up 70% of the labor force but only a quarter are in top positions.”
During his journey up the career ladder, he had experienced working for three different women CEOs, learning at first-hand how a female perspective can benefit business.
“Women look at things differently, from different angles and decisions are better thought out,” Jeff explains. “They have a more compassionate and wholistic perspective, whereas men generally tend to make snap or rash decisions and have less empathy.
“For example, our SVP of People and Culture, who is female, doesn’t just visit our satellite offices but listens first-hand to concerns and issues and then implements changes immediately. Employees are seeing quick and positive changes in policies, benefits and Compeat’s culture based on their direct feedback.”
Female perspective paying dividends
The decision to have more women at senior level has paid off – so much so, in fact, that Compeat recently hired another female, Kathy Wirt – SVP of Product Management. Each department led by a female executive has seen significant improvements in key performance metrics.
“Simply put, they get stuff done and empower their teams,” says Jeff. “When our CMO and SVP of Customer Success, both females, became involved in our go to market product launches, they revamped the entire process adding internal user acceptance testing, more robust customer beta testing and formed a cross functional team accountable for all product launches. It created a culture of transparency, collaboration and inclusion that gives us better results.”
An acceptable voice
Summing up, he says that the women on his leadership team relate well with both customers and employees and are making an important contribution to driving the company forward. In particular, their presence is helping to attract new talent.
“More and more women are becoming software engineers in a historically male-dominated department,” says Jeff. “When women engineers were asked why they’d joined the company, one of the reasons they gave was the leadership team. They felt more accepted and that their voices would be heard. This has permeated through all the different levels.”
However, in ensuring equal gender representation at senior level, Jeff points out that individuals were selected based on their skills and being the right person for the job.
“Our policy is to hire the most qualified candidate for each position,” he says. However, we are being very purposeful and diligent about trying to change the demographics of each of our teams to truly reflect and align with our diverse customer base. We do significant proactive outreach to women in tech groups as well as other diverse organizations to attract not just women but minority talent as well.
“Having a diverse employee base also supports our full inclusion policy as when individuals see others like them being successful, they feel they can be themselves.”
The positive impact that having a diverse leadership team has had on Compeat has attracted interest from other CEOs locally. Jeff has been able to underline to them the value of having more women directors and the importance of building a diverse team.
He takes great satisfaction in creating a great place to work and aims to build on these achievements. Compeat now employs 200 people and has plans to grow further and create opportunities for a talented and diverse workforce.