🌐 The Impact of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Fireside Chat
Petra Arts, Senior European Policy Manager is joined by Cloudflare Board member Dr. Katrin Suder. They will discuss why companies should prioritize diverse representation within their Board compositions as well as the importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Board considerations as well as the value of championing these initiatives.
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Hello, welcome and thank you for tuning in for another very interesting Cloudflare TV session on Impact Week.
I am honored to be joined by Dr. Katrin Suder, one of the board members of Cloudflare for a fireside chat around the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion that we're talking about this week in Impact Week.
Welcome Katrin, great to have you.
Nice to be with you. So maybe for those people that are watching and do not know you, could you maybe briefly just describe your background and your role also in the board of Cloudflare?
Yeah, very happy to and hello everybody.
Actually, there is probably two red threads in my career in my life and one is around technology.
So basically all my life I've worked in technology and especially at the interface of technology with other industries or with society.
I have a background in physics, I did my PhD on neural networks, a bit what we call AI today, only that we didn't call it that way, we didn't have the computing power and the data because it's quite a while ago.
So that's what I did, then I joined McKinsey, worked 15 years with McKinsey, was a senior partner at the Berlin office and had various leadership roles.
Within my time at McKinsey, I was working a lot with technology companies, actually along the entire IT stack.
So it was network, it was the hardware server side, it was software side, processes.
So I've seen quite a bit all around the world. Then I switched side and went for one term, almost four years in the Ministry of Defense as a deputy minister and I was responsible there for all the large armament project but also for IT, cyber digitalization of the army.
So everything was technology at the interface of other industries.
So that's the one red thread. And the other one is, and I guess that might be also why I'm here today, is that early in my career, I started to engage on women topics, on diversity.
We didn't call it diversity way back then, but the topic was always the same and I was, so to say, the mother of one of the first studies showing women matter from McKinsey, showing that it makes an economic difference if we leverage the power of diversity.
So maybe that's me.
Yeah, I think so. It's great to have you and it's a very good moment to talk to you, Dan, about these issues.
And as part of, I think maybe just to start the question of what does a board member of Cloudflare do?
I think that's maybe also good to start with.
How do you see your role? And also, I think what was your motivation basically to join the board of Cloudflare specifically?
What attracted you in the company?
Yeah, so our role as a board member, it's also written in the law.
So there's a legal role to that, which means that we're there to supervise, to also make sure that the right processes, controlling instances are in place.
That's especially the role of the audit committee also, which I'm part of. And then I think there's a broader role, which is to support the management.
We want to make the company successful. This is why we're here. This is why we're all here.
And our task is basically to challenge, to give advice, to support.
And I think my specific role is bringing in a bit of the European perspective, because this is where I'm located.
And as you know, for many discussions, Europe does treat data and localization different.
It's also something culturally and diversity matters.
So that's, I think, one of the role.
And the other one is that I've been serving large enterprise customers for many, many years.
So there's also a business perspective I bring in. So if you ask me why Cloudflare, and I do have some other mandates on boards, I have to say, I was pretty, basically from the first talk, I was intrigued by the business model.
I mean, the product is just phenomenal.
And it's ingenious how this disrupts the whole messy stuff in Internet security and performance.
So I thought that was really a strong product.
But that alone maybe has not made the case. I think what made the case is the culture.
So there are many American tech companies, but Cloudflare is in some respect different, the way you treat data, that you don't have a business model, which lives on personal data, and you're not using it.
And you actually, you walk the talk that you live and breathe, also a lot around diversity.
I mean, also asking a German nerd, maybe to join the BIRB is an expression of that culture.
And I think that is a very strong argument.
And that made the case for me. Yeah, and we're very happy to have you, obviously.
I think it's very interesting that you mentioned also, I mean, I think diversity, you know, we're having maybe different interpretation of what diversity is in the workplace.
And I think, also, you know, as a being in the public policy team, but based in Brussels, and having my colleagues also in different places, parts of the world, I think, culture and nationalities and different perspectives is also, you know, a very, very strong, I think, within Cloudflare.
And also, I think, important for, you know, development of the company.
So I'm glad that you brought that up that, you know, you as a German, being in the German perspective, being in the European perspective, let's say, in the board is obviously welcomed and also important.
I think, maybe just to kind of move back a little bit to the theme of this week.
So Impact Week, we're talking about all those concepts, diversity, equity, inclusion, specifically today.
I think we have members, you know, team members of different backgrounds, as we discussed definitionality, there's also, you know, from personal, you know, from personal development to different, let's say, experiences that they bring to the company.
And to, you know, try to kind of combine that into a very strong, you know, team is, you know, it's obviously very important.
I think diversity in the workforce is, you know, we have seen that that, you know, leads to better results, I think, overall, for companies.
What, you know, why is that important?
Do you think for especially for just generally for any company to focus on those topics, to make sure that, you know, the there's different backgrounds represented as different experiences represented, there's different cultures that are represented in the company?
I mean, you basically said it, the core value of diversity, if you take it serious, right, and diversity inclusion, so the inclusion part is so important.
And I come to that in a second, if you want.
But if you do that, right, and if you get it, right, then you bring different perspectives to a problem.
So different perspectives analyze a problem.
And we know from tons of studies, across geographies, across industries, across time, we know that diverse perspective deliver better results.
That's first thing, because the problems we're facing today, like how do you build the product?
How do you make the product work in different regions, you need different perspectives for that.
And also, because the problems are not linear, they're complex.
I mean, we're dealing with forefront technology, and you have to bring in different perspectives to get that solved.
And so I strongly believe in that. But as I said, it's hard work. Of course, it's so much easier if I have all these small little cut rings, and we discuss among each other, it's so much easier, we're going to have a solution in one minute.
But it might be and it probably will be biased, strongly biased, because I have the background I have.
And so this is very important. Also, by the way, for risk management, we know that companies will have at least one woman in the board.
And this is only one indicator for diversity. If we have so many teams with at least one woman already have better results and go less bankrupt, because the risk management is better.
And because it's a different perspective. But let me also add another thing on that.
Yes, there's an economic reason, and a business reason.
But of course, it's also the right thing to do. It's the just thing to do.
And sometimes, in a business context, we tend to forget that. So that's why I want to mention it that I strongly believe in and also that we should do it.
Yes, I mean, I think I think that you're right, you're right.
And I think there's there's so many reasons, you know, to focus on this topic.
You know, as we discussed, probably, we didn't even mention all of them, like all the benefits that you would you would get from from inclusion and specifically, but also creating the diverse workforce in the first place.
Can you maybe share a little bit from your experience as a board member, you know, how these topics are coming up within your, you know, discussions with the other board members, or with the senior leadership of Plaafe?
And how are they also supported by the board?
Overall, it is definitely an agenda item, and one which we take very serious. And there's also the people committee, people in compensation committee, which takes a deeper look at all the people topics, which I think is very good and mandatory.
And Maria does a wonderful job leading that committee. So I think that is that is one angle to it.
But the other is that we as a board ourselves, and Matthew and Michelle put a strong emphasis on that, that we as the board are diverse.
And we have, we already we can improve, and we will improve on that to get more different perspectives in that.
And then also that we in the board have also an inclusive, inclusive culture, right?
So that we're trying to do that. And that has something to do with giving time also taking into account the language barriers and everything we have.
So I think that is an important point. And then so being diverse ourself, make sure that we work as a diverse team.
And I think we're on a good path here.
And the other thing, obviously, that we look at the numbers that we look at the initiatives that we take also challenge the team, where do we stand on that one?
And by the way, I think we're already pretty, pretty far down the road, which I which I find very strong and very good.
And then we offer our support, like I do here, only kind of a little bit of a symbol, but yeah, maybe that one.
Yeah, no, I think I think that's, that's completely right.
And I think, you know, from an employee perspective, I think, especially or from, let's say, people that are looking to join Cloudflare, you know, it is important also that the board and the senior management as well reflects, you know, that diversity and inclusion, you know, aspect of, as you say, you know, I can say that as a, as a woman joining, you know, it's very encouraging to see women on the board, it's very encouraging to have, you know, female leadership in the company, for example, you know, it's one one, as we say, one of the one of the aspects, of course, for me personally, and maybe just to kind of move a little bit to more general kind of, you know, from your experience, also with, you know, other companies, other boards that you're, you've been on, and also maybe from the government perspective, because of course, you have that experience as well.
You know, one of our core values at Cloudflare is to embrace diversity to make Cloudflare better, and, you know, to embrace really those, like in everything that we do, basically to embrace those principles of, you know, being inclusive, being one team as well.
And, you know, fostering diversity and, you know, letting everybody, you know, feel comfortable, you know, within the company.
It's basically, you know, we've realized that that brings so many benefits, as you say, economic benefits, but also, you know, team from a team perspective, from a cohesive perspective, you know, retention, everything.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. So, how important do you think it is that companies also more broadly, you know, make the effort to publicly acknowledge, you know, also their efforts to, to kind of think better, do better in the area of diversity, inclusion, equity?
You know, we have published for the first time, data sets, you know, to reflect, you know, the, as you say, the numbers of Cloudflare, there's many more companies, I think, that do that these days.
Is that something that you, you know, that you would welcome, you know, more, more generally, that others do that the same?
Or is there any kind of reflection from the past as well of how it was before?
Well, I think there's a strong push for more transparency on these numbers.
And this comes from investor, the capital market has changed dramatically. And ESG, which is broader, but it's environmental, social and governance, which I think is a broader set, but the push for ESG is very strong.
And I also have a senior mandate for an investor group working there.
And there, we explicitly ask every portfolio company to report on ESG and to make a huge push on ESG because it is, again, the right thing to do.
It's sustainable, it attracts people, it's just the right thing to do in so many perspectives.
And I think there is no way out anymore.
Some companies still don't get it. And we, and we know that it's very different from also country to country.
So huge differences, how this is still because it has also something to do with the culture of the society.
And for example, in Germany, we just had a huge debate because they have been companies, which gave themselves the voluntary, we used to work with voluntary targets, this is now changed, because the companies actually gave themselves a women target of zero.
So they wanted to have in the top management, zero woman, this was their target.
And I mean, this is ridiculous. And from all the perspectives we have, it's a bit of a tragedy that now the government has to step in and make puts it into a law, and that people don't get it themselves.
But you know, if there's, if we have a situation like that, I believe we have to regulate it.
So the push is there to answer your question, more transparency is better, especially when you lead in the pack, right?
And when you do something and that you show that it can work, you know, it's because we hear yourself, no, no, there are no women, there are no good women.
And a small parenthesis, why am I talking so much about women in Germany, for example, from the legal situation, it is not allowed to ask for ethnical background, or whether you are LGBTI plus, whatever, it's not allowed.
So this is why I use women. And the other thing is that we know from studies, if you push one dimension of diversity, and you push the entire topic, this is the good advantage and women have one advantage.
There's so many of us. So it's, it's a way forward.
But this is why I think to show that all of this prejudice that diversity is not possible, and that it's not leading to better results, it's just wrong.
And that's why I think yes, talk about it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, I agree.
And, you know, as I said, like this week of part of Impact Week, you know, is also part of our transparency to come out with a number of indicators from how we're doing as DOLFER.
And as you mentioned, yeah, there, there are restrictions in some countries about, you know, certain figures.
But we do, you know, we are able to collect some of that information.
And I think, you know, for those interested, there should be a blog post about, you know, any specific part of our website where you can find that information.
Maybe just to move on, because we were talking about, you know, already a little bit about women's empowerment.
I know this is like a very, you know, also personally, for you, and also for myself, you know, a very important topic.
From let's say, the company perspective, but also from the policy perspective, of course, you know, through your role as well within government.
Maybe you can tell us, first of all, a little bit more about the project that you're you're involved in, in Germany, which is called, I hope I'm saying it right, she transforms IT, or she transforms it, I think both of them are probably applicable.
So could you tell us a little bit more about like your involvement in that project and what it entails?
Because I think, you know, it may not be so well known outside of Germany.
So yeah, and it's very fresh, right? It just formatted roughly six months ago.
So and we're in the process of formalizing it.
And it's actually an interesting initiative, because it is a across parties.
So there are women from from all the parties, almost all the parties we have.
And, and it is across policy, academia, and industry, so companies. And it's especially women, but not only women who are in IT, who love IT, and the title, she transforms it or IT is exactly that double meaning that we strongly believe that first of all, women can do their part in supporting and helping this transformation, we're all going through this digital transformation, and can transform IT and the IT industry and can help with the transformation as such.
And it's obviously there also to show that there are many women, excellent women, strong women, that they can contribute also to IT topics, of course, why not?
And, and, and secondly, to push the entire agenda setting.
So we're on our way. And I think it's exciting, because it is in itself such a diverse, but also a hyper lever and fun group to be part of.
Yeah, so it sounds like, like, it's, it's really great fun, as well as, you know, important to kind of address the, you know, the ever, the never ending story of, you know, promoting women, especially in the tech sector and the IT sector.
But you know, as we're on it, the never ending story, it is, you know, it depends a bit on how I look at the things.
Sometimes I'm really frustrated, because I did in back in school, I wrote a seminar, a work around quota and women empowerment, that is many, many years ago now.
And, and somehow, sometimes I feel we're not pushing the needle, we're not getting there.
And I tend to get a bit frustrated, also listening to myself, most of the things I've said using other words, because we call things differently.
But you know, the core content has been the same the last 20, 30 years, and then I got frustrated.
But at the other hand, if I look, for example, that was my CV being out and proud all my life, coming, you know, having having kids and, and coming McKinsey being IT, I was Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Defence.
And I think, you know, 20 years ago, this was probably not have happened.
So yes, there's progress.
Sometimes I get frustrated, because it's just too slow. We're just moving too slow.
Yeah. Yeah, I can understand that, you know, especially if you are in that position, you have been in a position of government, or, you know, in this case, advising also the government at the moment, you know, and that you feel that also policies, but also companies, maybe are, you know, moving, could be moving faster.
I agree. I mean, I'm hoping that we are on the right track. I mean, we have a lot of, of initiatives that we're doing not only for, you know, inclusion of women.
But also, as you were mentioning, you know, the other kind of diversity and inclusion initiatives that we're trying to also make, you know, this a workplace for everybody, you know, so not to, you know, have this, you know, I think the tech sector, generally, maybe it has an image of already being quite, you know, set in its ways, maybe, or kind of more, you know, traditional, you know, this was obviously always the image that it was quite male dominated, that it is very technical, that maybe women and girls also not, you know, you know, choosing studies, for example, already, at the beginning of their careers that are going in that direction.
But I think, you know, that there's a shift happening, and maybe it should move faster.
But, you know, I mean, maybe I don't know if you have also any kind of thoughts about how that like, from an education perspective, is happening right now, because you have obviously, you know, a background in a more technical field, let's say, that was a while ago, maybe now, nowadays, it's different.
I don't know if you have any, any insights into that also, maybe from in Germany, how that how that's changing?
In this, she transforms it group. And the conclusion is, let me put it differently, there are a few things which have worked.
And one thing is, which is, again, maybe said in itself, that mono education.
So having already in school courses, especially in math and physics for, for the for the for the female students alone, does make a difference.
And they choose later on to a higher proportion to go into into this kind of studies.
So that works. That has worked 20 years ago, it still works, but it has not increased.
So because money education was something we didn't want to have to do other reasons, but especially for these topics, it works.
Same holds true for studies. When I studied physics, I started with 300 colleagues, and out of that were seven women.
And you can imagine that this is quite a different culture.
And this has not dramatically changed. A second thing which works is that we that we figure out if we if we address the course and the curriculum of the studies to make it more relevant.
So you're not studying theoretical physics, like what I did, right, understanding the word, but going at the interface in energy and resources, and how can physics help to save energy?
Or how can you do chemistry or any other of the natural scientists to improve the world to do something good to change the title, the content, the curriculum, it attracts a lot more women than it currently does.
So there's a few things which work.
And I think we just have to push them out, because also, we cannot afford to leave that potential out, right?
We know that women have the better grades from school, at least here, we know that they, you know, that very good education, and then we lose all that potential.
How can we write? Yes, yeah, I think I think it's obviously, I think a lot has been done.
I mean, also from from, you know, looking back my own education, although I didn't do I mean, maybe as many women didn't, I didn't do a STEM, the STEM direction of studies, when I was studying.
But yeah, I what I see around me, I think it's definitely much more attention.
Also, at the high school level, you know, there's much more, you know, at least awareness, I think of how important it is to have, you know, a more diverse reflection of society, let's say, in certain areas of studies, and also in terms of business and, you know, government and other organizations, more generally.
Maybe just kind of go that's kind of going into that, like, how can we encourage, you know, people to start working in this area, and maybe also just kind of move a bit more to the senior level representation.
You know, not maybe not only for women and men, you know, as you were described, you know, it's very important to see women on boards.
But also, you know, kind of the leadership of companies or organizations and the kind of senior roles, and, you know, manager roles, etc, you know, to have diverse representation.
Is there, you know, anything that you have seen, maybe that has worked in certain organizations that you've been part of, or things that you could, let's say, recommend about how to, you know, how that could be improved?
The most important thing, like with any topic, with any change topic, with any topic is, all state change starts from the top.
If the leadership is not honestly and truly believing, communicating and living diversity and inclusion, inclusion is the important part, then it will not work.
That's what I meant, if you just throw resources on it, right.
So now we have a diversity manager, and blah, blah, blah, and we have a training and an anti bias training.
But the leadership itself is not practicing and to be very practical inclusion means to really listen to your, you know, to your team, to your whoever it is, and really have an honest, respectful interest.
And this is why it is work, right?
Because it takes time, it takes effort. So what do you mean? Why? Why do you think like that?
Why? Explain it to me. And so it takes time. But this is what the leadership has to show.
And I think the leadership, your leadership, the board, we're trying and the executive team, I think is is very strong on that.
So this is the this is not there, you can forget about the rest.
And then we know also from various studies, what works, we know that anti bias training makes a lot of sense.
We know that having specific courses, especially also for men to explain to them to focus on them, because we obviously we need them, and we need them as our allies here.
And then we know that performance management, having the numbers, showing the numbers, and discussing the numbers, ask question that this obviously is a very important.
So there are tools, which can work. And we know that they work and their best practices sets, because that is a topic now for 20 years.
So we know what works. And then I want to put a little emphasis on on the topic of parents, because our primary caretaker, because the one thing is, is diversity and women and other minorities, but other minorities.
And the other one is if you're a parent, and there it gets really tricky, especially in cultures where it's not so used that women work full time.
So I think that makes it very difficult.
And I think there, we can experiment a lot. And for example, having shared leadership roles is a is a pretty new phenomenon, not only shared, you know, part time work, but really shared, even executive roles, we have the first one in Germany, they work.
And these are great showcases. And I think experimenting a bit more with that is a good way forward.
Yeah, those are very interesting examples. Like I personally hadn't heard about that yet, about the shared leadership roles, which is like definitely very innovative, let's say compared to how some things are very obviously arranged.
And I think, you know, from my perspective, it's really trying to make sure that there is a, you know, the barriers to move up in a company, for example, are, you know, as much removed as possible, let's say, and part of the thing is into facilitating listening, you know, by the executive team, or by let's say, manager, managing teams of companies, to listen to the employees as well about what is it that, you know, works for them to make sure that they can develop their careers, and that everybody can move, you know, move in the direction that they want to, of course, that there is no, you know, unnecessary, let's say, burdens to do that within a company.
And I mean, especially here, but I believe also in the Silicon Valley and across countries, there's still this, you know, if you're want to be a top manager, you have to work 60, 70, 80 hours.
I mean, why?
You know, I mean, this is one of these biases, they don't make sense, you know, and we want leadership, which is inspiring, we want leadership that cares.
But if you only have work, you never see your kids, how can you stay human beings, not just be tired all the time.
So I think breaking this up, and yes, I've been in executive positions, I know they are damn hard work.
But why not think about how can you remove the barriers, as you said, how can you share the work, and even roles.
So I believe there's, this is the next level, how to make it work, especially.
And I think the next generation, you know, men and women, and this gives me hope, they want to see their kids, they want to have a life outside work, they care, they care about our world.
So we have to give them room. And I think the employer have a strong role there to think creatively, how can they, you know, give room to their employees to engage also in initiatives, maybe to make this world a better place, we have enough challenges out there.
Yeah, I mean, maybe we can talk another time about like some of the other challenges that we still have, but we're kind of almost at time.
So I want to thank you so much, Catherine, for really insightful fireside chat.
Thank you so much to everybody who has watched. And I hope you enjoy the next event coming up soon.
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