Adam Warby is the CEO of Avanade and is in support of the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign.

Why do you support the HeForShe campaign? For example, have you witnessed the benefits that diversity can bring to a workplace?Adam Warby

Fundamentally, I believe in the mission of men being part of the solution to gender parity, and to stand together to create a bold, visible force for gender equality. This is a responsibility that rests with each and every one of us, personally and professionally.

As a business leader, I feel it’s important to be vocal about creating gender equality in the workplace, but it’s also critical to follow up with action; putting in place the people and programs that are necessary to make change happen.

It’s no secret that the technology industry sees the benefits of a diverse workplace, and as a whole is intently focused on bringing more gender equity into the collective workforce and attracting more women to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

The research makes the business imperative for diversity pretty clear. For example, the Harvard Business Review estimates that a 30% female C-suite translates into a 15% increase in profitability. In addition, companies with diversity in both gender and experiences/skills are 45% more likely to report market share gains and 70% more likely to capture a new market.

Going beyond the business benefits, though, there are many other reasons why a diverse workforce should just be part of how we all do business. When people of diverse backgrounds, skills and unique perspectives come together, they are better equipped to solve business challenges with innovative ideas and new approaches.

As a company with a presence in 23 countries with more than 28,000 digitally connected people around the world, the diversity of Avanade’s workforce correlates directly to our ability to realise results for our clients and their customers. Diversity is not just good for the bottom line, it propels innovation and creativity. It’s clear to me (as well as our leadership team and Board of Directors) that diverse teams are critical to our future growth (and I would argue they are critical for any business who wants to stay competitive and relevant in the changing, connected, global marketplace).

The reality is that today and in the future, our clients expect us to bring diverse ideas to solve problems and seize new opportunities—and that can only come from the diversity of one’s own workforce.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

Men are typically the largest group of stakeholders in most enterprises today, making them an important part of the solution to gender equality. Men need to lead by example, especially those in leadership positions. The reality is that if we are to succeed in reaching our diversity goals as a company, we must work as a team to make it happen.

At Avanade, men and women have come together to identify new ways to attract and retain a diverse group of people into our business since we formalized our Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2011.

And we keep raising the bar. As an example, Avanade’s goal is to increase the number of women in our company until we have a workforce made up of at least 30% women in director and above roles – and we are working hard to reach this goal within the next three years. We’ve also infused the importance of diversity into our own corporate citizenship initiatives, which focus on closing the gender, technology and income gaps for women to better enable them to realize their full potential in our digital world.

How welcome are men in the gender equality conversation currently?

I can only speak from my own experience when I say that at Avanade, men are not only welcome in the gender equality conversation, but are very much a part of identifying new ways to reach our diversity and inclusion goals.

To ensure we drive positive change across the business, we went directly to our employees to get their perspective on how could we attract and hire more women in leadership roles. Men and women across the business worked together to create solutions to nurture more diversity in our organization.

In addition, as part of our goals to drive awareness around who we’re hiring and bring more women into our business, in 2013, we introduced candidate slating guidelines, which require our hiring managers to make sure that at least one woman is included in the pool of candidates being interviewed for director level positions and above and that one female is also on the interview panel for those candidates

Implementing these criteria is helping hiring managers think about the candidates we interview and helps us ensure qualified women have the opportunity to compete for senior level roles. This effort, in particular, has directly influenced our ability to increase the number of women in director+ roles by 74% since the inception of these guidelines.

Do you think groups/networks that include the words “women in…” or “females in…” make men feel like gender equality isn’t really their problem or something they need to help with?

I would be naïve if I didn’t acknowledge that some men may still feel this way. But, honestly, I believe that within our business, men very much feel a part of our strategy to increase gender equity at Avanade—and they’ve been at the table from the very beginning of our efforts. At Avanade, it’s never really been a “women only” issue.

What can businesses do to encourage more men to feel welcome enough to get involved in the gender debate?

It’s simple, really: they need to be part of the conversation. Ask for their ideas and encourage their participation to help the business reach its collective goal.

Increasing gender diversity starts with a company’s own culture. We believe that everyone counts—in fact, it’s one of our documented core values. We know that merely declaring diversity a value doesn’t make it so—it has to be part and parcel of the work environment, and we all have to be held accountable for making it real.

At Avanade, gender diversity is not only a “desired goal”, but a written objective for all executive leadership. It is one of three priorities on my own performance scorecard that focuses on people, and one of 10 priorities overall. In addition, our employees all participate in Diversity and Inclusion training. Our focus on measurement is an important driver of gender equality in Avanade’s workplace – not just to set goals, but also to drive transparency and trust in the conversation.

Do you currently mentor any women or have you in the past?

I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a mentor to many women over the course of my career—it’s such a rewarding part of my professional life.

I’m proud to say that last year, Avanade forged a partnership with the Aspire Foundation, whose goal is to provide mentors for 1 billion women. In this past year alone, Avanade has provided more than 500 mentors to female entrepreneurs around the world to help them advance their skills and networks. It’s been wonderful seeing our employees share their knowledge and experience in such a personal way, and I am personally mentoring two women under this program – one in the US and one in Uganda.

Have you noticed any difference in mentoring women – for example, are women less likely to put themselves forward for jobs that are out of their comfort zones or are women less likely to identify senior roles that they would be suited for?

In mentoring women, I have noticed that they are generally more prepared and hungrier for the feedback than some men. I think this reflects the desire of women to make the most of their careers today. Twenty years ago it might have been true that women were less likely to put themselves forward for different jobs or more senior roles—and it still may hold true for some individuals—but I think by creating access and opportunities, we are making it easier for everyone to apply their strengths in the workplace. At the same time, it’s equally important that we create a work culture that respects and welcomes all points of view. This hopefully energizes our employees to participate, put themselves forward for roles that might be outside of their comfort zones, and fuel their career growth.

Feedback from our leaders and employees tell us we are on the right track, but we continually ask ourselves: “what else can we do?”

The truth is even when we reach our gender diversity goals as a company, our work won’t be finished. Diversity and inclusion goes far beyond gender, and we must focus on ensuring everyone’s experience and perspectives count.