Ms. Melody Lopez, Chief of Staff – People, Process & Strategy, Crayon Software Experts India
In an exclusive interview with Shreyas Webmedia Solutions (SWS), Ms. Melody Lopez, Chief of Staff – People, Process & Strategy Crayon Software Experts India discussed the challenges that women face in getting ahead in the IT industry and the importance of having the right DEI policies and many more…
SWS: How would you define the Chief of Staff (CoS) role? Is it still a glorified designation or a role perfect for women leaders looking to move towards a higher C-Suite level?
Melody Lopez: The designation – Chief of Staff (CoS) unlike other C-Suite designations like CEO, CIO and CTO does not have a defined role that can be applied universally. Often, the role is defined by the organization and those in the decision-making position. In general, a CoS has the power and responsibility to make sure that all administrative, business and operational aspects are running smoothly. Just like any C-Suite level leader, a CoS also need leadership skills to work well with others, while processing information efficiently and helping their executive team with various tasks.
In the past few years, however, the role of Chief of Staff is evolving, as it is no longer considered a glorified designation. There was a time when CoS would only be responsible to assist the leadership team, taking notes during the meetings and helping them keep connected with the ongoings of the company. Today, however, a CoS can help a leader achieve sharp gains in productivity and impact. It is also now being considered as an extended version of the Human Resource department. I believe women are well-suited for this role given our instincts in handling responsibilities that comes with the designation. These days, the CoS role involves, strategic thinking and problem analysis, conflict resolution, leadership team management, operation management, value addition to company goals and, anticipating and resolving problems. For women, who want to step into a bigger C-Suite level designation, the role of CoS is a step in the right direction. With the Chief of Staff designation, there is a learning curve and a direct insight into understanding what the leadership team does and strategizes and also helps one in mastering the required leadership skills. A role as a CoS can be the 1st step, we can take that will train us for bigger roles and responsibilities paving a path towards reaching bigger goals.
As Chief of Staff at Crayon India, I drive the execution of the Company’s Strategy and Vision. I also drive engagement with Employees, Internal Stakeholders, Business Heads, Channel Partners, and Customers. I truly understand the power of listening to and collaborating with Employees, Customers and Partners. My role combines the traditional roles and responsibilities of an Executive Assistant and Head of HR along with the emerging role of a change agent for Digital transformation.
I also believe in enabling our people to help them to grow, thrive, and win through constant engagement, cutting-edge tools, trainings, events, and programs. A vocal advocate for the India Business as a whole, I am passionate about developing the next generation of women in technology. As a leader, I work to unite, mentor, inspire, and accelerate women in the workforce.
SWS: Women are leaving the workforce especially during and post-pandemic due to many management drawbacks. How has Crayon helped in avoiding such a trend as a company?
Melody Lopez Due to the pandemic, close to 3 million women in US alone have left the workforce. In India, the number of women in the workforce is down to 9% and in the past 5 years data says that more than 20 million women have quit the workforce. The biggest reasons are – lack of flexibility, growth and learning opportunity, and burnout due to toxic work environments. According to some media reports, more women in leadership roles have been increasingly quitting the workforce for better compensation, opportunities, flexibility and inclusion and the term being used to describe this is – ‘Great Breakup’. Workplace behaviour of superiors is also one of the reasons why women have problems staying in the workforce.
I am proud to say that Crayon has always been a women-friendly company. We have received many recognitions and awards for our initiatives and our work culture including the most recent recognition as India’s Best Workplaces™ for Women 2022 by Great Place to Work®. We have introduced leadership workshops for women professionals handpicked from across the globe to participate. Crayon has always given prominence and understanding to the needs of our women staff, and we aim to make things better and reach perfection. Crayon’s diversity statistics are ahead of the global IT industry standards, which is just about 25% women and has an even smaller percentage of women in leadership positions. Meanwhile, half of Crayon’s board is female, and 43% of its executive management team is women. Crayon’s overall workforce is 31% women and its local management teams are 30% women.
SWS: Where do women in the technology vertical stand currently and what are their challenges in the growth and leadership roles?
Melody Lopez Diversity in the workplace improves a company’s work culture, profitability, and productivity. Though women have made substantial steps in representation, especially in managerial and leadership roles, unfortunately, men continue to dominate the technology vertical. As a result, the IT industry generally is characterized by a low share of diverse workers. The need for the hour is for companies to systematically increase the percentage of female workers at all levels and offer equal salary levels and career opportunities regardless of gender.
In the last decade, the IT industry has made significant progress in helping bridge the gender gap by empowering women. With more women stepping into leadership roles, they inspire other women to pursue and grow in their careers.
Even today, some challenges are lack of mentors, very few female role models in the field, gender biases in the workplace, unequal growth opportunities compared to men, and unequal pay for the same skills.
SWS: What is the importance of having the right DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity) policies? Provide insight into Crayon’s initiatives.
Melody Lopez While 93% of companies take business goals into account in managers’ performance reviews, less than 40% do so for factors like team morale and progress on DEI goals. But DEI programs are an essential aspect of building engaged and happy employees. Organizations with strong DEI initiatives are more likely to have employees with increased job satisfaction, and higher levels of trust, and are more engaged. Companies with higher diversity in management earn on average 38% more revenue than companies with lower diversity and organizations in the top 25% (when it comes to gender diversity among executive leadership teams) are 21% more likely to be profitable and 27% better at creating value. Organizations address DEI through Structural Initiatives and by promoting Individual Skills. Structural Initiatives can include creating employee resource groups, instituting a diversity task force, and providing bias awareness training to all employees. Individual Skills include training employees to be upstanders and not bystanders and promoting mentor programs between colleagues that encourage employees to engage with each other.
Crayon has been taking all these steps towards maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusivity among its existing and new employees. For us at Crayon, diversity and equality are not just buzzwords. Equality and empathy will always be our core values. Without an understanding of how people connect, we cannot shape sustainable solutions for society or pave the way for the future. Crayon is a catalyst and creator of progress and possibilities because we let people play the main role. That’s how we have built a global, powerful team where tech talents want to work. Crayon has long been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year it came in at No. 2 on the SHE Index, which measures gender diversity in the workplace. Crayon also won the SHE Rising Star award for making the most gains of any company on the index. This is only an indication of how much Crayon is invested in DEI policies, which in turn is creating a holistic environment for our employees.
SWS: As a C-Suite leader, debunk some myths about women in the Chief of Staff role.
Melody Lopez: A chief of staff role is an ideal starting block for women to gain a stronghold into the inner workings of an organization’s leadership. Statistics show that Chief of Staff jobs are male-dominated at 62% and the balance is to bring in more women.
The most common excuse for not having enough CoS women leaders is the myths surrounding them. Women are often told to refrain from taking risks because women are constrained by stereotypes that portray them as physically and emotionally frail. We hear it frequently ‘there aren’t enough women prepared to hold significant roles because women lack Ambition’.
Women will excel in a chief of staff role because women leaders tend to be more empathetic of those around them and can read a room quickly and accurately, which is an instrumental skill as a chief of staff. Women are also more adept at adjusting to transitions and leading calmly in times of crisis, making them influential. Women can also juggle multiple tasks and still complete everything within time.
Many women are experts at focusing on the details and creating systems of organization to keep them all straight; this is a crucial element of a chief of staff role.