How Volaris is advancing conversations on diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Interested in more on this topic? Two of our women in leadership, Cristina Wheless and Mary Wilson, spoke at a Growth & Exit Strategies: Women in Tech conference hosted by World Financial Symposiums. Watch the recording here.
Each March we are encouraged to reflect on the advancement of women in the workplace. Not only do people in the U.S., UK, and Australia celebrate Women’s History Month, we also celebrate International Women’s Day within Volaris.
The software industry’s gender gap is well-known. Half of the world’s population identifies as female, yet the software development industry tends to be dominated by men. Close to 92% of respondents identified as male in a 2022 global software developer survey cited by Statista. Corporate governance research also shows that women are typically underrepresented on senior leadership teams that conduct M&A.
At our largest company-wide event, Quadrants, we organized a popular panel about women in leadership. The talk was moderated by our Chief Talent Officer Grace Annab, and attendance was open to all conference participants.
The panel included:
- Mary Wilson, Co-founder and President of Tibersoft, a Volaris-owned company
- Leanne Tribe, VP of Professional Services at Trapeze Group, a Volaris-owned company
- Tran Ly, Group Leader at Volaris Group
- Laurie Schultz, board member at Volaris parent company Constellation Software and advisor to The51, a financial education platform and venture fund that connects women and gender-diverse entrepreneurs with investors
1. How Organizations Can Support Women in Leadership
Volaris is proud to have women as leaders at many levels of the organization, including as leaders of our business units, as key members of M&A teams, as members of the Volaris senior corporate leadership team, and as board members of our parent company, Constellation Software. Constellation also shares diversity and inclusion data on the CSI ESG website, which brings together stories from across our decentralized company.
The panelists talked about their motivations to become leaders within the organization and how leadership opportunities arose for each of them. Each of them acknowledged that they benefited from mentorship throughout their careers and at Volaris. Reflecting on their experiences, they agreed that mentorship and advocacy are key to the advancement of women as leaders within an organization, whether leaders are offering support or seeking it out.
To be inclusive of women as potential leaders, Mary Wilson suggested that all leaders can think about whether they may be unconsciously assuming that women may not be interested in leadership positions. It may be the case that they believe they should wait to be asked by someone more senior than them. She suggested that managers set up clear discussions with all high-potential employees to identify an interest in leadership, then set up development paths to help potential leaders reach their long-term career goals. “Make it clear that there is a seat at the table for them,” she concluded.
Mary Wilson addresses the audience during the Women in Leadership panel at Quadrants 2022. Wilson suggested ways for leaders to draw more women into their leadership circles and include more diverse voices in decision-making processes.
On the point of encouraging diversity in leadership, Volaris CEO Mark Miller added that the organization structure is designed to advance talent development. Furthermore, the company’s tendency to form small, focused teams means that Volaris has the ability to offer opportunities for many types of people to showcase their unique leadership skills.
Ly added that the talent review system at Volaris provides a space where managers can have transparent discussions about competencies and achievements. “Any potential biases tend to be diluted when the focus of the discussion is: Is this the person the right person for the role? What can we do to make room for this person?”
2. Broadening the Conversation to Diversity & Inclusion
While this particular event focused specifically on women in leadership at Volaris, the event was open to everyone at the company to take part in the conversation. Schultz said that the next step for the organization is to expand the conversation beyond gender to the broader topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Volaris CEO Mark Miller further elaborated that inclusion is not limited to gender. In a diverse, global company that operates in more than 40 countries, Volaris seeks to be inclusive of employees by understanding different learning styles and work cultures. (For example, his book recommendation for better understanding introverts is Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).
Great leaders try to understand who they’re developing, motivating, and talking to. The culture and psychology [aspects of talent management] are really valuable. There’s a lot to learn about how to relate to people.
–Mark Miller, CEO, Volaris Group
Schultz shared an idea from a past leadership role prior to Constellation, which a data-informed company like Volaris could consider: “In the last company I led, we regularly measured and shared: a) who is seen, such as keynote speakers at a conference); b) who is heard (e.g. feedback through surveys, town halls); c) who is hired, and; d) who is promoted; and e) who feels safe (surfacing a bullying and harassment dialogue that was not necessarily gender-specific)."
3. How Leadership Can Be Compatible with Life's Milestones
Assuming a leadership role can mean balancing new responsibilities while navigating life's milestones and transitions. Such phases of life could include raising a family or caring for aging parents, whether for men or women.
Businesses can also lead by leaving room for flexibility and a reasonable work-life balance. At this particular panel, the speakers shared that they have children of varying ages. With the support of others at Volaris, they were able to consciously make room for leadership positions when opportunities presented themselves.
The panelists discussed how the pandemic turned out to be a “great experiment” that helped evolve work-life balance at a global company where employees travel often. Ly said that at a company with many jet-setting leaders, “there can be a perception that you have to have a bag packed at all times, ready to go.” But she pointed to the possibility for more flexible solutions.
“We are accustomed to thinking you need to get on a plane tomorrow and have a meeting,” agreed Wilson. “But maybe that in-person meeting doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, and maybe it can wait a bit.”
4. Understanding The Value of Diversity in Leadership
As one leader shared in the Volaris culture study: “There is no better place than Constellation Software to see the value of diversity – of age, creed, gender, race, religion, and viewpoint.” Not only is ensuring diversity in leadership teams the equitable and inclusive thing to do — it can foster a sense of belonging that contributes to long-term employee satisfaction and talent retention.
The Volaris approach to customer relationships values empathizing with their needs. Schultz spoke about how diversity can support customer empathy: At her previous company, close to 40% of their customers were women. That percentage became a target for the company’s workforce to match the customer demographic.
Being a leader is about embracing the unknown. Leaders can create a future that otherwise would not have happened, by embracing what you don’t know, and making promises that you don’t how to keep, but living up to your word.
- Laurie Schultz, board member, Constellation Software
5. Advice for Saying Yes to More Opportunities
When asked what advice they might give to the next generation of women in leadership, a common theme that arose was the need to overcome imposter syndrome, or feelings of doubt about readiness or worthiness to become a leader.
Laurie Schultz said that leaders can play a role in the solution. By showing vulnerability and discussing how they learned from mistakes, other people can see their similarities to everyone else. Leaders who model this behavior can show they are not intimidating, unapproachable, or superhuman. “It helps other people say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it too,’” she said.
Panelists Laurie Schultz, Tran Ly, Leanne Tribe, and Mary Wilson encouraged women in the audience to be open to new opportunities and push past feelings of doubt about readiness or worthiness to become a leader.
The panel gave the following parting advice to aspiring leaders:
- Mary Wilson: “Say yes when an opportunity comes up. Even if you’re fearful, or if you don’t think you’re checking every one of the boxes, say yes. Leadership traits are inherent, but leadership competencies can be taught. So if you have those traits of a leader, you can embrace that, and you have this entire Volaris community to help you build the competencies."
- Leanne Tribe: “Go after it. You’ll never be perfect, and you’ll never have mastered everything out there. But there are opportunities here – and the talent review process is demonstrating that. You’re all here as up-and-coming leaders because someone sees something special in you. You need to see that in yourself as well and crack the bat. Take the opportunity to figure out where you want to go in your career, and go get that.”
- Tran Ly: “I’ll use a Wayne Gretzky quote: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ The outcome [of taking a shot at success] is never as bad as you think it’s going to be. It’s always the fear of it that is always worse than what actually happens.”
- Laurie Schultz: “Being a leader is about embracing the unknown. Leaders can create a future that otherwise would not have happened, by embracing what you don’t know, and making promises that you don’t how to keep, but living up to your word. Getting comfortable with that is an essential ingredient to being an effective leader.”
Keeping in line with the Volaris value of continually learning and listening, we believe our organization can keep growing through an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We intend to keep the conversation going.
- Growth and Exit Strategies Conference: Women in Tech (featuring Volaris Group’s Cristina Wheless and Tibersoft’s Mary Wilson)
- Growing from Every Opportunity: Q&A with Group Leader Tran Ly
- Developing Leaders at Volaris: Q&A with Chief Talent Officer Grace Annab
- Elements of Success in Volaris Culture