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Walking the Walk: How 2U's Maintaining a Culture of Inclusion

Written by Belen Marquina-Barrientos on Jan 21, 2020

Related content: Diversity And Inclusion, Leadership

From the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team reinvigorating pay equity discussions across the world to the first all women space walk and Greta Thunberg named Time’s Person of the Year, women empowerment has made headlines a lot lately. What experts and women have known for years is now understood by executives and diversity and inclusion teams: the equal treatment and representation of over half of the world's population is not just the right thing to do; it's also good business.

We know that diversity brings stronger corporate strategy and execution. In a room full of advisors, it is dangerous for everyone to think and look alike. According to studies by Harvard and McKinsey, diversity fosters innovation and companies with diverse boards are more profitable. 2U, Inc. has been committed to building and maintaining a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging since inception. One of our guiding principles is to be candid, honest, and open, and 2U has remained true to it, taking a look inward and deciding that talking about diversity and, in this case, women empowerment, is not enough.

That investment in promoting diversity and inclusion could not be more clear. In 2019, 2U conducted a pay equity analysis and launched three business resource networks (BRNs)–including the Women's Alliance Network (W.A.N.), of which I'm global chair. Today, 2U is recognized in Bloomberg's 2020 Gender-Equality Index as one of the 325 publicly-traded companies in 42 countries for its transparency in gender-data reporting. We have a board of directors with four women and six people of color. More than 30% of women at 2U are in middle management. We are focused on pay equity to ensure employees are compensated based on their skill and experience. But more importantly, while we have made positive strides, we acknowledge and embrace that there is more work to be done.

That is precisely what prompted the launch of W.A.N. Much of the work towards gender equality comes from equipping women with the right tools for professional and personal development. A company like 2U may make institutional changes to ensure equal treatment and compensation, but fostering the right conversations among employees and engaging allies is essential. W.A.N. is helping to achieve just that. To date, W.A.N. has sponsored workshops in allyship and local networking events to practice elevator pitches. The HQ and Cape Town chapters have piloted Lean In Circles with tremendous success–90% of 2Utes said they would like to continue participating–and our 2020 initiatives include events for working mothers, a voter registration campaign, and partnering with 2U's recruiting team to increase the pipeline of women in our tech departments.

As a woman of color, this means that my workplace walks the walk. It is unafraid of data and willing to invest in finding the gaps that it has yet to fill. This commitment to "if better is possible, then good is not enough" is what I appreciate the most, particularly for a company in the education technology space which, by definition, aims to increase access to education as the great equalizer. This is why I’m proud to work at 2U.

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