Why Workday is a Top Workplace for Women: Q&A with CHRO Ashley Goldsmith

Workday was named this week to Fortune magazine’s list of the “100 Best Workplaces for Women,” which recognizes organizations that have nurtured positive and strong environments for women to grow in their careers.

The ranking marks the fourth time this year Fortune has recognized Workday’s culture. Fortune also named Workday to its list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” and as a best place to work for Millennials and Gen Xers.

What makes Workday great for women? Ashley Goldsmith, chief human resources officer at Workday, shared her thoughts on what it takes to support women in the workplace, Workday’s unique culture, and some lessons she’s learned in her own career.

What was your reaction when you learned that Workday made the list of top workplaces for women?

I was incredibly proud. We’ve been fortunate to have a culture that has been recognized in various ways, but this was the first time that we have been formally recognized as a great place to work for women—so that’s special.

It’s been shown time and again that a diverse workforce leads to better decision-making, more creativity, and better business outcomes. We want the best ideas and results, regardless of who suggests them.

analyst qa
Liz Dietz, VP, Workday Student; Betsy Bland, VP, financial management products; Amy Wilson, VP, HCM products; Leighanne Levensaler, SVP, products; Aneel Bhusri, co-founder and CEO. Photo credit: CEO_Registry.com.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about diversity in the workplace, and in the tech sector specifically. What do you make of the reaction in the press and social media about the number of women executives at Workday?

This week at Workday Rising, our customer conference, it’s been impossible not to be struck by the number of truly phenomenal women Workday has in leadership roles. We had female executives presenting at each one of our six keynotes, including the executive keynote and the product sessions. Women occupy key roles across the company such as financial product management and application development.

Photo of Emily McEvilly, VP of Services, Workday
Emily McEvilly, VP, services

I think it’s a testament to the Workday culture and a great example for the women attending our event—when you see people like yourself up on stage, it inspires you to think, “I can do this too.”

What’s important for us at Workday is to have the best people with the best minds doing their very best work, and when we can align people’s personal passions with their professional ambitions, there’s no limit to what they can do. That’s what we mean by a culture of opportunity.

What advice would you give to other companies who look at Workday and want to learn from our experience in providing leadership opportunities for women?

Workday didn’t set out to be a great place to work for women—we set out to build a great culture based on strong core values and devoted to customer service. Authentically living those values, putting them into action every day, has allowed us to attract fantastic people at all levels of our organization. When people see role models and leaders that inspire them, they pursue opportunities at that same company, and there’s a bit of a snowball effect.

Photo of Chris Byrne, VP, Operations, Workday
Chris Byrne, VP, operations

Of course we’re not perfect, and we have more work to do to truly realize the culture of opportunity we want to foster. A recent LeanIn.org and McKinsey study shows that there are still significant gender equality gaps in the workplace. One of their findings showed that women and men think differently about work-life trade-offs involved in rising into the leadership ranks. Men and women say they’d like to be promoted at roughly the same rates, but there’s a difference between men and women when it comes to wanting to take top roles.

We understand people have an entire life outside of Workday, and that’s something we really value. People see colleagues pursuing outside passions or raising families, striving to be the best, fullest person they can be, while at the same time holding a leadership position at work, and it helps them to envision possibilities.

What advice would you give women in the process of looking for a new job with a great employer?

Find a company that will allow you to be yourself. A lot of times in job interviews, people are simply focused on presenting themselves in the best light possible. But it’s just as important to ask yourself, “Do I feel like I can truly be myself and be comfortable in this environment?”

When I started my very first job out of college, it became immediately clear it was not a place that I could be me. It was a very formal environment that didn’t value creativity and innovation. I was able to last nine months, but knew from the start it wasn’t a good fit. That would have been obvious through the interview process if I’d known what I was looking for.

Fortunately, I had the exact opposite feeling as I went through the process here before I joined Workday. From my very first interview I knew this was the place for me, and I’m thankful every day for the opportunity to work with such a tremendous team that is passionate about serving our customers and supporting each other.

Recommended reading: Workday’s Erin Yang: An Eye on the Big Picture.