A global day to celebrate women’s achievements, International Women’s Day offers an opportunity to explore ways to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world. Crystal North, Director of Sales Enablement at Applause, has a track record of advocating for women’s equality. In this interview, we explore what fuels her drive to #EmbraceEquity and how the Applause culture fosters women’s growth and fights gender stereotypes.
Jenn Waltner (JW): I’d love to talk about the women’s affinity group you’re organizing at Applause. What were some of the drivers behind that and why is this important to you?
Crystal North (CN): One of my favorite stickers on my laptop says, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own.” I’ve always been in male-dominated career fields, whether it was tech or the military, and I think it’s really important that everyone, regardless of gender, have a voice at the table. When I worked at Vertica, I ended up globalizing DataGals, which was a company-specific women in tech group. I globalized it when HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprises) acquired the company so that we could be more inclusive.
When we had the opportunity to start affinity groups here at Applause, it made sense to me that we have a Women at Applause affinity group, not only for women, which these groups tend to be made up of, but also for men or whomever, regardless of gender, wants to support women at Applause. Being a single mom and a combat veteran in tech, it’s hard to find people that know what that’s like. To connect with people that have a similar experience is meaningful to me, so I make the assumption that it’s meaningful to other people. I’m a connector, that’s why I’m in sales enablement – to bring people together in a different way is fulfilling.
JW: What are some of the goals for the new group?
CN: After checking that there was interest, I stepped up from a leadership perspective and organized an initial meeting and put together a mission statement and got feedback on that. People did reach out to me that wanted to be more involved in their regions — I heard from people in the EU and India who said they would be happy to champion the program in their geos, so that was awesome. Since one of our biggest initiatives[as a company is to globally align this year, I really wanted to get people globally involved.
Then we had a meet and greet, where we talked through what we’d like to get from the affinity group. We planned some events in different regions for International Women’s Day, which were backed by HR/People Ops. Next, we’re putting together a panel discussion in early April. We’re trying to get feedback from women who wouldn’t necessarily normally speak up to try to get insight into what they want to learn about from others in the organization.
JW: What are some of the things you think Applause does really well in terms of embracing equity?
CN: I think when you look at the leadership team and you’re sitting in a meeting with them, everybody is treated the same way. So if somebody is being quiet, they’ll ask you to speak up regardless of gender. All eyes and attention are always on the person speaking. Even on a video call, where things can be lost in translation, I’ve never felt or seen other people feel insignificant, regardless of the audience.
Our CEO holds weekly small group meetings with people around the company where we get to ask him anything – those are diverse and he creates a safe environment to approach him. I feel like we do a really great job of always embracing equity. Generally, we try to be inclusive of everyone as humans, not based on race or gender or anything like that. We work for a really cool company.
JW: We do!
CN: Also, I wanted to add that they allow us to be entrepreneurial – anyone can start an affinity group. Leadership wants us to try different things. HR is really supportive; they’re behind the affinity groups and want to help them succeed.
JJW: That support is really important – I’ve been involved with different affinity groups at other companies and HR has marketed that the groups exist to try to showcase support for inclusivity and diversity, but then managers would give people dirty looks when they said they were going to a women’s leadership forum meeting. That doesn’t happen here and I really appreciate that about our culture.
CN: Being a woman in the workplace, having children, having other priorities, this is the first workplace where I can truly say I haven’t felt on pins and needles, like I was being watched all the time. We assume positive intent like no other workplace. Some people take that for granted, [the ability to balance work with external priorities] but I feel like that’s one of the biggest causes of stress – when life happens, to know that I don’t have to worry about this place is amazing.
JW: Is there anything else you want people to know about International Women’s Day or the women’s affinity group at Applause?
CN: I would really like everyone to know that it’s not just for women. Men, you’re not less masculine because you’re part of a women’s affinity group, I promise! I feel like if men really want to help make a difference, it’s joining us, not watching us. We genuinely need more “manbassadors.” We’re doing a good job with it, but it would be really cool for more of them to get involved.
Learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion at Applause.