It was during the dot-com boom that Sandi Lurie started working in tech. At the time, she didn’t notice a disparity between how women and men were treated in the tech industry.
“I was still early in my career and focusing on being a great individual contributor,” said Lurie, now a senior director of talent acquisition at Freshworks. “The first time I noticed a difference was a few years later when joining a company with equity.”
Lurie recalled a time with her former employer when a male peer, who joined around the same time she did, was given more stock in the company than she was offered. That moment of inequity stuck with her for years, and has become part of her philosophy as a recruiter.
“I reflect on that moment as a lesson for me to be a better advocate for myself especially when negotiating,” she added. “Being a recruiter, you get to understand that compensation is nuanced.
“The first thing I tell a future employer is that I want to be paid equal to my peers,” she added.
INSIDE THE CULTURE AT FRESHWORKS
Freshworks delivers AI-fueled business software to enable customer support, customer relationship management and service management for IT and business teams. Its hallmark is ease of use, what its founder, Girish Mathrubootham, describes as “business software for the Fortune 5 million.” Launched in 2010 in Chennai, India, today Freshworks employs more than 5,000 people in over a dozen offices around the world.
Equal pay is an important facet of how Freshworks addresses workplace equity. At the hiring stage, Freshworks publishes pay transparency to provide candidates visibility into the compensation range for each role. There is also a talent acquisition process to ensure a diverse slate of candidates are reviewed for each position.
“As a recruiter, I have learned that making sure you have at least one diverse candidate interviewing for a role is never going to move the needle for diversity,” said Lurie. “Attract diverse talent early and create an equal pipeline of candidates before you start to interview.”
“As a recruiter, I have learned to attract diverse talent early and create an equal pipeline of candidates before you start to interview.”
When Global Shared Services Leader Bansri Desai started working in tech, she had no idea how winding her path would be.
“My career path in tech has been an interesting one to say the least,” said Desai, who started her career unsure of what the future held. “No matter how hard I tried to pursue things other than tech — because there weren’t that many women in the industry when I started — tech always found me.”
Nearly 20 years later, Desai is happy that she ended up in tech. Today, she leads a team that provides essential technical and nontechnical support to the sales organization at Freshworks.
“Being in tech has opened many doors for me across multiple industries, which has provided me with the opportunity to help organizations solve complex problems, whether it’s figuring out how to create a digital presence or creating strategies that are digital first,” she noted.
WHAT DOES FRESHWORKS DO?
Freshworks describes the team of employees as “Kudumba” which is the Tamil word for family. Kudumba is a key part of the DEI ethos at Freshworks. The company careers page notes that diversity powers innovation, which is part of the reason it encourages people from historically underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds to the Kudumba.
Freshworks’ Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Pam Sergeeff, added that self-direction is an important aspect of a career in tech.
“Over my career, taking the initiative to always learn and always volunteer for new projects or opportunities has been a cornerstone for success,” said Sergeeff. “There is a level of self-reliance every employee needs to take to drive their own career forward and not wait or expect a company to plan it out and deliver it to them.”
Freshworks has given Sergeeff the broad scope she requested to partner on several efforts outside of her legal work with the company.
“I have been able to work on a wide array of traditionally ‘non-legal’ projects across the business, including infrastructure and entity-level process improvements, enhancements for go-to-market operations and strategic projects for the company,” she added.
Today, Freshworks has ambitious goals, like reaching $1 billion in revenue by 2026. The company serves over 65,000 companies and has over 5,000 employees spread across the globe. With that scope of impact, Freshworks has had a public commitment to focus on gender diversity for the past few years, and has been able to increase the percentage of women in the workforce from approximately 27 percent a few years ago to a little more than 35 percent this year.
To help support these goals, Freshworks has several initiatives in place. One of which is the Women360 employee resource group.
“As an employee, I have seen a strong community for women growing here at Freshworks,” said Lurie. “The various groups for learning and socializing give me a creative outlet.”
“As an employee, I have seen a strong community for women growing here at Freshworks. The various groups for learning and socializing give me a creative outlet.”
Women360 sponsors mentorships and professional development programs, hosts networking events, fosters a supportive community and strives to highlight the visibility of women's successes within the company.
Equal Family Support
Freshworks started a “Career ReStart program” initiative to assist women who may have taken some time out of the workforce for a period of time. The program started as a way to address the low rate of women in the workforce in India. As of December 2022, women accounted for 33 percent of the national workforce in India, according to the “State of Working 2023” study released by Bangalore-based Azim Premji University.
The Career ReStart program helps women to blend back into the workforce through mentorship, coaching and guidance, providing a welcome for women who have taken a hiatus from the workforce for any reason.
“I think that DEI has had a positive impact on our organization, but I think there is still a lot more work to be done in terms of pay equity, leadership opportunities and maternity leave,” said Desai. “The topics that affect women in the workforce are something that I follow closely and I acknowledge that there have been significant improvements since I began working, but I still believe there is much more that can be done to support working women with families.”
“DEI has had a positive impact on our organization, but there is still a lot more work to be done in terms of pay equity, leadership opportunities and maternity leave.”
However, Sergeeff said not to make assumptions about what all women in the workforce want.
“As the focus on DEI continues to grow, I believe that any efforts should take care to not stereotypically bundle everything as a ‘traditional’ women-versus-men issue because a lot gets lost in the nuances,” pointed out Sergeeff. For example, male employees are sometimes the primary caregiver for children, and not all women are impacted by maternity leave or childcare benefits, she noted.
“By having companies uplevel their viewpoints to consider things from the broader perspective of employees in totality and undertaking a thoughtful and balanced mix of initiatives, we can create an overall more inclusive and flexible workplace for all.”