In a move toward equality and inclusivity, Oath CEO Tim Armstrong has announced a mission to fill at least half of the company’s leadership positions with women by 2020. He had the opportunity to discuss this mission in a recent episode of CNN’s Boss Files with Poppy Harlow.
The CEO of Oath — the rebranded AOL-Yahoo company — stated that his commitment to putting more women in leadership positions stemmed from “five or six years of understanding the space.”
As CEO of AOL, he launched Makers, which highlighted trailblazing women such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He went on to state that Oath, a merger of AOL and Yahoo, is “not the biggest company in the world, we’re not the most profitable, but one thing we do have is, we have an investment in the space already. So if there’s one company in the world that should try to lead this, it should be us.”
Woman represent 30% of leadership positions at Oath now
According to Armstrong, 30% of the company’s leadership roles are currently held by women. He says he became inspired to make this move after his daughter met former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and placed a signed autograph on her desk. Armstrong says it struck him at that moment that his son would have more opportunities in his life and career than his two daughters merely because of his gender.
Armstrong originally intended to create an entirely new company run exclusively by women. However, a conversation with Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem caused him to change tactics. During the conversation, Steinem advised him that creating women-only companies was not what was needed. In fact, it was “the opposite of what we need.” Rather, a better approach would be to take more risks within his own company and realize that companies run better when there is a combination of men and women, not one or the other.
Armstrong was also asked about a memo sent out by Google engineer James Damore, which had caused an uproar. In the memo, Damore claimed that women are less biologically fit to run tech companies than their male counterparts. Armstrong disagreed with Damore, stating, “I don’t believe it. I don’t see it.” He also stated the key was to understand what someone’s “superpower” is without focusing on whether they are male or female. As far as Oath is concerned, he made it clear that they have “great examples of superpower women engineers and product people at our company.”
He was questioned about how he might go about increasing the numbers in terms of leadership positions at Oath, to which he replied that it would involve promoting from within, hiring new recruits, and creating new positions that “women can lead.”
Armstrong went on the explain how offering leadership positions would improve the company overall. “Having more women leaders is actually an enhancement for the entire corporation. I think every piece of data you see says having a more diverse workforce and having more women involved in it actually leads to better outcomes, better growth.”