Several years ago I took a meeting with a prospective client who was looking for help with her company’s digital strategy. We discussed her goals and where she saw her company in five years. After several minutes of discussion, she explained that she wanted her brand to be seen as “the definitive voice” in her field. She’d heard others in her field described as “thought leaders” and wanted that for her company.

Being a “thought leader” didn’t pass the S.M.A.R.T. goal test for me. In Peter Drucker’s book “The Practice of Management,” he introduced the idea that reaching the finish line was predicated on clearly defining that finish before the race even began. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound. So, I pushed further asking her to explain what being “the definitive voice” looked like to her. How would we measure that? In five years, how could we know if we’d achieved our goal? I wanted the terms to be clear and ensure we were on the same page. I needed to nail down a specific objective, a quantifiable metric, in order to develop a strategy to get there. Before I made any promises or commitments, I had to be certain I’d have data to illustrate my success or failure.

Relying on Data is Terrifying and Necessary

debbie-forsterRelying on data rather than just an impression or feeling is terrifying. It makes success (and failure) much more clear. Focusing on data means there’s less wiggle room – goals become more tangible, more apparent, and more absolute. And that can be scary.

In a recent episode of Activate World, Jon spoke with Debbie Forster, Co-Founder and CEO, of Tech Talent Charter about (among other things) the importance of data in her work. Tech Talent Charter is a collective focused on creating a more diverse tech industry. They do so by engaging companies to recruit women to tech and collecting data along the way. They then share that data across all the companies involved — 300 to date, and she hopes 500 by the end of the year.

“Data is an essential part of moving the dial,” explains Forster. “A lot of companies just sort of dive in and say, ‘we’re going to become more diverse,’ without really looking internally.”

Forster has seen first hand just how scary it can be for companies to focus on, and be transparent about, their internal data. Instead of using the collected data as a weapon, Tech Talent Charter uses it as a tool of empowerment.

“What we do is we anonymize it [gender data] and we aggregate it and we turn it into a benchmarking report, so that suddenly companies have another frame of reference,” Forster explains. “To date at best, they can only compare with their own historical data. By being able to see what’s happening across sectors, they have a more realistic taste of where they’re ahead of the game; therefore there’s a lot to smile about and share, or they’re behind, in which case, they’re very focused on where they can go and ask questions.”

To learn more about Tech Talent Charter’s data-driven approach to increasing diversity in tech, download and listen to Women In Tech: It Takes Focus, Data, Collaboration, And Intention at or wherever you get your podcasts.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash
Using data to set goals is terrifying, but necessary. Debbie Forster of Tech Talent Charter explains how they're using data to diversify the tech community.