Equity, Gender, and Leadership Center receives gift from Zendesk

Kellie McElhaney, founding director of EGAL
Kellie McElhaney, founding director of EGAL. Photo: Jim Block

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) at the Haas School of Business today announced a $1 million gift from customer service software maker Zendesk.

The four-year gift strengthens funding for EGAL, which is part of the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI) at the Haas School. EGAL received a founding corporate gift from Gap Foundation in November 2017. The Zendesk gift brings total funding for EGAL from Gap, Zendesk, and other corporate partners and individual donors to about $3 million.

“We’re so proud to have Zendesk as a partner,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding director of EGAL. “We are educating equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change through our center. Zendesk’s efforts around diversity, inclusion, and leadership make it a stand-out in the tech industry. Together, we’re working to create high-growth companies and a more equitable business world.”

“EGAL’s work on these critical equity, gender, and leadership issues that impact corporate America is inspiring,” said Haas alumna Elena Gomez, BS 91, Zendesk’s CFO, and a member of EGAL’s Founding Advisory Council. “Our industry demands change, and the work we’ll do with and through EGAL is intended to accelerate this change.”

With IBSI support, McElhaney launched EGAL last year with the goal of developing leaders who are “equity fluent”—able to engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations, and empowered to design creative solutions. The center is advancing thought leadership in this area through multiple “Diversity Playbooks” and by partnering deeply with the business sector. The center will also serve as a hub for fostering leaders by educating students, supporting faculty research, and working with companies and organizations to train their leaders, broaden their missions, and develop strategies.

For Zendesk, equal access, opportunity, and belonging are necessary to cultivate a sustainable and meaningful culture. In addition to taking measures to reach gender pay parity globally and racial pay parity in the U.S., the company fosters equity by supporting relationship building and mentorship programs among women and people of color. It also works with organizations to diversify the talent pipeline, and nurtures internal spirit with initiatives such as employee resource groups.

“The relationship that EGAL has forged with Zendesk will support and broaden our research efforts in gender, equity, and leadership, and help to develop new leaders at Haas and beyond,” said Interim Haas Dean Laura Tyson, who is also the faculty director of IBSI. “We aim to make all of our graduates equity fluent, able to engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations, and empowered to design creative solutions and lead. Collaborations like these will help pave the way to creating a new kind of workplace, where equity on many levels—from equal pay for equal work to promoting more women to senior management and leadership positions—is the norm rather than the exception.”

McElhaney, who teaches a course called “The Business Case for Investing in Diversity and Inclusion” conducted 2016 research with Genevieve Smith on the zero-percent pay gap between men and women at Gap Inc., developing an ongoing relationship that led to Gap’s founding gift.

The EGAL leadership team includes Prof. Laura Kray, who studies gender stereotyping and negotiations, and Prof. Tyson, who served as chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration and has written extensively about the need to address the worldwide economic disparity between men and women.

Since its launch last November, EGAL has held its first diversity and inclusion pitch competition; hired a post-doctorate researcher who will be working closely with faculty; and named its first EGAL fellow, an incoming MBA student who has shown deep commitment to diversity and inclusion.

McElhaney, along with EGAL Program Director Jennifer Wells, leads the AmpEquity Leadership Series, a forum to amplify the conversation around workplace equity. The series brings leaders from a variety of business sectors to share their perspectives on leadership, lessons learned, and strategies with the Haas community.