By Heather Clancy
October 15, 2015

It is still shockingly rare for male CEOs—or any man for that matter—to show up at the annual Grace Hopper conference celebrating women in computing.

When GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving walked onto the main stage Wednesday in front of close to 12,000 attendees, the person sitting next to me at the Houston convention center hissed in protest. Irving moved quickly to address the elephant in the standing-room-only conference hall, flashing up images from some of the hosting company’s most sexist television campaigns. Now long gone. An apology. Within minutes, my seatmate was applauding his remarks.

Irving isn’t a stranger to the Grace Hopper event. He was featured last fall on a “male allies” panel, having made diversity a cause since joining GoDaddy in 2013. This year, he showed up to present GoDaddy’s new audit of its salary data. As far as I can tell, this is an unprecedented view into how gender and compensation at a high-tech company. Fortunately for him, the results were actually pretty good, near parity in many areas although not-so-good as women become more senior.

From an overall diversity perspective, GoDaddy doesn’t look at that different from other software companies. It has way fewer women on its payroll than Irving thinks is prudent. To get around that balance, his managers are experimenting with ideas such as assigning equal numbers of men and women to strategic projects for balance. “Technology products built by diverse teams are just plain better,” he said. When someone recently started a grassroots group within the company to tackle diversity, more than one-third of the people who joined were men.

I don’t really know how GoDaddy’s salary revelations compare to the tech industry at large. Mainly, that’s because I’ve actually never heard another company talk about this issue before in any kind of detail. Why not, I wonder?

Irving’s larger motive in showing up was to convince other tech CEOs to become far more transparent about their own track records on diversity: “Let yourself be vulnerable, learn to lift the problem from the dark.”

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