Black History Month-closing the digital divide is crucial to tech diversity, says Karen Pavlin of ServiceNow

From an early age, a career in diversity seemed reserved for ServiceNow’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Karen Pavlin. Growing up in New Jersey, he lived in a community where Black families were rare, and his father was one of the first African Americans to be drafted into the NBA.

On a full track scholarship to the University of Virginia, Pavlin trained hard to become a nationally-ranked NCAA 400-meter hurdler, which helped set him on the path he is treading today. He recalled:

Running allows me to connect with people from different backgrounds and experiences than myself. Sports can be very good equalizers when it comes to race and identity.

Pavlin began his technology career at Xerox, where he worked for over 20 years in a variety of sales, technology, leadership and business innovation roles. He also led a global diversity council and several employee resource groups there, before joining Accenture, where he was most recently North America Inclusion and Diversity Leader.

Coincidentally, Pavlin’s first boss at Xerox was Bill McDermott, who headed ServiceNow in 2019, after a long stay at Xerox and SAP. Pavlin values ​​McDermott as an early champion in diversity:

He demonstrated and modeled integration and ownership long before it became something, literally 30 years ago on my team, which was my first sales team and really diverse.


Pavlin began his new role at ServiceNow in January, joining a company with a broad DE&I strategy, consisting of five pillars:

  • Training workers through inclusive learning programs that build awareness, respond to bias and encourage behavior change.
  • Equality for all, creation and development of equal processes through policies and practices.
  • Giving employees a voice to stimulate a sense of belonging and share experiences.
  • Lobbying for good, using support and direct action to promote change.
  • Recruitment/career advancement to further increase representation and inclusion at all levels.

The company has made great strides in 2021, Pavlin said. The business has incorporated diversity, inclusion, and ownership principles into all of its core learning and development programs, including manager training and leadership development courses around the world. It also expanded its DE&I micro-learning modules to include additional technologies such as virtual reality and AI:

This helps bring our employees closer to the situations they explore and live in situations of under -represented communities.

The company has a wide range of Employee Resource Groups, including Black and Now, Latinx and Now, Interfaith in Now and Veterans in Now. The respective groups each have sponsors within the community, as well as an executive leadership sponsor from the most senior level, Pavlin explains:

What is really important is that we have very strong ally participation within these belonging groups. You don’t have to be part of that community, you can be an ally and still be aligned with Pride and Now or People with Disabilities and Now or Black and Now, even if you’re not in that particular community or not there. specific demographics.


As well as supporting its own staff, ServiceNow strives to help close the digital divide by working with non-profit organizations for service-underserved communities. The firm launched its Next Gen Program in early 2019 to open up digital careers to people with non -traditional backgrounds. In 2020, the program expanded and specifically focused on communities of color with engagements and grants to organizations such as The Prince’s Trust, Hack the Hood and Tech Bridges. Pavlin expects this work will lead to 8,000 participants being placed in jobs over the next few years.

The decision to target communities of color for career opportunities came at a time when ServiceNow’s workforce was 3% Black or African American, in line with the enterprise technology industry, including Zendesk and Zuora. This represents an increase in ServiceNow by almost one percentage point, compared to the past three years when the number was virtually unchanged, indicating growth. said Pavlin

From a recruitment perspective, last year we reached all of our diversity goals for Black, Latinx and women at the senior level. One of our key areas for 2022 and beyond is hiring with intent. We are committed to recruiting top talent throughout the organization at all levels, and not just simply accepting the status quo.

One way of multiplying diversity in recruitment includes the company’s Solution Consulting Academy, which was originally created to assist talent in early careers. In 2021, ServiceNow added Armed Forces veterans to the mix, helping the former military launch their post-service careers as trusted advisors to sales teams. Pavlin notes:

It was a good fight. Veterans understand the complexity of our federal business accounts and the concept of what we call winning as a team. We look forward to continued growth and expanding the focus on procurement with greater intention.

Overall, Pavlin was optimistic about the prospect of development, and the fight for racial equality and promoting a voice for all to become a movement, not in a moment:

If you look at D&I five years ago, it’s not the same as before. We make this plane as we fly it, no roadmap. The amount of movement we have experienced over the past two years is enormous.]

However, this will only happen to leaders who believe in the power of diversity and understand that not only is it a great asset, it is an incredible opportunity to drive sustainable growth and a sense of belonging within their community. company.

What I take

Pavlin’s statement that diversity isn’t just good to have is certainly substantiated by data. A 2020 survey from Glassdoor revealed that 76% of job seekers said a diverse workforce was important when evaluating companies and job offers, while 37% did not apply to a company with negative ratings on people of color. Businesses really can’t afford to ignore the pressure coming from staff, especially the younger generation, to develop and retain diverse workforce. Hopefully, the advice from our BHM 2022 series will inspire more companies to take seriously the link between DE&I and the ongoing battle for tech talent.


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