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Executive Insights

Diverse Cultures Foster Innovation

By Jim Scapa | Chairman and Chief Executive Officer | December 10, 2019

Diversity and inclusion drive innovation. Diverse ideas form diverse views. This idea is nothing new – it has been making the rounds on stages, in boardrooms, on podcasts and in business books for years. Experts have confirmed that companies composed of a diverse workforce have a competitive advantage, attract and retain top talent, and foster cultures of innovation. But talk is cheap and action is everything. And business, as a whole, has not made enough progress on this front.

At Altair, we don’t just talk about diversity, we aggressively work to achieve it. I don’t just mean gender diversity, but religious, ethnic and cultural diversity. Since we founded Altair 34 years ago, I have worked alongside many leaders at Altair to create environments where smart people from all walks of life can respectfully exchange ideas and inspiration. A place where “a-ha” moments are born.

We have grown from one office in Michigan to operations in 25 countries, a uniquely complex organization. At one point, there were more than 75 unique languages represented in our headquarters alone. We recently held an employee appreciation luncheon for the American Thanksgiving holiday and the variety of food truly represented the multicultural melting pot that is Altair. There was Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic and, of course, American classics – just a smattering of our global canvas. I was full for days, not just on the good food, but on the joy and contentment it brought me to see smart people from all walks of life, and from all over the globe, gathering to enjoy each other’s company and exchange ideas and inspiration.

Our focus has always been, and will remain, to become more and more diverse. I have been moving aggressively to increase the number of women on our team, starting from the top and scaling throughout the company. Over the last couple of years, I added two incredibly talented, strong women to our board of directors and several impressive women in senior leadership positions throughout the organization. I have set a target that 50 percent of the interns we hire should be women, as we are working to increase the percentage of female hires at all levels, expanding our diverse workforce. We also hold gender and diversity training for employees, and are expanding the curriculum to include unintentional bias training.

Altair has recently launched an internal Altairian women’s network, led by Andrea Siudara, our new chief information officer, who is passionate about advancing women in the workforce. She has my full support and encouragement. The response has been incredible – from both men and women in all corners of the globe – furthering our shared commitment to support the development of the women of Altair.

I am proud of the culture we have nurtured and our amazing employees (we call ourselves Altairians), which has been the bedrock of our success. I am also confident we will reach new heights with more gender and other layers of diversity throughout.

Although it may sound cliché, this issue of diversity is personal to me as I am the proud father of four smart, head-strong and accomplished women. Their careers range from veterinarian to software sales to technology executive. My wife, Sally, helped me build this company, for which I am forever grateful.

I share this with you because empowerment, transparency and a demonstrable commitment to diversity makes us all better – personally and professionally. Diversity is an important issue in business today, especially within technology companies and across the field of engineering.

Since I started writing these blog posts, I have appreciated the positive response I have received from people both inside and outside of Altair. I believe the only way we will get better as an industry is to talk openly and respectfully, welcoming input and ideas. And I welcome yours.