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How the Grace Hopper Celebration Impacted the Women in Tech at Paylocity

November 29, 2022

Discover how our DEIA initiatives impacted our Product & Technology team to drive connections between women in the department.

Blog Post

Sharde Onza, Engineering Manager II at Paylocity, and Saloni Shah, Principal Engineer at Paylocity, collaborated on this blog post, with contributions from Crytal Petit Frere, Product Manager I and Melody Ashman, Senior Product Manager.

Note: This article originally appeared on Medium.

It’s no secret that women and other underrepresented groups make up the minority in the technology space. Women alone hold just 26% of computing-related jobs, which is one reason why Paylocity has been dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) over the years.

Open-ended discussions and interactive sessions around hot topics for women in tech, “Ask Me Anything” sessions with our CTO and other executives, panels around career-related topics, and workshops are just some of the activities that occur during Paylocity’s monthly Women in Product & Tech meetings.

This group, however, now over 180 members strong, had a very humble beginning.

As part of Paylocity's DEIA initiative, a group of ten women across Product & Tech attended the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest conference for women in tech. In addition to attending sessions, we also had a booth at the conference's expo hall where we were able to connect with other attendees and share Paylocity's mission and culture.

Paylocity attendees at Grace Hopper Celebration 2017
Paylocity attendees at Grace Hopper Celebration 2017

What we encountered at the expo hall ranged from visitors wrapping up their last year of college to early and mid-career individuals. All had an energetic desire to learn more about Paylocity, the steps to take to work with us, and our DEIA strategy. Although we didn’t have our New College Grad program at the time, our encounters at the Paylocity booth emphasized just how impactful that type of program could be for us as an organization to grow our talent pool.

While there were technical sessions at GHC, many of the sessions our group attended were focused on women’s experiences in technology and ways to navigate our careers. Inspired by the discussions, our attendees realized Paylocity needed a group dedicated to helping and supporting women in the organization — at the time, only 8% of our engineers identified as women.

Fast forward to today, and this group is now an active resource and place of support for women at Paylocity. We leverage virtual tools like Paylocity’s social collaboration hub, Community, and in-person meetings to keep our members connected. In our Community group, we share helpful links and resources, bounce ideas off each other in a safe space, get mentorship when needed, and so much more. And at our monthly meetups, we learn from each other and from folks outside this group, growing stronger and more confident with the support from our colleagues.

The power of this self-organized community was recently proven.

Registration for the Grace Hopper Celebration typically sells out a few hours after opening. This year, one of our group members realized that registration had opened and was still available, and a simple Community message spurred action. Gauging the interest of our group members and seeing the value it would bring to the organization, Paylocity Vice President of Engineering Christine Pellini, and Chief Technology Officer Rachit Lohani immediately sprang into action to ensure that Paylocity could send as many participants to the conference as possible.

Paylocity attendees at Grace Hopper Celebration 2022
Paylocity attendees at Grace Hopper Celebration 2022

Fifteen of us attended the conference, ranging from early to senior career. The group of attendees, though all women, was still diverse in other aspects like race, ethnicity, and level of experience. Because of this, we have been able to bring unique perspectives and ideas back to Paylocity from what we were able to take away from GHC.

Since attending GHC this year, we have been able to share internally about our experience attending the conference and what we have learned, with the major themes being self-awareness and learning to empower ourselves and others. Some of the sessions shared approaches to solving some practical problems we often face, such as dealing with interruptions while speaking or building influence skills when we don't have the authority. Some sessions were more technical, focusing on data engineering and inner sourcing, as well as some product development. We plan to organize additional sessions on attending conferences and maximizing our presence there, as well as exploring topics like navigating your career as a woman in tech, overcoming impostor syndrome, speaking up, developing influencing skills, advocating for yourself, and more.

The Product & Tech organization conducts monthly meetings we call Days of Gracious Learning, when we have knowledge-sharing sessions, external speaker sessions, and self-study resources. The GHC attendees group hosted a session on GHC 2022 during October's Day of Gracious Learning, where we covered the key takeaways and themes that resonated with the group, what we've done so far to incorporate the learnings at Paylocity, and tips and tricks for professional development opportunities internally. Paylocity also has an internal Business Resource Group for women called SHEroes, and this group will also be conducting a session for the SHEroes community.

Being able to share our learnings impacts the broader organization, especially for our peers who could not attend this year, and our communities, so that we can also support women and other underrepresented groups aspiring to be in tech. 

Of course, it doesn’t stop there for us.

Paylocity's Engineering organization is about 25% female — significantly higher than many other organizations that average roughly 15% female. This diversity statistic is also trending upward. One of Paylocity's recent strides is with our Internship and New College Grad program, in which the last couple of cohorts consisted of 50% female engineers. 

This way, through approaches like participation in impactful conferences like GHC and diverse hiring practices, Paylocity can continue to make advancements on the DEIA front on various talent perspectives: talent acquisition, talent retention, and talent development.

Paylocity is committed to promoting and celebrating diverse voices across the organization — and equipping our clients to do the same. Learn about the steps we're taking to build a better tomorrow for our workforce, our clients, our local communities, and beyond. 

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