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Celebrating Women and Advocating Gender Equality

Mar 31, 2022 6 min read

This month, KLA employees across the globe joined to celebrate the women of KLA in recognition of International Women’s Day (IWD), observed annually on March 8, and Women’s History Month, observed in the U.S., U.K. and Canada each March. Organized and promoted by the regional chapters of KLA’s Women in STEM Empowered (WISE) employee resource group (ERG), KLA employees participated in thought-provoking and inspiring talks by guest speakers from different backgrounds, cultures and industries, who shared the common message that gender diversity and equality in the workplace benefits everyone.

Each of the WISE events reinforced this year’s IWD theme of #BreakTheBias that emphasizes a responsibility people have for their own thoughts and actions, and empowers women to eliminate bias in their communities, workplaces and academic settings. Each event was a celebration of women’s achievements and a rally to raise awareness against biases and advocate for gender equality.

WISE Extends Global Reach

KLA’s WISE ERG is a voluntary, employee-led group that includes people of all genders who have joined to support women at KLA and foster an inclusive environment that benefits everyone. Global WISE chapters promote efforts to attract and support the professional growth of female talent at KLA. Members plan and deliver education and awareness programs, networking opportunities and community engagement activities inside and outside of KLA.

“The WISE ERG is a great opportunity to apply our good intentions, make an impact and break some of our unconscious biases.”

Lena Nicolaides, SVP & GM, LS-SWIFT Division and executive sponsor of WISE

Joining WISE chapters in the U.S. and Israel are the recently launched EPC Europe WISE, made up of employees of the Electronics, Packaging and Components (EPC) group in Europe, and WISE India. WISE ERGs play a vital role in making KLA more inclusive, provide opportunities for networking and support development of female employees with mentoring programs.

Innovation and Inclusion Impact Bottom Lines

The EPC Europe WISE event focused on the benefits companies can reap by breaking biases and helping women move ahead. Self-proclaimed “STEMinist” Françoise Chombar, chairwoman of the board and former CEO of global semiconductor manufacturer Melexis, told attendees that innovation and inclusion are interdependent and necessary for sustainable short- and long-term corporate growth. Diversity and inclusion on teams, Françoise explains, drives innovation not only to achieve business objectives, but also to make an impact on the greater good.

She describes a yin and yang interaction of contrary forces on diverse teams that are complementary and interdependent, because conflicting ideas are key to critical thinking within a company and societies.

“There’s a strong correlation between having a gender-balanced society and the competitive advantage of countries and companies, because gender balance has a positive impact on GDP and on human development. That’s why I’ve become a STEMinist – because I’m working toward a better world in general. And I think KLA understands this because if you’re celebrating women, you’re also celebrating diversity, and you’ve come to know that diversity is smarter, faster and more effective.”

Françoise Chombar, chairwoman of the board, Melexis

Françoise adds that “you can’t be what you can’t see” and emphasizes the importance of introducing girls to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at an early age, and the need to continue inspiring and supporting them as adults by providing them with role models and mentoring.

Françoise’s talk had immediate impact, with one participant saying, “I came into this session thinking gender balance was all about fairness and opportunities. I’m leaving it with a much deeper feeling that gender balance is about company success. That’s a big takeaway for me, and it’s quite a mind shift.”

Women Must Advocate for Themselves

The U.S. WISE chapter hosted the #BreakTheBias event with guest speaker Debbie Gustafson, CEO of Energetiq Technology, a highly-seasoned and well respected semiconductor industry executive. In this informative session, Debbie discussed her career journey and ascent up the corporate ladder in the semiconductor domain and described her personal and professional experiences as one of the industry’s few women CEOs. In keeping with this year’s IWD theme, she specifically addressed how we can all #BreakTheBias by being more respectful, mindful and self-aware.

“When managers are at a table with diverse employees, we have to make sure all people are heard, and it’s critical to encourage everyone to speak. And if bias conversations take place, managers have to pull people aside afterward and explain those biases to them.”

Debbie Gustafson, CEO of Energetiq Technology

Debbie cautions that eliminating biases against women doesn’t happen easily: “Things don’t just happen. The reality is, opportunities don’t just fall in your lap. People won’t knock on your door.”

Women, Debbie explains, must advocate aggressively for themselves and not be afraid to speak up. However, women often find it difficult to critique themselves and articulate how they stand out against others and why they can add value. They need champions who can help get them past their comfort zones and build self-confidence – and managers have a critical role in empowering women and breaking down biases. She also stressed the increasing importance of diversity, equity and inclusivity in the workplace for greater employee productivity and collective success.

Debbie Gustafson engages with KLA employees at the U.S. WISE chapter’s #BreakTheBias event.

Exploring the Multiple Facets of Bias

KLA’s WISE India hosted a fireside chat with Madhavi Latha Prathigudupu, an associate vice president at MNC Bank India and successful para-athlete who is a well-known inspirational figure who advocates for persons with disabilities.

Diagnosed with polio when she was an infant and paralyzed from the waist down from an early age, Madhavi is a highly decorated para-swimmer, winning three gold medals at the 2011 National Paralympics Swimming Championships and two silver and two bronze medals in 2012. Her many successes in and out of the pool led her to establish the Paralympic Swimming Association of Tamil Nadu in 2011, the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India in 2014 and the YWTC Charitable Trust, a nonprofit organization focused on inclusivity and empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with an emphasis on sports.

“I grew up in a lower middle class family, and I am a woman – a woman with a disability,” Madhavi explained at the WISE India event. “These are multiple aspects that our society considers as a negative. However, I am an example of how things can turn when your family is by your side. My father ensured that we all had an equal education, and even when accessibility was an issue, we found a way.”

While speaking about workplace inclusion, she says companies should create an infrastructure that encourages employees from diverse backgrounds to thrive – for their own benefit.

“If all of us thought the same way, things would be boring and monotonous, right? People like me who come to the workplace from a sports background realize that successes and failures are part of life – and this idea also applies to employees from different backgrounds and age groups, female or male, who bring diverse viewpoints to the table. What they have in common is a desire to succeed.”

Madhavi Latha, associate vice president, MNC Bank India

WISE India also hosted a “Share Your Story – IWD 2022” challenge encouraging employees to share instances of a moment where they were inspired to #BreakTheBias. The challenge drew more than 200 employees and prompted meaningful conversations about biases. Sixteen heartwarming stories were shared, with lively engagement, comments and voting.  


As part of its worldwide Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) efforts and commitment, KLA has several employee resource groups (ERGs), which are employee-led associations that frequently come together to share experiences, promote awareness and celebrate cultural histories, traditions and achievements. ERGs are important cornerstones of the company’s global I&D strategy and are invaluable empowering forces for creating a more inclusive, equitable workplace.

KLA’s ERGs also include:

  • BELIEVE (Black Employees Leading in Inclusion, Excellence, Vision and Education) was established in 2021. BELIEVE focuses on the support, recruitment and advancement of Black talent, while also promoting cultural awareness, understanding and allyship of the Black community.
  • Konexión fosters an inclusive community in which employees can interact and innovate together through cultural sharing and understanding of diversity in the Latinx community.
  • PRISM (Pride, Respect, Inclusion and Solidarity Meet) amplifies KLA’s commitment to equality and inclusion and promotes a safe and open working environment for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies around the world.
  • Mosaic comprises a diverse group of employees at the Ann Arbor, Michigan site working together to build a culture of inclusion across all dimensions.

To learn more, visit KLA’s inclusion and diversity page. If you’re interested in working with us, browse the KLA careers page for the opportunities ahead for you.

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