The Good Stuff
Boingo Voices: Dawn Callahan and Tanya Lynch on Diversity, Inclusion and Collaboration
- 5 min read
For Women’s History Month, we sat down with two Boingo leaders who are fostering a culture of inclusion, no matter gender, race or identity. Boingo Wireless Chief Marketing Officer Dawn Callahan and Vice President of Human Resources Tanya Lynch share their personal stories, how they’re empowering BIPOC and LGBTQ colleagues, and why inclusivity is essential.
What has your career journey been like? How did you come into leadership roles at Boingo?
Dawn: I joined Boingo to lead Marketing 16 years ago – back in its start-up days. Before that, I led marketing for Time Warner Cable in Southern California. It was a huge shift going from a giant company with massive resources to a start-up, but it also gave me the chance to do things I might not have had the opportunity to do at a big company. We successfully took Boingo public in 2011, and after a decade as a public company, we were acquired by Digital Bridge in 2021. I’ve been very fortunate in my role as the CMO to have a bird’s eye view into life as a start-up, a public company, and a private company. It’s been quite a ride!
Tanya: My career journey has been interesting. I worked my way up, spending time in varied positions within HR departments across various industries. This foundation provided me with a good understanding of all core HR functions. I have always been goal-oriented, strategic, and forward-thinking. These traits combined with being steadfast in my career aspirations led me to Boingo. I was recruited to Boingo to lead HR, which was an amazing opportunity for an awesome company.
What do diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you? Why are these ideas so important to business?
Tanya: For me, Diversity is life. It’s involved in everything that I do, it’s who I am, and I think about some aspects of diversity in the workplace and my personal life nearly every day.
DE&I in the workplace is so much more than employee events, recruiting, and data. In my 20+ years in HR, I’ve seen many diversity initiatives fail because there was a desire to map out an immediate ROI or classic business case for diversity and inclusion. However, there is an intangible yet strong ROI in just making our employees feel valued, respected, and recognized.
Dawn: Let’s start with the bottom line. Research from McKinsey & Company suggests that companies whose boards are in the top quartile of gender diversity are 28% more likely than their peers to outperform financially. So, diversity just makes good business sense. But I think it goes way beyond the bottom line. As a woman and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I believe that a company is at its best when people can bring their “whole selves” to work – and that who they are is not just tolerated but celebrated. I know when I don’t have to hide parts of myself, I am happier and more productive. I also just enjoy working more. So, DEI is good for the bottom line, but it is good for the heart, too.
Bringing one’s authentic self to the table can feel intimidating but can be a powerful thing. How do you come to work as your authentic self and what advice do you have for colleagues wanting to do the same?
Dawn: I am fortunate to live in a state and in a community where being “out” is relatively safe. So, I start with that privilege and understand that not everyone enjoys that safety. (It was still legal to fire someone simply for being gay in 15 states as recently as 2020.) I made the decision many years ago that I was never going to hide who I am at work. In fact, when I was interviewing at Boingo I made it very clear during my interview process that I was gay, because I wanted to see how the people who would be my coworkers reacted to that information. I would have never joined the team if I had felt anything other than acceptance. It is important whenever someone is interviewing that they ask tough questions of the company they are coming into: What does the makeup of leadership look like? Are there support organizations for BIPOC and LGBTQ employees? What benefits do they offer to domestic partners? Our time on this planet is short. You want to ensure you are spending your days with people who appreciate and celebrate you.
Tanya: At this stage in my career and during this season of my life, I have become very comfortable with who I am, and have committed to being my authentic self. This means that when I come to work, I bring my background, culture, and my experiences with me. Since I am an African American woman in corporate America, this may stand out in some circumstances. But guess what? That is ok because it is who I am. When I “arrive” to work each morning, I bring the multi-cultural make-up of my family, my father’s east Texas roots, my time growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, my dedication to my husband and 9-year-old son, and I may just come to work with cornrows or braids at some point. It is all me. In addition to my HR experience, education, and training, this is what I bring to Boingo.
For those wanting to do the same, I say to be true to yourself! Many employees are afraid to be themselves because they feel isolated in doing so. Being your authentic self is about feeling safe to do so. The more people bring their authentic selves to work, the more comfortable others will be in doing the same. Thankfully, Boingo is a company that allows us to come to work and thrive while demonstrating our unique perspectives and experiences. I feel good that at Boingo we can all feel safe being our authentic selves.
What value does a culture of inclusion bring to Boingo as a workplace, a community, and as an organization in the technology space?
Tanya: In my time at Boingo, the resounding theme has been that our employees love the people they work with and the Boingo culture. Part of this culture is understanding, recognizing, and valuing our diverse workforce. I truly believe that our collective and diverse employee population is what makes Boingo a great place to work. We are fortunate that Boingo is committed to focusing on DE&I. We are dedicated to making continued improvements in this area so that DE&I is not something we do, it is part of who we are.
Technology has done something remarkable in the workplace and social space. It has brought people together across the entire globe and is central to everything we do. Diversity and innovation often go hand in hand. Within the technology space, an environment that fosters inclusion will produce even greater innovation, and improved products and services for customers.
EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS
Boingo’s DE&I initiatives include Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which serve as safe, supportive spaces for employees who share a common identity.
Boingo Unity is an ERG where our BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and Boingoites with disabilities can bring their whole selves to the table for personal and professional development. For allies, it’s a place to learn – and unlearn – in the spirit of racial and social justice.
Boingo Women celebrates diverse talents and is dedicated to empowering women to follow a fulfilling career through education, networking and mentoring opportunities.
Boingo Veterans was started by our veterans to mentor and support each other as well as service members and veterans in the communities where we live and work.
Find out more about Boingo ERGs and how we support our team, our customers, and the communities we serve.