“There is nothing complicated about equality.”

A century after American suffragist Alice Paul vehemently spoke those words and petitioned for women’s right to vote, the United States is still stuck firmly in the mire of social injustice. And while it feels like the country is coming closer to enacting change, the race for equality is far from over.

The nation’s social justice fervor has elicited a need for self-reflection. In recent years, tech companies have made significant efforts to promote inclusivity within their own organizations and the tech community as a whole. But these are just a couple of the companies doing their part to encourage equality within the workplace.

For several of Austin’s tech leaders, driving DEI in the workplace isn’t just about establishing committees and leading initiatives. Rather, DEI involves educating and empowering employees, and implementing diversity into the hiring and recruitment process, among other initiatives. Built In Austin recently checked in with leaders at Arrive Logistics, Kendra Scott and Evernote to see how they’ve been driving DEI in their organizations and how other tech companies can do the same. 

Arrive Logistics

Bianca Ramos: Talent Manager 

What’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve diversity (of all kinds) in their organization? 

Education. Our nation is currently experiencing a reckoning of inequality for all marginalized groups, and it is imperative for organizations to educate themselves on what they need to do to create psychological safety inside their organization. Recruiting diverse individuals is not enough. We need to make sure everyone in the company is doing their part to provide a community for all employees. When organizations come from a place of empathy and education, they can authentically commit to making a difference within their organization.

Aside from driving diversity, what’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve inclusivity and/or equity in their organization? 

Empowerment. Arrive is focused on empowering all employees to continue to be ambitious and successful within their roles. Empowerment looks different for each employee, and in order to remain inclusive and provide equity for all, organizations must learn to identify the specific needs and requirements needed for each employee to be successful. Once a company identifies the need, it is their duty to adapt and provide the tools necessary to ensure each employee feels empowered.

Of all the DEI initiatives you’ve led, which has been the most impactful, and why?

We are currently in the beginning phases of our DEI initiatives, but Arrive has committed to making the organization an inclusive environment for all. What we have completed so far has already made a difference in the psychological safety of our organization. We recently created a diversity and inclusion committee led by 10 diverse members with various roles and responsibilities at Arrive. They meet once a month and are currently working toward providing critical feedback to the company. One of our recent goals has been to create employee resource groups (ERGs). Our ERGs will focus on empowering and creating a community for all employees at Arrive. Our goal is to have ERGs fully implemented into the organization by the end of 2020.

 

Kendra Scott

Brandy Sislow: Chief Human Resources Officer 

What’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve diversity (of all kinds) in their organization? 

Embed diversity into all your talent processes. It starts with having a great slate of candidates in the talent pipeline – internally and externally. Know where you are from a diversity standpoint relative to the communities you serve and be open about the need to be better and work on ways to measure and report on improvement. Finally, be open to the fact that bias exists at a personal level and systemically impacts groups differently. Develop education, training, talent, succession and performance processes that challenge bias to get better results.

Aside from driving diversity, what’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve inclusivity and/or equity in their organization? 

Be clear with your teams that diversity and inclusion is a business imperative, not an HR program or initiative. Studies over the years have shown that companies with greater diversity outperform those who do not. While the research is not causal, it does correlate that companies that have a commitment to having diverse leadership are more successful. The more we help our leaders understand this and reinforce a commitment to this important business topic, the greater the likelihood to see a mindset shift. However, inviting more diverse talent into your organization is not enough. There must be a culture of inclusion that reinforces allyship through education and a commitment to listening, learning and practicing a growth mindset. Creating a culture that supports inclusivity is critical to creating sustainable change.

Of all the DEI initiatives you’ve led, which has been the most impactful, and why?

Earlier in my career, I worked for an organization that had the resources to focus energy on this important topic. We worked together to take a holistic approach to attracting, developing and promoting diverse talent into leadership roles. We ensured every slate had at least one diverse candidate for leadership positions before a selection could be made. We added diversity to each talent review and added a diversity mentoring program to support executive sponsorship and the development of diverse leadership talent. This resulted in a 25 percent improvement in diverse representation in our vice president ranks, a 50 percent improvement from the year prior of diverse talent in our VP pipeline, and we doubled the number of diverse candidates in our store management pipeline. Moreover, we were the best performing division in the company.

 

Evernote

Dustin Pratt: Senior Technical Recruiter

What’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve diversity (of all kinds) in their organization? 

I believe that it all starts with the approach to recruitment. Are job descriptions written in a way that feels inclusive? Do the descriptions apply to a very narrow pool of candidates, or are they open and flexible enough to take into account different backgrounds, levels of education and experience and locations? Is the hiring team diverse, and do they understand how to create a set of questions and exercises that can be applied equally to all? Does the organization look to hire in (look for opportunities where a potential employee can be trained or mentored) or hire out (weigh heavily against any perceived flaws or gaps)?

Aside from driving diversity, what’s the number one thing every tech company should do right now to improve inclusivity and/or equity in their organization?

Welcome, celebrate and support diversity. Form energized ERGs, acknowledge and celebrate the uniqueness and achievements of the cultures represented and create training and mentorship programs that are focused on career development for the employees and for perhaps the shifting of management mindsets. Ask questions, and truly listen to the answers!

Of all the DEI initiatives you’ve led, which has been the most impactful, and why?

Creating ERGs and building communities within a community. A person needs to feel whole and authentic at work and sometimes that is as simple as grabbing coffee with someone with a shared dimension of diversity or an ally. It’s all about comfort, respect and the feeling that a person belongs and that he/she/they made the right decision to join the company.

 

Photo credit: EverNote, original article posted here: https://www.builtinaustin.com/2020/09/18/austin-tech-diversity-equity-inclusion

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