Diversity and inclusion are currently at the forefront of many discussions in the technology industry, and rightfully so. The statistics that demonstrate the problem are staggering.
- Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John.
- In a study by University of Chicago, white-sounding names on resumes got 50 percent more callbacks than the black-sounding names, regardless of the industry or occupation.
- Nearly 50% of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman, according to research by Lean In.
At Invoca we’re taking this issue to heart. We are committed to fostering a culture that is fair, equitable, and welcoming for everyone. While we are by no means where we need to be and our work is still in the early stages, we’d like to share our learnings and experiences.
Here we’ll take a look at several ways that Invoca is working to incorporate diverse and inclusive practices into our working environment. While linked, diversity and inclusion are also distinct concepts, so let’s start by getting the lay of the land.
How Diversity and Inclusion are Different and Connected
I think Jonathan McBride, Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at BlackRock describes it especially well: “Diversity is demographics — the composition of your workforce. A conversation about diversity is, by definition, focused on different populations, the majority versus under-represented groups. Inclusion is about whether everybody on the team — regardless of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation — feels they belong, and whether employees are being given equal and fair treatment, their ideas are being solicited.”
Why Diversity and Inclusion Matters
Diversity and inclusion efforts not only benefit individual employees, but drive collective company success. For example, research from McKinsey shows that the most ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform the least ethnically diverse companies. And when it comes to creating a workplace where employees feel included, Jeanine Prime of Catalyst Research Center says, “it is directly connected to worker retention and growth.”
Getting the D&I Ball Rolling
So how do you actually kickstart a diversity and inclusion initiative? I talked to Rachel Herter at Paradigm, a company based in San Francisco that works with Fortune 500 companies and tech startups (including Invoca) to help them create more diverse and inclusive organizations.
“When developing an effective diversity and inclusion strategy, it’s important to start with data,” said Herter. “There are so many things companies can do when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Instead of trying everything, companies can use their internal data to understand where their biggest areas of opportunity are, and then develop targeted strategies to address those gaps. Specifically, companies can consider how they’re attracting candidates into the pipeline, and once they have applied, how they are selected, developed, and retained.”
We took Rachel’s advice and looked hard at our data to determine what to focus on first. While we’re of course hoping to do more over time, here’s a taste of what we’re currently doing.
1. Unconscious bias training
Many companies have begun rolling out unconscious bias trainings to raise awareness of the “mental shortcuts” that everyone has developed because of the biases they have been exposed to over a lifetime. You may have heard that Starbucks’ CEO recently mandated this training for all store managers after an incident at one of its Philadelphia stores. While training sessions are by no means a silver bullet, they can be an effective mechanism for educating employees and inspiring behavior change. Paradigm’s post-training surveys indicate that 96 percent of participants leave intending to engage in behaviors to reduce bias. Managers at Invoca participated in an unconscious bias training a few months ago, and it inspired additional conversations about how we can create a more inclusive working environment.
Alyssa Rendon, technical success representative at Invoca, participated in one of the follow-up discussions and had this to say: “They [managers] were very open and honest about their own biases, which was encouraging to hear as a member of an underrepresented group. Knowing Invoca’s leadership is willing to self-examine and improve is comforting. It as also opened the door for more personal conversations around diversity, several of which I have been a part.”
2. Inclusive meetings
According to Harvard Business Review, there are three segments of the workforce who are routinely overlooked: introverts, remote workers, and women. Chances are, these voices aren’t actively being silenced, it’s more likely that hidden biases are at play. Having a daily or weekly stand-up meeting is one way to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate. This is something that our engineering team has done for years at a department and team level as part of its agile development process (you can read about our journey to continuous deployment here). The practice was adopted by our customer success team, and even our finance and operations team has a weekly version of a stand-up meeting. Caitlin Davis, engineering manager at Invoca adds, “In daily stand-up meetings, everyone gives an update, which not only facilitates team communication, but ensures that everyone is heard. It’s also a setting where recognition can be easily given and received, however big or small the accomplishment.”
3. Revamped recruiting process
Recruiting is unintentionally riddled with bias at many companies. It’s important to first recognize that it exists and then take steps to create a process that promotes a more diverse workforce. At Invoca, we’re using textio to ensure that our job descriptions are written with language that engages all types of candidates. We’re also moving toward a model that requires a more diverse slate of candidates to be considered and interviewed for open roles. Fundamentally we’re revisiting our use of legacy recruiting methods and referral networks that tend to perpetuate a stream of homogenous candidates. And we’ve updated our recruiting and hiring playbook to help our recruiters and hiring managers understand what concrete steps they can take to help us grow into a more diverse and inclusive workplace. For example, addressing unconscious bias that exists in the interview process by clearly defining core requirements of the role and what constitutes a strong candidate vs. relying on familiarity.
4. Extended leadership offsite
As a way to add more perspectives and diversity at an executive level, our CEO opened up the last quarterly executive meeting to a broader set of leaders at the company. By having a larger, more diverse representation of voices, we were able to create a more inclusive environment where more opinions could be heard at the most senior level. Direct feedback on the session included:
“Spending time with people on teams and departments I never spend time with and getting to understand them better.”
“I loved that we heard many different voices from across the company — some from the exec team but also many who were not.”
“I liked that throughout conversation, different voices would share their opinions on what works for them and their teams. I’d like to see more of this rather than looking outside of the company for these kinds of ideas or mentorship.”
We’re proud that we were named a Best Workplace in 2018 by Inc. Magazine, and feel strongly that prioritizing diversity and inclusion is key to attracting the best talent, customers, partners. As I mentioned, it’s still early days and we’re learning a lot as we go, but it’s so exciting to see some of these initiatives begin to take hold and permeate our culture. I hope this peek into how we’re addressing diversity and inclusion at Invoca is helpful to see, and we welcome your feedback, ideas, or questions in the comments.
Invoca is hiring! Check out our careers page to see our current job openings.