5 Companies Building Solutions to Diversity That May Actually Work
Diversity is becoming a commonplace concept in business strategy. So let’s take a look at what’s actually changing.
5 min read
The good news is, the conversation is moving beyond dreaded HR seminars and reaching C-Suite leaders, making them invest seriously in time, energy and money to promote an inclusive workplace. However, companies are also struggling to redefine old-fashioned, hierarchical corporate methods and offer an equal footing to minority groups despite, having access to the resources needed to build a better workforce.
Building an inclusive culture comes with its own set of challenges. A diverse collection of different backgrounds and viewpoints under the same roof introduces friction that requires careful conditioning in order to fulfil its potential. This friction may make or break a company’s future, based on how management handles internal communication and ties them to the overarching project.
A failure to acknowledge these challenges highlights companies’ shortcomings to transform their fundamental business goals to accommodate individuals of diverse cultures, colour and ethics. And though there is an ongoing conversation on diversity and its significant effects on company ROI, diversity and inclusion reports indicate that majority of tech companies, including Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn and Google, are far from achieving their diversity goals.
Fear not, however, for all is not lost yet. These companies are approaching diversity with the right attitude and smart tools. Below I have highlighted 5 companies that are hitting the mark when it comes to transforming the workplace into a diverse platform.
PayPal’s Unity Mentorship program is implemented with an aim to build a thriving work culture for female professionals. This employee-led initiative matches 100 pairs of mentors-mentees from same or different departments at any given time. The pairs, even of mixed gender, are initially matched through a short survey, to make sure an intimate bond can be formed between individuals through the initiative. Both mentor and mentee interact with and learn from each other to build a transparent communication that’s more valuable than exercising professional etiquettes.
This acts as the stepping stone, helping female employees share knowledge and find a support system in the male-dominated tech industry. The Unity Mentorship program’s success has led PayPal to plan two other mentorship options, group and peer mentoring. Group mentoring will place a senior leader as a mentor to a group of 20 professionals on a monthly basis for six months. Peer mentoring - on the other hand - will entail employees getting cheerleader-like figures to further their own version of success within the company.
Led by Sarah Nahm, cofounder-turned-CEO, women occupy 43% of engineering and 53% of management roles at Lever. To reach this 50-50 ratio, Sarah emphasized on designing diversity goals that collectively resonated with everyone in the organization. Lever - offering human resources tools and software - focused on creating an open channel of discussion on diversity and its significance to employees.
Lever filled a Diversity Programs Manager position early on to oversee diversity- and inclusion-related projects. The entire workforce was encouraged to engage with each other through one-on-one sessions and a dedicated Slack channel to openly discuss their opinions and experiences.
The Lever HR team rigorously promoted gender-neutral and diversity-driven tone throughout the hiring process. A Slackbot was built to assign and circulate dishwashing responsibilities to employees to ensure such a trivial task does not get predefined based on gender alone.
It additionally sponsors third-party diversity-focused events to spread awareness about its involvement and support for a diverse workplace.
Pinterest set a goal to increase hiring rates for full-time women engineers to 30% for 2016. Though women engineers accounted for 22% in total and didn’t quite meet the mark by end of the year, Pinterest is striving to improve gender, racial and ethnic diversity with targeted efforts. The apprenticeship program, Pinterest Engage and Inclusion Labs (in partnership with Paradigm) try to achieve different goals that complement the company’s mission to embed diversity and inclusion within all levels.
The one-year long Apprenticeship program targets individuals without traditional tech backgrounds to experience what it’s like to be an engineer at Pinterest, offering long-term employment opportunities. Pinterest Engage is a summer internship program geared towards first-year tech college students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Inclusion Labs is an effort to curb unconscious bias and focuses on providing training to all new hires to ensure better integration and onboarding within the company.
NetSuite, a new player in the tech landscape, boasts a female-centric mentorship initiative dedicated to connecting high-performing women with mentors, of both genders, working two levels above and in different departments. It doesn’t stop at just establishing the connection and letting it take a course on its own. NetSuite organizes structured events that create a platform for female employees to network and encourages regular email communication to strengthen the relationship between individuals.
The regular one-on-one with colleagues allows employees to have a better opportunity to learn, share knowledge and experiences as well as bounce off career-related advice in a more relaxed way, without feeling the pressure of corporate policies. This targeted approach to implementing and regulating diversity programs makes sure concerned employees receive the benefit they expect and rightfully deserve.
Etsy managed to increase women engineers in its team by 500% in one year, from 4 to 20, by redirecting its hiring and retention strategy. It stopped poaching and instead focused on training junior professionals. Etsy was ready to invest big in women engineers who were willing to learn and step up their game in tech field overrun by men.
The company, which attracts 80% women consumers, partnered with other companies like 37Signals and Yammer to fund a training program - offering $7,000 grants per student to cover living expenses - to help individuals become better coders. The three-month intensive program called Hacker School garnered the much-deserved attention from junior and senior professionals, showing Etsy’s commitment to building a diverse workforce.
Taking it further, Etsy eliminated gender-specific terms to categorize employees last year, even converting bathrooms to be gender inclusive, with a belief that gender lies on a spectrum.
These companies understood that engaging their junior and senior level employees from the get-go is crucial in establishing an inclusive, equal culture successfully. They focused on targeting the right audience and empowering them at an early stage by blurring hierarchical boundaries in order to establish a harmonious balance down the line.
The results these strategies produced maybe small in the margin, but they speak volume in an industry that’s still trying to determine the worth of diversity in the workplace and how it affects the future. Amidst all the monetary and strategic commitments, tech companies must emphasize on programs that continually allow open discussion, support, promotion and implementation of diversity at an individual and collective level.
Sphoorti Bhandare is a PR consultant with a heart of a digital nomad. Sphoorti studied Electronics (B.Tech.) and pursued Masters in Public Relations in New York. A Bollywood dancer by nature, Sphoorti keeps busy by finding new PR trends, learning about social media tools and planning her next travel destination. She's usually found mastering Zumba, making whipped coffee and hopping from one country to another.