Diversity in tech has been a long fought battle. These are the companies that are making a difference in the industry and how others can help.
As tech companies are now devoting hundreds of millions of dollars to diversity initiatives, some companies are doing it better than others. Despite the notable contributions made in tech by women and people of color, diversity in tech is still hard to come by. Thankfully, companies are coming up with a formula to get the best talent of every race, gender, and class.
After numerous studies showing that companies succeed because of, rather than in spite of, their diversity, executives are starting to listen. With the aftermath of James Damore's anti-diversity letter and the #metoo movement, there's a clamoring for diversity like never before. As sexist and racist practices are questioned, tech culture is finally changing.
If you're wondering whether diversity in tech has taken hold beyond the startup level, these seven companies have encouraged diversity and seen great success.
Last year, Netflix changed the game when it comes to parenting in the tech industry. They offered new parents unlimited parental leave for the year following the birth or adoption of a new child.
Because of the overwhelming evidence showing how important bonding is during that first year, this is a watershed in American family life. Other companies and even state governments are starting to institute this as an essential part of their company benefit packages.
Parents are allowed to work part-time or to alternate between working and leave during that first year with no break in pay or benefits. A new child can change your whole life, so being able to adjust freely during that year is a great benefit to working parents. And because they've opened it up to "parents" in general, it allows for any parent to leave, inviting any family to take part.
This practice is an excellent move toward equity and diversity in tech.
Most people outside of the tech world might not know Asana, but within the industry, they're a significant player in task management.
A former Facebook CTO is at the helm of Asana. He decided to tackle diversity in tech, and as such, it was necessary to hire a diversity consulting firm. Hiring the firm allowed the company to soberly and honestly address any unrecognized biases within the company's practices.
Some of the implicit items in a resume could give away a candidate's gender or ethnicity. Elements of the salary negotiation practice could put women and people of color at a disadvantage. Instead of paying lip service to the issue, they tackled it head-on.
Buffer is a social media startup that took the risk of posting their highest employees' salaries online. They met this transparency by also putting up the formula that they use to calculate salaries.
In order to promote a spirit of inclusivity, rather than conceptual diversity, they tried to use an objective formula. They found out quickly that their initial attempts weren't as bias-proof as they had thought, and so they kept working.
The company as a public diversity dashboard on their site tracking the characteristics of its applicants as well as the team. They keep this open to scrutiny to let customers and investors alike know that they're managing it. They also keep it public so that they can be held accountable.
Since data is so vital to the company, they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversity in tech.
Having the advantage of beginning a little later in the game, Shopify was able to look around the tech industry before they blew up. Also, being from Canada where diversity is strongly encouraged, helped them to be ahead of their Silicon Valley peers.
What they've done during their last few years of exponential growth is to take a new approach to the hiring process. While they still make an experiential wish list like lots of companies do, they now add an extra line. The line assures applicants that even if they don't have the exact experience advertised, they should still apply.
This is important to lots of people who have great experience working for lesser-known companies or who are self-taught in the tech industry. It helps to close a gender, racial, and class gap in a big way.
Microsoft's founder Bill Gates famously never finished college. The Harvard dropout managed to change the world with his company. This doesn't mean the company doesn't value education.
In order to equalize the playing field and help students who have fewer educational opportunities, they've created a scholarship program. This program helps students with disabilities go to college.
They have also been leading the way when it comes to domestic partner benefits for employees who have non-traditional or LGBT families. Microsoft has encouraged diversity in tech in a significant way.
When Google released its real diversity number in 2014, the view was unimpressive. They had a staff that was 30% female and 2% black. Thankfully, they hit the ground to rectify this issue as soon as possible.
They now have outreach programs located in HBCUs in order to connect to young engineers at these historically black schools. Google brings on over 50 interns every year from seven schools to spend a summer at their headquarters.
While this program struggled in the first few years, it wasn't long before the number of black, and Latino employees on their technical team jumped by 50%.
Clef is a startup in Oakland offering important security services like two-factor authentication. Because they had the advantage of making their first hire after seeing Google's numbers, they were able to position themselves differently.
Before making their first hire, they brought on an HR lawyer and diversity consultant to create policies that would help the company grow. They then made their employee handbook public so that other companies could tackle diversity in tech through the help of their efforts.
Diversity in Tech Will Only Continue To Grow
Thanks to the work done by these companies, startups can learn from mistakes and begin on the right foot. With a little bit of extra effort and an honest look at our own biases, we're able to avoid racist or sexist hiring practices. These companies help their employees to make the workplace safer and smarter because of a commitment to diversity in every way.
If you're interested in finding out more about how to implement diversity from the ground up, check out our tips on equity crowdfunding.