Our Takeaways from Tech Inclusion 2016

To have a truly inclusive culture, the entire company has to buy in.

Inside Amplitude
November 15, 2016
Image of Nisha Dwivedi
Nisha Dwivedi
Lead Sales Engineer
Our Takeaways from Tech Inclusion 2016

In parallel to our efforts toward improving Amplitude’s diversity and inclusion, we’re always looking to educate ourselves on how to make real, impactful change in the workplace. That’s why this year we were excited to attend Tech Inclusion 2016 in San Francisco.

“Talent is distributed equally among society, but opportunity is not.” ―Cassius Johnson, Sr. Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs at Year Up

The D&I team has spent the past several months trying to understand what it means to have an inclusive culture, why diversity is important for a business, and introspecting on the state of our own company’s diversity.

As we continue to do that, we’re also learning how to take action—however small—to move the needle in the right direction. From Tech Inclusion, we took away three broad themes that make up successful D&I initiatives and how to take action for each.

Getting leadership buy-in

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the workplace has to start at the leadership level, and this doesn’t just mean signing off on projects and initiatives.

According to the Pathways to Leadership panel members, a leader that advocates for real change is someone who can recognize and confront microaggressions and implicit biases as they happen. It means being a champion for D&I even outside a regular leadership role. Most of the time, it’s not a problem to get leadership to approve D&I projects or to get them to acknowledge that it is important.

But in order to get leadership to be invested at a deeper level, Pinterest Co-Founder/CCO Evan Sharp and Diversity Programs Specialist Abby Maldonado had two main suggestions:

  • Speak the language of the business: While advocating for diversity as a moral imperative is important, that a narrative may not resonate with leadership, notes Evan. It’s important to reframe D&I goals as a driver of business success or product development to get leadership backing. Pinterest and Asana both shared examples of how having diversity on the inside was important for diversity on the outside; that is, having a diverse team leads to building products for a more diverse user base.
  • Regularly share sound bites: Make sure to have quick reasons and facts in your back pocket about why D&I is important to the company. Share these reasons regularly with leadership so they keep D&I top-of-mind.

It’s important to have individuals in positions of power speak up about diversity, says Julie Ann Crommett, Entertainment Industry Educator in Chief at Google. That’s what can result in actual actionable change.

Getting company-wide buy-in

D&I doesn’t begin and end at the leadership level. To have a truly inclusive culture, the entire company has to be bought into it. The strategies to communicate the importance of inclusion to the company (outside of leadership and the D&I team), though, can take a slightly different angle:

  • Tell stories, not lessons: This was the main takeaway from the Media Leading The Story of Inclusion panel. While statistics are great as quick “sound bites” on why diversity matters, sometimes an emotional appeal makes a deeper impact than a logical one. TechCrunch reporter Megan Rose Dickey notes that bringing in the human element–whether that’s by sharing stories of discrimination or solidarity–often resonates with an audience better than force-feeding them diversity “education.” D&I training for your workplace is important to get down baseline education, but it’s important to complement that with personal stories.
  • Treat diversity as a change in attitude: You don’t always need to talk about diversity as a separate issue, says Pinterest’s Evan Sharp. Instead of enacting a change and then labeling it as an effort to improve diversity & inclusion, just make the change; it won’t go unnoticed by the marginalized. One example the Pinterest team suggested was making sure that 50% of all weekly product/engineering demos were from women. Showcasing diversity in small ways can go a long way toward contributing to a broader attitude change.
  • Communicate each person’s role: Everyone that is a stakeholder in the company can have an impact on D&I, says Abby. Leadership, as we mentioned before, has a slightly different role in propelling D&I efforts than middle management, investors, individual contributors, or customers. Teaching effective allyship to those not of minority backgrounds should be a key component of D&I training at all levels of management.

The key to getting company-wide commitment to D&I is through effective communication. People are on a broad spectrum when it comes to understanding social equity; it’s critical for a company’s D&I team to meet every individual at their level and involve them in the process of building better workplace inclusion.

Measuring D&I progress

Measuring progress toward diversity has typically focused on tracking the gender and race/ethnic breakdown of employees across the company and comparing it to some benchmark (usually national census numbers). While this should be a core success metric for any company, it’s not the only way of measuring D&I progress.

Tech Inclusion gave us insight into other ways to measure the progress of Amplitude’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Some things we’re thinking of include:

  • Setting goals for interviewing and hiring candidates at leadership positions (see: Rooney Rule).
  • Breaking down employee gender, race, and ethnicity across the company, across teams, and across leadership and management
  • Sending regular engagement surveys to gauge workplace inclusion
  • Measuring an inclusion NPS
  • Tracking who’s getting promoted and who’s leading projects

Amplitude’s D&I team walked away with great perspective and insights from Tech Inclusion. We now have a dedicated member of the executive team at our D&I strategy meetings to make sure the team has an ongoing dialogue with leadership. We’re also beginning to provide more opportunities for individuals to share personal stories and perspectives, as it relates to both work and issues outside of work.

And finally, Tech Inclusion has fueled us to be more metrics-oriented with our initiatives in the coming quarters. We’re looking forward to addressing workplace D&I on a number of qualitative and quantitative levels moving forward.

To learn more about diversity at Amplitude, be sure to check out our previous posts. Interested in working with us? Check out our open positions.

About the Author
Image of Nisha Dwivedi
Nisha Dwivedi
Lead Sales Engineer
Nisha leads the Sales Engineering and Diversity teams at Amplitude. She graduated from the University of Michigan and has since learned to embrace warm weather, wine and hills.