Diversity, equity, inclusion, and technology
Contributors: Damon Brown, Simi Shah, Erika Davies
Over the course of the last few months, the research team at Paperwork Studios has had the pleasure of talking to DEI practitioners across the technology sector. Common themes surfaced: focus on retention and elevation, frustration with HR stakeholders, determination to find language for the moment. But priorities and approaches varied. The professionals driving the diversification of the tech sector don’t share an orthodoxy; they share a mission. It is our goal to align the mission of this publication with that shared sense of purpose.
Need To Know
Reports and Analytics Platforms on the Rise
- VentureBeat reports that Eskalera, the diversity analytics platform, has signed on several large, new clients in the financial services space. Why This Matters: Eskalera, which uses several indices to quantify diversity, is well positioned to determine the standard metrics for diversity. This is doubly true if the platform can successfully sign on finance firms involved in IPOs before new competitors like Katapult gain traction in the space.
- Betterment has partnered with Cadre, Credit Karma, SoFi, and a handful of other fintech businesses to form the Fintech Equality Coalition. Why This Matters: Few Fintech firms have tackled historical sources of distrust in banks among Black borrowers. The Coalition is uniquely positioned to alter historical dynamics. Ongoing reports will be strong indicators of the potential for change in the space.
- Former Gartner VP and Kantar Chief of Research Carolina Milanesi has launched The Heart of Tech, a product-focused consultancy with a diversity and inclusion slant. Why This Matters: New money in the space is facilitating the creation of new vendors with subspecialties within DEI, specifically around product.
- A report from CMSWire based on Forrester data suggestions that new D&I-focused data platforms, mostly products with less than five years in the marketplace, may not be necessary if DEI practitioners partner more effectively with IT professionals. Why This Matters: Numbers are critical, but so are cost savings and Voice of Employee technologies may allow for data collection without additional spend.
- More VC firms are signing the Diversity Rider, which dictates that they must attempt to include Black, Latinx, female and/or LGBTQ+ investors in every deal. Act One Ventures, Greycroft Partners, First Round Capital, Maveron, Harlem Capital, SVB Capital, Fifth Wall, Plexo Capital, Precursor Ventures and Equal Ventures have signed the rider. Why This Matters: Access to underrepresented investors is becoming an increasingly valuable asset for growing firms.
Barbara Whye, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Vice President of Social Impact and Human Resources at Intel, was promoted to corporate vice president. In her expanded role, she will oversee the Intel Foundation and the Corporate Responsibility Office.
Kim Jenkins (nee Manigault) was named Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at PayPal. She was previously the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at KeyStreet Bank.
John Stodter was named Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager at PlayStation. He was previously the Executive Programs Manager focused on diversity for The Conference Board.
Sarah Shin was promoted to Chief Diversity Officer at Cloudera. She is the first employee to occupy that role. Shin was previously the Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Learning.
Jason Wright was named President of The Washington Football Team. Wright was previously a McKinsey consultant focused on diversity and inclusion issues within large corporations.
SVB Plans DEI Team
Silicon Valley Bank Chief Human Resources Officer Chris Edmonds-Waters is in the process of recruiting his institution’s first Chief Diversity Officer, hiring the future head of an expanded team designed to drive internal change and increased external engagement on issues of equity. Edmonds-Waters spoke to The Filament about SVB’s investment in DEI, hiring philosophy, and vision for equity-focused client engagement.
When and how did SVB come to the decision to hire a CDO? We’ve been building up to this role for the last six or seven years. Back in May, one of my colleagues who leads our DE&I efforts and I had discussed the fact that we're at a point in our maturity curve where it's time to hire a Chief Diversity Officer. We hired a consultant to package the pitch to discuss what that role might look like and why now is the time to consider it. And we brought it to Greg Becker, the President & CEO of SVB. He said he was open to it and to give him some time. Shortly thereafter, the George Floyd murder occurred. Greg called me and said, “I think that your thinking was ahead of the times. Let's do it.” We were already having the conversation, but events punctuated that discussion.
How exactly did you start this journey six years ago? SVB typically has a 93% response rate for employee engagement surveys -- and that’s without us prodding our employees. We're like this petri dish of a Harvard Business Review case study in terms of employee engagement. About six years ago, I realized that despite all of this employee engagement work, we hadn't really tapped into issues around diversity, equity inclusion. Specifically, we didn't have a baseline data set to draw from around the topic. As a result, for the first time in our company's history, we decided to administer a survey designed exclusively around diversity, equity inclusion. That survey and data set became the catalyst for all the work that has followed on in this realm. Interestingly, it was a provocative decision at the time, That became the launching pad, so we weren’t just throwing money at the issue. We were using real data to forge ahead.
What are you looking for in a candidate? I'm looking for someone that has been a Chief Diversity Officer. I’m looking for someone who has a great voice that can hold the space for the right conversation at the right time; someone who has a sense of gravitas in their presence and how they manage their content. Their values are equally important because we are an extraordinarily values-driven organization. I’m looking for someone who’s going to be additive. I’m not talking about fit. Fit means someone that looks, talks, acts, and walks like me. We want someone who’s additive in terms of their being at SVB. I realize that’s a bit esoteric.
The other important factor is trustworthiness. I want to know that this person can ride shotgun in having and partaking in important conversations. They need to know how to hold information and how to partner and collaborate effectively. There are big expectations for this person. We’re looking for a wildly passionate, seasoned leader who has depth, perception, and wisdom.
And, one imagines, you’ll have very high expectations on day one. We’re going to pace their entry over the first 12 months accordingly, and ensure they get on board successfully, so that the individual can be impactful.
Can you speak to the decision to hire externally versus promote internally for this position? I’m looking for the best possible candidate. The job is open internally bu it's probably going to be an external hire, and I'll say why. We need someone that’s seen the movie and been there, so they can direct us. We need someone who can offer wisdom, savvy, and perspective drawn from having done the work before.
We've been working with the executive search firm, Spencer Stuart. We're seeing great candidate flow.
Who will this person report to, and how will they fit into the existing SVB framework? A lot of companies, even those with the best intentions, acquiesce to this natural disposition where DE&I ultimately is owned by human resources. And that’s not the way to do it because it’s a business imperative. Human Resources departments should maintain accountability around the initiatives but if that's the only part of the corporation that takes responsibility for it, you’re swimming upstream.
Technically speaking, the job reports into me as the Chief Human Resources Officer of SVB. Practically speaking, it can also be kind of a dual line of reporting into the CEO as well, be it dotted line or hard line which we’ll figure out as we need.
In addition to my support and Greg Becker’s support, the CDO will work in step with the executives that take part in the Diversity and Inclusion Executive Steering Committee we launched six years ago. It is made up of executives from across the corporation that serve as the vetting body for programmatic, representation, philosophical questions around our pursuit of DE&I. Those executives will lock arms to support this hire. Those executives are: Chief Operating Officer Phil Cox, SVB Capital President John China, Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Draper, Chief Risk Officer Laura Izurieta, and myself, as well as Executive Credit Leader Joan Parsons and Head of Policy Projects and Special Initiatives Tina Sandford.
What will be the initial focus areas for the individual you hire for the position of CDO?
Metrics is one. Equity is another. Previously, we had framed our work around DE&I as being more about inclusion and diversity. The concept of equity is something that's newer for the corporation. We have some work to do to really educate your organization.
The other side of it would be focusing on building out the team. We’re adding two additional heads: a Director in the U.S. and a Director/Senior Manager from the UK who will report into this person. The total team will include six to seven individuals. The overall focus of the job will be more internal than external. We have a target we're heading towards around diversity at the top of SVB. .
That focus on internal change lends itself to a specific kind of hiring.
In my experience, there are two personas that tend to evidence themselves in the CDO world. One is externally focused. They’re big on the speaker circuit and do a great job carrying the company's brand in the marketplace. But that category of player can be very focused on their own personal brand as well. The other persona certainly does some work in the marketplace as a guest speaker on panels, but they're more oriented toward rolling up their sleeves and getting it done. They emphasize internal change and drive that change. That latter persona is who we're looking to hire at SVB.
Even if your recruit a TK pragmatist, it seems like there would be a dual mandate given SVB’s singular position in the market. To what degree with the SVB CDO be tasked with D&I responsibilities in the context of client services? Is SVB going to try and more actively engage its clients on D&I issues?
SVB CEO Greg Becker was on a call a day or two ago with a number of VCs talking about the stance we're taking and he was very candid. He said, ‘It might be difficult for you guys to get on board with this because you’re going to feel the pressure of the industry. But this isn't about being easy. It’s about doing the right thing.’
This job is probably going to be 30% externally focused. In terms of external-facing initiatives, we run a program called Access to Innovation that aims to broaden access to capital, access to talent, and access to relationships with our diverse entrepreneurs. Through this program, we’ve designed programs that are very specifically geared toward underrepresented entrepreneurs. We're very excited about the impact that’s going to have on the marketplace.
For the first time, SVB’s 2020 Global Startup Outlook included questions on diversity in leadership and D&I efforts being made at the company level. Will SVB continue to make those numbers public or attempt to document the state of play within the industry?
We are. The format may change but we are committed to being transparent. There's a couple things we're also inclined to be more public about, like pay gap analysis results in our corporation across various categories of representation. To be honest, it’s not just that we’re doing a noble thing with respect to this data. Statutes in the UK require that we make some of these numbers public, so it makes sense for us to be forthcoming in the U.S. as well.
The stance our executive committee has taken is this: Once you go public, you’re public. To suddenly revert back and stop sharing numbers is a complete non-starter. We’re committed to sharing the data: the good, the bad, the ugly.
In the creation of this role and with other initiatives, what impact do you hope SVB will have on Silicon Valley with respect to D&I?
We’re the big gorilla in the marketplace for doing what we do in the world. We have a huge responsibility to serve as active role models. I hope that we can meaningfully increase representation and create tangible shifts in the marketplace.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
From the Desk of... Damon Brown
Tech's Side Hustle Hurdle
How do we put retention problems in historical context?
Despite gains in diversity among early career workers, Black executives remain rare in the technology sector. While the lion’s share of the blame for this is allotted to institutional prejudices and ineffective retention programs, there’s a practical value for diversity practitioners in reminding HR stakeholders and members of the C-suite that external historical and cultural factors likely undercut even well-conceived retention programs aimed at Black employees.
The Executive Parity Index, the ratio of a demographically defined percentage of executives to a demographically defined percentage of employees, documents the persistence of inequality in leadership. Across American industry, the EPI for white men is 1.81 and 0.63 for black men. The EPI for white women is 0.65 and 0.30 for black women. Though the EPI for black women in tech is 0.03 at 0.61 than it is across non-tech industries (and has likely crept up since data was last collected in 2015), C-suites in the tech industry are, on the whole, whiter and more heavily male than in American business as a whole.
This should not and does not shock anyone with experience in the industry. A decade ago when I was a CEO in Silicon Valley, the weaponized euphemism was “culture fit,” a phrase persistently deployed to justify reliance on established professional networks for both talent and accepted wisdom. More recently, “pattern matching” has come into vogue. This idea is largely the same: Prior success justifies the continuation of discriminatory practices. This like-seeks-like dynamic is damaging and deserving of attention, but to focus exclusively on exclusivity is to attempt explain attrition without acknowledging its historical and economic context. That’s a mistake.
The “Duncan Segregation Index,” developed by quantitative sociologist Otis Dudley Duncan, measures occupational segregation by taking the percentage of Black workers who would need to change jobs with white workers (or vice versa) in order for full occupations to be reflective of total population dynamics. The DSI for Black women and white men changed from 59 percent to 56 percent between 2000 and 2016. That is to say that despite further integration over the last few decades Black labor — specifically Black female labor, but Black male labor as well — remains largely segregated from white labor. The historical and economic context of work itself is different for Black Americans. This doesn’t cease to be true simply because a Black worker has a white-collar job or a higher salary.
Many Black workers have a different relationship with corporate enterprise than their white colleagues. This is perhaps best and most consistently expressed by a culture of side hustling.
Almost half of Black workers have two jobs. With the median Black household income less than two-thirds of the median white household income, it’s not wonder why. Malcolm X famously wrote that "everyone in Harlem needed some kind of hustle to survive” and that hustle remains normative behavior in Black communities, where the concept of work and the concept of workplace may be more delineated than in more affluent white communities.
Johns Hopkins University Political Science Professor Lester Spence describes the broader reconceptualizing of work that takes in a multiple-job culture in Knocking the Hustle, his skeptical treatise on the subject.
Whereas in the late sixties and early seventies the hustler was someone who consistently sought to get over, the person who tried to do as little work as possible in order to make ends meet, with the “hustled” being the people who were victimized by these individuals (“He hustled me”), the hustler is now someone who consistently works…. The hustle, rather than being the act of trying to get over, has now been transformed to the point where it means the exact opposite: “hustle” and “grind” are now often used interchangeably.
If Black workers are less likely to believe professional, career-oriented labor is somehow exceptional, which is to say “more respectable” than personal hustle, that fact needs to enter into conversations about worker attrition, the promotion of BIPOC works, and executive parity. If Black workers, observing the Executive Parity Index and the Duncan Segregation Index in the workplace, are more prone to concluding that operating in white spaces represents a risk and that diversification is the responsible course of action, that fact needs to enter into conversations about Black worker outcomes as well.
Intel cofounder Andy Grove once said that it takes a healthy paranoia to create something out of nothing. That kind of paranoia is natural among workers who can observe a lack of executive parity and hear the echo of “culture fit.” And that kind of paranoia isn’t just present in founders, it’s present in leavers, workers who, more often than not, see more risk in continuing their current employment than trying something new. If that kind of paranoia is, for entirely understandable reasons, endemic to the Black professional class, it must be directly addressed by organizations aiming for retention and elevation. Additional salary helps, but additional and ongoing communication above and beyond what’s normative is critical to changing the norms.
Lines of Thought:
1: Support for Black employee side hustles and personal projects may align profit motives with cultural goals.
2: Employees’ relationship with work is defined by both their career experiences and those of their parents. That creates a potential cultural rift even among pattern-matched people.
"It’s going to be important for companies to be vigilant about supply support for caregivers and allowing employees to balance their responsibilities without missing out. We’re still talking about urgent needs, but the pandemic will affect long-term career growth, specifically among women, who take on a disproportionate amount of childcare labor.
I don’t know that there will be a move toward financially compensating workers for that kind of care, but I do expect that there will allowances made to caregivers. There need to be. The pay gap largely exists in highly compensated roles and in highly compensated industries like tech. The numerical disparities in companies will be stark if there’s high attrition among mothers who feel that they have to opt out to look after their children.."
Katherine Eyster, Director of Policy Initiatives, National Partnership for Women & Families
The Department of Chain Mail
Can CEOs Forward Progress?
In 1988, Dave Rhodes promised thousands of Americans $50,000 in cash in return for $5 and some stamps. The invented author of the most successful chain letter ever sent, Rhodes claimed that by helping build out a mailing list his marks could create massive value for corporations and thereby themselves. This sounded plausible enough that the letter, dubbed “Make Money Fast,” made the leap to legend, becoming an exponential growth on the face of the early Usenet.
Still in high circulation in 1994, MMF soiled the concept of “pass it on” long before copypastas and grandmothers colonized Facebook. The math, cynical and simple, now looks as revolutionary as an Egyptian artifact.
The new Pluto Pledge, heavily publicized in England, exists in the multi-level shadow of what might be called the “Rhodes Pyramid.” Conceived by Pluto CEO Alex Rainey, the 10-step prescription for racial equity purports to offer a roadmap “to become an antiracist, diverse, and inclusive business.” It is similar in form and function to the Pledge For Allies Creating Equity authored by a group of Y Combinator founders, which requires an annual donation and a commitment to sitting through educational videos designed to teach “about the ways in which generations of white Americans have benefited from institutionalized racism and systematic oppression.”
Pluto is a travel insurance company with an all-white, all-male management team, but Rainey appears to be genuine in his commitment, having donated to BLM UK and Color in Tech (“This is of paramount importance,” he explained over the phone). YC is a well-known accelerator with a long-standing commitment to diversity and a track record of honesty in regards to the homogeneity of its batches. That is to say that these chain mail pledges, which will inevitably multiply, are likely conceived in both good faith and in the spirit of productization and hypergrowth, which may place them at odds with the work if not the spirit of change-making.
Pledges are solutions designed to scale — the sort of solutions one might expect from executives skilled at scaling. The issue presented is that these pledges take a checklist rather than inventory approach to change management. These approaches are often ineffective. YC is famously well-managed, has been working hard on the issue of diversity for years, and has made admissions of their own limited progress.
For diversity practitioners the issue with these kinds of pledges is best understood at the intersection of good intentions and customer retention. In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, raising $115 million. It was a wild success, but not a sustained one. Fewer than one percent of donors to the ALS Association ever donated again. This is not to say that the effort was bad, but that it represents a flawed model for a sustained social commitment and a concerning model for ongoing financial commitment.
Many business leaders don’t need to be convinced of the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion. But many of those same leaders are demonstrably bought into the notion that solutions ought to be scalable. It behooves those tasked with managing institutional change to have an argument for custom solutions at the ready. Perhaps the best argument is that proposed viral solutions are being authored by well-meaning activists with little to no demonstrable success addressing the problems they intend to solve.
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