I once heard a story about a washing machine company that decided to make a washing machine for elderly people. They thought long and hard about all the things an elderly person would want in a washing machine: big dials that were easy to turn, easy to read controls and indicators that you could read in a dim room even if your sight wasn’t that great. So they shipped this thing into the market, and to their surprise, it was incredibly successful across all sorts of demographics. Why? It turns out everyone wants those things: easy to read dials, great controls. Designing for the elderly benefited everyone.
Similarly, under-represented minorities (URMs) are the best leading indicator of the quality of your company’s culture. They are the canary in the coal mine — able to give you insight into what sucks about your company. If you make things better for URMs, you almost always also make it better for everyone, because you’re making a work environment where everyone can thrive.
Over the past decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a couple of things that work quite well at improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) within a company. I can take little credit for most of these. But I do have experience implementing them, and can share what I’ve seen work and where the challenges are. The things I describe have not, to my knowledge, been very widely shared within the tech industry, so I’d like to do what I can to encourage others to implement and improve on them. It’s not an exhaustive list — there are quite a few things that are notably missing from this list. But this list represents a few things I don’t see people talk about very often.
I’m assuming that you are the head of engineering, or someone in engineering wanting to influence the head of your engineering department.
Here’s my list of what I’ve seen that works for improving DE&I:
- Implementing pay equity
- Implementing bias checks in your promotion process
- Provide a rationale for not promoting
- Use OKRs to drive equity
- Bundled hiring
I’ll be writing posts on each of these in turn.
Image credit: Mike Lawrence