The Importance of Diversity & Inclusivity
When I think of Black History Month, I think of the long line of women and men who came before me and fought for me. They were lynched, beaten, berated, and economically constrained as they fought for basic human rights: the right to be free, the right to own property, the right to vote, the right to work in roles beyond “the help”. Because of their sacrifice, I’m sitting in an office in New York City writing this blog.
I’m one of very few Black people working at Prolific Interactive, and this is common at tech companies. I love Prolific, but we are not perfect. And as we grow and evolve, expanding the diversity of our teams is going to take careful attention and constant effort.
How the initiative started
When I approached Prolific’s CEO and Managing Director about tackling diversity initiatives, I received their full support. So I started with the basics. I decided to focus on tech companies, and in some initial research, I discovered that while Black and Latinx people make up almost 50% of New York City’s population, this diversity isn’t reflected in the demographics of both tech companies and the consumers of our mobile products. The problem goes beyond having a diverse array of employees — our company’s “foundation is cracked” because of the lack of diversity in our network. So we needed to look beyond hiring and develop diversity objectives in sales, marketing, and networking.
My first step was to schedule two mandatory diversity and inclusivity (D&I) training sessions for our team — one for the Brooklyn office and a separate gathering just for our leadership team. This way everyone was on the same page, but leadership received the specialized training they needed to help guide their teams.
Building a collaborative initiative
I created a presentation including our current diversity statistics, the importance of D&I at work, sample objectives for each business unit, and a company mission for 2019. My goal for this presentation was to move beyond being a Black/Latinx woman telling people about a problem, and really show the team how drastic the disparity was and how badly it needed to be fixed. Because the numbers spoke for themselves.
I created a spreadsheet with all these sample objectives as a way to excite the team and help them brainstorm, and I put together a company mission for 2019 that emphasized inclusion for Black and Latinx people and women. This company mission was technically limited to a calendar year but included provisions that created a foundation for future efforts. This work is never done.
I took all of these materials and met with each unit lead three times — once to go through my presentation, a second to collaborate on creating objectives for their team, and a final meeting after they had shared these objectives with the team so I could approve the project plans around each goal.
While this was happening, Prolific’s CEO started donating his time to causes that encourage diversity in tech. He volunteered at Black Girls Code and started working on projects that help social causes in the Black community.
Driving the vision forward
He also set an objective for the leadership team in regards to diversifying their network. This was/is really exciting, because D&I goes beyond work — it starts in your personal life. Expanding your network to include a range of people from multiple backgrounds is going to affect the way you hire and the way you do business. Some could say this is the start of everything. It was great to have our CEO leading by example in that way.
Our sales team got on board, too, and has started looking for ways to market our services to a range of consumers. Practicing diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do for lots of reasons, but this may be the area where it makes the most direct financial sense. If 50% of New York City is Black and Latinx, and we’re missing out on that? Hello! By expanding our service offering and marketing to include move diverse demographics, we give ourselves more chances to succeed as a business. Prolific has created sales goals in line with these values so we keep pushing the needle forward.
We’ve come a long way with diversity and inclusivity at work, but we still have a long way to go. If you are reading this and still don’t know where to start, take a look at your network — is it diverse? If most of the people you work with look and act like you, that’s not great. Try attending a conference or event that focuses on diversity and inclusivity. Share what you learn. Make an effort to ensure your workplace is a safe space for everyone to share ideas, grow, fail, and succeed.
Diverse and inclusive teams are better teams. I’m fighting for this at Prolific, and you can do it where you work, too. Black History Month may serve as a reminder of all the brutal work and sacrifice it took to get us where we are, but for me, it’s also an inspiration to keep pushing for more.