The Number One Diversity in Tech Issue These Companies Face — and How They’re Tackling It

by Madeline Hester
November 19, 2019

New York City is made up of dozens of small neighborhoods that represent cultures across the globe. From Chinatown to Little Italy, Spanish Harlem to Little Senegal, you can see the world within a few square miles. 

In the tech world, you generally have to search a lot farther to find a vast range of backgrounds. Lack of diversity negatively impacts both businesses and their users. For example, you can’t expect a company to create a centralized database of best NYC pizza restaurants if their employees never leave Manhattan: the best slice might be in Queens but you wouldn’t know it unless you hire the locals.  

Luckily, plenty of tech companies are stepping up to challenge the status quo. We spoke to three New York-based companies about the concrete actions they’re taking to attract (and hire) a more diverse workforce.  

 

flatiron
flatiron health

Flatiron Health knows that when it comes to fighting cancer, there’s a lot of departments at work. Their shared platform connects oncologists, academics, hospitals, life science researchers and regulators to make communication easier. 

Chief People Officer Carol Jensen explained how setting D&I goals for the company helps hold the business accountable in affecting change in its workforce.

 

Diversity, and the tech industry’s lack of it, is a topic that isn’t going away anytime soon. But headway is being made thanks to companies that identify their own issues and work intentionally to remedy them. What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing?

Flatiron is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion. A diverse workforce will allow Flatiron to more quickly and efficiently advance our mission to improve lives by learning from the experience of every cancer patient. While we have made progress in some areas, we will always have more work to do. 

We have clear goals to identify and reach out to qualified black and LatinX candidates to increase the representation of these employees at the company and within leadership. We are also looking to place an emphasis on identifying qualified women for our software engineering team. We remain focused on creating an inclusive place and have outlined clear inclusion metrics we would like to reach. 

Our employees are passionate about D&I and think about how the lens can be applied to the work they do. During our quarterly hackathons, employees have driven projects focused on everything from building features in our products to support our diverse patient population, to analyzing data to better understand and reduce disparities in care. 

We believe in removing barriers wherever possible to create a more representative, diverse workplace.

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue? 

We set goals around representation and inclusion to hold ourselves accountable. In order to increase representation, we spend time understanding and developing our pipeline. We track and monitor population data, build relationships with diverse communities and leverage diversity-focused talent platforms to attract underrepresented talent. 

We believe in removing barriers wherever possible to create a more representative, diverse workplace. We take a competency-based approach to hiring and use this same objective framework in performance reviews and promotion decisions. We also spend time training hiring managers on unconscious bias and other key D&I concepts to promote equity and mitigate bias. 

To cultivate an inclusive culture we spend time engaging with the Flatiron community. The people team partners with our cross-functional inclusion working group and our employee resource groups (ERGs) to drive an inclusive culture with various events throughout the year including quarterly article discussions and our annual diversity & inclusion week. 

 

vts
vts

VTS wants to revolutionize the real estate market but creating an easy-to-use leasing and asset management platform. Vice President of People Jess Scott told us that creating D&I initiatives and partnering with diversity organizations helps ensure all qualified candidates get equal opportunities. 

 

What’s the biggest diversity issue your company is currently facing?

As a company, one of our biggest initiatives has been diversity and inclusion. This starts by addressing the challenges internally and changing behavior and attitudes internally. We made a very intentional investment in D&I in 2017 by creating a diversity working group and bringing on an expert D&I consultant. We have been working with for over two years to create our strategic diversity and inclusion program that creates accountability at all levels of our organization.

Our biggest challenge, like many companies, has been creating a diverse pipeline of candidates. We have approached this challenge by creating a culture where everyone can bring a full expression of themselves including their unique experiences, thoughts and backgrounds to their work. 

We created a value-based interview to mitigate bias and to give candidates a sense of our values...

 

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue?

We have committed to deep and meaningful programming and partnerships to help drive a long-term commitment and culture where D&I is front and center.

First, all employees participate in mandatory unconscious bias training. We also re-architected our interview process to be structured and behavioral. We created a value-based interview to mitigate bias and to give candidates a sense of our values and what we care about as an organization. Also, we created a D&I toolkit for all current employees and new hires to help guide the way we expect employees to be inclusive and respectful of their peers.

We created partnerships with D&I organizations like She Builds Black (a community of women of color in tech who work together to support and advance each other's careers), and WiSE (a community of women and allies that supports the empowerment and equal representation of women and other minority groups in engineering), as well as other nonprofits. 

We also launched a big partnership with Out in Tech, a nonprofit focused on uniting the LGBTQ+ tech community by creating opportunities for its 30,000+ members to advance their careers. 

 

harrys
harry's

Harry’s isn’t your father’s shaving kit. With rapid growth and a recent expansion into the female shaving market, the packaged-goods company is gaining new customers every day. Head of Talent Acquisition Greg Vargas told us that interview training and diverse panel compositions are key to  their non-biased interview process.

 

Diversity, and the tech industry’s lack of it, is a topic that isn’t going away anytime soon. 

At Harry’s, we have been very intentional in casting a wider net to attract and recruit a diverse pool of candidates. We are also acutely aware, however, that recruiting is only one part of the equation for building and maintaining a diverse workforce. For us, ensuring that all of our employees feel they belong at Harry’s is critical.

Feeling connected to where you work and the people you work with is an important part of our culture. Also, feeling safe to voice a different point of view is critical for growing our business.   

Feeling connected to where you work and the people you work with is an important part of our culture.

What concrete, actionable steps are you taking to tackle this issue? 

Some of the recent initiatives Harry’s has undertaken to ensure a robust, diverse and inclusive approach to recruiting include unconscious bias training in interviews, designing clear onsite interview prep guides to ensure that all candidates have a clear sense as to what to expect during their interviews and how best to prepare for an onsite visit. We also have hiring manager training and a process that helps eliminate bias (role-specific scorecards and consistent questions presented to all candidates). Lastly, we have diverse interview panel compositions.

Once an employee is onboarded, we promote an inclusive environment by championing our employee resource groups (ERGs). Harry’s currently has six ERGs, each sponsored by a member of Harry’s executive team. We consult with and leverage our ERGs when rolling out our people processes to ensure that these are thoughtful and inclusive. Finally, we ensure all new hires are signed up for interview training (including unconscious bias training) within the first few months of joining the company. 

 

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