4 NYC Leaders Share How All Employees Can Move the Needle on DEI

How employees can begin creating the change they want to see.
Written by Colin Hanner
May 26, 2021Updated: May 27, 2021

It’s indisputable that employees want their workplaces to be more diverse, inclusive and equitable. 

But for members of teams that aren’t in leadership or talent acquisition and human resources roles — that is, the positions that make commitments to hiring and retaining more diverse candidates and actually play a role in the hiring process — driving change from a grassroots level can seem like a futile endeavor. 

“What difference can I make?” the logic goes. In workplace cultures that don’t encourage independent contributors to speak their piece, the sentiment can feel overwhelmingly true. 

But at the following four NYC companies, leaders say that employees of all tenure and status can make their voices heard. Paired with larger diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives, they feel empowered to make their workplaces more reflective of their values.




rhino interviewee

Self-identification can drive an inclusive culture 

“As we continue to navigate in a virtual and hybrid world, one concrete action an individual contributor can take to bring about meaningful change at Rhino is voluntary self-identification. Individuals have a unique and meaningful power when voluntarily self-identifying on our social channels, i.e. listing pronouns in Slack, Zoom and email.

“As we continue to scale, creating an inclusive virtual and hybrid culture will be the driver of positive change — both in meaningful conversations and education, increased employee engagement, improved sense of belonging, strategic DEI programming, and so much more. 

“We also acknowledge that not everyone is at the same level of readiness. It’s equally important to focus on the underlying reasons for those who do not disclose and do not volunteer to self-identify. We acknowledge that dimensions of identity are deeply personal, sensitive and are not just about legal compliance. We look forward to creating an inspirational and mission-driven culture where we celebrate our individual self in a safe and encouraging environment.”

Juls Fleury is the VP of people operations at Rhino, an insurtech startup that provides security deposit insurance renters can use in lieu of cash, offering tenants a product that can substitute for a traditional deposit in exchange for a monthly fee.



Everyone has the power to influence change 

“As individuals, we’re all responsible for creating diverse, equitable and inclusive environments, no matter our position or department in a company. If we want to ‘live and breathe’ a culture of belonging, we should start by thinking about how we can influence change: recognizing the humanity of all people, caring for our environment and being aware of our interconnectedness as human beings.

“As individual contributors, everything we do has an impact and influences everyone around us. One concrete action we can take is to look at our day to day and see what we can do to create an inclusive environment. Take the 10 percent rule approach: You can stretch 10 percent out of your comfort zone to make a change. It can be something as simple as recognizing the need for learning and awareness for yourself or others. Or, If you witness a non-inclusive behavior, you can kindly intervene with the goal of always helping others be more aware of how their behaviors could have been perceived by another person. 

“You can connect with your human resource business partners (HRBP) or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) team to ask for training and resources. Bring up your ideas, from volunteer activities to connecting the company to guest speakers and content that speaks to you.”

Florencia Ballester is a people partner at Wix, a platform that empowers any business or individual to build their online presence and be successful. 


unqork interviewee

Make an impact by being present 

“Outside of my day job, I also serve as the president of Unqork’s AAPI Employee Resource Strategy Group, Subtle Asian Qorks. Our group comes together to share and celebrate our Asian experience and support one another. 

“One concrete action I’ve taken is to volunteer my time. Through volunteering my time, I have learned how to be an effective ally who can contribute to a diverse and inclusive environment. The way to make an impact in your community is by being present in your community!”

Jin Lee is an account-based marketing manager at Unqork, a no-code platform that empowers enterprises to build complex software without a single line of code. 



Connect with key stakeholders

“As an individual contributor, it’s important to take the initiative to connect with stakeholders across teams to see how they are aligning their work with DEI in mind. For example, an IC can meet with the marketing team to see how representative their external communication strategy is, reach out to people operations to see if they have internal or external programming planned around important culture moments, and also ensuring that there is representation at all levels for different functional areas.

Many ICs also come together to form internal, employee-led employee resource groups around a shared identity or background. Leading these ERGs in strong partnership with executive stakeholders can help identify the many opportunities to improve DEI and belonging.”

Jasmine Saavedra is a senior program manager at Skillshare, an online learning community for creatives. 


Jobs from companies in this blog

NYC startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in NYC
Coolest Tech Offices in NYC
Best Benefits at NYC Tech Companies
Women in NYC Tech