Want to Double-Down on Your DEI Efforts? Take a Page Out of BCGDV’s Book.
Kiera Vinson was thrilled to start her new role as BCG Digital Ventures’ first North America diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) manager in June, a brand new position that the company created to boost its DEI efforts.
Three months in? Vinson is happy to report that she feels fully supported in her work as she collaborates with an extended global team that is committed to BCGDV’s DEI vision.
“I absolutely don’t feel like DEI is solely my responsibility here,” Vinson said. “And that’s super important to BCGDV’s work, because DEI isn’t its own function — it’s a combination of people, talent and some of our venture work. It has to be collaborative, and it’s been very collaborative so far.”
Collaborative, with a good track record of being DEI-conscious.
Raakhi Agrawal, a director of growth at BCGDV, said that in her four years with the company, she’s celebrated numerous Pride Months and Black History Months. She describes BCGDV as an organization that challenges and delights its employees by offering programming that elevates diverse perspectives through inspiring and engaging community events, workshops and training. This year they hosted events for employees to discuss racial equity, explore the intersection of social media and social justice movements, learn about allyship and celebrate the accomplishments of historical figures who aren’t widely known.
Agrawal has been an active participant in a handful of the company’s affinity groups, such as DV Women, and said BCGDV is always looking to recognize the diversity of its team.
“I remember being in a board meeting when it was Ramadan, and there was no food or water on the table in front of us,” Agrawal said. “Nothing. It was because we were being respectful of the people who were fasting and observing the holiday.”
But even with its strong DEI foundation, the company has known that it could make improvements. During the racial unrest in the summer of 2020, BCGDV created a racial equity task force that holds regular leadership meetings to discuss DEI initiatives, business opportunities, and provide facetime with leaders from various employee resource groups (ERGs). And now, with the hiring of Vinson, the company is doubling-down on its DEI efforts.
Built In NYC sat down with Vinson and two of her colleagues to learn how BCGDV is boosting representation through its hiring efforts, and how the company is training its leaders to create a more equitable workplace.
WHAT THEY DO
What are some areas that BCGDV is looking to improve upon when it comes to DEI?
Ian Maron, director of people and talent for BCGDV North America: Feelings of inclusion. Despite our DEI base, not everybody has felt a strong sense of inclusion, and now, we’ve set goals to ensure that we’re bringing in people from different backgrounds to support our dynamic community. We are firm believers that when we measure our progress in areas like gender diversity in roles, and hiring of multicultural talent, we hold ourselves accountable and can make sure we are getting done what we have committed to. Since 2018, we have doubled our percentages of women and Black and Latinx employees at BCGDV. In addition, we’ve been working with Converge Firm, which helps companies drive systematic change in the workplace, and they’ve hosted multiple training sessions and workshops to support our DEI goals.
Despite our DEI base, not everybody has felt a strong sense of inclusion, and now, we’ve set goals to ensure that we’re bringing in people from different backgrounds to support our dynamic community. ’’
We also have a three pillar strategy to help push us toward our goals internally and externally. For BCGDV, this means diversity, racial equity and inclusion drive our business practices and work we pursue. We also focus on deploying our resources for systemic and social change. We are investing more than $3 million in racial equity work at the moment as a result. Our third pillar of work focuses on fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture because we know we need to model the culture we want to see internally in order to do our best work externally.
How do you enable leaders to recognize and eliminate bias, and drive inclusive teams?
Kiera Vinson, diversity, equity and inclusion manager: As Ian mentioned, we’ve had some workshops with Converge Firm. I just attended an anti-racism workshop a couple of weeks ago, along with an allyship in the workplace workshop. The unconscious bias training was also really helpful.
Acknowledging some of the prejudices in society and how they show up, and making commitments to actively interrupt our biases, was powerful. The idea is to make sure that we are providing consistent experiences for those who are being interviewed. We’ve talked a lot about how our biases show up in interviews, and how not to assume people’s pronouns or life experiences. It all goes back to creating an environment of learning, and then applying those learnings. I try to ensure our DEI team encourages vulnerability and learning in other ways as well.
For example, our team holds weekly office hours where anyone can put time on our calendar to have confidential conversations about inclusion and equity in the workplace. We’ve also had coaching and advising conversations often centering around practices that support inclusive team and client dynamics and how to create psychological safety on these teams.
It all goes back to creating an environment of learning, and then applying those learnings.’’
Maron: When problems come up or mistakes happen, we talk about them. That’s critical. You can raise people’s awareness, you can provide formal training, but the theory at a certain point has to meet the practice.
On one of our projects, a person raised a concern about how they were being treated, and we addressed it head on. Those conflicts are going to happen. We are imperfect humans, and we all make mistakes. But when those mistakes happen, we have to acknowledge them and talk about them, and then move forward together. I think that’s been a special part of how we’ve transformed some of the culture within BCGDV.
BLACK EQUITY AT WORK CERTIFICATION
When it comes to hiring, how has BCGDV made an effort to create more female, Black and Latinx representation?
Raakhi Agrawal, director of growth: We’ve always had goals to have parity in our workforce, where everyone is provided equal access to opportunities and there is no bias toward a particular gender or ethnicity. But we are acutely aware of the factors that may influence someone against submitting an application for a position. Studies have shown that women tend to not apply for a job unless they feel overqualified, while men will apply even if they lack specific job requirements. This has created a disparity in the talent pool. But once we started going after people that had the talent instead of waiting for them to apply, that’s when we saw a big difference in our parity. Of the 10 people I’ve recently hired in the past six months, half of them are women. And that’s not because we sought that number. It just happened because we’ve gone after the talent when we saw a good fit. At BCGDV, we aim to attract multi-disciplinary talent who are qualified for a job, regardless of ethnicity or gender.
We also know it’s important to support our talent pool when they begin working at BCGDV. During onboarding, we have a DEI session where we review ways new hires can engage in our DEI work, connect over shared identities and experiences and appreciate differences as well. Black and Latinx employees, specifically, also have access to our ERG buddy program. We match new Black and Latinx hires with a Black or Latinx DVer involved in our Black and Latinx ERGs. This experienced buddy can provide a safe and open space for a new hire to answer questions and to navigate a new working environment.
At BCGDV, we aim to attract multi-disciplinary talent who are qualified for a job, regardless of ethnicity or gender.’’
Maron: Part of our work is having the right partners, and finding and bringing in the right people from diverse organizations. We’re working on a partnership with the National Black MBA Association. We just hired an intern who came through PledgeLA, which is a coalition of tech companies and venture capital firms working to increase DEI in tech. We have another partnership with a network called Techqueria, which focuses on Latinx technologists, and specifically, bringing in women product managers who are Latinx. One of our most important programs this past year has been creating a Champion Program, specifically for Black talent. That means there’s a senior leader that is acting as a champion for Black talent, and we’re expanding that program to other people from underrepresented groups.
The Champion Program supports mentorship and leadership development opportunities for our talent to ensure they receive advisory and can build careers as unique as the ventures we launch. What we’ve found is that when employees feel as if they are included and respected, they are more productive, loyal and become our best brand advocates. We strive to build a culture of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong and bring value to the business.
What are some examples of DEI in practice that you are involved in at DV?
Vinson: I’m involved in the employee resource group Black Employee Network (BEN). That’s been a great resource, especially since I virtually onboarded. I feel like I have a community within that group. We not only have happy hours, but we also have learning events where we can be introspective as well as challenge each other in our thinking. I recently joined a session which provided actionable advice on how to advocate for myself in the context of performance reviews and express what I need to succeed with my peers and management. Having leadership promote this work shows how much the company is invested in its people.
Agrawal: I have always been involved in DV Women, our employee resource group for women. Last year, I started a virtual mentorship program for DV Women to mentor other women who are more junior in their careers. That was really rewarding. We also have social events. We did a book swap during the holidays last year, and a wine tasting event hosted by a Black female business owner. For the book exchange, we seek out local book shops that are female-owned or Black-owned so we can support the community.
Maron: I am involved in the Champion Program and act as a champion to one of our talented employees. Acting as a sounding board and providing mentorship and sponsorship in the workplace for others has been very fulfilling for me. I also participate in our ERGs as a member of DV Pride and ally for DV Women and Black Employee Network (BEN).