About Project Include
Companies should improve opportunities for all employees, including all underrepresented groups. Including everyone is actually easier in the long-term and intrinsically more equitable — especially for those in more than one underrepresented group, who suffer even greater consequences.
A one-off initiative approach simply cannot achieve systemic change; in many cases it does harm. An effective solution covers all aspects of a company — its culture, its operations and its team. The CEO has to drive multiple, sustained efforts, a comprehensive approach, and a long-term commitment.
Companies and their executives should hold themselves accountable by tracking results using comprehensive surveys and benchmarks. They can show you how you’re doing, where you can improve, and who needs to improve.
Studies quantify the financial benefits of racial, ethnic and gender diversity1 — and the many ways diversity improves company performance.2 And despite all this information, our diversity problem in the United States tech industry is hard to change. Research shows how bias results in discrimination in educating, hiring, promoting, paying, and funding underrepresented people of color in tech;3 tech company data show the extreme lack of diversity of employees and management.4
Change is hard, especially around a multidimensional issue like diversity. It is easy for all of us to become defensive and emotional, to shift the blame to others, and to feel fundamentally unheard or misunderstood. It is so uncomfortable for us to talk about the diversity problem that we have not been able to acknowledge it in full.
Though startups are making an effort to implement diversity improvement strategies, the reality is that most are taking limited, potentially harmful actions, including one-off training5, blaming the pipeline, using language like “lowering the bar,” describing the current state of the tech industry as a “meritocracy,” and focusing on gender while maintaining insider-outsider distinctions. Unfortunately, we have seen tech culture become even more exclusive and less diverse over the last five years.6
We want to help. We convened as a group of tech women to move diversity forward by facilitating hard conversations and redirecting efforts. We’d like to bring together the most innovative CEOs to design initiatives with lasting and meaningful impact—ones that drive the greatest possible improvements over time, inspire even more ambitious efforts, and transform behavior and expectations across the tech industry.
We are focusing on CEOs and management of early to mid-stage tech startups, where we believe change is possible and can have a broad impact even beyond the industry. We know how hard change and making tradeoffs are from our own experiences. Implementing these values for diversity and inclusion requires hard work across an entire company; reversing a culture is even more difficult, nuanced, and time consuming. We also know if a CEO isn’t invested in the success of D&I, these programs will not succeed.
There is no silver bullet to blast or standard checklist for you to follow. We provide a framework for making better decisions, share recommendations, and provide additional resources. We sign on as individuals independent of our employers and affiliations, but share experiences and knowledge from building, advising, hiring, and inspiring teams and companies over the past several decades.
We want CEOs to view Project Include as a trusted resource for creating meaningful solutions and to tailor our recommendations to their startups and situations. Long-term solutions look at: Does the percentage of underrepresented employees of color resemble the country’s labor market demographics?7 Does the employee base include people of all ages, parents, disabled people, veterans, LGBQTA people, and immigrants? Does your company treat part-time, remote workers and independent contractors fairly? Are underrepresented groups, including those in multiple groups who tend to be penalized twice,8 at parity in pay and in representation in leadership roles?
The CEO can’t do it alone. We want to give employees — including Diversity & Inclusion and People Operations leads — ways to convince others, especially CEOs who have not yet made diversity a priority. We want every tech employee to understand how diversity and inclusion helps everyone when designed thoughtfully. We also urge VCs and universities to use their considerable influence to accelerate change.
Gender-diverse companies show a 15 percent likelihood of financial outperformance, and ethnically diverse companies show 35 percent.
Hunt, V., Layton, D., and Prince, S. (January 2015). “Why diversity matters.” McKinsey and Company. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters ↩
Catalyst. (October 1 2014). “Diversity Matters.” New York: Catalyst. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/diversity-matters ↩
Williams, J., Phillips, K., and Hall, E. (2014). “Double Jeopardy? Bias Against Women of Color In Science.” Berkeley, Ca.: Hastings College of Law. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.uchastings.edu/news/articles/2015/01/double-jeopardy-report.pdf ↩
Miller, D. (July 10 2015). “Tech Companies Spend Big Money on Bias Training — But It Hasn’t Improved Diversity Numbers.” The Conversation. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://theconversation.com/tech-companies-spend-big-money-on-bias-training-but-it-hasnt-improved-diversity-numbers-44411
Kang, S., DeCelles, K., Tilcsik, A., and Jun, S. (March 29 2016). “The Unintended Consequences of Diversity Statements.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 2016 from: https://hbr.org/2016/03/the-unintended-consequences-of-diversity-statements ↩
Miley, L. (November 3 2015). “Thoughts on Diversity Part 2: Why Diversity is Difficult.” Tech Diversity Files, Medium. Retrieved April 2016 from: https://medium.com/tech-diversity-files/thought-on-diversity-part-2-why-diversity-is-difficult-3dfd552fa1f7#.3b9gwynyp
Noguchi, Y. (September 1 2015). “How Startups Are Using Tech to Try and Fight Workplace Bias.” NPR Codeswitch. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/09/01/434896292/how-startups-are-using-tech-to-mitigate-workplace-bias ↩
Ideally these numbers would be weighted to consider market disparities like the racialized unemployment rate.
Thompson, D. (November 2013). “The Workforce Is Even More Divided By Race Than You Think.” The Atlantic. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/the-workforce-is-even-more-divided-by-race-than-you-think/281175/ ↩
For example, white men are 41 percent more likely to be executives than white women. It goes up to 260 percent more likely than Asian women, 418 percent than Black women, and 438 percent than LatinX women.
Gee, B., Peck, D., and Wong, J. (May 2015). “Hidden in Plain Sight: Asian American Leaders in Silicon Valley.” Ascend Pan-Asian Leaders. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/ascendleadership.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/Research/HiddenInPlainSight_Paper_042.pdf ↩