First, the facts:
Our latest survey conducted a few weeks ago showed that 20% of our team identify as people of color, a near doubling from this time last year.
This hasn’t just happened: along with so many other organizations, we took a hard look at ourselves during the “Great Awakening” of 2020, and we undertook measures to diversify our talent pipeline and move closer to our goal, which is to have the racial makeup of our team reflect the makeup of the country—as fast as is legally, ethically, and practically possible. Specific steps we have taken include:
- Relying less on referrals and more on energetic sourcing from new-to-us candidate pools;
- Re-writing our job descriptions for inclusivity (e.g. removing qualifications that aren’t strictly speaking necessary);
- Mandating a diverse slate for internal interview loops; and
- Rolling out a series of monthly meetups designed to raise awareness and fluency around equity issues.
Next, some texture:
Taking a company that for much of its 25+ years was built via word of mouth among a small group of technical writers and throwing it open to the wider world has been both thrilling and fraught. As we have grown, in size and in the diversity of our team members, we have undoubtedly become stronger. Things have also become more complicated.
To illustrate: a few months ago, I shared an article on Slack about the fact that “Zoom fatigue,” while hard on everyone, is worse for women and people of color. After posting the piece, I wondered out loud whether we should switch from video to voice-only as our default meeting mode, forgetting for a moment that our COO Katelyn Reilly, who relies on hearing aids, experiences considerably more fatigue without the added cues that come from lip reading and body language.
The various conversations that followed are in my view the real work of DEI. Operational changes can be mandated easily enough, but navigating the resulting stresses on individuals demands—from everyone involved!—courage, candor, vulnerability, and compromise. Not once a year at a woodsy retreat guided by a skilled facilitator, but day in and day out, even as the tasks at hand press in.
This painstaking and emotional work—figuring out how to balance competing needs on a team that is increasingly diverse in ways seen and unseen—doesn’t lend itself to social media posts, and it doesn’t move the needle quickly. But what it does do, from what I’m seeing, is effect real change, slowly but meaningfully and in a way that I believe will be enduring.
Have a question about our DEI goals, practices, or progress? Please ask! I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone wants to engage on this topic, so I rarely single anyone out for a discussion—but I am passionate about this work, and I welcome questions, challenges, and the opportunity to learn from any corner: colleagues, consultants, candidates, clients, competitors, and the broader content community. I can be reached directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org; alternatively, anonymous feedback can be submitted here (the first four questions relate to our DEI meetups, but the fifth and final question is open-ended).
Thanks for reading,
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash