Black Lives Matter: One-Year Retrospective of HubSpot’s Commitments to Drive Change
By Katie Burke, HubSpot Chief People Officer
Last year, it became clearer than ever that HubSpot has a responsibility to drive real, substantial change and equity for the Black community. We learned through many conversations and listening sessions with our Black employees, customers, and partners that while we deeply value diversity, inclusion, and belonging, we weren’t taking enough action to make a lasting impact.
Our CEO Brian Halligan published Black Lives Matter: An Open Letter to the HubSpot Community, based on his learnings from those conversations. The letter outlines how we, as an organization, would endeavor to be catalysts for anti-racism. Internally, we shared an action plan with employees that was built based on feedback and ideas from Black HubSpotters. At the time, we felt the world was at a pivotal inflection point, and we wanted to ensure our commitments as a company were long-term, high-impact, and rooted in real impact for BIPOC inclusion and advancement. He noted that real progress would be defined by how we track toward our goals in five years, and the degree to which that progress would make future generations of HubSpotters and their families proud.
That remains true today one year later.
Our guiding principle with this action plan has been to walk the walk on driving long-term change. And in true HubSpot fashion, we want to be transparent about our progress on that goal, and so we shared last year that we would provide annual updates on our progress. With Brian still recovering from a snowmobiling accident, I wanted to provide an update on some of our most meaningful initiatives so far, and reiterate our commitment that anti-racism and fighting racial injustice is a long-term commitment for our company and for our leadership team.
We chose key pillars to focus on in our work on this front: Investment, Inclusion, Impact, as well as a foundation of Introspection across all three pillars. Here’s a summary of the progress we’ve made in each of these areas since June 2020, followed by how we’ll continue this work in 2021:
In December 2020, HubSpot invested $20 Million in the Black Economic Development Fund, part of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). What’s transformative about LISC is that it’s creating economic impact in Black communities around the United States that can truly help close the racial wealth gap long-term. We are incredibly proud to be part of the important work LISC is doing, and to be part of creating meaningful change with our investments in this space. In addition, Howard University and HubSpot have been partnering for years on things like guest lectures and recruiting, but in November 2020 we made our partnership official by launching the Center for Digital Business at Howard. This investment will support Howard’s work developing the next generation of Black business leaders in the digital space. The first for-credit courses happened this spring, and we feel honored to be partnering with the esteemed faculty, staff, students, and alumni at Howard to make this venture a living, breathing partnership with continued impact.
We’ve always strived to create an environment that is inclusive to everyone, but the feedback we heard from BIPOC employees last year was clear: we needed to be more vocal and consistent about the fact that we value anti-racism as a core value at HubSpot. Fast forward to one year later: HubSpot now has a required anti-racism training for both individual contributors and for managers that an incredible team of HubSpotters built in-house. The course is delivered as part of global onboarding to HubSpot with ~94% completion as of June 2021. But our inclusion work hasn’t stopped there. Last year also marked the formation of BLACKhub, our Black employee resource group (ERG), which now has active members globally and a leadership council supported by executive sponsors, as well as access to additional coaching and mentorship for our BIPOC employees.
One area we set out to make progress on in 2020 was representation at our Board level. We appointed Nick Caldwell, VP of Engineering at Twitter, to HubSpot’s Board of Directors in January 2021. We’re grateful to have not only his technical expertise, but also his advocacy for career advancement for Black people in the tech space through his work with organizations including /dev/color, where he’s also a Board member. Additionally, our diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts must be global in nature, and many of our initial plays have been focused specifically on North America. That’s why, to ensure our efforts are more globally inclusive long-term, we introduced the HubSpot Black Advisory Board. The Board features four amazing senior leaders from external companies globally who have already helped us identify gaps and opportunities for inclusion in how we build products, culture, and our company. Beyond HubSpot, we’ve also made meaningful efforts to actively promote voting rights in local and national elections, and to raise awareness for voter suppression that disproportionately impacts BIPOC voters.
I’m incredibly proud of the promises we made last year, and of the follow through we’ve demonstrated one year since Brian’s Open Letter. At the same time, Brian’s sentiment is even more prescient now than it was then: our investment in BIPOC communities, businesses, candidates, employees, customers, and partners is a decades-long journey. We are just getting started.
So in 2021, we’re going to continue to build on the investments we made over the past year by doubling down on our partnership with Howard University, LISC, and our Boards, as well as expanding our anti-racism content for employees and BLACKhub programming. Additionally, we’ll be focused on solving for gaps in our action plan now including:
- Investing in BIPOC Employee Retention & Growth: We haven’t done enough formal programming for our BIPOC employees to support their growth and career advancement. We’re proud of the mentorship program we introduced in the past year, but we need to do more. That’s why we’re launching an additional, multi-faceted initiative focused specifically on BIPOC employee retention in Q3 of this year.
- Helping Black Professionals Grow: We recently launched the external Black@INBOUND community and the Breaking the Blueprint content series for Black businesses. These initiatives will become even bigger, more robust aspects of our marketing efforts as a company, in addition to being a proud sponsor of Afrotech 2021.
- Infusing Accountability Into Allyship: Allyship is a continued practice, and last year’s pop in global interest for allyship was an important moment to raise awareness. But what we need more than anything is the continued, sustained hard work of sponsorship, advocacy, and inclusion of our BIPOC employees. We have more work to do to ensure this is a reality at HubSpot, and in holding managers and leaders accountable for building more inclusive teams. Our goal this year is to be intentional and intersectional, particularly given the increased violence over the last year toward the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
It’s important to note that these three pillars of our work all started, and will continue, with another important “I”: introspection. Looking inward to vulnerably assess your company, culture, and commitments is an often-overlooked element of this work. And, we believe it’s one of the most important. At HubSpot, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made on diversity over the last five years, but the feedback from our employees and community showed us that it’s necessary but not sufficient. That’s why we’ll continue to actively listen and learn from our BIPOC employees, customers, and partners, and hold ourselves accountable to sustaining action.
One year from now, we’ll share another update on our progress here. In the meantime, we’ll be focused on walking the walk, following the advice of the late John Lewis: “Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change, and know that this transformation will not happen right away.” Real change won’t happen overnight, but we’re proud to share our journey with you.
Learn more about HubSpot’s Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging efforts at hubspot.com/careers/diversity