Not a Black Chair.
Amélie Lamont

I forwarded Amélie’s post to the diversity mailing list at Airbnb with the following foreword. Posting it openly in the hopes others will find my analysis helpful.

What struck me on reading this post is that there were so many turning points where the company and individual actors could have done right by Amélie, but didn’t.

Additional observations:
1. Advancement at Squarespace (like many other startups) seems to be strongly tied to manager’s perception, i.e. opportunities were disbursed opaquely and unfairly without clear criteria. This means that people with more access to unofficial social networks were able to be more
successful. As startups grow, be aware of the drawbacks of a ‘flat structure’ in ensuring the equity of success.

2. The organization lacked understanding of HR best practices in terms of incident response. Nobody knew what to do when the ‘HR woman’ went on holiday — they should have known that the VP of finance would not be equipped, even the company lawyer would be better. It’s important for everyone to know what a good escalation / incident handling process is and not permit deviations. Obviously, managers should receive training on this, but this also needs to be communicated to everyone (during orientation or otherwise).

3. As a follow up to #2, the company chose not to treat victims fairly versus reducing liability. This is a common thread across the different incidents that are outlined — e.g. the ‘apology’ email doesn’t document what
happened even in broad detail nor accept responsibility. We have no
way to know for certain what the motivations were, but we can only
assume it is to sweep it under the rug altogether to protect ‘Kelly’.

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