Original photo by Brooke Novak, modified a little by me.

Diversity First

“…can you recommend any photographers of color in Oakland?”

That was the message I got from my significant other, B, one morning several months ago. This wasn’t a casual question. In the middle of the work day, he is very much about business and this was no exception. The company he co-founded, Clef, was updating their web presence and wanted to include pictures of the team on their site. Being the CEO of a small startup includes many tasks, and one of his tasks was to find a photographer for this project.

The Bay Area is full of photographers. Throw a burrito in any direction in San Francisco and you’ll probably piss someone off for getting queso fresco on their brand new lens. Finding a competent, if not very good photographer to do business photos could be as easy as ordering Instacart. Could be. The demographics of the Bay Area are what they are, and finding a photographer from an underrepresented group increases the difficulty level of that search quite a bit.

Because he counts diversity and inclusion among his personal core beliefs, B chose not to take the easy route, opting instead for a diversity first approach. His first priority was to make sure underrepresented groups were well represented in his candidate pool, even for a role as seemingly minor as a photographer hired to take team pictures.

This is what it looks like when “commitment to diversity” goes beyond the first baby steps of unconscious bias training and recruiting. Making sure diversity permeates all aspects of the business, voting with dollars to support other companies who value diversity, making diversity the first thought in the decision making process, all these things are how a company builds not only a diverse environment, but an inclusive environment.

Thinking about and prioritizing diversity first may take a little more time and it may make an easy task a little more difficult, but important changes rarely come easily and there is no more important change in the tech industry right now than changing how we view, interact with, work with, support, and show up for underrepresented groups.