Tips for CEOs on Diversity and Inclusion

A few quick and easy todo items that create immediate impact

When I read articles or interviews about building culture, the suggestions are often obscure or hard to replicate. But what can I do today, in the next five minutes, to jumpstart our diversity and inclusion efforts? The tips below aren’t meant to be a comprehensive framework or an aspirational manifesto, so stop reading now if you’re on an inspiration hunt! This is just a simple but highly functional handful of easy todo items for your D&I efforts.

#1 Talk about diversity and inclusion on every call with executive recruiters. If you say it at the beginning of your contract, whoopee. Everyone forgets about it next week, and then you’re left with a typically homogenous pipeline of candidates. Say it every call, every meeting. “We need a more diverse pipeline — diversity and inclusion is important to me and to the company, and I’m not satisfied with the diversity of our current pipe.” It’s an easy sentence to say, and that one sentence, repeated once per week, will go a long way.

#2 Build diverse interview teams for executive roles. If your company is mostly men, make sure to have women on the interview team. While you don’t want to “tokenize” someone for their identity, it’s important to show potential candidates that you’re making an effort. If you want to attract executives who value diversity, then build a system that leads to diverse interviewing teams without “tokenizing” people.

#3 Follow some diversity and inclusion advocates on Twitter. You’ll learn a lot about the language, culture, and community efforts around D&I. Plus, it fills your feed (and brain) with reminders about D&I. This was a big one — I didn’t realize how much it would help. Here are a few suggestions from Maura Church, a data scientist at Patreon, for who to follow: @EricaJoy, @ekp, and @6Gems.

#4 Talk about Diversity and Inclusion at All Hands. I will probably get creamed for saying this, but as a CEO, I’ve felt a little scared to talk about diversity and inclusion — not because I don’t want a more diverse team, but because I’ve been afraid to use the wrong language or say the wrong thing. My guess is that this is a common sentiment among many CEOs in tech. That fear will CRUSH YOU. Don’t give in to it. Talk about D&I. You might say something funky every once in a while and people will correct you, and then everyone will move on. I think of it like building product: it’s way better to take the bet → iterate → grow than it is to never take the bet at all. Talk about it. It’s worth it.

As with building any culture, the key is to add changes to multiple systems at once. Ubiquity jumpstarts culture. All hands. Then an all team email. Then the next day there’s a diversity and inclusion Slack channel. Then an Asana project with a few D&I initiatives. Then the company’s open recs get rewritten to be more inclusive. Then hiring managers get bias training. Then diversity and inclusion language gets included in manager expectations… The key is adding changes to multiple systems at once.

I want to finish with some shout outs to a few Patreon employees who have been instrumental in our diversity and inclusion efforts: Maura Church (@outoftheverse), Amy Cherette (@amyche9), Aaron Ringgenberg (@singgenberg), and Adam Bossy (@abossy). None of the tips in the above article were my ideas — they all came from conversations and brainstorming sessions with the team about how to get our D&I efforts cranking. Hats off to the folks at Patreon for creating such a clear priority around diversity and inclusion.

OK COOL BYE