How Warby Parker, Dia&Co, and Jopwell Are Building Diverse and Inclusive Organizations

“Diversity is our biggest competitive advantage,” Dia&Co co-founder Nadia Boujarwah declared to a roomful of 75+ founders at The Founders for Change Diversity Leadership Summit.

She wasn’t just talking about Dia, though a celebration of diversity has no doubt helped the company become the leading retail service for women size 14+ (that’s 70% of women, btw). She was talking about the tech ecosystem at large: “You don’t win because of the big features — those are easy for your competitors to copy. You win because of the thousands of small decisions that are made each day. When you have a more diverse team, you start to make each micro-decision just a bit differently. That’s how you win.”

Nadia is one of the 1000+ founders who have joined Founders for Change, an All Raise initiative, a community of founders who believe deeply in the power of diversity and are dedicated to improving diversity and inclusion within their own companies, boards and VCs. To hold themselves accountable and to leverage our collective voice to motivate change across all levels of the tech ecosystem, each of these founders has made a public commitment to the Founders for Change mission.

Like anything, a commitment to diversity is easier said than done. To begin translating that commitment into change, last week we joined NYC BLEND, an organization of VCs promoting diversity and inclusion & working with underrepresented founders in NYC tech, in hosting our second D&I Summit in NYC for founders to discuss their strategies and experiences in building diverse and inclusive organizations. FFC members Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker and Porter Braswell of Jopwell joined Nadia in talking through their successes and challenges, providing the group actionable practices and advice:

  1. Be specific in your definition of diversity. Think beyond the standard dimensions of race and gender. “Specificity enables progress,” Porter says. What factors are uniquely important to your organization? At Dia, for example, body diversity is critical to representing the voices and perspectives of its diverse customer base. At Jopwell, a career advancement platform for Black, Latinx, and Native American applicants, it’s enabling candidates from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
  2. The earlier you do things, the faster they start to compound. Take hiring, for example. In the early days of a startup, when hiring is urgent and working with a recruiter doesn’t fit the budget, founders often turn to their personal networks to recruit. People’s networks tend to look like them and reflect their experiences, so the more homogenous your team, the more homogenous your applicant pool, the more likely you are to reinforce homogeneity in the organization. But the reverse holds true, too: The more diverse your team, the more you diversify your applicant pool, so this can actually become a productive hiring strategy.
  3. Document your core values and revisit/revise them with regularity. “Think of it like a Constitution– a living document that is meant to be revisited,” Neil says. At Warby Parker, for example, one of their core values in the early days was ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ A few years later, the team decided that wasn’t empathetic enough and revised it to ‘Treat others the way they want to be treated.’ The distinction may seem subtle but language sets a tone that can reverberate across employee’s experiences, starting with onboarding.
  4. Clarity and specificity in your mission can help attract diverse candidates in the beginning. All this talk about diversity is inspiring, but what if your team already lacks diversity? How do you make your first diverse hire? Be clear about your passion and mission, Nadia suggests. That makes it easy for candidates to see themselves in you and your team, even if it’s not in how you look or where you came from.
  5. Build a team that reflects the broadest definition of your market. Otherwise, you risk segmenting yourself. If your team make-up over-indexes on one segment of the market, you risk unintentionally narrowing your addressable market. Neil offered Warby Parker as a case study: In its first three years of business, Warby’s customer base was majority male despite the broader market skewing female. Neil attributes this to the implications of having four male founders– everything from the language they were using to the mood boards they’d make, to their go-to-market strategy. As Warby Parker grew and diversified its team, the brand’s customer base started to mirror the US demographic.
  6. When writing job descriptions, emphasize SKILLS not just experience. When writing a job description, be specific in the skills you value for this role so that you can hire based on those rather than logos. “Many minority candidates start in traditional industries like banking, consulting, or law because that’s the definition of success they were exposed to growing up,” Porter says. Recognizing transferable skills can help you identify minority candidates.
  7. Quantify your progress. Here are some of the modern HR and hiring tools these leaders use to audit the current state of diversity in their org and to get a pulse on how their employees are feeling:

· CultureAmp — Use this software to collect anonymous feedback across the organization. (Neil dubs it a “scheduled intervention”)

· Reflektive— Use this software to conduct reviews and collect feedback on a quarterly or regular basis.

· Paradigm — Use paradigm to quantify diversity in your recruiting process and to ensure it’s as diverse as you hope.

· Jopwell — Jopwell is a career advancement platform and end-to-end solution for companies committed to diversity and inclusion. Jopwell helps companies authentically engage and connect with Black, Latinx and Native American candidates. The company is offering a discounted package to early-stage founders who take the Founders For Change pledge. Email team@jopwell.com with the subject line “Founders For Change” for more information.

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