Why is D&I important?
At Nylas, diversity and inclusivity is more than just a company value; it’s how we think and operate. We have worked hard to build a diverse team and an inclusive working environment, and we're proud of it!
To further support our internal and external diversity & inclusion goals, we formed a D&I Work Group, composed of volunteers from every department. We wanted a safe place to share our experiences and struggles in the tech industry and use those stories to further affect positive change in the way we operate as a company, both for internal processes and for how we affect our communities.
We asked some members of our D&I Work Group about why this group (and others like it) are important to them and to the tech industry as a whole.
Why did we make a D&I Group?
- “We’ve always valued and championed that D&I is important but didn’t have a formal process to tactically do so. Formalizing a group gave a forum to share thoughts as well as hold the company accountable to its own values. That’s why I wanted to be a part of it: to hold myself accountable and to learn why this was important to the rest of the company.” - Sales team member
- “When you care about diversity, intention to care doesn’t go that far. Having a dedicated group makes it more effective and a jumping off point to create a resource group with a company budget in the future. The first step is to have a group of people who have a shared goal.” - Engineering team member
- “I was tasked with championing diversity, but I didn’t feel like my narrow perspective was enough to make me effective. I wanted to make sure I had multiple viewpoints to pull from and hear from, which is why I advocated for forming this group. I think D&I should be more about listening to what your people need, rather than telling them what you think they need.” - G&A team member
- “For me, I was pleased when the group was formed because I thought we needed a formal representation of our diversity goals. Prior to the group, diversity conversations felt more directed to one team rather than company-wide initiatives.” - Sales team member
- “The D&I group was made a month after I started. We’re a startup with a lot of processes being codified, so I feel like this group is a great way to hold ourselves accountable to our diversity goals and having dedicated time to discuss and follow through on initiatives.” - Customer Success team member
Why is it important?
1) Dedicated time for goals and initiatives.
Companies oftentimes say that diversity is important to them, but having a formal group dedicated to it gives us time, resources, and accountability around our initiatives.
It’s easy to brush this aside as “tough” and “taking up too much time” or saying “there’s just not a diverse candidate out there for this role”. This group helps give the extra perspective needed to act on our diversity goals and gives us a foundation to build on our culture as we scale.
2) Centralizing discussions in a safe space.
It gives underrepresented groups a safe space to speak on what we can improve and how we can do better. It’s important to recognize that we’re not perfect.
We’re primarily located in SF, in tech, so it’s important to gain perspective on how we affect our community. It’s also important to consolidate our ideas and communicate our feedback to leadership and see some actions come from that feedback.
3) D&I makes businesses better.
Why is D&I important? Because it’s better for business. Having a group keep that goal front and center is key to expanding.
At the end of the day, a for-profit company’s goal is to create an awesome product that creates profits. Diverse teams are better decision makers & drive higher profits.
If everyone can be their authentic selves at work with support from the team, then there is less energy in putting on a persona and code switching, and more energy put into the product.
What change have we influenced at Nylas?
After the first 2 months after the group was formed, we worked to make the following changes.
On the recruiting side:
Getting perspective on what made our group members comfortable during their own experiences with our recruiting process gave us insight on what to emphasize and what to change. We now use extra care to ensure that every onsite panel we schedule is representative in order to help make candidates feel more comfortable. We also changed job description language to be more inclusive to candidate’s from all backgrounds.
The group advocated for more reporting on our recruiting pipeline diversity numbers and data. This was brought up during an all company retrospective and now, data must be reported on all open positions and shared company-wide once a month.
Recruiting agencies sometimes had trouble meeting our diversity sourcing goals, which became a pain point for hiring managers. We were able to leverage this to push up the search for an in-house technical recruiter, who could better align with these goals.
On the advocacy & sponsorship side:
We’ve attended events together in the bay area and increase company visibility about what events are happening near our office locations. We recognize that we don’t have all the solutions, so it’s important to make space for other communities in order to listen and learn.
We are making an effort to host/sponsor underrepresented groups. If you need a space or venue, let us know by emailing email@example.com!
How to Start Your Own D&I Group at Work
Advocate to make a D&I group with your leadership team.
It’s 2019, and diversity should not be optional. If this is something you’re passionate about, advocate for it!
Having leadership’s support gives the group the authority to make real change and that support can also trickle down to the rest of the organization.
Even if they can’t offer the group a full resource budget, the group can still work to make the company a more inclusive place.
You’ve got approval and support. Great! Now, get some members!
Ask for volunteers to join the group. Membership shouldn’t be exclusive. We have dedicated members who come to all of the meetings but invite anyone at the company to join our discussions.
Everyone who volunteered is passionate about the company’s D&I goals.
When we formed our group, we tried to get a good mix of perspectives for the dedicated members from different races, genders, ages, orientation, etc.
Having a balanced viewpoint helps us see where our individual blindspots are.
Appoint a group facilitator and an advocate.
This doesn’t have to be the same person! In our case, it is, but for your organization, it might be more effective to be separate people.
The group facilitator: the person who will help keep meetings goal-oriented. They can put together meeting agendas and questions to be asked / answered. This role is important to make sure that these meetings are as productive as possible.
The advocate: the person who will take notes, disseminate the insights from the meetings to decision makers and the company, and follow through on action items. This role is important to make sure that things actually get done.
Schedule a recurring check-in.
It’s important to set aside time in advance, so that the group’s meeting doesn’t get bumped or pushed back.
Frequency depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what’s comfortable for your organization. We meet every 2 weeks for 1 hour.
Measure progress with pointed questions
How effective is the group?
What could make the group more effective?
Join the discussion with us as you start building your own D&I group by tweeting your ideas to us at @nylas. Together, we can make a difference.