Around a year and a half ago, Split kicked off our DEI Taskforce. Our goal was to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before we even formed the actual task force, Kevin, my co-chair in crime, and I put together a DEI survey to help us measure where we currently stood. We used the data from the survey both as a baseline to measure our work, but also to illustrate why it is important for us to focus on DEI.
Following the survey, we created the actual task force. As we came together, we wanted to be thoughtful about why we were forming the group. We also wanted to bring the task force members along with us in that journey, allowing the group to define our mission. We spent several months building trust, establishing a safe space, and building a shared understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We read articles on the topic and did several activities, including story stitch and the 4th Box.
Once we established a baseline understanding as a group, we worked together to define the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion. While these words all have dictionary definitions, we wanted to be clear about what we mean when we use them at Split. After defining them, we shared our definitions first with our leadership team and eventually with the entire company.
Our definitions are:
- Diversity: A relational concept that describes how a group of two or more people are different from one another. Split strives to cultivate a diverse team of employees and especially seeks to include those whose endowed traits* are underrepresented in the organization and the tech industry at large.
- Equity: Providing personalized tools, resources, and compensation to employees because systemic oppression has created unequal and unfair barriers and obstacles for people based on their endowed traits*. Split believes that treating everyone equally only maintains those same obstacles, so this personalization is critical for each employee to be, and feel, successful at Split.
- Inclusion: The act of striving to get ever closer to an environment where all individuals are, and feel, respected and valued. Split aims to create an environment where employees are provided with everything they need physically, mentally, and emotionally to achieve inclusion that incorporates and celebrates their uniqueness.
- Endowed Traits: (Note: These are traits that we are aiming to purposefully include and build equitable programs for. We know we have missed some and welcome suggestions for other traits to include as we continue the conversation.)
- Socioeconomic background
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Native language
- Veteran or Military Status
Following naturally from the definitions, we wanted to articulate why Split, as a company, should care about DEI. A while ago, I wrote a blog post about why any tech company should care about DEI, but we specifically wanted to steer a bit away from many of the typical reasons. It wasn’t that we disagreed with the standard reasons, but rather that we wanted to build on top of them. We acknowledge that they’re strong points and valid, but we wanted to tie DEI more directly to Split and our business. To accomplish that, we used Split’s existing values (Every Voice, Every Customer, Every Detail) as a starting point, and also included other aspects as they made sense.
These are the reasons why Split is working on improving DEI:
- Split values Every Voice. To put our values into action and embody “Every voice”, Split must lift up the perspectives of people from marginalized communities that are too often unrepresented or silenced. DEI initiatives give Split the ability to make sure everyone has the opportunity to express themselves and allow Split to have a diversity of “voices”.
- Split values Every Customer. DEI initiatives give Split the ability to better understand and help our customers and to help our customers better understand how they can impact all of their user’s experiences as well. Having diverse perspectives within Split that are included in the conversation allows Split to understand how products can impact a massive percentage of people.
- Split values Every Detail. Research shows that diverse teams are better at solving problems. If we hope to produce the best possible product for our customers, we must have diverse teams to catch every problem and think of every detail.
- Split aims to hire, motivate and retain the best possible people. DEI Initiatives ensure that each person is seen, celebrated, and given a place to belong. Psychological safety is integral to a team performing its best. Without strong DEI efforts, we won’t attract or retain a talented and diverse workforce.
- Split aims to be a tech industry thought leader. As a company selling technology to tech companies, being seen as a thought leader is especially important. In this day and age, being a leader in DEI is an integral part of being a thought leader in the tech industry.
- Split aims to be a good world citizen. DEI initiatives at Split contribute to larger national and worldwide efforts to educate people, dismantle systemic oppression, and end discrimination on attributes including (but certainly not limited to) race and gender. We know that business as usual will not allow us to build a more inclusive and diverse company.
We again shared these with our executive team and then with the entire company. While the response to both our definitions and our “why,” were very positive, this is just the start. And in fact, this is the easy part. It’s easy to see why we should care, but it’s hard to actually enact change.
The next phase of our journey is trying to make some of that change. We divided the task force into two subteams. One team focuses on internal and the other on external. The external subteam encompasses hiring, marketing, external events, and more. Meanwhile, the internal subteam focuses on internal training, processes, and ways to make employees feel included. We divided the team like this because it’s much easier to measure external initiatives, so it can be tempting and easy to over-rotate in that direction. Meanwhile, most people argue that inclusion is the more important piece of the equation because it doesn’t matter how good you are at attracting people if you can’t retain them. By creating two subteams, we felt confident that we could make progress in both areas.
Based on the survey data, the passions of the team members, and our “why,” we then picked some projects. Some of these are small projects – we now have a Slack channel where we regularly post DEI-related tidbits. Some of these projects are very large – we have a project focused on removing bias from our recruiting process that has been making slow but steady progress. As we continue our journey, it can be frustrating that we aren’t moving faster, but it is important to take a step back every so often and celebrate the things we have accomplished.
While we haven’t changed the world yet, we do know why we, as Split, want to do that, and we hope you will join us in our journey to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable future.