Boost Diversity: Tips From Top People Executives at Visa, Pinterest and More

As we wrote about earlier this year, diversity is one of those topics we all talk about, but practically speaking, much harder to shift.

The benefits of a diverse workplace have been measured and proven: the McKinsey report Diversity Matters showed that gender diverse teams are 15 percent more likely to outperform financially, while ethnically diverse teams outperform by a huge 35 percent.

And if that’s not enough to persuade you, you should know that 67 percent of active and passive job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

But help is at hand.

At a recent panel discussion facilitated by training and education organization, Udemy, four women working in diversity, HR, and talent weighed in on how they are tackling diversity and inclusion within their organizations.

While they all cited the importance of training to help create awareness around unconscious bias, there was also a strong emphasis on hiring, creating community and making sure people feel comfortable and included in the workplace.


Goki Muthusamy, Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Visa

Muthusamy says Visa puts a lot of investment into unconscious bias training, but says it can be hard to know how much of it actually sticks.

Visa does a lot of training around making sure hiring managers are upskilled, however, she says it’s just as important that all the systems they have in place are assessed during their end of year processes.

“Yes, you can take bias out of people to a certain extent, but you also have to make sure that your systems are good,” says Muthusamy.

She says for that, you don’t necessarily need a diversity practitioner.

“You just need someone to look at the data,” she says. “A lot of you have data scientists on your team — get one of them to weigh in and slice and dice the data for you. A great HR professional will support you in doing that.”

Visa is making a push to promote equal pay, but Muthusamy stresses the importance of looking at all the figures early.

“We do it before pay is distributed, not after, because by then it’s too late,” she says.

“You have to look at it from equity, and look at it from compensation but you also have to look at it from stock and any other benefits.”

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Kelly Buchanan, VP of People, Revinate

Crowdsourcing ideas at the Revinate offices in Singapore, Amsterdam and San Francisco has been a great way to implement programs that lead to more diversity, says Buchanan.

Every quarter in each office, the team comes up with an activity for three hours in their local community. They have volunteered with homeless people, taught kids to read and beautified local parks.

One of the employees suggested they pick an organization that is inspiring young women to code and they recognized what this could mean for the company:

“One way we can address this is at an early stage of a woman’s interest in engineering,” says Buchanan. “And on the hiring side, there’s a huge opportunity for us there.”

Revinate is also careful to word their job descriptions to attract both genders.

“There’s a statistic from McKinsey which says when women are looking at job descriptions, women will apply if they think they meet 100% of the criteria, however, men will apply if they think they meet 60% of the criteria,” she says.


Jill Witty, VP of Talent and Operations, Entelo

Job description wording is something they’ve also paid attention to at Entelo.

“In addition to all the male/female-coded language, and based on this idea that women are only going to apply if they meet 100% of the criteria, you really have to push back when a hiring manager produces a job description and asks for 10 years experience and a top degree or a degree from a top CS program or something like that,” says Jill Witty.

She emphasizes the importance of pushing back against a hiring manager when they insist upon qualifications that may not be needed for someone to be successful in the role.

“Is it important that they can do the job or is it important that we flash fancy names when we talk about our engineering team?” she said.

“Make sure the job descriptions reflect more about what looks like success and less about your history and having only the people privileged enough to go to a top Computer Science school.”

Witty says the same is important in interviewing, especially in positions like engineers.

“Are you having them whiteboard algorithms they would only have learned if they got a computer science degree, or are you having them partner with existing engineers on your team in a real life scenario of how they’d be working on the job,” she asked.

“That’s going to be much more indicative, and you are likely to see different numbers come out of those hiring scenarios.”

Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Pinterest

Whether you feel like you belong is the number one question that impacts employee retention, says Candice Morgan.

One of the experiments they tried at Pinterest was looking at their managers and seeing how they performed against 12 items on inclusion and leadership.

“We got this group of the top managers who are exceptionally high on the inclusive leadership scale, and we asked them, what does this group do differently?” she said.

“And we saw these themes emerge around humility, sharing examples of times they failed and things they learned, empowering their employees. We got our leadership team to talk more about growth mindset and failure and those sorts of things.”

Morgan has become somewhat of a poster child for tackling diversity practices in tech. Early last year, she joined Pinterest as their Head of Diversity and Inclusion after a decade at Catalyst Inc, a nonprofit with a mission to expand opportunities for women and business.

Pinterest has been particularly vocal and transparent about its efforts to tackle diversity issues in its hiring. Last year, they increased the number of women in its technical roles from 21 percent to 26 percent and more than doubled the number of people in the company from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to 7 percent. They also increased the hiring rate of engineers from underrepresented ethnic groups from 1 percent to 9 percent.

“We started this program called Apprenticeship, and it’s basically for people who do not have a formal computer science education,” she says.

“Maybe they taught themselves to code, maybe they learned at a bootcamp…I’m happy to say over the year that every single apprentice has converted to a full-time software engineer.”
All the panelists pointed out the importance of transparency and measurement. Using your data wisely and being accountable not only to your staff but also to the public eye is slowly turning the tide towards a more diverse workplace.

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