Bay Area Diversity Advocates Gather at Entelo to Discuss Their Company D&I Initiatives

May 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM by Jill Witty

entelo diversity

How can you push diversity efforts through your company without the authority to make the necessary changes? What does it take to turn a passive supporter of diversity efforts into an active participant and champion? Can you get someone to unlearn a biased behavior?

These are some of the tough questions faced by employees who advocate for increased workplace diversity and inclusion. Over 40 members of the Diversity Advocates group, founded by Freada Kapor Klein, gathered at Entelo last Tuesday to share their best practices, frustrations and triumphs taking action with D&I initiatives at their organizations. Ms. Klein is the founder and Board Chair of the Level Playing Field Institute and Partner at the Kapor Center for Social Justice.

entelo diversity advocatesAnita Singh (Shyp), Jessie Wusthoff (Quantcast), Clarence Lassey (Salesforce), Stacey Shkuratoff (ShopStyle), Melissa Chu (Instacart)

The night’s diversity champions weren’t limited to talent acquisition teams – they also represented sales, marketing, engineering, and ops teams. From smaller start-ups (Clever, Lever) and mature Bay Area tech companies (Airbnb, Lyft, Pinterest), to public multinationals (Adobe, Symantec, Salesforce) and non-profits (Kapor Center, B Corporation) – it’s clear diversity and inclusion continues to resonate across a variety of departments and industries. We’re proud to host this gathering, meeting fellow advocates to understand some of the challenges that we all face.

freada kapor klein

Freada Kapor Klein sharing her latest D&I projects with the Diversity Advocates.

To kick off the inaugural event, Ms. Klein welcomed the group and talked about her newly launched initiative, Project Include, whose goal is to help CEOs and managers promote diversity and build meaningful inclusion in their early to mid-stage tech start-ups. After introductions, in which each attendee shared a frustration and a win at their company, we split into smaller groups for breakout discussions on scaling D&I initiatives, recruiting for diversity, and getting started with employee resource groups.

diversity advocatesRachael Stedman (Lever), Jennifer Kim (Lever), Heidi Newiger (AppDynamics)

“For many people in Diversity Advocates, we are the people spearheading diversity efforts at our companies,” said AppDynamics’ Heidi Newiger, Head of Global University and Diversity Recruitment Programs. “Because this is a sensitive space, it's invaluable to get advice and have a network to ask the hard questions.”

One theme that was repeated frequently was the importance of delivering Diversity and Inclusion from areas other than Human Resources. HR sometimes bears the stigma of “rule enforcer” rather than “culture champion.” Diversity efforts will fall flat if employees think the organization is undertaking them only to comply with federal or state requirements. Advocates agreed that having employees outside of HR spearhead proactive diversity efforts, and enlisting an executive sponsor to help those efforts gain buy-in from leadership, was a surer path to success.

diversity advocatesMelissa Chu (Instacart) and Markus Achord (Symantec)

After several hours of diving into these very real and pressing topics, the group parted ways, bolstered by new friends and ideas for how to advocate for more diverse and inclusive organizations.

"Paying rigorous attention to diversity and inclusion is good for business and good for society. Ample research supports the notion that diversity in a company's leadership – especially racial and ethnic diversity but also gender diversity – results in significantly higher financial performance," said Ms. Klein. "Employees who feel welcome, respected and included in their workplaces are more engaged, more productive, and become great ambassadors for your brand. Is there any good reason to not pay attention to diversity and inclusion?"

If you’re interested in learning more information about joining Diversity Advocates, feel free to reach out to me at 

Photos courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge of the Diversity Advocates

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