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Two things you can start doing to help build a more diverse team

1 August 2017

Over the last few years, awareness has risen about the problems that arise from a lack of diversity, but many companies are still struggling to make headway or don’t even know where to start.

I don’t have all the answers and I have a lot left to learn. But with the help of an awesome team, I was able to meaningfully affect the demographic make-up of an engineering team as it grew from 30 to 60 people.

What follows are two techniques that I think provide a solid foundation for a more extensive D&I strategy, while also shining a light on other factors that might be inhibiting your progress.

1. Measure what you want to change

In product and engineering we measure everything. We have dashboards for latency, error rates, sign-ups, time on site, etc. etc. If your team is working to increase the number of photos uploaded, you’re sure as hell going to be looking at that metric everyday. If your team is working on production stability, you’re going to be reporting on uptime and error rates. So why do so few teams track diversity metrics?

Build a spreadsheet; make some graphs. Track demographics, tenure, and experience of your team and your candidate pool. As the CEO, functional lead, or hiring manager, you — not recruiting or HR — should own this metric.

The first step in changing or managing any metric is simply to be aware of it.

2. Start at the top of the funnel

If network referrals, inbound​ resumes, and candidates sent by your investors are predominantly white-male, what do you think the composition of your team will be?

Fixing this means actively sourcing outside your immediate network. You can also increase the diversity of inbound candidates by choosing meet-ups, conferences, and communities that are themselves more diverse — though this is a longer-term strategy and has to be approached authentically.

The demographics of your funnel should map to the population you are trying to track. Put another way, if you were trying to increase the number of iOS developers on your team but only 1 in 10 of the people you interviewed knew ObjectiveC or Swift, you’d feel pretty dumb.

I’d suggest trying to match the demographics of the US population, but tracking tech demographics could be a good interim milestone for some companies. This does get harder as you get bigger, but for start-ups hiring a few people a week it should be reasonable.

If your funnel is diverse, but there is no change in team composition, you now know you have a problem with your interview process.

More resources

Too many companies I talk to are trying to start from first principles, expending valuable time and energy on work others have done. We need to learn from each other’s successes and failures if we want to see change on a reasonable timeframe.

Two things you can start doing to help build a more diverse team was originally published in Writing by Dan Pupius on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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