Deepening DE&I – Equitable and Effective Corporate Practice

April 13, 2022
A group of people are meeting, one woman is standing and speaking to the group, one woman is making (side) eye contact with the camera

The Problem With Unfulfilled Promises

To be frank, the diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives that corporate America and the tech sector promised in the wake of George Floyd’s murder haven’t aged well. Two years later, many companies have come under fire for paying lip service — whether it’s hiring underrepresented workers into positions that don’t pay living wages, replicating racial disparities in promotions, or displacing families from their homes and jobs.

It’s evident that companies must move beyond token hiring to champion justice in the workplace and enact their DE&I values; this means addressing structural inequities in their workforce, their products, and their surrounding communities. DE&I is a core piece of doing business and requires corporate practice change that has meaningful, long-term capacity and resources behind it. Representational hiring is a vital first step, but it is not the end-all.

Justice in the Workplace 

Workplace justice cannot be obtained through piecemeal events such as diversity training, lunch-and-learns, or volunteer days. Corporate practice change involves a deep, organization-wide understanding of how a company’s footprint, values, products, and services are situated within a broader local context. Consider this: you work in the tech-enabled housing space, and you’re making a business growth or customer acquisition play by launching in a new market or testing a new product. You need to interrogate how these new launches have equity implications. 

How do thin credit files from decades of predatory lending or a history of housing segregation from racial covenants and redlining affect present-day housing access across communities, especially communities of color? What engineering, regulatory, and product design resources can you mobilize to ensure that your company does not amplify existing bias and disparity? Deeper engagement involves interrogating power dynamics and relationships despite business considerations and advantages. 

We know that true diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives are not for the faint of heart. 

Here’s what it takes:

  • Engage and educate your workforce: provide a historical equity lens help your workforce navigate its corporate impact
  • Establish a moral compass: clarify your shared values between employees and leaders alike, secure buy-in across teams and at all levels of the company
  • Translate values into material impact: devote significant time, budget, project planning, and headcount to cultural change
  • Connect your equity goals with how you approach products, services, and internal operations: build cross-team initiatives and programs (e.g. product inclusion, inclusive hiring, ethical sourcing, and labor practices) held to your moral compass and business goals
  • Hold corporate leaders accountable: set goals, success metrics, and deadlines for sharing employee outcomes and product impact transparently

We’ve been working hard with our community and corporate partners on furthering workplace justice in these areas: 

  • Inclusive hiring: Our System Reset Initiative provides an actionable implementation guide for tech companies to recruit, hire, and retain people returning from incarceration. 
  • Mitigating tech-driven bias in housing: Our Tech, Bias, and Housing Initiative explores how startup growth in the housing space could exacerbate inequality. Grounded in original research, we will publish ethical corporate practice frameworks and policy positions that will mitigate the potential for tech-driven bias. 
  • Equal pay for equal work: Our Responsible Contracting Standard is a comprehensive standard for employers to design safe, healthy, and family-sustaining employment opportunities.

What an Equitable Tech Industry Looks Like 

We believe in the power of the tech industry to level the playing field. To us, a truly equitable tech economy arises when tech workers and leaders tap into their imagination, harness their entrepreneurial spirit, and roll up their sleeves to advance workplace justice. 

The first step is to take a blue-sky approach to your hiring and product inclusion goals. This sharpens your strategy, services, and products, helping you define, refine, and meet your equity goals. Positive ripple effects abound from advancing justice for your workers and neighboring communities: improved workplace culture, employee retention, and satisfaction, and the double-bottom effect of helping customers while hitting business targets. To us, this is the non-negotiable future for the tech industry and everyone it touches. Do you want to be at the forefront of deeper DE&I initiatives, or do you want to play catch up?

Work with Us 

Don’t know where to start? When our team of equity experts and practitioners works with values-aligned partners, we bring our independent perspective to help you set attainable goals, build upon the work you’ve done, and identify new opportunities to advance equity. Reach out to to schedule a discovery session and discuss how best to work together.