Don’t go it alone: The Importance of Partnerships in Diversity & Inclusion

Tech Inclusion 2016 Keynote Fireside Chat with Sonja Gittens-Ottley, Diversity & Inclusion Lead at Asana and Asana cofounder Justin Rosenstein

By Sonja Gittens Ottley, head of diversity and inclusion at Asana, the work tracking app for teams

In order for diversity & inclusion (D&I) work to have impact, companies must have several pillars in operation at the same time. They need an actionable, data-driven strategy that is focused on building an inclusive culture. They must establish a recruiting process that is unbiased and allows great applicants, regardless of background, to succeed. And finally, they must create an environment where all employees can thrive. At Asana we call this three-pronged approach “Build / Recruit / Thrive.” Across all of these pillars, engaging with key, trusted partners is key to long-term success.

The ‘why’

We all know the research which shows the benefits of diverse and inclusive teams. But putting D&I work into action requires intention and focused, sustained efforts. This starts from the roots of a company — its co-founders — and reaches all the way to the people and communities we wish to attract to our sector. But in order to create new systems and processes, we need to go further and incorporate the people and communities we wish to reach. So, one of the best ways we’ve found to reach out has been by leveraging great partners while building our D&I initiatives.

The ‘how’

When choosing partners, it’s important to find values alignment and build an open partnership where feedback is given honestly and often. Every partner that we’ve chosen to work with shares our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace in tech. They are also willing to collaborate and create a space where constructive feedback can be given and received. Particularly in the D&I world, being real is where the work starts.

Through our work with Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton of Change Catalyst— who share our values and commitment to feedback — we conducted workshops with our teams to discuss personal inhibitions, create personal diversity statements, and develop recruiters to act as advocates for candidates. Ultimately, these workshops resulted in the creation of a robust recruitment strategy with diversity integrated into our recruiting model.

When embarking on any partnership, it’s important to recognize the work that needs to be done, but also feel confident that you and your team are moving in the right direction. One of the key drivers of success of our partnerships is that each of our partners provides us with confidence and actionable strategies to achieve our D&I goals.

What we’ve learned

We’ve learned that working with partners across all parts of your D&I strategy leads to various positive outcomes:

  • Engagement and involvement not only encourage empathy, but also build commitment and leads to action. Change Catalyst created a space for innovation and learning. Through our participation in Tech Inclusion 2016, employees from across our organization — from recruiters to engineers to hiring managers to our co-founder — we reinforced our belief that D&I will only be successful if every employee is committed to this and ensuring that our internal culture is supportive and inclusive.
  • Connection with the community only happens when you insert yourself into the community. By attending conferences, workshops, and networking events, our team is empowered to connect with and advocate for the broader community.
  • Engaging with partners and reaching a broader audience has naturally widened our recruiting funnel. More importantly, perhaps, our partners have provided us with a critical lens through which to evaluate our processes.

What’s next

2017 has already proved to be a year of change. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we work together and partner with organisations that are committed to working through empathy, acknowledging and valuing our differences, and, ultimately, creating an inclusive tech ecosystem. We’re already looking forward to the Tech Inclusion discussions in 2017.

About Change Catalyst:

Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through education, community engagement and mentorship.

Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.

Our Startup Ecosystem programs help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund worldchanging businesses.

Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World”​ award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World”​ overall in 2015.

Join Us in Driving Jobs, Empathy and Tech Inclusion Across the U.S. and Beyond in 2017

The Change Catalyst Team
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