Despite huge PR efforts and spending, many tech giants are failing to make significant progress on employee diversity. Historically, companies have blamed the “pipeline” - attributing gender and racial diversity gaps to a lack of diversity in the tech industry in general. But, this thinking is flawed. In fact, according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau, women outnumber men in the U.S. population. And, according to the Federal Department of Education, women outnumber men on college campuses as well. However, women hold fewer than 20% of tech jobs at big tech companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter) and only 25% of tech jobs overall.
How Stride fared in January 2017
Despite having a female founder and CEO, Stride looked in the mirror in the beginning of 2017 and saw a company too homogenous for its liking. Stride conducted an internal census that showed we lagged behind other tech companies in recruiting and retaining employees of diverse backgrounds. Prior to taking steps to proactively improve the status quo, the percentage of women and non-binary individuals at Stride was 12%.
What Stride Implemented to Improve This
A group of Striders self-organized around diversity and inclusion. They founded and continue to run a committee seeking to improve diversity through retention and ensuring fairness in Stride's interview process. This Diversity Committee has set a goal of reaching at least 33% female and non-binary engineers with an anti-goal of hiring only junior developers or white women.
The Diversity Committee has full support from the Stride leadership team and is consulted on issues besides hiring practices - like changes to the promotion process, a topic that has historically been problematic for people from underrepresented groups.
At first, Diversity Committee meetings were open to any Strider who wanted to join, but over time, we realized that this wasn’t the best way to effect change. In order to be effective and reach our goals, we needed to ensure that everyone on the committee was willing to put in time - outside of monthly committee meetings - to get things done. The team has since appointed a smaller, more focused group of Striders to be members.
Perhaps most surprising to people unfamiliar with the culture at Stride is that the committee does not consist solely of people from underrepresented groups. When we do have the occasional open meeting at our quarterly full-day company meeting, they are always well attended by thoughtful and informed employees who are passionate about diversity, inclusion, and fairness.
Every new Strider is paired up with a buddy to help them integrate into life at Stride, as well as a sponsor to help them navigate their careers and the short and long-term challenges that spring up while coding and consulting. Additional opportunities for growth come from a generous professional development budget, lunch and learns, and a variety of employee-run clubs like the open source club, algorithms club, podcasts, evenings to work on blogging or public speaking, and whatever else Striders come up with.
Stride has a Code of Conduct, as well as a Zero Tolerance Harassment Policy stating Stride will fire clients and employees who harass any Strider. Our female CEO is passionate about pay equality and believes equal pay is what you do when no one’s looking.
An early win of the Diversity Committee was a paid family leave policy for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a relative with a serious health condition.
Where Stride is Now
In 2017, Stride increased the percentage of female and non-binary engineers by 267%! Yet, we still have some work to do in order to meet the Diversity Committee’s goal of at least 33% female and non-binary engineers. But we are on the right track. This year the Diversity Committee is also working on new racial and ethnic diversity goals and coming up with new professional development activities that Stride can offer it's consultants to continue to retain employees.
What Stride Learned
Creating an inclusive culture is a complex process that cannot be enforced top down. Employees must be invested in the culture and empowered to affect change. Buy-in from leadership and Talent Acquisition is critical in terms of setting policies and adjusting interview processes.
Measuring progress on diversity goals at regular intervals is critical to staying on track with those goals. Stride measured progress with a quarterly employee census, which enabled them to see that the impact of the changes that were being implemented.
Are you a software developer who’s passionate about diversity and inclusion, solving problems, and working with great people? We’re hiring!
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