How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity
| Jessica Nordell
reports on how Slack
has been leading in diversity efforts in Silicon Valley, and without a designated head of diversity [emphasis mine]:
Slack has been outperforming other Silicon Valley companies, and its current numbers show that the trend has continued. At Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, women hold between 19 percent and 28 percent of leadership positions and between 19 percent and 20 percent of technical roles, according to those companies’ most recent figures. At Slack, women make up 31 percent of leaders and hold 34 percent of technical roles. Also, in Slack’s U.S. workforce, percentages of underrepresented minorities (including black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, or American Indian or Alaskan employees), are, in some cases, triple that of peer companies. At Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, underrepresented minorities hold between 4 and almost 8 percent of technical roles and make up less than 11 percent of all employees. At Slack, by contrast, underrepresented minorities make up almost 13 percent of technical roles and roughly 13 percent of all employees; they also make up 6 percent of leadership. The number of Hispanic women at the company has more than doubled since last year. The number of Hispanic men more than quadrupled.
What’s notable about this is that Slack has achieved it without a designated “head of diversity,” a role that has become ubiquitous at tech companies—Google, Facebook, and Microsoft each have one—and might soon become more so; the lobbying group that represents tech companies in Washington, the Internet Association, hired its own director of diversity and inclusion last week to focus on “diversity, inclusion, and workforce-related policies,” after members of the Congressional Black Caucus pressed the organization on the lack of diversity at big tech companies. While studies by the Harvard University professor Frank Dobbin, and colleagues, suggest having someone overseeing diversity efforts can increase the numbers of underrepresented groups in management, other measures, such as mentoring programs and transparency around what it takes to be promoted, are also important; a diversity chief alone may not be enough to make much of a difference. At Slack, the absence of a single diversity leader seems to signal that diversity and inclusion aren’t standalone missions, to be shunted off to a designated specialist, but are rather intertwined with the company’s overall strategy. As the CEO, Stewart Butterfield, has said, he wants these efforts to be something “everyone is engaged in.” Indeed, as the research by Dobbin and colleagues shows, involving employees in diversity policies leads to greater results.
A must read.
In related news I read that Janelle Monáe keeps all the balls she’s juggling in the air because of Slack, which might be the best unsolicited plug the company will ever get:
Ask Janelle Monáe how she gets everything done–the critically acclaimed albums, the world tours, the film roles, the activism–and she’ll answer with a single, slightly unexpected word. “Slack!” she says, with a cheerful laugh. “Email used to stress me out. Now I can organize every conversation, and I go into the channel when I need to–I don’t check it every hour. Like, when I get up, the first thing I do is not look at my phone. The first thing I do is I take at least 10 deep breaths.” She demonstrates, seemingly shifting her mind from the cacophonous, dimly lit restaurant, where she’s occupying a prime corner table, to a mellower internal place: “Inhale … exhale; inhale … exhale. That really calms you down.”
In fields requiring fewer technical skills, on the other hand, wages could fall significantly.
Consider, say, senior marketing jobs, for which large companies often require a master’s degree in business administration. If machines can reliably identify less experienced, less credentialed candidates who are likely to excel, it could depress wages.
“You can think of cases in the product market where people thought they needed something special and you really didn’t — the commodity, low-cost person took over,” said John Horton, a labor economist at N.Y.U. Think of hand-held video cameras
after the proliferation of smartphones.
“That could happen in labor markets with the realization that you don’t need anything special here,” Mr. Horton said.
All of this presumes, however, that deep-learning technology is viable for use in recruiting and human resources and could eventually become commonplace. Surveys suggest
that only a small minority of companies have adopted these tools, and that even fewer feel prepared to exploit them.
The economics of a market being AI-ified.
But even if you’re bad at taking a compliment, or you’re not getting external recognition, you can still enjoy major psychological benefits from celebrating your achievements on your own, according to Dr. Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Progress Principle.”
“They don’t have to be big breakthroughs or huge successes,” she said. “Even small wins can lead people to feel terrific.
A must read, deeply sourced.
- Projects and programmes are often the engine of legacy creation. So provide ongoing funding to product teams instead.
- Beware your business case, finance processes or contracts dictating how, or even what you deliver. A “lean/agile friendly” business case process is vital in the medium-term.
- Budget for continuous improvement. The mix of skills you need and the size of the team will change over time. Help your finance team adapt to this.
- Don’t be afraid to stop funding something if it isn’t working (agile business cases should make it easier to call a halt earlier).’