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Presenting the Unacast Diversity Dashboard

In this blog post, I want to share with you how we think of diversity and why we think it's important. I’ll end the post by sharing a few ideas on how we can increase and improve efforts to hire a diverse team.

Ken Grønnbeck

Platform Engineer




Ken Grønnbeck
Platform Engineer
May 19, 2017

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Today we released the beta of the Unacast diversity dashboard. Although we are still gathering data and perfecting how to visualize it, we released it to keep us accountable in our mission to increase diversity in our team. As you can see in the dashboard, we are not a very diverse team today, and yeah, we are all white, with a few exceptions, and more than 70% are male.

Also read "From zero to xerox – how we failed at diversity"

Hiring is easy, and that's why it is so hard

Hiring for diversity is interesting and hard. The industry at large use the excuse of “only hiring the best” to not hire for diversity. And it is just an excuse because research has shown that a group of different people outputs better results than homogenous groups. If you believe in science it should be a no brainer, you should really strive to hire for diversity. Yes, there are drawbacks of having a diverse team. Having different background may add some communication overhead. We care deeply about becoming better at asking questions tomorrow, that we didn't know how to ask yesterday, and I will argue that reducing the number of unknown unknowns are far more important than solving a communication, now a known unknown, problem. It seems that this is a rare case where the right thing to do is also the best economic choice.

Diverse teams perform better - and are more fun

For us at Unacast diversity is a key factor in our ability to meet current and future challenges, creating an interesting place to work, while building a profitable global company. In addition, work is a place where you spend a lot of your time and we believe that workplace should be enjoyable. That means it should be inclusive, stimulating, and it should be fun. Yes, you can have fun with a bunch of people that are similar to yourself. But it wouldn’t be very challenging or stimulating over a longer period of time. And solving hard problems is easier when we know of multiple ways of attacking the problem. It goes without saying that if you have a team with multiple different backgrounds we’ll have more different ideas on how to attack a problem at hand. A different background can be anything from, and not limited to, cultural, educational, age, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background.

Another aspect that no one can argue with, is that if you only hire people that look like you, act like you, you end up with a pretty small candidate pool. And you are missing out on a lot of talent. If you just hire males then you lose over 50% of the population. And looking at the distribution of people getting a higher education. The number is even lower (40%) since there are more women in higher education than men these days. Also if you take the 50% and reduce it to white males and keep on adding non-diverse requirements the number keeps getting smaller. The pool of really talented people is small enough. Why let the confirmation biases and fears make it smaller?

From cultural fit to cultural contribution

Hiring for diversity is important but if you don’t think about inclusion you are probably in for a bumpy ride. Companies often talk about cultural fit. Cultural fit is about how well a person fits into the culture at the company. This is pretty excluding and is a language that doesn’t promote inclusiveness. Buffer talks about stopping to say cultural fit and use cultural contribution instead. Using cultural contribution rather than cultural fit you use a language that promotes inclusivity and diversity. Rather than looking for someone that fits into the company, you will actively try to see how this person can contribute to the culture and organization.

This is the start of a journey

You may react and say that presenting just gender, race, age, and location doesn’t cover diversity. And you are right but we really believe that it is better to get something out the door, collect the data from feedback, and improve it. In the next iteration, we want to add a deeper perspective into who works at Unacast. Sharing more data about who we are and what we do. And not only who you are at work. The whole person that works at Unacast. At the top of my head that could be your interests, how you spend your spare time, if you have a family, or not etc.

Work outside your network

What else can we do to increase diversity in our team? Interestingly, the diversity of the New York team is a lot better than the Oslo office. This can partly be explained by Norway being a bit more homogeneous country. But we cannot use that as an excuse. We are currently looking into other things that can help us bring diversity into the Oslo office. Three strategies we are discussing internally is 1) being more aggressive in hiring and moving talent from other countries and 2) open for remote working 3) Going outside our own networks here in Norway. The challenges with the former are that we need to put work into getting in front of potential employees in other countries. And that people have to be willing to move to Oslo. This can be both expensive for us and can be a personal risk for the prospective employee. Requiring someone to, is potentially excluding. The second action exposes Unacast to employees from all over the world, which is great for diversity. The challenges are that we need to figure out how to enable remote workers. The third action we are actively doing right and, while we are discussing the other two options.

Also read "We are hiring! Presenting our improved hiring process"

We are still learning. and your feedback and own learnings from building diverse teams would be greatly appreciated.