Culture

We stopped talking about diversity, and did something about it

October 10, 2017
Kjartan Slette
COO & Co-founder

But let’s rewind back to six months ago, to the moment we realized we had failed. And decided – now, let’s do better.

As I stood in our meeting room looking out over New York City earlier this year in March, I had to exchange binoculars for mirrors, take a long, hard look at ourselves, and painfully admit we had failed at diversity. We were mostly male, mostly white, approximately the same age, the same cultural background, the same. Thomas and I have xeroxed ourselves twenty times over. We had failed at diversity.

Read “From zero to xerox – how we failed at diversity” 

From our vantage point, we quickly agreed at a company level that we had to expand our horizon, as we strongly believe we will be the most successful as a company if we are able to ask as many questions as possible, and we achieve that by having a company that mirrors the outside world as best we can.

And, to be interesting to the outside world, we must embody and communicate a culture that is interesting to the world at large. This is where our process started.

Even though diversity is a multifaceted topic that involves gender, background, geography, ethnicity, and more, we concluded that we had to chip away at the diversity block one dent at a time, and focused first on gender balance.

Worth mentioning here is that mirroring the world is an ideal we strive for. It’s a moving target we might perhaps never hit square in the middle, but a target we will nonetheless keep shooting at.

Taking stock of the numbers

In March we were 0% women in engineering and 17% women in total. Now, six months later, we are 31% women in engineering, and 36% women in total. Even though we are not aiming for specific numbers and always hire the most talented person for the job, the numbers above are our actual scorecard and an effect of being an attractive company to whole of the outside world - and not only to half of it.

And we’re just starting. So, how did we do it? It’s was both easy, and hard. We wanted to. We worked hard.

There was, of course, several steps for us to climb to this realization, and many of these steps can be found in the blog section at unacast.com, as we early on decided that we needed to tell everyone what we were doing. To educate, but also to hold ourselves accountable to our own ambitions.

So here’s a step-by-step summary of our dummies guide to diversity:

  1. Realize that we had a diversity deficit
  2. Internal discussions on why this was, and how to fix it
  3. Nothing happened but talk, and more talk
  4. New internal discussions on why this was, and how to fix it
  5. Create a team to actively focus on diversity and the upcoming hiring process. This team was backed by the entire company, the management team, and the founders, under the notion that improved gender balance was critical to our future success
  6. Admit to the world that we had failed
  7. Revise our company culture and how we communicate it, with the ambition to get closer to our true core and not settle with flashy wall-slogans
  8. Relaunch our values
  9. Change our hiring process, to avoid the biases that so easily can lead to xeroxing yourself
  10. Launch our diversity dashboard (Note, not updated with all the latest hires yet)
  11. Agree it was ok to take slightly longer to hire in order to improve diversity, since we would never settle for anything less than the top talents
  12. Work hard
  13. Learn and iterate
  14. Work harder
  15. As a consequence of the steps above, more and more women apply to jobs at Unacast and hire by hire we increase the amount of women working at Unacast to 36% - more than doubling the percentage in under six months

These 15 steps are simplified, and we’ll share more detailed descriptions of how we work with diversity at a later stage to expand on some of the more crucial steps above. In addition, we’ll, of course, continue to share our progress and process in general. Because even though we are happy we’ve improved on our gender balance ratio, and in engineering specifically, we admit that we still have work to do e.g. in the management team and on the board.

On that note, I’ll repeat myself from earlier in the post: It’s a moving target we might perhaps never hit square in the middle, but a target we will nonetheless keep aiming for.

Let’s stop the empty gestures

I’ll leave you with this insightful and to-the-point article from Forbes about how to stop the empty gestures and starting creating an action plan to increase the amount of women in IT.

Read the Forbes article here

That’s is exactly what we realized, although a bit late. We had to stop the empty gestures and get to work.