What you can learn from our D&I audit

Someone once told me social media makes it easy to compare your scrap floor to someone else’s highlight reel. You find yourself squatting in clipped outtakes watching that person’s final montage, grimacing at the chasm between messy you and put-together them. 🙈

I find myself there a lot, and I know many of y’all do, too. And to be honest, I’m tempted to promote that environment—to only share highlight reels on social media...and in this newsletter. We all want to look good, right? 💁

But one of Krit’s values is transparency. And today, that means showing you some of our outtakes alongside the highlights.

Specifically, we’ve been learning a lot about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) through an audit we did in Q3, and I think the highs and lows of that story could be helpful for some of you.👇

Quick rewind: why we decided to do a D&I audit ⏪ #

Back in June, our country erupted in protest over police brutality, racial injustice, and continued mistreatment of Black people in America. The response galvanized us; we knew we had work to do and summer’s heartbreaking events made that work a higher priority.

We asked how we’ve profited from various systems. Then, we looked at how we could use those profits to help fight injustice. We donated (and continue to donate) to organizations fighting systemic racism. And we took a hard look at our own practices—because fighting racism and prejudices isn’t something we only do “out there.” It’s something we do in here, too.

As we looked at our company’s wiring, we realized we needed help pinpointing our biases. So, we turned to experts who could open our eyes. We hired ReadySet, a diversity strategy firm for a training session, and they did an assessment as part of that session. Both services helped us see our shortcomings more clearly, but we’ll focus on the assessment below.

👉 Quick pause: So we’re on the same page, here’s a great explanation of Diversity and Inclusion via Nicole Sanchez, a D&I strategy consultant, in Holloway’s Technical Recruiting and Hiring guide:

“Diversity means increasing the representation of people from marginalized backgrounds at all levels and across all functional areas of the company. Inclusion means building policies, procedures, communication channels, and compensation policies where everyone is a full participant in the structure of your company. Not enough of one or the other, and the true benefit of a diverse workforce will never be reached.”

What the assessment showed us 👀 #

We gave ReadySet a few materials we thought represented Krit well: our website copy, a few job descriptions, and our interview questions. They reviewed these and let us know where we’re doing well and where we can improve. Here’s a summary:

What we’re doing well*

  • We put people first. Our hiring language, values, and the ways we support our employees communicate, “hey, you’re the most important thing to us.” We don’t do this perfectly, of course. But well enough that it’s a bright spot.
  • Our job postings are transparent and inclusive. The language we use, our focus on skills (vs education requirements), and the benefits we provide all work toward this. Our transparent salaries in particular make a huge difference—several women applicants have told us this is encouraging.

*People and transparency have mattered to Krit’s founders from the get-go. But it’s only from watching and talking to folks ahead of us that we’re learning how to put them into practice. The phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” comes to mind here.

But remember how I said today is about showing you our shortcomings, too? Well, here they are:

Where we need to improve

  • Biased language: Both our website and our job descriptions had (and may still have) biased language that promoted homogeneity. These were words, phrases, and images that communicated, “you’ll fit in if you look and think like this.”
    • For example, we had a good deal of masculine language like crush code and build killer projects.
  • Assumptive hiring questions: Andrew will talk more about this one in a later newsletter, but we were asking several poor interview questions. These were questions that backed interviewees into a poor position or primed them for a specific response. At worst, these questions were triggering for some candidates.
    • For example, we asked, “In your experience, what are the challenges faced by members of historically underrepresented groups in the workplace?” There are a number of reasons that question isn’t ideal. A better substitute is, “What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you?”
  • Non-standardized applicant grading: The grading system we use in our hiring process isn’t highly standardized. We do have a system, but its flexibility means subjectivity and bias can easily creep in.

These three areas (and everything they touch) are where we need to improve. Since ReadySet’s initial audit, we’ve reviewed our website and interview questions and made some important updates. But we’re still working on our grading system.

That’s a good bit about us. So, what does this all mean for you?

Takeaways that may be helpful for other founders 💡 #

  • We all have implicit bias. Bias refers to preferences that keep us from making impartial judgments or decisions. And implicit means we’re unaware of these preferences—we don’t know we have them. That’s why we need outside help (from friends, other founders, D&I agencies, and our own employees) to identify them and work on the ones we need to work on.
  • These biases limit your team. Not only is diversity correlated with higher financial performance, Holloway reports, “Numerous psychology studies have shown that diverse teams shine a light on organizational blindspots, solve problems faster, and are more creative.” Diversity and innovation go hand-in-hand; homogeneity limits your team.
  • As you start hiring, you set precedents—whether you intend to or not. But it’s easy to forget that because hiring is a lot of mental, physical, and emotional work. Frankly, it can run you ragged.
  • When you hire, you’re defining culture. Remember, you largely define culture by what you reward and punish. Hiring is a form of high, one-time reward.
  • So, it’s never “too early” and no company is “too young” to start thinking about diversity and inclusion—not only in terms of who you hire, but what customers you serve and who your product is accessible to.
  • Lastly, D&I isn’t a one-and-done checklist. We haven’t “arrived” at a more diverse and inclusive company. Thanks to ReadySet, we see the path forward a bit more clearly, but we’ll be on this journey as long as we’re a company.

Anyhow, that’s some of what we’re learning right now. Are you learning something similar at your company? If yes, I’d love to hear about it, so we can learn from you as well. I read every reply. :)