The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by Sameer Dholakia, CEO of SendGrid.
Silicon Valley leaders often say they want to advance workplace equality, but behind closed doors many executives—both male and female—admit they’re not exactly sure how to go about doing it. There is general confusion around what works, what doesn’t, and where to start. Leading a team that’s shown tangible results on diversity over the last few years has given me some insights that are worth sharing:
Release your numbers
Beginning in 2014, SendGrid joined tech heavyweights like Google and Apple in sharing our diversity numbers. Deciding to take this step wasn’t easy, since these reports have tended to stir up controversy. We weren’t sure if our numbers were good enough, but we decided we had to have a benchmark to start with, otherwise we would never be able to show improvement. We also felt that honesty would be empowering, and that releasing the numbers would help us hold ourselves accountable.
We believe that releasing our numbers helped us attract more women, because it sent a signal to the talent pool that we were serious about hiring a diverse workforce. Since we began sharing these numbers, we’ve seen improvements in every area of focus. For example, women now make up 32% of SendGrid’s 349 employees, up from 24% in 2015 and 22% in 2014. Women also hold 29% of all leadership jobs, up from 27% in 2015 and 19% in 2014.
It sounds obvious, but often companies forget how important the recruiting process is when it comes to achieving workplace equality. We’ve seen tremendous success since we changed the composition of our interview teams to ensure gender and ethnic diversity, especially for engineering positions. There are several ways to accomplish this. We use blind auditions on GapJumpers, a site where companies can post a challenge and get a job seeker’s solution—without seeing their gender, education, or experience. We also use Textio, which analyzes job descriptions for subtle nuances, flags words or phrases that tend to put off women, and then offers gender-neutral suggestions.
One of the great benefits we’ve discovered since releasing our numbers is the impact that it’s had on the recruiting process itself. Our diversity numbers reinforce SendGrid’s commitment to the happiness of our employees, and the numbers are a great point of differentiation for job candidates.
Once we started looking more deeply at potential solutions to the problem of workplace equality, we started to see that tremendous resources are already available for companies that want diversity in their workforce. A whole community of organizations is working on this issue, and if a business wants to address their diversity, all they have to do is reach out to another company.
One of our strongest support networks has been the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Through our relationship with them, we were able to get in on the ground floor of an initiative started by a fellow NCWIT member designed to help women transition back to the workplace when they haven’t been working for a considerable amount of time. Through this program, we’ve hired four women to return to the organization.
Taking on the issue of equality in the workplace is no small task, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Releasing diversity and inclusion numbers can spark transformative conversations, changing the approach to recruiting improves the talent pool, and embracing a community of female leaders creates powerful alliances. We’ve found that the whole process improved our internal communications and created a stronger foundation for changing the status of women at work.