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eBay’s First Diversity Chief Discusses What It’ll Take To Move The Needle

March 24, 2017, 7:07 PM UTC

eBay issued its 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Report yesterday, their first since the company spun off PayPal in 2015.

The numbers are consistent with what we’ve seen from other large, global tech companies. Disappointing. Their total workforce is 52% white, 40% Asian, 4% Hispanic/Latinx, 2% black and 1% other or mixed race respectively.

And they’ve clearly got work to do.

Fortune recently obtained eBay’s 2004, 2009, 2012 and 2013 diversity stats through a Freedom of Information Act request. And two more recent eBay diversity reports, 2014 and 2015, were available online.

They show that the company used to be more racially diverse, with black, Hispanic/Latinx, mixed race and other categories accounting for 15% of the workforce as recently as 2015.

The change happened fast. The report released yesterday shows those groups now account for 7% of the workforce.

The overall workforce stats in 2015 were as follows: 61% white, 24% Asian, 8% black, 5% Hispanic/Latinx, and 2% other and mixed race.

eBay diversity stats
Grace Donnelly/Fortune
Grace Donnelly/Fortune

To get the ball rolling in the right direction again, the company has laid out a three-pronged strategy, that focuses on workforce – who and how they hire; workplace – what it’s like to work at the company; and marketplace- making sure diverse sellers, products and perspectives are succeeding on the platform. The entire report is worth a read – you’ll see some familiar names as key partners like Code2040 who have partnered with them on their newly revamped intern program, and Unitive, a hiring platform which helps eliminate bias in recruiting.

But it’s also valuable in part because it reflects the voice and vision of Damien Hooper-Campbell, eBay’s first Chief Diversity Officer. This just-posted video of Hooper-Campbell’s star turn at the First Round Capital CEO Summit shows what a compelling figure he is. He takes the stage and leads the crowd through a series of diversity interactions with an amiable authority that tends to weaken the resistance of even the most skeptical leader.

eBay's first Chief Diversity Officer, Damien Hooper-Campbell.
eBay’s first Chief Diversity Officer, Damien Hooper-Campbell.Courtesy of eBay
Courtesy of eBay

That’s part of the energy he brought to the task of figuring out what shape eBay was in and where it needed to go next.

“What you saw in the video is pretty much how I kicked off my listening tour,” he says of his first three months at eBay. Fortune caught up Hooper-Campbell by phone after the report went live. Below is a lightly edited version of our conversation.


Fortune: What’s it like to establish a diversity office from scratch?

Damien Hooper-Campbell: Well, I didn’t want to just come in and hand a diversity and inclusion strategy to eBay, so we spent the first three months on tour across the world, listening to employees at all levels, to figure out what our strategy was going to be. Then after we finished, I went into a cave along with a number of other people, and took all of that information and built out our first comprehensive diversity and inclusion and strategy. We presented it to our CEO and all of his direct reports. I made some changes to incorporate their feedback, but it was wonderful and refreshing to get buy-in at that level.

How did you make sure people felt that they could be candid with you?

There really isn’t a one-size solution to that. We did a number of things, but I’ll highlight three. In every single office that I visited, the leader of that office set up an event – which meant that they emailed and corralled people and encourage them to attend – and we led them through an engagement very much like the First Round video. Then, I had four or five additional meetings with the leader of that office with their direct reports. I would also meet our communities of inclusion – many companies call them employee resource groups – to hear what was happening for them. Those were one-on-one. Then I’d just hold office hours for anyone else who didn’t feel comfortable speaking in a group.

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Did supplement your conversations with surveys?

We used an app and preloaded some survey questions which asked people how they defined diversity, have they ever felt personally excluded and why are they motivated to get behind diversity and inclusion – if at all. They could answer on their phones, and we were able to aggregate their answers and share them anonymously in meetings. That sparked a lot of conversation.

What did you personally need to learn as you conducted your research?

Diversity is a local issue. When I went out to Europe, it was smack dab in the middle of the Syrian refugee crisis. I needed to brush up on what was going on in Germany about that. Other things – I needed to understand as we were marching in the pride parade for Germany what was the history there around the LGBTQA community there. When I went to Paris, I had to learn about how the terrorist attacks there affected any Muslim employees. I also needed to understand how people are defining diversity and inclusion outside the U.S – I don’t want this to be a U.S.-centric conversation. I did a lot of research ahead of time with colleagues who were on the ground there. People think about this very differently in different regions and are ready for different levels of conversation, so I had to apply cultural sensitivity there.

What were you expecting when you first joined the company? How did you know they were serious about diversity?

People here are really nice, as a culture. I met with all the C-Suite leaders to get a sense of who they were and what could happen, as we interviewed each other. But I was told – hey there’s not a lot going on with diversity and inclusion – and so I came in a little bit cautious. I didn’t want to come in too strong, which isn’t necessarily my style. What I realized in my first month was that there was a lot going on, all driven by passionate employees, but there was no centralized office to amplify the work they’ve already been doing. My work has been about speeding up what’s already happening.

The numbers you reported are disappointing, and line with other technology firms. Any reason you didn’t break out the numbers by both race and gender? How do you think about intersectionality?

For this report in particular, since it was our first after the PayPal spin-off, we wanted to start with a foundational set of information. But we run intersectional analyses internally and use them to customize our diversity and inclusion strategies.

You say early and often that change takes time. How are you planning to manage expectations around the numbers year over year?

Yes, it will take time. This is both a qualitative and quantitative conversation. Companies get blasted for their numbers, but it doesn’t acknowledge the real change that’s going on inside their companies. Part of it will be acknowledging that there are many aspects to widespread cultural change. Part of it is embracing multiple metrics. The other part of this is, bluntly, we’re not going to run from the numbers. At the end of the day, this is a tech company. When we build business-specific or leadership-specific diversity plans they have to complement the global diversity and inclusion plan. We’re going to try some new things and report back about what works and doesn’t work. We have to have conviction and be courageous around our philosophy on this.

“So people who didn’t know they were committed to diversity are coming up with amazing business ideas about how we can be more intentional in reaching a more diverse audience. Suddenly diversity isn’t a warm fuzzy “nice to have.” It’s a must have addition to drive your bottom line.”

Of the three pillars in your strategy, marketplace is very specific to you. Can you expand on that?

This is our business imperative number one. We’re starting with what’s already happening – think about creating a market for plus-size women in the U.K. or for people with disabilities in India, etc. Instead of just talking about why diversity is important, we’ve been leading brainstorm sessions, showing people how diversity is driving business, either inside or outside eBay. So people who didn’t know they were committed to diversity are coming up with amazing business ideas about how we can be more intentional in reaching a more diverse audience. Suddenly diversity isn’t a warm fuzzy “nice to have.” It’s a must have addition to drive your bottom line.

What role are your communities of inclusion playing in your strategy?

Our communities of inclusion have historically been focused on recruiting and development and speaker series and those good and important things. There are 60 chapters of communities of inclusion – almost 20% of our people are part of them today. We’ve added another strategic goal for them – to become a focus group to help business leaders and others understand how to do things that are more relevant to their community.

This is hard work. Do you have a support group?

There’s an informal circle of diversity officers and D&I professionals in tech, and we get together to have dinner, go to each other’s homes, all that. Let me keep it real with you, part of that is to trade best practices, but another part of it is venting. This role in diversity is a very emotionally heavy role. We see ourselves as warriors, as champions who are on the ground and trying to book the status quo which is difficult! Even if we don’t leave the room with a solution, we have the shared experience.

Anything more formal?

There are more formal consortiums, particularly in tech. We’re starting to see more knowledge sharing between tech industry and also in financial services and the legal industry and that’s really exciting. As people are starting to realize that – hey, we can compete as much as we want with each other, but until somebody solves this thing, we better join forces and work for the common good.

So, when we speak a year from now, what will have changed?

Number one, more people will be having the kind of conversations inside of their companies that you saw in the video. Number two, more people who don’t self-identify with a specific community of inclusion will have joined them to work together. Number three, we will have had a significantly more diverse summer intern program. And lastly, we will have a more cohesive narrative and some real structure to the way we do diversity and inclusion. That’s a short term for us.

And if the percentage numbers aren’t different a year from now?

I would never say it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me every day. It bothers me for the tech industry. I’m taking that energy and working toward change. It’s going to take time.

What’s your advice for anyone who wants to jump-start a diversity effort in their own firms?

Three things. Start the conversation. Hey, use the First Round video, it’s how I do it inside of eBay. Then, make sure leaders understand why the care about this personally. Put aside the business reasons, put aside external pressure. Everyone has an experience of inclusion or exclusion that they can build on and helps them feel authentic in their role. You may have to dig and peel back the onion to find it. Then third, be willing to screw it all up. At eBay, we have a saying that you have to break some glass – step out and take risks. But after you’ve been in business awhile, not everyone believes it. Make them believe.