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raceAhead: Spotify’s Diversity Report Breaks Some New Ground

July 11, 2018, 9:29 PM UTC

Spotify, the music streaming service, has published a new diversity data report, which is based on information gathered through internal surveys as of June 2018. It’s their second such survey, after a two-year gap.

At a glance, their numbers seem promising.

My colleague and RaceAhead‘s editor Grace Donnelly has been working overtime breaking down the data. From her analysis:

The company increased Asian representation to 14.8%, Black representation to 6.1%, and mixed raced representation to 2.7% in the last two years. White employees make up half of their workforce, while Latinx employees account for 5.5%.

Spotify saw increases across all under-represented employee groups, according to the report. Because this data covers a two-year jump, it’s not fair to compare them directly with annual diversity reports that reflect year-over-year changes. That said, the representation of minority groups among Spotify’s employees is closer to percentages in the US population than tech industry averages.

According to the company, their rapid growth – they’ve grown from about 300 workers in 2011 to more than 3,000 by early 2018 – gave them an opportunity to put systems in place that would lead to greater employee retention and a more inclusive workplace. “We want to be a leader in this space,” Isa Notermans, the company’s head of diversity and inclusion told Fortune. “Serving 1 million creators and also 1 billion users? We can’t do that without thinking outside the box,” she said.

The company has been “making bets” on inclusive projects, like overhauling their recruiting and interview processes, rather than setting quotas, with many ideas coming from their 13 employee resource groups. And to their credit, they’re thinking about how algorithmic bias may also be impacting user experience. “The goal moving forward is to integrate [diversity and inclusion work] into all aspects of our business,” says Notermans.

Music to your ears? Click here for more. You can find Spotify’s diversity report here.


On Point

Uber’s chief human resources officer resigns amid allegations she ignored racial discrimination issuesAlmost exactly one year ago, Liane Hornsey sat down with Fast Company to lay out her plans. Hornsey was both Uber’s chief people officer and the person tasked with updating the board committee overseeing the company’s implementation of a list of recommendations to improve the beleaguered ride-share company’s culture. “You know, my honest sense here is that this is the most detailed and most thorough change program that I’ve ever seen in my working career,” she said. “I’ve never seen such dedication from a leadership team to change and from a whole company to change.” Last night, the company announced that Hornsey had quit amid allegations from a whistleblower that she ignored internal complaints of racial discrimination. “I know this comes a little out of the blue for some of you, but I have been thinking about this for a while,” she wrote in an email to her team.Fortune

Opinion: The missing letter in D&I
Keesha Jean-Baptiste, the senior vice president of talent engagement and inclusion at the 4A’s agency, draws attention to an essential missing element in the D&I conversation in the advertising world: Equity. It’s equal access and fairness, yes but it’s also about making a plan. “Equity is focused, intentional correction of imbalances,” she says, specifically around race. “By acknowledging the importance of gender diversity over racial diversity, we’ve actually widened the inequity between white women and women of color and between white men and all people of color.” She provides a blueprint to guide your thinking, but this caught my eye: Add ‘cultural competence’ to your job descriptions. “We need to start thinking of cross-cultural competence as a critical ability, something as teachable and necessary as presentation skills,” she says. D,I&E FTW.

The trans community has a word with Scarlett Johannson
The white, cis-female actress has encountered backlash before; her decision to play a character which was originally written as Asian in the adaptation of Ghost In The Shell opened her up to complaints of whitewashing. Now, she’s under fire for being willing to be cast in the lead role of Rub & Tug, a biopic of Dante “Tex” Gill, a legendary mob figure who was also a transgender man. In response, the digital magazine Into has produced a video in which trans men “audition” for roles previously played by Johannson. Transgender actors remain wildly underrepresented in entertainment, which makes this new protest so poignant and instructional. Honestly, it would be hard to imagine Her any other way.
Wall Street Journal

A secret Pride protest delights World Cup fans around the world
LGBTQ people are persecuted in Russia, and it’s currently illegal to display symbols of LGBTQ support, so the pride flag is a non-starter. But a digital ad agency from Spain called LOLA MullenLowe, working with FELGTB, Spain's federation for LGBT rights, managed to get around the flag's ban in the most clever way. The project was also meant to be a hidden protest against Russia’s policies -- but it required activist volunteers to pull it off. “Russia is a terrible place for LGBTI people and we wanted it to be safe for the volunteers," said a LOLA MullenLowe representative. I’ll let you click through for the big reveal. It’s really good.

The Woke Leader

Why white people often react badly to diversity training
This is another installment from Robin DiAngelo, the former academic and current diversity training facilitator who may be best known for illuminating the concept of “white fragility.” While the defensiveness that many white people feel when confronted with their complicity in racial bias – a condition to which everyone is subject – is real, it also tends to manifest in training situations in some predictable ways. She gives real-world examples, and provides context. “[W]hite people’s moral objection to racism increases their resistance to acknowledging complicity with it,” she says. But not wrestling with the quandry is problematic. “White fragility functions as a form of bullying: ‘I am going to make it so miserable for you to confront me that you will simply back off.’”

Stop saying these things that people still think are okay for some reason
Culture change is hard, and social norms die harder. People still enter the workplace with unaddressed biases that may seem harmless but end up alienating others when they work their way into otherwise innocuous-sounding chit-chat. Business Insider has a helpful list you’ve seen before, but evidently, the person who just mistook you for the only other person in the office who looks like you, hasn’t. And next time you see me, ask me where I’m really from. Go ahead. I promise to give you a super-articulate response.
Business Insider

Diversity in leadership means a better understanding of our shared history
Not that long ago, a foundry located hard by the James River in Richmond, Virginia was filled with hundreds of slaves, tasked with making weapons for the Confederacy during the Civil War. After Richmond burned, Tredegar Iron Works survived. Telling the stories of those enslaved people is part of a broader mission embraced by Christy Coleman, in her role as CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, VA. She is one of the few black women to head a civil war museum, and it is the first to provide programming from both the Union and Confederate point of view. Despite protestations that she would be “bashing the Confederacy,” Coleman says that diversity in leadership means that new questions and perspectives are considered. “My job is to lay out stories you may not have considered or heard before and provide an environment where people can learn and explore. And that’s what I do and I do that fairly well.”
NBC News


Colorism and racism don’t stop when you’re a musician or when you have wealth or when you’re in any given position. [We face] pretty much the same challenges that they face throughout the rest of the world in terms of being overlooked, under-appreciated and held back from a lot of stuff.
Chance the Rapper