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OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles: To Check Diversity Progress, Look at Who You Hired Last Quarter

Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2018Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2018
OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles says your most recent quarter is the key to diversity.Photograph by Stuart Isett for Fortune Most Powerful Women

The best way to measure how your company is doing at diversity is to take stock of the candidates you hired in the last quarter, OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles says.

“Tell us last quarter’s hires. Sometimes it’s hard to [share] a number overnight when you don’t feel like you’re making progress, so just tell us how you did last quarter,” said Quarles, speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. on Monday. “Of all the people that you hired into your organization, what was the gender diversity and people of color diversity in that group? That will give a lens into how hard it is for you.”

One year ago, San Francisco-based OpenTable set a goal to reach gender parity in its new hires. To make progress, the restaurant reservation software company analyzed the language used in its job descriptions, anonymized incoming resumes, and made sure to bring in at least two diverse candidates for job interviews so that one contender wouldn’t be labeled the “diversity candidate.” Forty-four percent of the company is now made up of women, Quarles said, but the engineering group remains a particular challenge.

Setting smaller benchmarks like percentages of hires in the most recent quarter can be more attainable and encourage more progress than relying on only a total overhaul, Quarles said. She joined Twitch COO Sara Clemens, Rodan+Fields president and CEO Diane Dietz, and Slack COO April Underwood in a panel discussion moderated by Fortune editor Polina Marinova.

From their earliest days, companies need to prioritize diversity in hiring, figure out how their product will be used by people not in the room, and be aware of the breakage and challenges that will arrive as the company reaches new stages of growth in order to ensure those problems don’t pop up down the line, the panelists said.

All four panelists offered advice based on their experience scaling companies.

At Rodan+Fields, for example, Dietz said she replaced half of her executive team when she took the reins in a bid to find candidates who were better suited to help run a large-scale company. Meanwhile Clemens said she started as COO understanding that she’d determine which problems needed immediate solutions and which could wait.

And at Slack, Underwood said she has worked to help employees understand that it’s the nature of working at a growth-stage startup that some of their job responsibilities might be handed over to an incoming executive and that not every early employee can get every promotion as the company grows.

“Being honest about that sooner is the best thing you can do,” Underwood said. “It takes some real managerial jiu jitsu.”

For more coverage of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, click here.