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Tech Diversity and Inclusion Post-mortem

Date

2017-06-22

Authors

  • @ericajoy

Status

Ongoing, action items assigned, in progress

Summary

At halfway through 2017, we are approaching the 10 year anniversary of the first forays into focus on Diversity and Inclusion in the tech industry. The industry has spent over $500M on Diversity and Inclusion efforts with little to no improvements to show for it. Diversity numbers remain stagnant, we see little to no representation of URMs at the executive or board level, reports of harassment at various tech companies continue to trickle out, and VC money for women of color founders might as well be non-existent. For any project in business, that kind of spend with such low ROI indicates a major failure in the project. Because we are in tech, when we have a major failure, a post-mortem follows shortly thereafter.

Impact

Impact too great to be accurately quantified.

Root Causes

Cascading failure due to the following:

  • bias
  • reliance on pattern matching
  • cargo-culting
  • gatekeeping
  • harassment

Detection

Tracy Chou started tracking Women in engineering in 2013, with company diversity reports soon to follow. A pattern of poor results soon appeared.

Lessons Learned

What went well

  • Implementation of monitoring of Diversity numbers quickly alerted us to a low presence of all intersections of URMs and Women.

What went wrong

  • We have not defined what good outcomes look like.
  • We have not created any methods of accountability.
  • We're not measuring and reporting indicators of Inclusion like retention, promotions, and pay equity.
  • We're not monitoring across all groups and intersections, to include age, veteran status, lgbtq status, and disability status.
  • Too much reliance on Unconscious Bias training as a cure-all.
  • Companies have not responded well to reports of harassment. (To date there have been no reports of apologies to any employees that have experienced harassment at companies.)
  • We have not yet implemented safe methods for people to speak out that doesn't result in them being subjected to more harassment.

Where we got lucky

  • Numbers have stayed flat instead of dropping for women, indicating that for some reason, people still want to come to the tech industry
  • Despite lack of improvement, people still want to work on this.
  • Many companies have avoided Uber style public tire fires, despite being equally problematic.

Timeline

Time Description
Early 2008 Mike Swift from the San Jose Mercury news files FOIA requests for Labor Department demographic data for 15 companies. Lawyers for companies including Google, Apple, and Oracle fought the request citing "commercial harm." http://www.mercurynews.com/2010/02/11/five-silicon-valley-companies-fought-release-of-employment-data-and-won/
Nov 2011 CNN asks 20 Tech companies to release their EEO-1 reports. 3 agree. http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/17/technology/diversity-silicon-valley/index.html
May 2012 Ellen Pao files a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer. She ultimately lost her case 3 years later, despite an outside investigation substantiating her claims. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pao_v._Kleiner_Perkins
Oct 2013 Tracy Chou asks "Where are the numbers?" and starts collecting data about representation of women in engineering https://medium.com/@triketora/where-are-the-numbers-cb997a57252
Mar 2014 Julie Ann Horvath is harassed out of GitHub http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Julie_Ann_Horvath_quit_GitHub
May 2014 Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH begin pushing tech companies to release employee demographics http://fortune.com/2014/12/20/jesse-jackson-talks-diversity-in-silicon-valley/
May 2014 Google releases its first diversity report admitting it is not "where it wants to be" on diversity. https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/getting-to-work-on-diversity-at-google.html
Jun 2014 Facebook releases its first Diversity Report https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/06/building-a-more-diverse-facebook/
Jul 2014 eBay releases its first Diversity Report https://web.archive.org/web/20140801234333/http://blog.ebay.com/building-stronger-better-diverse-ebay/
Jul 2014 Twitter releases its first Diversity Report https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/a/2014/building-a-twitter-we-can-be-proud-of.html
Jul 2014 9 months after Engineer Tracy Chou asked "where are the numbers," Pinterest releases its first Diversity Report https://medium.com/@Pinterest_Engineering/diversity-and-inclusion-at-pinterest-8711ae9c8d29
Aug 2014 Apple releases its first Diversity Report https://www.apple.com/diversity/
Aug 2014 Pandora releases its first Diversity Report https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140820200555-62614725-diversity?published=t
Aug 2014 Indiegogo releases its first Diversity Report https://go.indiegogo.com/blog/2014/08/diversity-matters-always.html
Sep 2014 Google implements and touts Unconscious Bias training as part of a solution to improving diversity. The rest of the tech industry follows suit. https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/you-dont-know-what-you-dont-know-how.html
Oct 2014 Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggests that women should not ask for raises, instead trust in karma. He later apologizes for this. http://readwrite.com/2014/10/09/nadella-women-dont-ask-for-raise/
Nov 2014 Amazon releases its first Diversity Report https://web.archive.org/web/20150319133426/http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=10080092011
Nov 2014 Then Googler Erica Baker writes about her experiences being a Black woman in the tech industry, noting specific experiences at Google. Google does not comment. https://medium.com/this-is-hard/the-other-side-of-diversity-1bb3de2f053e
Jan 2015 Microsoft releases its EEO-1 Report as a PDF download https://web.archive.org/web/20150105153901/http://www.microsoft.com/global/en-us/diversity/RenderingAssets/Microsoft_EEO-1_Report_2014.pdf
Mar 2015 Ex-Googler Kelly Ellis goes on record about being sexually harassed while employed at Google. Google does not comment. https://www.buzzfeed.com/salvadorhernandez/google-kelly-ellis
Jul 2015 Google Photos, echoing a well-worn racist and derogatory term, labels Black people "gorillas" (and Google issues the rare apology for doing so). https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/07/01/google-apologizes-after-photos-identify-black-people-as-gorillas/29567465/
Sep 2015 Marc Benioff publicly states at Dreamforce that their "major focus" right then, was "the women’s issue," meaning Salesforce was intentionally not focusing on all intersections of Diversity https://medium.com/this-is-hard/ffffff-diversity-1bd2b3421e8a
Jan 2016 Google releases its most recent Diversity Report, showing no improvement from its 2014 report, save a 1% increase in Women
Mar 2016 Amélie Lamont recounts her experiences of racism and sexism at Squarespace https://medium.com/@amelielamont/not-a-black-chair-8a8e7e2b9140
Dec 2016 ABI releases its first Diversity Report https://anitaborg.org/news/announcements/abi-2016-advancing-diversity/
Feb 2017 Susan Fowler recounts her experiences of harassment at Uber. https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber
Feb 2017 Uber begins an internal investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination led by US Attorney General, Eric Holder. http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/20/technology/uber-eric-holder-sexism-investigation/index.html
Mar 2017 Uber releases its first Diversity Report https://www.uber.com/diversity/
Jun 2017 Lyft releases its first Diversity Report. https://take.lyft.com/diversity/
Jun 2017 Square releases its first Diversity Report. https://squareup.com/news/diversity-report
Jun 2017 Uber releases the results of Eric Holder's investigation http://fortune.com/2017/06/13/uber-internal-investigation-results-public/
Jun 2017 Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigns

Action Items

Action Item Type Owner Status
Define good outcomes/goals. prevent Most Tech Companies TODO
Track and report retention across demographics monitor All Tech Companies TODO
Track and report promotion rates across demographics monitor All Tech Companies TODO
Track and report company equity breakdowns across demographics monitor All Tech Companies TODO
Track and report pay equity across demographics monitor All Tech Companies TODO
Implement all suggestions from Uber's firm prevent All Tech Companies TODO
Move Diversity and Inclusion out of HR/PR/Finance/etc and into it's own org reporting directly to the CEO mitigate Most Tech Companies IN PROGRESS
Implement Unconscious Bias, Ally Skills, and Racial Justice training and make all mandatory. prevent Most Tech Companies IN PROGRESS
Define and make available to the entire company a playbook for responding to issues mitigate All Tech Companies TODO
Implement the recommendations in projectinclude.org prevent Most Startups IN PROGRESS
Implement innovative recruiting practices instead of relying on overused "standards." mitigate All Tech Companies TODO
Hire more URMs, especially into Executive and Board positions. prevent All Tech Companies TODO

Resolution

This failure is still in progress.

Supporting Information