In June, we outlined our plan at Invoca to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a sustainable part of Invoca culture. We made our commitments public as a form of accountability, and after a few months’ time, I want to provide an update on how these initiatives are going.
You Can Only Improve What You Actively Measure
At Invoca, we drive our business by choosing a few company-wide priorities each year, establishing goals and executive sponsors for each priority, and then reporting on our progress on a monthly basis.
So, in committing to make Invoca a more equitable workplace, the obvious first step was to formalize a company priority with executive sponsorship. We paired Ellen Raim, our head of People & Culture, with Mike Weaver, our head of Engineering, to combine functional expertise with a key “center of gravity” in the engineering team. The rationale was simple — if we could move the needle in hiring a more diverse set of engineers, that would shift the dynamic throughout the company and catalyze a wider environmental change. The Invoca engineering team prides itself on the concept of continuous improvement and had already embarked on some initiatives to broaden representation — which gave our leadership team confidence that Ellen and Mike could drive meaningful improvements.
After some consultation, they brought a simple hiring goal back to our leadership team: by 2023, to increase the company-wide balance of male and female employees to 50 / 50 and the share of underrepresented groups to 30%. These goals align the target representation of Invoca employees with the broad demographics of the US population, and align our aspirations for the company with SaaS leaders that we admire, such as Twilio, Salesforce, Medallia, and Slack.
Establishing a Baseline
To kick off our efforts, we wanted to share a snapshot of our current employee base, which serves as a baseline for our efforts. This report, published with data from July 2020, outlines the gender and demographic balances within the company and how they have changed since July 2019.
We will be publishing an updated version of this document publicly every six months to reflect our progress against our company objectives.
Outlining a Plan of Action
Having published a snapshot of our current employee base, the next step was to formulate a plan for change. Our approach is based on three sets of initiatives:
- Education and content to raise awareness
- New policies to drive sustained changes within the company
- Activation to support employees who want to make a personal impact in their communities
As our first strategic education and content initiative, we held a voluntary “21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge” in July. Participating employees read materials from a curated list and met weekly in small groups to discuss observations and share real-life experiences. On a personal note, I learned a lot from my peers through this process and was encouraged by their commitment to learning about the struggles of others, finding concrete ways to improve our behaviors, and having a positive impact on the community. We will continue driving awareness through the rest of 2020, including conducting mandatory anti-bias training for all employees before year-end.
We are also introducing new policies at Invoca to drive change in company culture, operational processes, and hiring. Starting in August, we added the question “what actions have you taken to support diversity, equity, and inclusion at Invoca?” to the quarterly review and feedback sessions between managers and employees. While the response isn’t a formal input to performance evaluations, we have included it as a periodic reminder in manager-employee conversations about opportunities to champion inclusion at the company.
As we head into 2021, we are working on several operational improvements to reduce potential bias in hiring. As part of candidate screening, we are developing a process to remove references to gender or ethnicity from resumes before reviews happen. The goal is to help hiring managers focus exclusively on what matters most — relevant skills and experience. I was personally struck by reading about the significant increases in the number of female musicians hired once orchestras adopted “blind” auditions, so we are taking a similar approach in the software world. We are also instituting more structured, formal interviewing approaches to remove reliance on anecdotes and qualitative information in the interests of ensuring equity and fairness.
Finally, we want to support our employees’ desire to have a positive impact on their local communities. We instituted a new Volunteer Time Off policy, giving employees up to 25 hours per year of paid time to volunteer, in addition to making Election Day a paid holiday to ensure employees have the opportunity to vote and engage at a civic level. Between employee contributions and company matching, we donated over $23,000 to non-profit organizations supporting the Black community, including Black Girls Code, The Hidden Genius Project, The Loveland Foundation, and the ACLU. As we build out our 2021 financial plan, we will be formalizing a program and a budget to match future employee contributions to non-profit organizations. And we are always looking to broaden the set of career opportunities in software to tomorrow’s generation by supporting education in science and engineering. As an example, we are donating laptops to a computer science academy at a local Santa Barbara high school.
In summary, we know that significant opportunity remains for Invoca to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. But I am hopeful that the changes we have initiated will lead to a more rewarding, productive, and enjoyable environment for our employees and also benefit our customers and business partners.