Diversity in tech: How 5 Boston companies are fighting for more inclusive work places

May 18, 2017

The tech industry is notorious for its lack of diversity, especially when it comes to hiring women and people of color for technical positions.

But many Boston tech companies are doing more than just report their numbers — they  are taking action to change the status quo. From employee resource clubs to conference rooms named after powerful women in history, five local startups are incorporating diversity into their culture from the very beginning.

 

hubspot

HubSpot develops cloud-based, inbound marketing software that allows businesses to improve the way that they market online.

Responses via Katie Burke, chief people officer at HubSpot

What does diversity mean to your company?

At HubSpot, our diversity and inclusion initiative is a business priority. Diverse teams perform better, and we’re trying to build a global company that outlasts us. But equally important, building a diverse and inclusive workforce is the right thing to do. We want to create a company where people can do their best work, and that means an environment that feels inclusive to people regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, race, religion, socioeconomic status and thought.

What is the diversity of your workforce?

We published HubSpot’s workforce diversity data at the beginning of 2017; you can view the full report and numbers here. As with many of our peers in tech, there’s a lot of work to be done. While we’re not proud of the story the data tells today, we are proud of our employees, candidates and customers for pushing us to be transparent. Our humility is matched only by our desire and commitment to improve on diversity and inclusion throughout the organization. We have a lot of work to do to make that happen, but I couldn’t be more humbled and proud to work on such an important aspect of our company and culture.

How does your company promote diversity in the workplace? And in tech in general?

That manifests itself in many different ways at HubSpot, from what we name our conference rooms (one of my favorites is named after Ada Lovelace) to the events and programming we have just for employees. For example, one way we’re committed to making diversity a reality in our organization is through our employee resource groups including People of Color at HubSpot (POCaH), the LGBTQ+ Alliance and [email protected]

Our offices in Cambridge have several mother’s rooms and a nap room that has come in handy for new parents. We also do our best to walk the talk on autonomy and flexibility that really anchors our Culture Code. Employees have the freedom to create schedules that make the most sense for them. If you need to pick your kids up from soccer practice, head to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, or work from home every Tuesday to help a family member, there’s no red tape or permission slips. We want you to build work around your life, not the other way around.

How do you bring diversity to the hiring process?

There are three initiatives in particular that I think are going to really help us move the needle on hiring more diverse candidates. The first is the Rooney Rule (inspired by the NFL) where for every director-level-and-above position, we require the hiring team for that role to meet with at least one candidate who reflects an underrepresented group at HubSpot today. We also introduced the Norrington Grant last year, named after HubSpot board member Lorrie Norrington, which gives leaders across the company a flexible budget to recruit and compete for non-majority top talent. We’re in the early stages of both initiatives but I’m excited about the results we’ll see, and eager to learn how we can iterate.

What other Boston tech companies have impressed you with their approach to improving diversity?

To be honest, I think diversity and inclusion programming is in the early innings in Boston — we have a lot of hard work to do, but I’m hopeful it’s a collaborative effort to make Boston tech more inclusive as a whole. We partner with Wayfair and TripAdvisor on the [email protected] initiative and I was lucky enough to speak at a MITX Influence(her) event at LogMeIn just last week. There are lots of smart folks who care deeply about this issue, but more work to be done to get us all to the next level.

 

pixability

Pixability is an ad-buying and video marketing platform for YouTube that’s built for media professionals.

Responses via Stephanie Amancio, head of talent acquisition at Pixability

What does diversity mean to your company?

Pixability was founded by Bettina Hein, who encourages an open and transparent environment where different perspectives are truly valued. Additionally, in order to maintain our culture of cutting-edge innovation and tackle challenges in new and creative ways, we are committed to attracting, hiring and retaining employees from a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

What is the diversity of your workforce?

Fifty percent of the people on our leadership team are women. While there is always room for improvement, we strive to cultivate an inclusive and diverse culture and workforce.

How does your company promote diversity in the workplace? And in tech in general?

We have partnered with numerous organizations that promote underrepresented voices in business and tech, including Black Tech Boston. In addition, Bettina co-founded the SheEOs, a Boston-based network of female founders and CEOs that meets monthly to share business resources, learn from guest speakers and lend support to fellow executives — support that is often hard to come by as a female entrepreneur.

How do you bring diversity to the hiring process?

We make diversity in hiring a priority by promoting our inclusive culture and global workforce, and by ensuring our interview teams include a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds.  

What other Boston tech companies have impressed you with their approach to improving diversity?

There are a number of both established and startup tech companies in Boston that have impressed me in their approach to encouraging diversity, including Akamai and ezCater.

 

greathorn

GreatHorn is a cybersecurity solution for cloud communication infrastructure, including email, collaboration and chat tools.

Responses via Kevin O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of GreatHorn

What does diversity mean to your company?

We consider diversity to be a key competitive differentiator for GreatHorn and a core element of our company culture. Companies who embrace a range of diverse opinions are in a better position to create better relationships with customers, identify opportunities, and read and react to changes in the market than those with monocultures. It’s essential for us that our team bring a broad range of experiences, perspectives and ideas to the table.

What is the diversity of your workforce?

At GreatHorn, we are continuously looking to reinforce the diversity of our 2017 workforce. Nearly half (40 percent) of GreatHorn’s leadership team are women, representing multiple different backgrounds. Our team overall encompasses a wide range of different age groups, cultural backgrounds and perspectives.

How does your company promote diversity in the workplace? And in tech in general?

Diversity is discussed seriously and regularly at the senior-most levels within the company. We are committed to building a diverse work environment and team, communicated both internally and externally, and tied to specific and measurable diversity goals across the team. GreatHorn is also a signatory to the White House’s Tech Inclusion Pledge, a worldwide commitment made by technology companies to create and sustain inclusive cultures through hiring practices that are open for all.

How do you bring diversity to the hiring process?

We work with organizations that share our values and seek candidate pools that include people from diverse backgrounds. When working with recruiters, we ensure this initiative is clear within the hiring profile for any new team member. We also ensure that our internal culture and workplace are welcoming to all.

What other Boston tech companies have impressed you with their approach to improving diversity?

There’s been a tremendous focus on diversity within the cybersecurity community; we are pleased to see companies including Microsoft and Hexadite making public strides toward promoting diversity within the Boston community directly. Diversity and inclusiveness are major issues and it’s vital that the cybersecurity industry lead from the front, with conscious, significant and visible steps taken to ensure that our companies represent our commitment to both.

 

cambridge semantics

Cambridge Semantics makes software that puts semantic technology on the backend for business users, helping them benefit from the functionality without having technical backgrounds.

Responses via Alexandra (Lexi) Kantor, People & Culture Coordinator at Cambridge Semantics, Inc.

What does diversity mean to your company?

Cambridge Semantics — an industry-leading big data discovery and analytics smart data company — has a diverse team composed of some of the world’s leading experts in semantic web technology. The diverse culture of the company is based on openness, transparency and the ability to impact the business regardless of role, gender, race or religion.

What is the diversity of your workforce?

The team includes industry experts from across the globe, including India, South Africa, Germany and Barbados. While most tech companies are mostly made up of males, Cambridge Semantics recognizes the importance of hiring qualified women as well — some of whom have moved up within the engineering and human resources teams. The company is generationally diverse as well — from Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers — bringing a range of career experience and knowledge to the table.

How does your company promote diversity in the workplace? And in tech in general?

While the company does not publicly promote diversity in the workplace, it recognizes the value of  hiring candidates based on their skills and talents, and currently employs team members of various age ranges, backgrounds and genders. Whether an employee is interested in front-end development, back-end development or data science, there are many opportunities for employees of all backgrounds to grow within the company. This diversity within the workplace creates a welcoming, positive and collaborative work environment, which in turn, spurs ongoing innovation that is crucial to the company’s success.

How do you bring diversity to the hiring process?

Cambridge Semantics makes it a point to interview a diverse range of candidates. The company seeks talented individuals, and will recruit them regardless of their location or cultural background. For example, if an exceptional candidate currently resides in India, the company will sponsor their work visas and help the employee with the costs. With a diverse team and a supportive and rewarding environment leading the way in a fast-growing technology sector, Cambridge Semantics is a clear example of what many in  today’s workforce are seeking in a company.

What other Boston tech companies have impressed you with their approach to improving diversity?

Cambridge Semantics recognizes the amount of diversity present in companies across all of Boston. For local companies, talent is talent and good people are good people — it is objective and not at all based on one’s background, providing a successful and encouraging work environment.

 

toast

Toast is an all-in-one point-of-sale and restaurant management platform.

Responses via Barry Hartunian, VP of People and Culture at Toast

What does diversity mean to your company?

Very recently our Toast CEO, Chris Comparato poignantly commented: "Our Mission and Business revolve around Food and Technology.  Food is a central and universal art form that brings people together, allowing us to appreciate differences, varying cultures and diverse backgrounds. We strongly believe in diversity and inclusion; we truly value individuals of all backgrounds and interests. With diversity and inclusion comes innovation, better decisions and impactful results. We commit to diversity of thought and action as seen through our Hiring, Recognition and Advancement practices. Diversity includes but is not limited to gender, age, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, service to our country as well as other differences among us." 

How does your company promote diversity in the workplace? And in tech in general?

We are quite proud that a number of our customers are women and minority-owned restaurants. Also, the percentage of women and minority owned businesses within the restaurant industry continues to grow significantly more rapidly than other industries within the overall economy. Some of our Toast groups and clubs: #diversity: organic group of Toasters who have come together to promote diversity and inclusion. They share their own experiences, networking opportunities, interesting articles and blog postings for personal growth, education and development. Women at Toast: brings together women at all levels within our company. Just next week our senior and experienced female Toasters will be participating in a panel discussion where they will be sharing with their younger colleagues what they have learned and grown from in their careers and personal lives to-date. Multigrain:  focuses on strengthening respect and inclusion both within Toast as well as the outside broader community.

How do you bring diversity to the hiring process?

We actively partner with local organizations such as She Geeks Out and Lesbians Who Tech. Our University Relations program proactively reaches out and supports campus diversity clubs, groups and initiatives. To help promote and support diversity in our hiring, we have also incorporated in our selection process foundational aspects such as ensuring we have at least one woman, if not more, on each of our interview and selection teams for all our technical hiring.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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