Featuring women leaders from AppNexus, Bluecore, Stash Invest and Thrive Global
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PowerToFly recently partnered with four amazing New York companies, AppNexus, Bluecore, Stash Invest and Thrive Global to present an evening of networking and panel discussions at Rise NYC. Guests had an opportunity to network with women tech leaders and the other executives from our four featured companies as well as their fellow women in tech.
An energetic, insightful panel, moderated by PowerToFly CoFounder & CEO Milena Berry, featured four passionate women leaders, including:
Doa Jafri, Director of Engineering at Thrive Global
Bahar Shah, Software Engineer at Bluecore
Bavitha Sokhi, Lead Software Engineer at Stash Invest
Theresa "Tvu" Vu, Senior Vice President of Engineering, AppNexus
According to a professional diversity trainer and global DEIB impact manager.
When you design a diversity initiative, the obvious goal is to choose diversity training that fits your company’s specific needs. What may be less obvious is that your diversity training choices will reflect more than your code of conduct — they’ll also represent your work culture to your employees on a larger scale. And if people feel like you just need them to check a box, they aren’t likely to be engaged.
So, how can we make diversity training in the workplace interesting, impactful, and something people will actually want to attend? This is a question I’m constantly striving to answer in my role as a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) manager and trainer — and for good reason. One 2021 report found that although 32% of employers mandated diversity training for employees and 34% mandated it for managers — more on the “mandating” piece of this later, by the way — these efforts largely rang hollow. As many as 80% of companies were just “going through the motions” when it came to DEIB, that report found, with no accountability in place to ensure the impact of these trainings.
As the Global DEIB Impact Manager at PowerToFly, I’m not interested in checking boxes or perpetuating that mindset. For real engagement and a company culture that employees are excited to take part in, here are my recommendations for implementing and improving upon diversity training in a way that’ll help move the needle.
What are the characteristics of effective diversity training?
When I talk about my job and what I do, I don’t tell people that I’m managing and providing diversity training. I don’t even use a standard diversity training definition; instead, I focus on the big picture. I speak about creating and facilitating brave spaces and opportunities for individuals to explore their intersectional identities — spaces that prioritize safety and empower every individual to bring their whole self to work. This holistic approach is what actually makes an impact.
Similarly, holistic diversity training programs should not just be theoretical. They need to also foster practical action and implementation steps. An effective diversity training program pushes employees to expand their knowledge and further communicate with and understand each other better. This desire to understand and connect becomes the foundation of authentic company culture.
There are many different types of training that fall under the larger category of diversity training. While your “bucket” training topics will encompass broad themes — like race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, language, religion, age, neurodiversity, physical ability, and socio-economic status— you can break down your trainings into more specific topics and areas of focus, like:
Identity- and intersectionality-focused discussions
Beyond reviewing the training topic and its relevance to where your company is now and where it’s ideally going, also consider if this training will actually get people connecting and communicating. To that end, my tip is to look for the following three elements: interaction, alignment with your company culture, and delivery across multiple channels.
Implementing a diversity training program is a practice of intentional inclusion in your organization. It is the logistical behavior aimed at expanding and improving your employee experience.
Sitting through a lecture with no opportunity to verbally contribute? Or perhaps an online Zoom meeting with 200+ attendees? These are examples of checking a box — and your employees know it.
To encourage real interaction in your diversity training, you can:
Let people know they have multiple options for participating, whether in the chat or over their mic. Whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
Rather than desperately trying to fill dead air-time, welcome silence. It gives people the chance to meaningfully speak up and participate, particularly those who need time to process before they engage.
Allow different types of learners to feel supported and seen. That can include sending out materials in advance of the training, so that neurodiverse folks can review ahead of time (and hopefully avoid feeling overstimulated in the training itself, with the need to follow along visually as well as auditorily).
Explicitly invite the group to answer reflective questions that connect their own personal experiences to the topic.
Facilitate small-group discussion spaces. That can include breakout rooms during the training, but also spaces for extended interaction with a topic outside of the one session.
Interactive diversity training requires intentionality. But that’s also just the starting point. Plenty of organizations have good intentions without follow-through actions. Discussion-based training allows opportunities for your team to speak up and share, and intentional interaction helps people develop the tools and understanding they need to be more readily mindful of others’ experiences. Real, vulnerable discussions are where storytelling becomes a tool for growth — at PowerToFly, we like to call them listening circles. They will have more impact on the bigger vision and day-to-day practices in your workplace than another boring lecture.
2. Alignment with company culture
Everyone from brand-new recruits to veteran employees engage with diversity training programs. These programs are designed to engage and support employees, increase allyship and growth, and create an opportunity to invite everyone — regardless of identity or background — to bring their whole selves to work. In other words, they’re meant to foster an environment of true inclusion and belonging.
What does engagement with training look like? The answer depends on your company culture.
If the culture is more traditional and conservative, an informal or artsy creative training approach may not be well received. And vice versa. If your company culture is more flexible and welcomes things like remote work and open offices, an uptight style of formal training isn’t nearly as likely to work. Why? Your diversity training needs to be reflective of your existing company culture and not feel like an afterthought or add-on. It’s very important to proactively incorporate this when curating a diversity training plan.
If you’re struggling to get a sense of how your company culture would translate to diversity training, a good first step might be naming your company values. Does your workforce feel aligned with these values? Your on-paper culture and values may need to shift to reflect the reality of your workplace. Consider surveying employees to get a clearer sense of where your company culture is currently, and where folks would like to see it move to.
3. Delivery across a variety of channels
Effective diversity training programs offer a variety of different channels to engage all employees. Everybody learns, communicates, and processes information differently. Some folks may learn best in a classroom setting with a facilitator-led, established curriculum. Others may want interactive diversity training options available online. You should always ask employees about their preference in how they want to engage with the material.
Above all, the diversity training itself should also demonstrate and welcome diversity in learning styles.
Some education channels to consider include:
In-person classroom trainings, including role playing and interactive simulations
Asynchronous programming, so employees can move at their own pace
Strategic mentorship to empower and accelerate change
Why does diversity training fail?
As we’ve written about previously, DEIB training is not automatically impactful — in fact, some training can actually do more harm than good. It’s important to have a clear understanding of some of the common reasons diversity training fails, so that you can build that awareness into the way you do go about implementing your training. Forbes gives the following five reasons for why diversity training fails.
1. Resistance — on the part of staff or leadership
2. Improper implementation — utilizing only a traditional lecture format, for instance, and ignoring the role of structured mentorship and other interactive models
3. Lack of consistency — especially when a diversity training is held in reaction to a particular problem or incident
4. Lack of leadership buy-in — training pitches don’t address the projected ROI of a program in a way that speaks to (sometimes) apathetic executives
5. The diversity label – even mentioning "diversity" can lead to increased stress and anxiety, especially for White men; proactive framing around the importance of these programs, as well as creative labeling for the program itself, can help ease resistance
Let’s not forget the DEIB industry’s well-known failure factor: mandatory attendance. Research has shown that mandatory diversity training sometimes leads to worse behavior and poor impressions in many employees, and has even been linked to decreases in diversity on leadership teams. Voluntary training, meanwhile, has been linked to the opposite: increases of 9% to 13% in Black men, Hispanic or Latino men, and Asian-American men and women in management five years after training. Encouraging buy-in to DEIB training, it turns out, may mean letting people feel they’ve chosen to support and engage in long-term change.
3 ways to improve your diversity training
Now that we’ve explored a handful of the reasons diversity training fails, let’s get into some pragmatic ways to improve your company’s diversity training. From tracking outcomes to incorporating the right cultural cues, I have three main tips to improve the success of your diversity training program.
1. Aim for changing behavior.
Diversity training programs should go beyond imparting knowledge and be aimed at changing behaviors. To do that, diversity training programs need measurable outcomes to stay on track, show progress, and highlight gaps. Too obvious? Surprisingly, 76% of companies as of 2021 still had no concrete diversity or inclusion goals at all.
It makes sense to talk about goals in relation to diversity training, but how exactly can you measure whether your training is effective?
Pre-/post-training surveys: Use this data collection technique to gauge employee understanding of a topic before and after attending a diversity training. If responses don’t align with your indicators, discuss strategies to improve those outcomes. (This can also be a great way to gather employee feedback on ongoing programming).
Use tech resources: Recently, we sat down with Emily Felner from Logicworks to discuss people-first techniques at work. She described the Slack integrations she uses to solicit quick employee feedback, like Donut, Officevibe, and Bonusly. Use the tech platforms at your disposal to track if behavior is changing.
2. Ensure fit with brand and tone.
What’s the elephant in the room when contracting out for diversity training? That the partnering facilitator doesn’t match the personality of the organization. Diversity training, much like DEIB as a whole, is not a one-size-fits-all situation. The material should reflect your company tone and branding, too, so that it integrates seamlessly with other company training modules.
When partnerships are rushed or aren’t properly evaluated to reflect the personality, feel, and values of your company and its culture, you can end up with what feels like a performative initiative.
3. Be realistic.
My final recommendation to improve your diversity training is to set realistic goals. Training can certainly change some aspects of work life, but it takes time and consistency — a few hours of training isn’t enough to shift your entire culture. Offering diversity training is also not going to automatically translate to increased diversity at your company (unless you’re conducting trainings on recruiting diverse candidates, that is). It can perhaps increase diversity indirectly by improving your company culture and making it a place where diverse talent wants to work. But we need to be explicit about what training can (and can’t) achieve.
One study found that the “most effective diversity training programs help participants identify and reduce bias" — a modest aim. Diversity initiatives are proven to be successful — and to show measurable improvement — when they have realistic aims.
When looking at one diversity training session, the results may be short-term and require outside tools to ensure they're connected to concrete behavioral and cultural changes. The larger goals of a diversity initiative can take years to achieve, and require steadfast commitment to the growth process.
Effective diversity training reflects company culture
The best kind of diversity training program is, above all, one that is attuned to the strengths and areas of improvement that exist within your company culture right now. Each organization is different, and your DEIB approach needs to reflect those nuances.
The difference between equity vs. equality is a key concept in DEIB efforts. We tend to use these terms interchangeably in everyday speech, and it’s true that they are close synonyms, both essentially referring to fairness. But the difference between equity vs. equality is, in reality, a fundamental one. It’s a distinction that underpins all social justice work, including our efforts towards building more inclusive workplaces and my own work as a Global DEIB Strategist & Trainer.
Equity is part of a larger process to create a more fair and just society. Today, I’ll define both equity and equality, describe how they intersect and where they differ, and share some real-world examples. I hope to clearly explain how the equity vs. equality DEIB concept can be applied in the workplace as a better business practice.
Equity vs. equality definitions
So, what is equity vs. equality? Let’s start by defining some important terms. I find that it can be helpful to define opposite terms as well, beginning with inequality.
Inequality of outcomes — where people don’t possess the same material wealth or living conditions, like income or education level, as others due to their socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, religion, gender, or another identity.
Inequality of opportunities — in which people’s access to employment, health, education, wealth, and safety are restricted by conditions beyond their control.
In the United States, many forms of inequality, like income inequality, are steadily increasing. Between 1980 and 2016, U.S. income inequality increased by about 20%, according to Pew Research Center. Pew found that the number of American adults living in middle-income households dropped from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019, while the number of upper-income and lower-income households grew.
Similarly, for the past 30 years in Europe, markers of inequality have been increasing. Since 1993, 19 countries in the E.U. have seen declines in educational equality, 16 have seen declines in health equality, and 18 have seen a significant decline in socioeconomic equality. Meanwhile, across Latin America and the Caribbean, economic elites have blocked fiscal reforms that would upend long-standing inequality and create better social protections, according to a 2021 report from the United Nations. And in India, the share of wealth possessed by the bottom 50% of earners has been cut in half since 1961, while the wealth of the top 1% has grown 180%.
Inequality is a global, worsening problem, with marginalized groups absorbing the worst of its impacts across the world.
What does equality mean?
Equality occurs when each individual or group is given the same resources and opportunities.
The problem with equality
The problem with equality is that it can only exist when there are no disadvantageous conditions beyond a person’s control influencing the way they get to utilize resources and opportunities. And the playing field is not level.
The work of equality is to call out exclusions that have existed for historically marginalized people and communities. People who support policies of equality may say they also support “color-blind” policies — that is, treating people as equally as possible regardless of race or ethnicity.
What’s wrong with that? These policies tend to support those who already have power and opportunity in society. Recruitment research, for example, shows us that people tend to recruit their own likeness. Whether subconsciously or not, White cisgender people hire White cisgender people. The same goes for university admissions and other merit-based applications, limiting the way these “equal opportunities” exist in practice.
Picture a White cisgender male CEO. He is ultimately in charge of how his company recruits, hires, promotes, and retains workers. His policies reward behaviors he deems valuable. He values leadership, being outspoken, making unilateral decisions, risk-taking, and professionalism (considered code for White favoritism). All these values are behaviors he has been rewarded for in his lifetime as a White cisgender male in society.
Those from marginalized communities are punished for these behaviors. I’ve seen men praised for taking charge while women are admonished for “being aggressive.” There are also cultural reasons for people of color and/or people from more collectivist cultures not to demonstrate some of these behaviors — meaning, the same people always move up in the company (and in society). Basically, organizations stay White. It's a vicious cycle. In this way, an emphasis on equity vs. equality can be more productive.
What does equity mean?
Equity occurs when each person is allocated resources and opportunities based on their circumstances to reach an equal outcome.
Equity acknowledges disparity
While disparities have long existed, acknowledgement of different lived experiences is still weak. A 2019 study on race by Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 84% of Black people in the U.S. feel racial discrimination is a major obstacle for Black people while only 35% of White people think so. Similarly, in the U.K, Black people are twice as likely as White people to say there is discrimination in British policing and media. Let’s face it: Despite evidence, some people refuse to believe that disparities exist.
With equity, we try to understand the real disparities that a person or group might experience. Then, we attempt to tailor resources for them, creating a variety of paths to equal outcomes that recognize these disparities and what different groups’ real, lived needs are.
This is not as intuitive as the one-size-fits-all equality policies mentioned above, and sometimes people resist the idea of equity. Affirmative action, or race-conscious admission policy in U.S. universities, was one such example of an equity-based policy that fell under constant scrutiny and was ultimately gutted by the Supreme Court in June 2023. In California, where affirmative action was already banned as of 1996, we’ve seen socioeconomic inequalities become exacerbated without these policies.
Equity vs. equality images
An equity vs. equality image I love is the following graphic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It neatly illustrates one key takeaway: Equity allocates resources in a way that specifically addresses individuals’ needs and circumstances.
Another equity vs. equality image I use is from the illustrator Tony Ruth. Here, the concept goes beyond equity to highlight systemic problems. In the image, the tree is titled to one side, and there is an imbalance in fruit growth.
Justice, in other words, occurs when people have the resources they need and systemic inequalities are removed.
Equity vs. equality examples
We’re starting to get a feel for equity vs. equality, but let’s move beyond the abstract. I’ve put together some concrete examples of equity vs. equality in the workplace in the area of the gender pay gap.
Many of us are familiar with the concept of equal pay for equal work. This is pay equality. It demands transparency and that people with the same job position make the same salary regardless of background or gender.
Pay equity, on the other hand, is about equal pay for work of comparable value. Jobs that are historically dominated by men and jobs that are historically dominated by women, for instance, should be paid the same if the value of the work is equal. Value of work is measured in skill, effort, responsibilities, and conditions of the work.
U.S. women’s national soccer team
In late 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced they would pay the U.S. Women’s National Team an amount equal to the money awarded to the men’s team for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Though the USWNT have won more international tournaments than the men, they faced decades of discrimination and shortages in resources, support, and media coverage. They will also be paid $22 million in back pay to retroactively address equity. They are a more valuable sports team to the country because they perform relatively better, even though they can’t attract as much money or viewership. Pay equity also acknowledges that there are systemic disparities faced by people on the same team, and attempts to correct it.
Indigenous health equity in Australia
As is true of most colonized nations, extreme health inequities in Australia become clear when comparing the health outcomes and life expectancies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. In the past, Australia’s government has responded to these disparities with paternalistic, culturally insensitive policies that went against the wishes of many First Peoples in Australia and made inequities worse.
Then, in 2019, a formal agreement for a “Closing the Gap” program was reached between Australia’s state and territory governments and a coalition of more than 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations. With a goal of achieving health equity for Australia’s First Peoples by 2030, the program recognizes Indigenous people’s authority over what their own communities need and is putting resources into closing gaps like physical and financial barriers to health services in rural areas and the need for culturally appropriate healthcare.
Close your gender pay gap or risk being outed by my favorite Twitter bot: @PayGapApp exposes companies with hypocritical DEIB messaging. Each time a company posts about equity but has a gender pay gap that is public knowledge, this bot calls them out. There are hundreds of examples.
How to make your workplace more equitable
We need intentional, active DEIB initiatives and practices to make workplaces more equitable. Here are a few crucial steps in your journey towards equity in the workplace.
1. Have a DEIB goal.
What does DEIB look like for your company? Try finishing these sentences:
We will know that we have a diverse workplace when…
We will know that we have an inclusive workplace when…
We will know that we have an equitable workplace when…
We will know that we have a culture of belonging when…
Increasing workforce representation across race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and age identities by a set date
Scoring higher for employee retention, satisfaction, or wellness on internal surveys
2. Build data-driven feedback.
Once you’ve set goals, you need specific indicators that show progress. From your current demographics to your goal demographics, what is the percentage of change needed to achieve equity? As we like to say at PowerToFly, what gets measured gets managed, and tying your lofty DEIB goals to concrete, measurable, and shareable numerical outcomes is essential. Employee feedback, too, is the most critical measure of your progress.
3. Offer DEIB training.
DEIB training gives us the opportunity to learn about other people and confront our own biases. Through different channels, address the following areas or bring in a consultant who can:
Equitable hiring and recruitment takes everything I mentioned above and infuses it into an intentional, impactful approach to growing diverse teams. This applies to how we advertise jobs and select and screen candidates. Partnering with a DEIB training expert can be extremely helpful when teaching teams to recognize our biases towards people’s background, circumstances, look, and behavior.
Equity in the workplace
Understanding equity vs. equality is something I think about on a daily basis. I know there are plenty of professionals out there, like myself, who want to make their company a better place to work for all. Understanding equity helps us meet the needs of our people and provide the right resources so that our teams can be efficient and productive. In doing this, we acknowledge that systemic disadvantages are real, and we can work to actively dismantle them.
NEW YORK – September 7, 2023 – PowerToFly, a diversity talent acquisition platform connecting underrepresented talent to great careers, today announced a new feature available within the PowerPro product, Candidate Search. The new feature is set to transform talent acquisition by providing companies with a powerful tool to identify and recruit candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, bringing a new level of inclusivity and effectiveness to the hiring process.
Using the Enhanced Search feature within Candidate Search, recruiters are equipped to search for and select candidates based on specific diversity parameters like gender and ethnicity, among other identity markers candidates have and affinity groups they belong to. The streamlined process facilitates finding, shortlisting, and engaging potential candidates, all within a single intuitive search function.
Employers and recruiters now have the ability to find professionals who match various identity and skill markers, adding a new dimension to diversity recruiting — one that often wasn’t feasible with traditional candidate search tools.
While competitors may use the term “diversity filters” to describe a similar feature, PowerToFly uses proprietary self-reported data from its community of 3.7 million diverse professionals to enhance candidate information, all while providing recruiters with a search experience that is more robust, expansive, and accurate compared to tools operated by platforms without a core DEIB focus.
On average, traditional talent acquisition teams can spend up to four hours curating a list of 100 qualified, diverse profiles using tools like LinkedIn. PowerPro’s Candidate Search enables recruiters to generate these lists in seconds.
In addition to its streamlining capabilities, Candidate Search is designed to foster inclusivity from the earliest stages of recruitment, aligning with PowerToFly's core mission of engendering more diverse teams. The feature is readily accessible within PowerPro, PowerToFly’s comprehensive talent acquisition platform.
"With the launch of Candidate Search, we are taking a crucial step forward in empowering companies to expand the pool of top talent they’re connecting with across all identity groups. With this feature, companies can continue building teams that reflect the identity demographics of the communities they're serving, and do this faster than ever before" said Milena Berry, CEO and co-founder of PowerToFly.
The enhancement features in Candidate Search help mitigate unconscious biases that inadvertently impact hiring decisions, enabling companies to tap into the power of diverse perspectives to drive innovation and success.
For those interested in learning more about Candidate Search, PowerToFly will be hosting a live demo on Thursday, September 7th, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EDT. Click here to register.
PowerToFly was founded by Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski in 2014 to fast-track economic equity by connecting underrepresented talent to roles in highly visible sectors. The company is focused on empowering underrepresented talent across all races, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities, veteran statuses, and gender identities. Allies are welcomed.
A full list of companies on the PowerToFly platform can be found here.