Building a diverse team

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When I arrived at Hosted Graphite as the new (and first) Office Manager, I also represented another important addition to the company – the second woman on the team. Since then, three more women have joined our ranks; in a company of about twenty, this marks a significant increase. We’ve already published one blog about how to navigate the job market inclusively, but we think it’s important that we say a few more things about diversity in the workplace.

We haven’t conducted any surveys – there’s not much anonymity in such a small office – but we think things are going pretty well here, and that’s for a few reasons. While it largely comes down to ethos, and we’re pretty proud of the one we’ve got, I’m going to focus on the ways diversity can be written into company policy and supported at a structural level. Talking the talk is all well and good, but it’s not enough just to say your company supports diversity in the workplace – if a company’s practice can’t support its liberal claims, it’s not doing enough. People in houses with glass ceilings shouldn’t throw stones (they also probably shouldn’t mix metaphors, but whatever).

We put a lot of thought into creating company policies that are inclusive and don’t discriminate – and not just the anti-discrimination policy. This is reflected from the moment you sign your contract, which has been completely wiped of all gendered language. A gender-neutral contract creates a more welcoming and binding agreement with respect to prospective employees who may be women, trans, non-gender-conforming or non-binary, as well as destroying implicit misogyny from the get-go. Removing gendered language from our employee contracts was actually my first task on the job, and I could not have dreamed up something that would have made me feel more comfortable or included in the company’s ethos. Not to wax too lyrical, but it was definitely an experience I’d class as empowering.

As employees, we also benefit from policies that are not set in stone. This allows employees to work around their specific situation, taking into account whatever factors that may come into play. In fact, even most of our policies that have been “set in stone” – that is, published – have flexibility as their core principle. Our work from home policy and flexible working hours are excellent examples of this; Hosted Graphite employees are welcome to work from wherever they need to and during a wide range of hours where required. In addition, employees are strongly encouraged to consider sick leave inclusive of mental health. The mental health of our employees is every bit as important, and important to us, as their physical health.

Regarding mental health, we recognise that full-time work is a stressful thing to deal with. This is especially the case in a start-up, where the job you’re working may have zero precedent, and you’re making everything up as you go along in addition to being flung headlong into a new environment. Which is of course to say nothing of the psychologically tumultuous nature of on-call work our SRE team does. For this reason, employees are encouraged to be honest about their needs in and out of the job, and on a number of diversity fronts. This goes a long way to ensuring that the needs of both parties are not only met, but exceeded, and that workplace relations remain a supportive and inclusive environment. Our most recent example of this is one of our employees requesting time off and a change of project to avoid burnout; the problem was addressed swiftly before it had the chance to turn into something more serious. Open, clear, and supportive lines of communication create a workplace where employees are not only encouraged to do their best work, but receive the best support that they can to do so.

There are several other ways we try to be inclusive but when it comes to diversity in the workplace, the most pressing issue is pay.  You can love your job all you want (and I like to think that most of us here do) but at the end of the day, we work to be paid. Minority groups tend not to ask for salary increases (even when they deserve it) so we published a company page with advice on how to get a raise. Creating an environment where employees are not only encouraged, but actually taught how to ask for the pay they deserve shows our commitment to honouring the value of our employees’ work, even though it might appear contrary to the nature of what we are as a company. And we’re okay with that, because we do value our employees, and the work that they do. All of them.