More than a motto: How 7 Austin tech companies make their workplaces more inclusive

by Katie Fustich
October 11, 2018

Diversity and inclusion have become veritable buzzwords in recent years, and with good reason. Seemingly each week, new reports roll out about the lack of women and minorities in the tech sector, making companies eager to resolve these disparities.

Built In Austin spoke to seven local tech companies to learn how their diversity and inclusion efforts go beyond hiring quotas and PR-friendly statistics. Here’s what they’re doing to make a difference.

 

HomeAway
image via homeaway

HomeAway helps people book vacation rentals, from mountain cabins to beach cabanas, in every corner of the world. This global perspective is an integral part of the HomeAway employee philosophy. As VP of Human Resources Ana Mitrasevic explained, this focus on diversity is just as good for business as it is for employee morale.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

At HomeAway, we believe that diversity is a key component of innovation: You can’t build great products without it. Having millions of customers around the world means we can’t anticipate the diverse needs of our global travelers without having diverse employees. It’s part of the reason why diversity and inclusion are so important to us: It makes for good science.

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

Diversity is part of our DNA. It’s foundational to our culture and it’s embedded in every part of the employee experience, from scouting new talent to helping employees develop their careers. We encourage inclusion by fostering a culture based on openness and participation. All employees are expected to listen, look for feedback, generate ideas and provide feedback in return. Transparency and mutual respect is what drives these conversations and helps us remain open and communicative. Some of this practice is formalized via regular surveys and communications among our team, which helps ensure that thinking about inclusion and acting to encourage diversity becomes a habit. We also encourage every one of our global team members to undergo unconscious bias training: it helps us recognize areas for improvement and become better teammates, scientists and humans.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

There are plenty of studies that show that diversity helps companies flourish financially. And it goes without saying that inclusive hiring practices help companies attract the best talent. We take it one step further: around here, we believe you can’t build great, innovative products without having a diversity of perspective that only comes from a group of employees with diverse backgrounds. We embrace a broad view of diversity that includes factors that are often overlooked. One example of this is communication diversity: making sure your culture caters to introverts and extroverts is something that many companies don’t think about but that can have a huge impact on employee experience and the free exchange of ideas.

 

Duo Security
image via duo security

Duo Security builds cloud-based security tools that help teams with remote access, staying secure at scale, authenticating users and more. One thing this company takes as seriously as security is diversity and inclusion. Trey Boynton, Duo Security’s manager of diversity and inclusion, walked us through the company’s exciting breadth of efforts.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity brings together differences across a spectrum of identities, perspectives and approaches that lead to solving harder problems using innovative strategies. Inclusion is ensuring that everyone is able to offer their highest contribution. We strive for connectedness, when success is mutually connected and interdependent. Our ultimate vision for D&I is to reduce barriers to brilliance.

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

It began with our core values, which are deeply held and acted upon throughout the company. Our program is designed to focus on three key areas: internal connectedness, community outreach and inclusive infrastructure led by a D&I team that develops programs and initiatives to support our vision. In just our first year, we’ve heavily invested people, time, resources, tools, partnerships and old-fashioned hard work. This is only the beginning, and we are excited about what lies ahead.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

We believe that the tech industry should reflect the people we build things for: everyone.  

 

Ping Identity
image via ping identity

Ping Identity works to build a unique security platform that keeps your information protected, yet accessible, wherever you go, based on your unique ID. The company’s team culture takes a similar approach, as Software Engineer Anthony Dombrowski said, by recognizing and encouraging what’s unique about every employee.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity and inclusion means creating and fostering an environment that is both welcoming and productive to everyone, regardless of background. At Ping Identity, there is a strong sense of community that involves everyone and a constant push from the entire organization toward increasing our diversity.

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

Ping Identity encourages its employees to act upon the words we all strive to live by. The company encourages volunteering events and showcases them in our internal newsletter to promote them. Events have been held in the past to encourage donating to charitable organizations through donation matching. Recruiting events are held with an emphasis on giving everyone a fair chance and encouraging those from underrepresented backgrounds to apply. The company has a group that offers mentoring for female employees. The list goes on, and it’s becoming an important theme as the company expands rapidly.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

Diversity and inclusion are important parts of ensuring the tech ecosystem continues in the best way possible. Technology pervades nearly everything in our lives and is only increasing with time. Without diversity, there’s the possibility of unfairly favoring one group over another. Diversity and inclusion can help the tech ecosystem continue to provide benefits, and improve on them, for everyone if the people in charge of designing and building the technology are themselves from a wide range of backgrounds.

 

New Knowledge
image via new knowledge

New Knowledge uses the powers of machine learning to help stop the spread of misinformation. This commitment to digging deeper extends into the company’s hiring process, which Lead Research Scientist Paul Azunre explained draws on talent from across socioeconomic lines.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

To me, diversity and inclusion means making a conscious effort to address potential disparities in opportunity available to talent in different socioeconomic circumstances.

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

We make a conscious effort to reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups for every available role at the company. This ensures that our applicant pool is representative of the broader population across different socioeconomic and cultural groups, and makes sure that the truly best candidates are available for each position. Additionally, we prioritize employee contributions to NGO projects aimed at eliminating bias in hiring, the justice system and educational opportunities.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

It translates into better solutions to hard technical problems, as one is able to draw on a breadth of perspectives that may be unavailable otherwise. It makes sure that the best candidates are available for every role. Indeed, it makes sure that the most important technical problems facing our society as a whole are being appropriately addressed.

 

RetailMeNot
image via retailmenot

With its savings platform, RetailMeNot helps companies gain valuable new audiences while also helping consumers ease the burden on their wallets. At RetailMeNot HQ, exciting things are happening with regards to D&I. Director of Diversity and Inclusion Sharon Brogdon explained how employee-led initiatives are creating real change.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

To me, diversity and inclusion is about providing access, visibility and opportunity to those who traditionally don’t have it, and creating a safe space to enable conversation, presuming good intent and listening. If we are all striving to learn about another person’s path or experience with a lens of empathy, and create a safe space to have what may be uncomfortable conversations, then I believe we can better positioned to create environments and cultures that are truly inclusive.

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

At RetailMeNot, we have a formal diversity and inclusion program built on the mission of empowering our employees to better serve and connect with our business, customers and our community. Embracing cognitive diversity at RetailMeNot creates a more inclusive space, and ensures every team member is valued, welcomed, respected, and heard.

It’s imperative to incorporate all levels and departments. We found success by securing the buy-in and involvement with a grassroots effort led by our employees and supported at the executive level. At launch of our full program, we added the value of “Diverse and Inclusive” to our five long-standing company values. Our CEO, Cotter Cunningham, displayed his commitment to this program with this addition, and his full support has been on display since the launch. The engagement of front-line team members to set up ERGs and related missions and activities has been fuel to the engine of change and excitement.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

Diversity and inclusion efforts have an impact on every facet of business, including your consumer base, your ability to attract and hire technical talent, and your bottom line. Consumers today are becoming more deliberate about companies they interact with, and they want to support companies that support causes that are important to them. Moreover, applying the lens of inclusion to product design in order to meet the needs of various communities ensures that all end users have equal opportunity to participate.

 

360training.com
image via 360training.com

Looking to learn something new? 360training probably has a course for that. The leading online education station hosts more than 6,000 unique courses across 15 industries. VP of Human Resources Mary Evans explained how, behind the scenes, a holistic approach to diversity helps both employees and the business as a whole.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity is the who of our population and inclusion is the what and how. Who do we hire? Who are our customers? What do we do to keep employees engaged and motivated? How do we include others in processes and decisions?

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

When we are making decisions, we always keep our policies, practices and employees in mind. It is part of who we are.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

Recognizing the importance of different backgrounds, skills and abilities helps ensure the tech ecosystem is looked at from various angles. By having diversity, it allows us to challenge the way we think about our customers from varying viewpoints.

 

MVF
image via MVF

MVF works with companies to bring them an audience that matters, when it matters. Through sales, marketing and tech, MVF helps drive growth to companies large and small. Yet, internally, Sales Team Lead Emma Stewart explained the concrete ways in which the company gives voice to all employees.

 

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Diversity and inclusion brings together people from different places and backgrounds, and with different views and beliefs into a team that embraces those differences. It creates an environment where all people feel empowered and encouraged to speak up and where people with individual traits are valued. It’s a place where everyone has the same opportunity for growth and where you can see people from different backgrounds in leadership

 

How does your company ensure that the policies and programs it has in place when it comes to D&I are acted upon?

At MVF, diversity and inclusion is more about building an inclusive workplace than it is about hitting a quota. We currently do this in two big ways: recruitment and reward. When we hire new candidates, we have a standardized framework for interviews and onboarding to give every MVFer an equal chance at being successful in their role. Our company is international, so we hire from a wide range of cultures for sales roles operating in different languages; I think at last count we had more than 20 languages spoken across the business.

MVF is very structured in the way team members receive commission and promotions. In our sales teams especially, decisions around reward and promotion are meritocratic. This means that no matter your background, if you perform and hit your targets, you will progress in your role.

 

How does diversity and inclusion help the tech ecosystem as a whole?

Tech is a very innovative sector and there is immense competition, so you have to have a wide range of perspectives to drive a dynamic culture and environment. Aside from simply being the right thing to do, your bottom line will also thrive if you have people throughout your business with varied backgrounds and experiences bringing new thoughts and opinions to the table.

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