Why Considering Employee Intersectionality in the Workplace Matters

Janey Zitomer
August 20, 2020

At WP Engine, one-third of employees don’t have college degrees. That’s because leadership believes that having graduated from a certain university isn’t a direct reflection of a person's skill level or technical prowess. Instead, many individuals at the company have backgrounds from coding academies and training programs. 

Shifting hiring practices is just one example of professionals using their positions as managers, VPs and employee resource group members to increase equity as they consider intersectionality in the workplace. 

At the following Austin companies, team members understand that ensuring inclusivity starts with a process technologists across the globe are quite familiar with: looking at the data. 

For instance, at Duo Security, Chief of Staff and Head of Belonging Kendra Mitchell said the company has been studying its survey data and what it reveals about how employees identities may inform their experiences in their roles. 

“We’ve reflected on what the quantitative data shows us about who is represented and where in our workplace,” Mitchell said.

As a result, the C-suite will be able to measure the success of initiatives like ASL interpretation at companywide meetings. 

 

Hippo Insurance
Hippo Insurance

At Hippo Insurance, therapy falls under the category of health benefits covered by the home insurance platform. Providing free counseling for all employees is one example of  intersectionality shaping DEI initiatives in the workplace, according to Recruiting Manager Nicolette Jackson. Others include employee resource groups dedicated to underrepresented voices and the assessment of equity in current performance-based processes. 

 

How does Hippo Insurance approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives? 

At Hippo, we create a space for diverse individuals to thrive. Hippo has built a family of employees and continues to invest in all of its team members’ success in their personal lives as well. 

We provide comprehensive benefits for our employees including adoption assistance and parental leave, and we pay 100 percent for all employee benefits. Mental health is a priority during these challenging times, so we have partnered with Concern, an employee well-being organization, to provide free therapy options for our employees.

 

What has been the most impactful action Hippo Insurance has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees?

When it comes to equitable impact, Hippo is constantly listening, learning and taking actions that aim to create a more inclusive, creative and collaborative organization for its employees. While there is still much work to be done, we have started with recruiting initiatives, employee onboarding and training programs and mentorship sessions. 

We recently launched an employee resource group for people of color and their allies, which has mobilized and already unveiled a diversity internship program. The program was developed as a way to bring young people of color to Hippo to contribute to what we, as a business, can do to make Hippo a more inclusive environment. In the process, we want to give the interns an overview of what it’s like to work at an insurtech startup.

 

Our people team analyzes recommendations to ensure pay and promotions are equitable across the company.’’ 

What role do your employees play in leading or supporting DEI efforts?  

Our employees play a critical role in the advancement of our DEI initiatives. We work with hiring managers to reduce bias in our hiring process across offices and leverage tools and programs to continue to increase the diversity of our talent. We have built an onboarding and training program to ensure new hires have buddies and mentors across the company to create a sense of belonging and connection. During our performance process, our people team analyzes recommendations to ensure pay and promotions are equitable across the company. 

Every leader, including our CEO Assaf, is accessible and accountable to our team members. There’s never a time when we can’t email, call or even text them and get an answer back or time set aside to talk. We ensure everyone is heard by having a true open-door policy. 

 

Duo Security
Duo Security 

Duo Security’s current diversity and inclusion advisor recently shared her view with leadership at the multi-factor authentication provider that Black women’s experiences are often the litmus test for whether an organization’s culture is really just and equitable. With that in mind, Chief of Staff and Head of Belonging Kendra Mitchell said the team is looking at their current processes through the lens of intersectionality, modeling equitable values from the top down. 

 

How does Duo Security approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives?

We think about intersectionality a lot in our belonging practice. By employing an intersectional lens, we acknowledge that race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality and ability — just to name a few — are constantly in interaction with and often compounding one another, actively impacting how people experience the world around them. 

We’re working with Aubrey Blanche, who is director of equitable design and impact at Culture Amp, on our approach to equity and belonging. In a talk she recently gave to our leaders, she shared with us the view that Black women’s experiences are often the litmus test for whether an organization’s culture is really just and equitable. As women, racial minorities and sometimes mothers, Black women are acutely marginalized with respect to pay and advancement opportunities and underrepresented in leadership and tech entrepreneurship compared even to their Black male or white women peers. 

By building policies and practices that are attuned to the workplace experiences of those with multiple identities of marginalization, employers have the best capacity to design an equitable workplace that supports, empowers and recognizes the fundamental dignity and worth of people from all identities, backgrounds and walks of life. We’ve found this guidance particularly helpful as we reimagine what a just and equitable workplace could and should look like.

 

Perhaps the most impactful thing we’ve done is sat and seriously considered our data.’’ 

What has been the most impactful action Duo Security has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees? 

Perhaps the most impactful thing we’ve done is sat and seriously considered our data. We’ve reflected on what the quantitative data shows us about who is represented and where in our workplace. We’ve also invested significant time in exploring qualitatively what our employees are saying about how their experiences with us may vary by identity. We’ve also prioritized taking the time to have conversations with our employees about their hopes and concerns. In other words, we’ve listened. This is a critical first step. 

Aside from that, we’ve focused on our leaders. A just and equitable business cannot solely be built on the backs of a diversity and inclusion team. Leaders serve as the force multipliers of our team’s equity and belonging strategy and values, modeling compassionate and conscious behaviors and practices that lead employees to feel safe, valued and respected, and able to be their best, authentic selves at work. 

We’ve used that quantitative and qualitative data to inform the construction of balanced teams with equitable opportunities. We plan to track our progress on this outcome in the year ahead.

 

What role do your employees play in leading or supporting DEI efforts? 

We believe that in order to make meaningful progress, we need to listen to and work with our employees to co-create solutions that work for our people and teams. 

For example, our companywide events and meetings have transformed into more accessible experiences for the deaf and hard of hearing. This initiative started when a deaf member of our team reached out to our internal communications team and asked if we could incorporate an American Sign Language (ASL) feed into our monthly company all-hands meetings. We partnered with this employee directly as we worked on a process, incorporating her feedback along the way. In a short period of time, we’ve rolled out ASL interpretation as a standard component of every companywide meeting and event and have added closed captioning to every video.

In addition, we continue to stay vigilant in integrating practices that support unique contributions in recruiting, learning and development, facilities, cultural celebrations as well as internal programs such as Duo Circles, our version of employee resource groups. 

 

Expedia Group
Expedia Group

Expedia Group recently joined over 200 companies in the Human Rights Campaign’s Amicus brief filing with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of LGBTQIA+ workers. The briefing spoke to the need for workplace discrimination protections to be put in place on the basis of sexual orientation. According to Global Finance Chair Robbie LaBanca, this action demonstrates the company’s dedication to equality efforts beyond what are often considered status-quo statements.

 

How does Expedia Group approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives?

A contextual understanding of intersectionality is vital to developing and implementing successful plans or policies in the workplace. It is more common than not for individuals to find themselves a member of multiple communities. Being a member of one group does not preclude an individual from facing challenges from other communities they may belong to. Identity is complex. The implications of bias can exist in layers. 

With this in mind, we set up our individual inclusion business groups (IBGs), also referred to as employee resource groups, within a larger structure so there are opportunities for the members of each group to work together, set goals and recommend initiatives for the company at large. We schedule regular leadership calls with the heads of these IBGs and create channels for communication across all groups. 

While each group may have their own goals and plans, sharing their knowledge helps empower the entire program and identify shared goals which can inform broader DEI initiatives.

 

What has been the most impactful action Expedia Group has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees?

Companies often talk about and release statements about creating inclusive work environments. Expedia Group is willing to make statements and then follow through, both internally and externally. For example, Expedia Group joined over 200 companies in the Human Rights Campaign’s Amicus brief filing with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of LGBTQIA workers –– lending our voice to support the business case for equality.

At Expedia Group, we are lucky to have such an active LGBTQIA community. Our IBG Pride has close to 1,000 members in 15 countries across 25 chapters. We have transgender healthcare benefits for U.S. employees and offer global gender-neutral parenting leave. Additionally, our IBG leaders can allocate 10 percent of their working hours to these efforts. Recently, every Expedia Group employee has been given the opportunity to create a quarterly inclusion goal as one of their three quarterly business goals.

 

Employee engagement is the best way to create lasting change in an organization.’’ 

What role do your employees play in leading or supporting DEI efforts?

Employee engagement is the best way to create lasting change in an organization. Structural change and accountability happens from inside the organization itself, not just from the top down. Having IBGs is a great way to ensure there is an avenue through which employees, regardless of their position within the company, can express themselves, contribute and foster change.

 

WP Engine
WP Engine

A few years ago, WP Engine instituted a hiring practice based on the idea that candidates shouldn’t be ruled out based on whether or not they had an opportunity to obtain a degree from a certain university. According to Chief People Officer Annette Alexander, that’s not the only way leadership encourages a diverse range of voices to contribute to the culture and product at the Wordpress hosting platform. 

 

How does WP Engine approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives?

We have the broadest possible view of diversity, going beyond visible differences to include the backgrounds, experiences, skills and perspectives that make each person unique. 

Our business thrives on diversity in all forms: diversity of ideas, diversity of beliefs and diversity of people. We want employees to bring their authentic selves to work. We encourage and support employees to share their pronouns. 

We have employee-run groups like Pride and Represents that allow team members to share experiences, organize events and educate others. These groups have been game-changing for us in the way we work and structure our DEI initiatives.

 

What has been the most impactful action WP Engine has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees? 

One-third of our employees do not have college degrees. They have backgrounds at coding academies and non-degree training programs. A few years ago, we instituted a hiring practice that candidates are not ruled out based on the fact that they might not have had the same opportunity to obtain a degree from a certain university or specific life experience. 

As a company, we believe that, even without a degree, new hires can still be trained to acquire the same set of skills in their roles. We can let a lot more people come to the table and basically change the trajectory of their careers. 

 

One-third of our employees do not have college degrees.’’  

What role do your employees play in leading or supporting DEI efforts? 

We have employee-run groups that focus on specific issues and are open for any employee to join. We rely on our ERGs to help us find the right way to communicate on issues and check in with them on how we’re taking action and what we can do better. It’s our job as leaders to seek out marginalized voices and give them the platform to speak.

 

Invicti
Invicti

Web app security provider Invicti has headquarters based in Turkey, Malta and Austin. Because of the geographic diversity of company employees, U.S. HR Manager Trae Diede said that leadership has a certain responsibility to take community context into account during meetings across offices. She said doing so helps employees feel valued at both a local and global level.  

 

How does Invicti approach intersectionality in the workplace, and how does that help shape your broader DEI initiatives?

At Invicti, we are fortunate to have an employee base with rich diversity when it comes to race, sexual orientation, nationality, gender, religion, education level, parental status and more. 

In this environment, where every member of our team represents a different intersection of identities, we strive to treat every employee as an individual to enable them to deliver their best work. Our philosophy is that if we consistently maintain an environment where every one of our employees can focus on delivering the best for our customers, consistent with their personal beliefs and identities, then we will help create a safer internet while advancing the careers of our employees.

 

What has been the most impactful action Invicti has taken to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees?

We root ourselves in the local communities where we have a corporate presence. Responding to our teams within the context of those communities has been key. We navigate the political, social and cultural norms of each geography at the local level while unifying around a global vision and purpose. 

Our U.S. team, for example, was deeply impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement this spring. Though the spark was in the U.S., the movement spread across the globe as communities saw their own challenges and aspirations reflected in the chorus of protests. 

 

Responding to our teams within the context of their communities has been key.’’ 

What role do your employees play in leading or supporting DEI efforts? 

Our C-suite has made themselves available to listen to all employees at all levels. In addition to anonymous forms for direct communications with the C-suite, we empower our employees to lead and educate each other with regular, volunteer-led lunch and learns as well as targeted charitable efforts across the globe. 

Our global HR team is small but agile. They are focused on building avenues for intentional listening, amplifying minority voices and reinforcing belonging.

 

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