Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police and the resulting protests worldwide, tech companies and leaders have been vocal in their support for Black Lives Matter and racial equity. But recognizing that words aren’t enough, some companies are looking to take concrete actions to improve diversity within their workplaces, and encouraging others to do the same.
“It’s important for companies to come out and say they care, and to have initiatives around this,” said Seattle-area entrepreneur Michael Brown.
Brown, together with Don Hyun, launched Diversity Window to help companies take bolder steps to promote diversity and inclusion.
Its clients include Bluehawk Consulting, a 200-employee Kirkland-Wash.-based firm that provides staff to technology companies and others. The business has gender and racial diversity in its leadership team, but recognizes that it can do more.
“A lot of people felt somewhat helpless this year in wanting to do better and wanting to give back in some way,” said Tami Martin, Bluehawk’s CEO. “Part of that is being able to really critically look at what you’re doing today — and doing better.”
Diversity Window hopes to be a resource by helping businesses:
- Analyze employee diversity data, including race, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status and disabilities and create reports to share with employees and the public.
- Set diversity hiring goals and strategize how to reach a more diverse recruitment pool.
- Support employee resource groups that bolster inclusion.
- Bring diversity to their supply chain with a broader selection of vendors.
- Provide outsourced diversity officers.
The company also aims to serve as a sort of clearinghouse of diversity information about companies, providing links to corporate diversity reports and sharing employees’ assessments of how their employers stack up.
Diversity Window is assembling an advisory board of diversity and inclusion officers from larger companies to share their best practices and make product recommendations.
Earlier this decade, activists began calling on tech corporations for transparency in their diversity information, and many began sharing employment stats in 2014. An analysis published by CNBC in June revealed that there’s plenty of work to be done.
The news site reported that the percentage of Black workers at Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook and Twitter were in the low-single digits, and that over six years their numbers had barely increased. Apple was slightly higher and Amazon fared best, but the latter includes its much lower paid warehouse and delivery workers in the counts. Women overall made greater gains in recent years.
Elizabeth Cotton also works to help businesses address diversity and inclusion challenges through Black Tech Link in southern California.
Businesses “do need that help and assistance, especially right now where racial justice issues are at the forefront of the media,” she said. “Companies are looking to draw out or expand their diversity and inclusion programs. They’re looking inward to see what they need to do or where they fall short.”
Diversity Window has five employees and a $300,000 verbal commitment for seed funding, Brown said. In addition to running the startup, Brown and Hyun are also founders of HBSI Capital, a private equity and consulting firm in Seattle that’s focused on investing in businesses with diverse leadership.
For 18 years, Brown was CEO of Affirma Consulting, a Bellevue-based company that he co-founded and that provides technical staff and consultants to employers in the U.S., Europe and India. Hyun was Affirma’s chief operations officer for a decade.
Affirma has also signed on as a Diversity Window customer. The business, which has 500 employees, does routine employee satisfaction surveys, said CEO Robert Campbell. Not surprisingly, diversity issues were a big focus in recent inquiries. Workers wanted to see some actionable initiatives.
“The Diversity Window platform seems like a very concrete, transparent — but also, frankly, from an economic perspective — a cost-efficient way to address employee concerns,” Campbell said.
The cost of services starts at $450 per month for companies up to 250 people and $650 for those between 250-500 employees; a price is not listed for larger, enterprise businesses.
Seattle’s Wimmer Solutions was Diversity Window’s first customer. The 240-person company is also in the staffing and consulting business. Wimmer CEO and founder Matt Sauri views the increased diversity awareness as chance to grow and improve.
As someone who matches people with jobs, he gets excited about giving a diverse set of employees a shot at new work opportunities. Tapping a broader talent pool has economic benefits as well, Sauri said.
“Getting added perspectives from people,” he said, “makes a more comprehensive problem solving set.”