Zorroa is growing fast. We’ve gone from four employees to sixteen in under six months, and we’re not stopping any time soon. And we want to ensure that as we grow and bring on board new staff that we do it in a way that builds a team that reflects the diverse strengths of our society. Diversity is in the DNA of our company — we have two founders, one male and one female, and the ethnic and gender makeup of our team is not what you'd typically find at a tech startup.
Now there are lots of solid business reasons for building a diverse team. You’ll find a lot of them in the reading list below. Experts will tell you companies that embrace diversity and inclusivity outperform their competitors. They will tell you that a “check the box” mentality in hiring may net you great individuals, but it won’t necessarily build you a team that creates success. So-called “hard skills” are important, but they’re not the only important thing when it comes to building a great team.
Those of you old enough to remember the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics will recall that U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks was criticized for fielding a team that didn’t have the "best" individual players. But he fielded the best team, one where each individual brought skills to the ice that complemented those of their teammates. That team ended up winning the gold medal and smashing decades of Soviet dominance in Olympic hockey. Contrast this with Enron, which hired based on academic credentials and ambition alone, then crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. Diversity indeed helps the bottom line.
But that's not why we value Diversity
We value diversity because we want to work in a company that appreciates its people for who they are as whole persons, not just as skill sets. We want to work in an environment that is constantly challenging our biases and preconceptions, and nothing does that more than working among people with different experiences and perspectives. We want to work in a creative company and diversity breeds creativity. We want to work in a place where some of us are old enough to remember watching that U.S. Olympic hockey team (or see Enron executives get convicted of fraud), and with others on our team born after that miracle in 1980 (or even post-Enron collapse).
“One of my biggest concerns in the AI field—and as a society as the technology takes off—is the bias that can be introduced in machine learning. That’s why team diversity is so important to us. Having a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences helps us identify potential bias and have those critical conversations as we build our product.”
—Amber Sawaya, EVP of UX & Product // Zorroa
And so far, we’re doing a pretty good job on diversity and inclusion, and this is primarily because our company’s core culture and values have been inclusive from the start. We’re almost 40% female, include a mix of ethnicities, and a full spectrum of ages among our team.
But we’re not resting on our laurels. As we grow, we are going to strive to improve upon that record. We’re going to continue to engage in dialogue with the candidates applying to positions here in order to bring more flexibility to our candidate evaluations. We’re going to continue to evaluate candidates on things in addition to the required “hard skills.” We’re going to build the best team, not assemble the best group of individuals. And most importantly, we’re going to build the diverse workplace where we want to work.
If it ends up improving our bottom line...
Well we’re not going to say no to that either. If you are someone with the skills, experience, and a passion for working for a company that embraces and personifies diversity, please check out our careers page https://zorroa.com/careers/ — we would love to hear from you.
If you want to read more about diversity in the high-tech workplace, here is a great list of resources:
- The Algorithmic Justice League, https://www.ajlunited.org/
- Michael Skirpan and Tom Yeh, “Designing a Moral Compass for the Future of Computer Vision using Speculative Analysis,” CVPR, 2017. http://openaccess.thecvf.com/content_cvpr_2017_workshops/w16/papers/Yeh_Designing_a_Moral_CVPR_2017_paper.pdf
- McKinsey, “Why Diversity Matters,” Jan 2015. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
- Catalyst. “Companies With More Women Board Directors Experience Higher Financial Performance, According to Latest Catalyst Bottom Line Report.” http://www.catalyst.org/media/companies-more-women-board-directors-experience-higher-financial-performance-according-latest
- Deloitte Australia, “Missing Out, the Business case for Customer Diversity,” Feb 2017. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/human-capital/deloitte-au-hc-business-case-diversity-27Feb2017.pdf
- Startups.co, “The Deal With Team Diversity: Building a Diverse Team,” 10 Oct 2017. https://www.startups.co/articles/building-diverse-teams
- Will Byrne, “Now Is The Time To Act To End Bias In AI,” Fast Company, 28 Feb 2018.
- Daniel Sonesson, “3 Ways to Create a Diverse Team,” Business Insider Nordic, 6 Nov 2017. http://nordic.businessinsider.com/how-to-create-a-diverse-startup-team-2017-11/
- Valerie Strauss, “The Surprising Thing Google Learned about its Employees,” Washington Post, 20 Dec 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surprising-thing-google-learned-about-its-employees-and-what-it-means-for-todays-students/?noredirect
- Josh Bersin, “Why Diversity Will be a Top Priority for 2016.” Forbes, 6 Dec 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2015/12/06/why-diversity-and-inclusion-will-be-a-top-priority-for-2016/#12eff2292ed5
- “De-Biasing Word Embeddings,” Linear Digressions podcast, 17 Dec 2017, http://lineardigressions.com/episodes/2017/12/17/de-biasing-word-embeddings
I want to recognize my friend Mashhuda Glencross who has been a great resource in pulling this post together - Thank you, Dan