“If you focus on diversity, you won’t necessarily get inclusion. But if you focus on inclusion, it will lead you to diversity.”
This idea has been bouncing around in my brain for the past few days. It makes so much sense, and yet runs counter to how many business leaders, myself included, have typically approached equality in the workplace.
Diversity is a worthy endeavor and a cause worth fighting for. But it’s often treated as a vanity metric that begins and ends the moment an employee is hired — and that misses the purpose of diversity entirely.
If we focus on inclusion first and create a work environment where people feel welcome and valued, diversity is likely to follow because people want to work in places where they are respected and appreciated.
Inclusion as a foundational driver
The idea of inclusion leading to diversity first popped into my head at the inaugural meeting of Founders for Change. We’re a growing coalition of more than 800 business leaders who have publicly pledged to hold ourselves and the tech and venture capital industry accountable when it comes to diversity. My co-founder Jasper and I truly believe that people from underrepresented backgrounds deserve more seats at the table, especially in the tech industry, and the 70 or so people who attended the meeting at Wharton San Francisco this week share my passion.
We spent six hours listening and learning from one another, all working toward finding new ways to promote a healthier and happier workplace. What emerged was a shift in priorities en route to this shared goal.
The lack of diversity in the tech industry has been a topic of discussion for more than a decade, which is why “diversity and inclusion” programs are a cornerstone for modern businesses. We’ve also seen increased business value on multiple fronts among companies with diverse and inclusive cultures.
It’s been a tough problem to solve, which may explain why, somewhere along the way, inclusivity became an afterthought to diversity. Businesses started treating diversity as a just another measurable number. And when you think about it, just flipping the order — inclusion and diversity — can have a truly profound impact.
This isn’t just semantic nonsense. If we focus on creating a culture where people feel included, then the diversity will naturally follow. People want to work in a place where they feel included and equitable. It’s that simple.
Joe Schiro, our Head of People at Tally, put it perfectly: “The most important metric we track at Tally is that underrepresented people are thriving.”
All of this ties back to empathy and focusing on what it’s like to be somebody else. As business leaders, it’s our job to invest the time to learn how employees might perceive our actions and the actions of those around us.
‘Change shoes often’
At Tally, one of our core values is “Change shoes often.” We do this with our peers in the workplace. We do this with our customers. And we do this without judgment.
Empathy really is the foundation of inclusion. If you’re genuinely curious about another person’s life, then you have a desire to really feel what it’s like to be them. You’re invested in that experience.
Founders for Change taught us that one of the best ways to promote inclusion is through microsponsorships.
Microsponsorships are those small affirmations that can help validate a person who might otherwise feel excluded or overlooked. They’re a way to block microaggressions, which are subtle slights that can contribute to feelings of exclusion or have tangible impacts, like holding someone back from a promotion or carrying a less positive representation at work.
“The most important metric we track at Tally is that underrepresented people are thriving.”
— Joe Schiro, Head of People
Founders for Change spent a lot of time talking about microsponsorhips and how it’s our responsibility to speak up when we see or hear negativity, regardless of how minor it may seem.
That means giving credit where credit is due. It means inviting people in (both figuratively and literally). It means making sure employees know they are being seen, heard and valued by their peers.
Our team at Tally, which happens to be majority-minority, is never afraid to speak up. Having an office of people who are comfortable and capable of correcting toxic behavior is crucial to our growth as a company.
When it comes to inclusivity, Tally has witnessed some major milestones this year. Sixty percent of our internal managerial promotions were employees from underrepresented groups. We also assembled our first female-only engineering team and formed the Women of Tally, an employee-led network that’s focused on philanthropy and empowerment.
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but there’s always room to improve.
I always thought focusing on diversity was the top priority, and then you work on inclusion. My breakthrough was realizing that building an inclusive environment actually leads to diversity. And now I feel confident that Tally has the tools to continue being inclusive with both our customers and our team members.
There’s no doubt in my mind: Empathy is the key to our future. Founders for Change has deepened my commitment to inclusion and diversity — in that order.