This is a slightly-edited email that I sent to the global BuzzFeed Tech staff.
We are following up on Jonah’s most recent diversity report with our own report that covers Tech-specific data, our challenges, what we have learned over the past year, and what lies ahead. Our mission is (still) to create a diverse and inclusive culture at every level and across every discipline in Tech. We need to continue to invest in programs and initiatives in order to fulfill this long-term mission. These efforts are focused both on hiring a talented, diverse team and retaining and growing that talent here at BuzzFeed.
We are proud that the investment we’ve made to grow diversity in Tech is evident in the numbers, especially in leadership positions. This is an org-wide effort and we want to thank so many of you who have led, participated, provided feedback and held us accountable along the way. This is a job that is never finished, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to stay involved or get involved if you are interested!
For those that are newer to our org, here are links to BuzzFeed’s previously published diversity updates (October 2014, October 2015, April 2017) as well as the Tech Diversity Update email that we sent last April.
Tech-Specific Diversity Data
Transparency is an important piece of these initiatives. We saw our biggest increases from 2017 in our manager and director numbers. Last year we identified diversity in leadership as an area of focus. Even with lots of work ahead of us, that focus has resulted in some progress.
We talked specifically about women/non-binary in engineering last year, so here is engineering-specific data.
For those of you tracking our progress over many years:
A couple more charts:
It’s not just about the numbers of course. Below is our perspective and what we’re doing on two aspects of diversity and inclusion: 1) recruiting and 2) retaining talent. As we said above, this is a long-term, organization-wide effort. We look forward to your participation, comments, and suggestions!
Recruiting and Hiring
Reliably tracking diversity in our pipeline is a challenge.
Candidates that apply for a job on buzzfeed.com/jobs can self-identify their gender, race/ethnicity, veteran status and disability status and more than 90% of them do! However, most of the candidates we talk to and ultimately hire come via referrals or active sourcing (where we are seeking out candidates rather than the other way around) so we are missing a significant amount of data. A minority of our 57 hires in 2017 came from applicants applying on our site. This data is important because over time it will let us know if our screening and interview process is biased. Going forward, we will consider ways to allow candidates to self identify even if they are actively sourced.
Anecdotally, we do receive positive feedback from candidates. For example, here is a Glass Door Quote. “Folks I spoke to that worked in BF tech had nothing but positive things to share about Tech's commitment to diversity and inclusion which ultimately was the biggest attraction for me and resonates with my own experience so far.”
A diverse pipeline for senior engineering positions requires playing the long-game.
We made solid progress this year across tech in increasing the diversity in management and leadership positions in terms of race/ethnicity and gender. Engineering leadership has moved in the right direction but it remains a challenge. Because building a diverse pipeline takes time, we can’t wait until a position is open and expect to magically have a diverse pool ready for us. We need to be constantly networking so that when the right job does open up, we already have a diverse pool to reach out to.
The recruiting team has started to formalize this outreach by creating a list of interesting candidates that they will add to throughout the year, not necessarily with specific roles in mind. Engineering leaders will target that list in the hopes of expanding our networks with an eye on building a diverse pipeline.
Of course hiring is only one of the ways to increase diversity in engineering leadership. The other is to continue to develop our current team members! See the Retaining and Growing Talent section below for more information on what's coming in terms of transparency in the promotion process, monitoring promotions, refining ladders, and mentorship.
Showing off our tech culture to the outside world is fun!
Our Tech Blog and @BuzzFeedEXP Twitter account (up to 1,243 followers) not only highlight great tech, they also show the different personalities, perspectives, backgrounds, interests and senses of humor on our team.
Intern candidates were really pleased that they could meet last year’s class and learn about the projects that each intern worked on from our Intern blogpost. One intern candidate said the post was really helpful because it SHOWED them how inclusive and diverse our intern class was last year and gave them confidence in the quality and preparedness of our internship program. We’ve also published blog posts to help demystify our interview processes in engineering, and we publicly posted our design interview process on GitHub.
Our internship program is an important tool.
In 2017 we hired 6 of our interns into full time positions. As was the case in 2016, our intern conversions increased the gender and racial diversity of our teams. We will continue to bring in diverse intern classes in the future.
Events and conferences pay off.
In addition to raising the profile and awareness of BuzzFeed tech, many of our events and speaking opportunities lead directly to interviews and hires. Our Data Primetime Tech Talk resulted in 5 data science candidates being interviewed by the team. Multiple candidates cited Meghan Heintz’s talk at PyData last year (in addition to her Blog Post on recipe word embeddings) as the reason they were interested in BuzzFeed. Lucy Wang’s talk about how we optimize our headlines is frequently cited by candidates. Our presence at Grace Hopper, PyCon, SiliconMilkRoundabout led to hires as did our Womenbie in Tech Summer Soiree.
We are still finalizing plans this year for events and conferences but we do have a few coming soon. On April 7, we are hosting Flawless Hacks, a Beyonce themed hackathon! We’re also putting together a one-day workshop called BuzzFeed Beyond, Together Summit that we will host in May in partnership with TechLadies. This summit aims to bring women and non-binary people together to celebrate what we are doing today and reflect upon how we got here. We will look ahead to where we want to take our workplace, culture and technology and discuss how to make those ideas a reality.
We’d also like to speak and participate at more conferences, particularly those aimed at underrepresented communities.
Interview Training for All
Recruiting has developed interview training for all of us in tech. The training covers avoiding bias and how to be a good behavioral interviewer. This training will be required later in the year in order to participate in interview loops.
Partnerships to Diversify our Pipeline
The recruiting team has identified Black/African American and Veterans as areas of opportunity to attract more applicants. We’ve partnered with (or plan to partner with) Code 2040, Black Girls Code, Black Women Talk Tech, C4Q, Andela, OweYaa and Milvets. Additionally, PowerToFly has enabled us to work with consultants for years and in 2017 we started to use their new platform as a sourcing tool for full time hires.
Retaining and Growing Talent at BuzzFeed
Monitoring Raises, Promotions and Exits
The people team looks for potential bias at each review cycle and provides feedback to leadership on all raises and promotions. The table below shows our data. (To read it: 32% of promotions were women/non-binary, whereas 30% of employees eligible for promotion were women/non-binary.) In addition, the people team monitors the ratio of every offer to candidates as well as exits from the company.
Transparency in our promotion process
We have heard from some of you that we should have more transparency into how the promotion process works. We will document and publish this process between now and the mid-year promotion cycle.
Updates to Ladders
We made progress this year in ensuring all disciplines have career ladders in order to set expectations for what it takes to move upward through our organization. At the end of 2017 Data Science launched a completely new ladder that was focused on expertise and impact and will update it throughout 2018 to ensure it captures specific examples of movement between levels. In Engineering, we will look to more clearly define our manager profiles and ensure that mentorship is a key component, as well as publishing an addendum that establishes what we value in terms of organizational impact and reach. Design has consistently evaluated and refined their ladder after each review season and will continue to do so. Product and Project management will also be making efforts to refine their ladders in 2018.
Due to popular demand, we launched the mentorship program in 2017 to give everyone an explicit opportunity for support, knowledge sharing, and growth! 64 people have participated as a mentor, mentee or both. We’re excited by all of the new connections being made throughout tech and we will evolve this program based on your feedback. We will be doing our next mentor/mentee pairing in April.
Non-Binary Gender Awareness
We’ve added the ability for everyone to specify preferred pronouns in Slack (If you haven’t done this yet, do it today by clicking Profile & Account > Edit Profile!) and incorporated preferred pronouns in our Teams API. We’ve also renamed Women in Tech to Womenbie in Tech (Women + Non-binary = Women + NB = Women + Enbie = Womenbie!)
Womenbie in Tech
Speaking of Womenbie in Tech, this group remains active supporting the women and non-binary members of Tech by creating networking, learning, and recruiting opportunities in the community, and giving their time to support the women and non-binary leaders of the future.
We have hosted events such as the Spring Happy Hour and Summer Soiree in NYC, a Women Who Code event, and monthly GirlDevelopIt meetings in Minneapolis. We have given tours and participated in mentorship programs with a number of student organizations including The Young Women in Leadership School of Astoria, OppNet, Brooklyn Technical High School’s Society of Women Engineers and Dev Bootcamp. We participated in a GenHERation volunteering event, and you can look out for more volunteer opportunities coming soon!
Inside BuzzFeed, Womenbie connects our women and non-binary team members. They have organized Fireside Chats with our own Tech leaders and roundtables on Sexual Harassment and Imposter Syndrome.
An Inclusive Environment
We believe employees must treat their coworkers with respect, and that all employees should feel comfortable being their true selves at work regardless of their gender, race, age, religion and sexual orientation. Through our engagement survey, we’ve heard from you that…
91% agree that diversity in important and valued within Buzzfeed
91% agree that employees treat others with respect, regardless of gender, race, age, religion or sexual orientation
84% agree that the leadership team (Jonah & the executive team) is committed to diversity
88% agree that they can be their true selves at work.
When compared to other tech companies’ survey results, we rank above the 90th percentile in these areas. We will continue to monitor these numbers closely in future surveys.
A great grassroots initiative in 2017 was the creation of our Engineering Code of Conduct to help us define and build a supportive environment. To contribute, check out #code-of-conduct or open up a pull request!
More Data and Insights
Over the past year, our People Team’s analyst has worked closely with us to gather more data and to create dashboards that give leadership a real-time view into these data points at any time. This allows us to watch for trends and measure our progress without manually aggregating data each time. Over the coming year, our analytics will go deeper than the department level and beyond gender/ethnicity to help us cut to the core of diversity — that teams are composed of people with different perspectives and backgrounds. In addition, please look out for the Global Survey in April - your completion will allow us to work with a richer understanding of the experience on Tech.
If you read all of that, thank you! We think it is important to share where we are and what we are working on. I am so excited to build this awesome team with you all!
-TLDR (Tech LeaDeRship)