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Diversity Matters To BuzzFeed Tech

Here's an email we just shared with the tech team at BuzzFeed.

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Hi team,

As you may remember, earlier this month Ben detailed what editorial is doing to build a diverse newsroom. This kicked off a lively discussion about how diversity matters to us in tech too. We are also hiring a lot of people, changing team structures, and thinking about our organization of developers, product designers, data scientists and more in 2015 and beyond. We’re excited that editorial is leading the way, and we will use their ideas and principles as a base, but we also want to start the conversation with you all in technology about this important topic.

There are, naturally, some different issues and challenges in the technology industry. Technology is one of the least diverse industries, and tech culture can be both subtly discriminatory as well as openly hostile to minorities and women. We thought it best to start with some reasons why diversity is important and then talk about what to do about it. Like edit, we’ve also decided to share demographic data for the tech team at the bottom of this email.

First, some reasons why diversity is important to us:

1. Ethical imperative

All individuals who are interested in technology and willing to work hard to learn, build, and ship products should have access to the same opportunities — it’s that simple.

2. Attract and develop the best talent

It’s not just about the ethical imperative of course. It’s sound business practice. The tech industry is incredibly resource constrained, as you all know. There just aren’t as many great developers, designers, data scientists, and product people out there as there are jobs. Part of this is due to the fact that it is a new industry and our education system is still catching up to the demand.

But it is also due, in large part, to the fact that the industry lacks inclusion and is beyond the reach of many for both cultural and socioeconomic reasons. We can greatly expand the pool of smart, creative, talented candidates by holding ourselves accountable to systemic bias and by using our position as a tech company and employer to look for talent that may fall outside of the typical sources for recruiting.

3. Foster innovation

At BuzzFeed we are developing the most innovative publishing platform on the planet. The problems we’re solving are difficult and manifold, and we need individuals who can develop new ideas and creative solutions. A tech team made up of people with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives will help us avoid groupthink and help us cultivate and maintain the experimental work environment that is the key to our success.

How We’re Improving Diversity

As with Editorial, this is an ongoing discussion, not an initiative that gets checked off in a few months. Here is where we’re starting.

1. Hiring

We must be continuously developing a diverse pool of candidates. Tech startup culture is vastly over-represented by upper middle-class, heterosexual white men. We must look beyond these social circles to find people who are doing great work in other industries or areas of technology and whose full potential is going untapped. Some recent examples:

  • We’ve hired 8 programmers so far from Power To Fly, an organization that helps women find flexible, remote jobs in tech.

  • Jane, Brandon and Andrew V (in LA) recently attended an OUTC conference focused on LGBT candidates interested in tech careers and left with some great resumes.

2. Active inclusiveness

Hiring a diverse team is important, but that’s only the first step. As Meagan Waller argued, it doesn’t help to hire more diversely if your culture doesn’t support that diversity.

You have created an amazing, inclusive culture here that we’re super proud of, and we need to maintain or improve that culture as we get bigger and more spread out across the country and world. Here are some things that we have started doing:

  • Ensure inclusiveness is a priority in top-level strategy discussions at the company. In fact, Joel has hired a person to focus on diversity on his Talent team. (announcement soon!)

  • Set up internal networks and resources where employees can reach out to each other for advice and support

  • Send a diverse set of employees to represent us at industry conferences

  • Support employees who are vocal on the topic, both internally and externally

3. Developing diversity in the industry

As mentioned earlier, the overall talent pool in tech is small. We are working with some amazing organizations and initiatives focused on increasing diversity in tech.

  • This year Eric, Anita, Joe, Radhika, Vince, and Will (record number!) are teaching programming classes to high school girls with Girls Who Code. Each year they also visit our offices and hear from women in dev about the advantages of a career in technology. If you’re interested in applying for a volunteer teaching position, contact Eric.

  • With The Flatiron School we’ll be working to create fellowships and mentorships focused on creating opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds. More info on this soon!

We really appreciate everything you have done so far to make the tech group a great team for everyone. We want this to be something we can all participate in, learn from, talk about, and be proud of. If you have specific ideas or suggestions, please let us know.

Thanks,

Dao, Mark, and Chris

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