Employers Highlight Steps Toward Inclusivity, Diversity

Sep 16, 2020Council in the News, State House News Service

September 16, 2020
State House News Service
By Katie Lannan

When staff from Wayfair talk to interns or other students interested in the company, they field “a lot of very direct questions about, what about Boston,” said KeyAnna Schmiedl, the global head for culture and inclusion at the online furniture retailer.

Schmiedl gave examples of some of those questions during a Massachusetts High Technology Council Webinar Wednesday: “I know that the history of Boston is not very inclusive, so how does this work for your employees that are there who identify with certain communities? Where do they live? Do they feel comfortable everywhere?”

“Those are very specific, targeted, nuanced conversations, and if you’re not willing to lead with humility and admit that we are always improving, there’s work to do both here in our city but also as organizations, then you’re not being honest with people,” she said. “And I think what people are looking for, especially in this time, is humility and sincerity.”

The webinar, which also featured representatives from DraftKings and Care.com, is part of a series the High Tech Council is hosting around diversity, equity and opportunity.

Council President Chris Anderson said Wednesday’s discussion, which aimed to highlight employer practices, “can be boiled down to one takeaway: love thy neighbor.”

Speakers during the event emphasized the idea that diversity and inclusion require a holistic and ongoing approach and should be a project of the entire organization.

“People stuff is never ending, there’s always something next that we can do and innovate on,” said Vanessa Spatafora, the senior program manager of inclusion, equity and belonging at DraftKings. “So this wasn’t going to be something that we just flipped a switch on, it also wasn’t going to be something that is achievable or able to be advanced through the organization by one person or a team or this corner — or virtual corner — of HR. This is something that is all-in.”

Inclusion efforts at DraftKings include steps to build relationships with students and other potential employees who may not be among the daily fantasy sports and betting platform’s current customer base and supporting athletes who speak up against racial injustice, Spatafora said.

At Wayfair, Schmiedl, the company has been looking for ways it can help its community, like doubling its matching of employee donations to racial justice organizations this past June and seeking opportunities to donate desks and furniture to teen shelters.

Melanie Goins, the general counsel for Care.com, said her company is planning to revamp its careers website to be more accessible to people with disabilities and to underscore a commitment to diversity and inclusion by focusing on individual stories.

She said Care.com is also looking at its job postings and descriptions to remove any unintentional age and gender biases and re-examine requirements like advanced degrees that may not be necessary for a particular role but can limit the applicant pool.

“I think we recognize that a lot of the perpetuation of difference and bias in our organizations comes from the interpersonal interactions that end up creating our systems,” Goins said. “If we’re always recruiting through the same places, because it’s where we went to school, or it’s where our buddies grew up, if we’re always looking for the same types of pedigrees that the current leaders have, then you’re really sort of narrowing the funnel.”

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