Employees drive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Robin

Elizabeth Fierman
Elizabeth Fierman

Picture this: it's Monday morning, the first day of your new job. At 9:30AM, you find yourself surrounded by a handful of new faces, chatting about the fun they had over the weekend. 

Bob went camping with his wife and kids. Katie had brunch with her boyfriend. 

Conversation continues, but then the spotlight turns to you. Five sets of unfamiliar eyes meet your face, and then the question comes: "What did you get up to this weekend?"

A seemingly simple question. For some people, like Bob and Katie, it’s a zero stakes game; they know no one will bat an eye at the mention of their wife or boyfriend. 

But for others in the LGTBQ+ community, a query like this is a bit more loaded. Unlike Bob and Katie, you're a member of the LGTBQ+ community, and you don't quite know how, "I went to the beach with my girlfriend," is going to fly with your new work pals. 

Avoiding the risk all together, you casually respond by saying you hung out with friends—hard stop, no elaboration. It seems like an acceptable answer.

But now you’re feeling uneasy about it all. You’re left questioning who you can trust. And more importantly, you wonder whether you can express your true self at work without feeling judged by co-workers. 

For me, this scenario is all too familiar. I was that new employee.

Recognizing the Value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Before joining Robin as VP of People, I worked in an office that really forced me to question whether my identity was acceptable to fellow colleagues in the workplace. 

And then I realized: when it comes to the way I look, what I represent, or how I identify, I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m at a disadvantage in my job. If that’s the case, there’s something wrong with my workplace—not me.

It’s a huge reason why I’m so passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I don’t care what the ‘otherness’ is when you show up to work. You shouldn’t have to feel nervous or be afraid to hide it. And I definitely don’t want to be part of a culture that makes people feel like they can’t show up to work as who they truly are.

Political Protest Further Drives Passion for Change

In May of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, everyone here at Robin felt horrified and angry (and rightly so). Employees pushed hard on the executive team to address the obvious injustice. We realized saying nothing would be bad, if not worse, than saying the wrong thing, so we had to quickly learn the appropriate response for our employees to feel respected, valued, and heard.

It was a huge trigger for all of us, and we really made it our mission from that point forward to focus attention on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across the company. 

Digging into Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Initiatives at Robin

To start this project, I first wanted to get an understanding of what we were doing well—and not so well—in terms of our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 

I took inspiration from two fellow tech companies—Zendesk and HelpScout—and I dug deep into their DEI efforts. I took notes on how both organizations collected individual DEI data and presented findings to respective staff. Then I tapped Robin’s VP of Engineering, Chris Moscardini, to help me formulate a similar survey that could provide some better insight into Robin’s existing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Chris and I worked on this for over a month, and we came up with an initial draft of the DEI survey to share with the Robin Rallies, our very own diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. I’d bring them a version and ask: 

  • “How’s this?” 
  • “What do you think?” 
  • “What feels uncomfortable?” 
  • “Do we like this language?” 

I wanted to make sure I included all the things that were important to us as an organization, so we did iterations over and over again until we got to a place that felt right. 

After finalizing the content, we distributed the official survey to employees via Slack and email, then gathered the anonymous responses to start the next step in the process: analysis.

Discovering DEI Strengths & Challenges

With this survey, my goal was to highlight areas within our organization in need of some major repair. What if there’s a bias present that we need to examine? Maybe we’re not hiring fairly across the board? 

Maybe we’re bringing in really nice diversity, but we’re not promoting anyone from those different communities? And besides shining a light on the places prime for improvement, I also wanted to see areas within the company that are thriving. That way we can keep on doing more of the good stuff. 

I teamed up with Mark Engelberg, Director of Strategy and Analytics here at Robin to help me parse through all the raw numbers and find more interesting and insightful ways of presenting the data. And while we’re still not finished unpacking everything yet, we have found some critical pain points. 

For example, the size of our company is small—only 100 people. So if a single person from one of our under-represented populations doesn’t complete the survey, it makes the company look very different, and we might be making incorrect assumptions based on a pretty small pool of data. 

It’s a tricky challenge, but I’m working on a way to further develop our survey so that it includes information from our human resources assignment system (HRAS). That way, we’ll have more precise data not just from Robin employees, but also applicants, candidates, and prospects. 

Sharing DEI Survey Results

Right now, I’m working with Robin’s marketing team to create a visual representation of the survey data, which I plan on presenting to the whole company at our next town hall meeting. I’m also going to publish final results to our website. It’s all in my approach to creating a transparent, accountable view of DEI data across the organization. 

Simply put, I want our people to be proud of where they work. And I want other people looking for work to see us as a company they can be proud of too. Even if our data looks terrible, at least we can be honest in our attempts to inspect, introspect, and change. 

Hey, someone might admire the fact we’re working hard to be more diverse and inclusive, and they might want to help. It’s that kind of person I want to draw to our team. 

Curious to see the results? Click here to view the findings from Robin’s 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion survey.