5 Ideas for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Reflecting on building a diverse and inclusive work environment in the tech industry, Michele Perras, Director, Global Ecosystem and Alliances for Pivotal Software, looks back on what she has learned in her 15 years of personal experience as a woman in tech.

September 29th, 2017   |    By: Misti Yang    |    Tags: Culture, Diversity, Women

Reflecting on building a diverse and inclusive workplace in the tech industry, Michele Perras, Director, Global Ecosystem and Alliances for Pivotal Software, looks back on what she has learned in her 15 years of personal experience as a woman in tech and her time on Pivotal’s Diversity and Inclusion council.

Here are a few things her experience has taught her:

5 Ideas for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

  1. Have an evolving definition of diversity and inclusion

It’s important to recognize that the diversity and inclusion goals you initially address will change and evolve. “It is about making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to excel and communicate in their role, especially over their time at your organization,” she says, noting that the mindset should include more than women and minorities to focus on the importance of intersectionality and complexity.

“Ensuring that you have a culture that is both representatively diverse, so people coming from different backgrounds and from difference essentially, and also inclusive, meaning that those people have the freedom and the safety to express those identities and how that expression shouldn’t be an obstacle to their success,” Michele explains.

  1. Start with measurable goals

Companies often start working on diversity by organizing an event or announcing an initiative, but Michele points out that organizations are often missing a key element: “I think companies need to start somewhere, but sometimes those starting points do not necessarily have measurable impact behind them.”

When it comes to profits or user retention, leaders can often recite numbers with ease, but “having metrics, and being flexible around the point of those metrics, is something that companies may not always do” when working on diversity and inclusion, according to Michele.

Without a clear vision of the outcomes you’re looking to drive, metrics and key performance indicators, it is impossible to know if programs are helping you get closer to the goals.

  1. Understand the data

Creating the right metrics, however, has to start with data about your organization. Michele recommends looking at quantitative and qualitative employee data where you can, such as hiring and attrition rates or employee sentiment and feedback.

Once in hand, companies need to analyze the data carefully and develop reasonable goals with feedback loops to ensure those goals are the right goals for your organization.

“Evaluate the data with a mindset geared towards learning and transparency. For example, evaluate not only the proportions of underrepresented minorities, but their levels in organizations, their promotion rates, or heavy groupings in one department versus another, and try to understand why that is” Michele points out.

Companies should strive to achieve diversity goals throughout their organization at every level and within every department.

  1. Listen to your employees

It may sound simple, but Michele’s experience has taught her that this cornerstone of the Lean Startup methodology is crucial to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. And, when it comes to the workplace, your customers are your employees, who have valuable insights into your culture and company.

“Listen to them, ask why, and don’t assume to know what they need. Teams need to understand specifically what people are struggling with and recognize what they want to achieve,” Michele shares. “At Pivotal, we heard that employees were seeking discussion and connection locally. With 20 offices worldwide, we wanted to support bottom-up initiatives, and encouraged people to form Grassroots groups.

The Grassroots groups are regional in nature, funded by the Council, and led by local employees. The initiatives range from bringing in speakers, hosting book clubs, or workshops – all driven by the context and needs of that office. We tested this model with a few locations, gathered feedback, and scaled it based on what Pivots wanted.”

Here are 10 questions you should be asking your employees.

  1. Get familiar with external resources

“There are so many resources available now,” Michele shares, and she suggests starting with Project Include. Another resource she recommends is Male Allies, which she thinks provides effective training for getting the entire company committed to diversity goals. “Find what works for your organization, given its size and scale, and what inclusion and diversity goals you want to accomplish,” Michele says.


Join Michele at Lean Startup Week October 30th-November 5th, where she’ll share more advice on creating diverse and inclusive work environments. She’ll talk more about getting commitment from your entire organization and explain how to avoid creating diversity debt.Register for your pass before Oct 15 at midnight PT to take advantage of the Fall Sale.

About the Author

Misti Yang

Misti Yang is a contributor for Lean Startup Co. and an award-winning writer – if you count the medal she won in 4th grade for a story about a teacher's apple that came to life.

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