What’s it like to be the “only”? Well, it can feel pretty awful. I can remember walking into a room (it felt like it was every room) and every person was a man, and what’s more, every person had a different educational background than me, and, most relevant, perhaps, it was my first day at a new job with them.
It’s been a common experience in my career. At some point, I realized I wanted to change that experience – for me and for anyone else who ever felt like an only.
What is a truly inclusive workplace? And why do we care?
We spend one third of our lives at work. At least here in California… in a good week. And that means the way how we feel at work pervades our whole lives.
Inclusion at work encompasses a broad range of experiences – whether it’s being talked over in a meeting, who eats lunch with you, or whether you’re free for after-hours drinks (hint: caregivers, whether of kids, parents, or partners – usually aren’t), or more malicious examples like bias in a performance review. Our ability to be our full selves at work matters deeply and impacts the quality of our work and our lives.
After my degree in Women’s Studies, I ended up working in tech, partly because I fell in love with the world-changing power of the internet, and partly because I needed a job.
I was about 12 years into my career in technology – first as a web developer, then a product and engineering project manager – when I started volunteering to do more and more inclusion projects in my workplace. I had already started working on programs like TechWomen and Outreachy in “spare” time and had been at Mozilla more than two years when the opportunity to shift my career came my way.
Putting the Mozilla mission into practice
I was already completely in love with Mozilla’s mission but was increasingly frustrated with the lack of diversity in the open source culture. Our then VP of People asked me to create a case for a Head of D&I, and then to apply for it. To my great joy I got the job. I was now in a position to actually change workplace inclusion as well as diversity.
I had no idea (or not enough idea) how hard my job would be. Creating a case for D&I requires both empathy and science, and making change requires the same and more.
I worked with partners both outside the organization and around it (a cross-functional, intersectional team) to listen deeply and then build a three-pronged strategy for us – pulling together three core concepts:
- Make inclusive practices the norm.
- Build and sustain diverse hiring.
- Retain and develop a diversity of people.
We have been working to make that strategy real and manifest in our organization ever since, building policies, programs, and practices, such as our Community Participation Guidelines, expanded parental leave, inclusive event practices, and many more.
We also share our diversity numbers. What makes me happiest is that now I have employees tell me they no longer feel like such an “only,” and that they can increasingly be their whole selves at work, and that they feel more respected and able to speak.
That makes all the difference.
If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive and exclusive culture, check out Bullying and Bonding Online, a recent episode of Mozilla’s IRL podcast.
It’s a problem when tribalism divides us, online and in real life. Meet the people working to make the web – and the world – a friendlier place.