Going Public: SendGrid and the Diversity Data Movement
Disclaimer: SendGrid is an NCWIT member and Pacesetter. All our members are taking inspirational and noteworthy steps to increasing diversity in the tech workforce. This is just one example.
“When I saw the companies coming out with their data I was like, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’” These are the words of Josh Ashton, Senior Director of People at SendGrid, a growth stage company based in Boulder that is the leading delivery platform for email that matters. SendGrid is an NCWIT Entrepreneurial Alliance (EA) member as well as a Pacesetter, meaning the company is committed to “increasing their organization’s number of technical women at an accelerated pace.” What sets SendGrid apart is that it is the only EA Pacesetter to publicly release its diversity data. Ashton was the driving force behind the release and in a SendGrid blog post, released on September 15, he wrote, “By becoming transparent with our figures we hope to not only positively influence the industry as a whole, but also hold ourselves accountable to continually measure and take steps to improve.”
Ashton says he was met with no internal pushback when he proposed the idea and that the feedback has been almost entirely positive. He also stressed that the important part isn’t releasing the data, it’s the steps that companies take afterwards to increase their diversity. “It’s really important to show that what we’re doing matters,” he explains. “I’m not as concerned with the raw numbers, more so with being transparent on strategy and making that the most accountable part of the process.” As an example, Ashton points out that SendGrid’s initial focus on women in technology has spurred the company to work to include other underrepresented communities as well, including people of color, veterans, and LGBT and disabled individuals. He explains, “When you talk about things behind closed doors, it can only go so far.”
Many giants in the technology industry (who are also NCWIT members) -- such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft -- have publicized their statistics, but fewer startups seem to be joining the ever-growing list. Though he’s not sure why this is the case, Ashton thinks releasing data is a smart move for startups. “[Small companies] have more to gain,” he says. “You can use the stance that we’re just starting out, and we’re trying to do it early and often.” Ashton also sees releasing diversity data as a logical part of the NCWIT Pacesetters program, assuming that companies are prepared not just with the data, but also with the strategy they’re putting in place to improve. “I would encourage [startups] to do it and to make it a priority,” he says of going public. “As long as they realize that its not just a to-do item, it’s very much a marathon where you have to put a lot of effort and care towards what happens after.”