How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity

from The Atlantic

Last week, Slack, the company whose popular, plaid-themed messaging app has simplified office communications and introduced custom fox emoji into our daily routines, quietly released its 2017 diversity report. Diversity reports, which list statistics like the percentage of women in management and underrepresented minorities in technical jobs, have become something of an annual rite of passage among Silicon Valley tech companies. As public concern about gender and racial inequities in tech has grown, companies have begun, over the past several years, to share numbers.

Slack has been outperforming other Silicon Valley companies, and its current numbers show that the trend has continued. At Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, women hold between 19 percent and 28 percent of leadership positions and between 19 percent and 20 percent of technical roles, according to those companies’ most recent figures. At Slack, women make up 31 percent of leaders and hold 34 percent of technical roles. Also, in Slack’s U.S. workforce, percentages of underrepresented minorities (including black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, or American Indian or Alaskan employees), are, in some cases, triple that of peer companies. At Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, underrepresented minorities hold between 4 and almost 8 percent of technical roles and make up less than 11 percent of all employees. At Slack, by contrast, underrepresented minorities make up almost 13 percent of technical roles and roughly 13 percent of all employees; they also make up 6 percent of leadership. The number of Hispanic women at the company has more than doubled since last year. The number of Hispanic men more than quadrupled.

More here.

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14 Responses to How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity

  1. Nicholas Marinelli May 2, 2018 at 1:23 am #

    I applaud Slack’s efforts regarding their workplace culture. They are truly empathetic regarding both the diversity factors and the factors surrounding existing employees themselves. Clearly Slack is doing something right- not only is it useful in an educational setting, but also quite prevalent within the business world. Silicon Valley companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Uber, Ebay, and undoubtable others, rely heavily on the services provided by Stewart Butterfield and his crew at Slack.
    The diversity factor is a large reason as to why Slack has become a platform of choice for many companies. There has been a driving plea for women in the technical field and coding. Women make up 44.7% of the global workforce at Slack, up from last years 43.5%- showing progress in the fight for unity. In an effort to better serve the increasingly global and diverse customer base, Slack is now recruiting and hiring a workforce that “looks like them”. There is less of an emphasis on compiling numbers, and more of ensuring an environment that is open and inclusive to promote equality and opportunity. Slack understands that this is no easy task and the minds of millions shifts each day- as it is an ongoing, continuous fight to create background checks and proper ways to mitigate bias. This is truly important as it dismantles the idea of disengagement in the workplace. Creating a toxic environment to work in is quite detrimental to the survival of a company. In a completely different view from Uber, Slack truly understands their workers. They do not want hostility and actually want people to enjoy what they have in life. They take into consideration their lives and what they have worked for; allowing them to complete their corporate assignments at work, rather than home when they are spending time with their families. The idea of creating a more inclusive and transparent atmosphere and interview process has not only posed better numbers for Slack, but truly distinguished them from their peers in the industry. Slack is far superior in this space and honestly they are doing an absolutely great job at creating an environment people want to be a part of and consistently keeping up to date with their services.

  2. Daniel Schreier May 2, 2018 at 11:44 pm #

    Diversity is probably the best aspect modern society brought us. Being able to be in touch with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds and cultures working in the same environment brings an almost unlimited amount of possibilities for that company, as there are multiple ways of analyzing a situation and taking the most accurate path, which will make that particular enterprise thrive. Slack is a good example for this, since collaborative tools are not as popular in Africa as they are in the United States. As such, by having team members from Africa, the company will have a better expertise of the situation, ultimately figuring out the most accurate solution for approaching that specific market. This strategy would in the long run give Slack the majority stake of that particular market, as their rival companies would use the wrong market strategy, or would lack important tools necessary for the African market, which perhaps aren’t as needed in the United States. Now, many are probably asking, for a while now, why diversity is so important? Turns out there isn’t an specific answer, but in the business environment at least, we can say more diverse people offer a variety of viewpoints, they have a wider range of experiences and they produce more innovation. From an economic standpoint, and in an increasingly competitive economy, where talent is crucial to improving a company’s bottom line, it makes good business sense to pool from the largest and most diverse set of candidates.
    From the social standpoint, diversity is also very important, especially because groups such as Latinos, women, African Americans and many others never had a solid presence on the work force, especially the highly specialized one. By increasing people which are inserted on those categories, not only we are giving opportunity for them to showcase their true colors, skills and abilities, we are also repairing a damage which hurt those people for many generations. By increasing diversity, we are making a huge difference in society, as we are giving people the chance of completely improving their living condition, moreover, giving them the chance of changing their families lives as well. By increasing diversity we are giving people more HOPE. I greatly complement Slack on their policy, and I would encourage every other business to do the same thing.

    https://trailhead.salesforce.com/en/modules/workplace_equality_diversity_and_inclusion/units/we_diversity_and_inclusion_what_they_are

  3. JERRY WU May 3, 2018 at 9:04 pm #

    With technology becoming more advanced after each year, communication through cellular and wireless devices became a common thing. So I believe that we can say (without a doubt), that the creation of the messaging app Slack was no exception to this. From my experience of using this app this semester, I found it much easier to communicate with my classmates and share my thoughts than ever before in a school environment! I truly believe that they are doing something right in terms of making an effort to create a better workplace culture for everyone. It definitely allows people of all backgrounds and cultures to works with people from all over the world! With this application, it also allows groups that have a lesser presence in the world such as African American, Latinos/as, and women to have a great presence than ever before! Because of this, I feel that Slack is giving people more hope in this world in terms of being able to unite people together.

  4. Chris Goldfarb May 4, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

    Diversity in the employee population of a company is a particularly tough issue because you are messing around with people’s livelihoods. Either way you look at it, it is likely that some entirely qualified person is getting screwed. In principle I believe that companies should only have a responsibility to hire the most qualified person but unfortunately reality gets in the way of that. It is inarguable to say that there is still significant amounts of racism and sexism in American work-culture. This environment leads to a gap between certain groups looking for work. This is a nation-wide problem and so it makes sense that the Silicon Valley would have the same issues as everyone else.
    The article brings up companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Slack but they merely serve as a jumping off point to try and address this complicated topic. As to be expected by the title of the article, the author compares Slack to some of the other notable companies I mentioned in the same industry. The author found that Slack had a much higher percentage of women working at their company. While one of the major tech companies might have something like 19% of technical positions being filled by women, Slack would have about 34% of their technical roles being held by women. Which to me automatically brings up the question, why is it not 50/50?
    Common sense would hold that if that the population is made up of 50% male and 50% female then those numbers should be represented in every industry but that is clearly not the case. However, there is more to this story then just writing these companies off as being sexist. One reason for the discrepancy between men and women in the tech industry is that there are just a lot more qualified men applying for these jobs. That’s not to say women are in anyway not as capable as men but data show that only 18% of all computer science degrees in 2015 were earned by women (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/cracking-the-code:-why-aren-t-more-women-majoring-in-computer-science). These numbers just so happen to be close to the percentage of women filling those tech jobs in major companies.
    One possible explanation for such a low percentages in woman pursuing computer science degrees is the stigma around woman working in the technical fields. It is easy to see how a young woman might be deterred from entering this field to do societal pressures convincing her she does not belong there. It would then seem reasonable to say that in order to increase the amount of women working in these jobs you need to focus on society rather than on the companies offering the jobs. A company can only do so much before it start to contradict what is in its best interest which limits its ability to solve these issues. I believe that if we focus on stimulating interest in these fields and reducing societal stigmas we can achieve a much greater equality in the work place.

  5. Frank Mabalatan May 4, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

    As one can tell from being the best medium for group communication through its sleek interface and channeled communication threads, Slack has a company philosophy based in comprehensiveness and effectiveness. The issue of diversity in the workplace has been a topic of discussion for decades in the workplace. Arguments against such diversity include, but is not limited to, its encouragement of hiring against talent and qualification, reverse racism, and discontinuity of business models. However, diversity in the workplace is essential to the success of a company and any organization because it allows it to become a worldly entity, protected against the curse of groupthink, whereas other companies fall under. Slack’s practice of a diverse workforce translates to a better product because the people who work on the Slack account for the different experiences a user may have when using the application. Slack’s simplified, yet engaging user interface appeals to people of all habits and preferences and that may very well be because of the diversity of the group of people who came together to work on the product.

    As the Atlantic article details, Slack has been outperforming other tech companies, who do not emphasize diversity in the workplace as much as they do. The correlation between diversity in the workplace and success in a company is much stronger than it may appear. As of September 2017, Slack has over six million daily active users, with approximately two million of those users being paid (https://bit.ly/2FJw4kL). Slack’s product has passed through the computers of several different kinds of minds and has been seen by the eyes of several different kinds of perspectives and that resulted in a medium of communication which has been on the rise.

  6. Antonio Chirichiello May 4, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    This is the first year that, I have been introduced to the messaging application Slack, which is used for office communication. I actually find the platform quite useful and, it is a great experience for anyone in the business field. Slack has been competing with other Silicon Valley companies and even outperforming companies like: Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Taking a stand at inequality on all levels, the company’s statistics prove that more women and minorities hold more leadership roles. I feel that the company called Slack is changing, the way messaging platforms conduct business.

    They are giving more minorities and women, the opportunity to work in a leadership position. The number of Hispanics on Slack’s workforce in the United States has quadrupled in comparison to, the prior year’s statistics. According to the article, the company has achieved these goals without the assistance of a designated “head of diversity”. This position is imperative to other Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft just to name a few. Head of diversity is, a person who is responsible of implementing diverse strategies. The company’s strategy is to drive revenues, profit, and create longevity for the company.

    The fact that these three global tech companies pay to put their time and resources into a diversity department and, the results are disappointing to say the very least. Slack is not investing any of their time and resources into head of diversity and, they still are seeing successful results. I feel as to why, the company Slack has been seeing positive results must be due to their welcoming organizational environment. Another major component to their success may reside in their very particular polices that focus on, the means to create a “fairer and more inclusive workplace”. This type of workplace not only creates a positive work environment but, it also increases a company’s productivity which in turn increase a company’s revenues.

    Since 2015, the company has rigorously searched for women outside of their traditional means of recruitment. Also, they are creating new programs that educate black and Latino programmers to learn how to code. I feel that the company is in the right path with idea of minority and women empowerment. In the industry of coding and programming, I believe that there can never be enough programmers.

    In conclusion, I believe that the company Slack’s business strategy is the key to long-term success for a tech company. The consumers and employees are the resources that are necessary for, a company chance of survival. The approach to letting anyone become a leader in the field, of their desired career. I am glad to see that there is a company promoting self-empowerment. People that do not believe, they can become leaders are hindering their potential. I always say a person will never know their capabilities until they try.

  7. John Mundia May 4, 2018 at 8:27 pm #

    As our society progresses into the 21st century, we have values that begin to reflect that all the more. In the businesses world, it is very apparent that changes needed to be made in order to continue thriving. The more industries grow into the daily lives of everyday people the more there is a necesseity to represent them. Diversity is a more universal 21st century ideal. Historically, minorities and women have always been degraded to a point that they could not move up jn society. Diversity was even more enhanced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gave everyone the right to vote. By having more perspectives in a work environment there is a growth of ways to solve problems in a more creative manner.

  8. Lucas Rodriguez May 4, 2018 at 8:46 pm #

    Using slack this entire semester has proffered an easier platform for my academic submissions, contact messaging, and overall technological utilization. The aspect of diversification amid their industry is a big step toward marketing strategy and popularity based attention. From the very fabrics of our legislative and ethical foundations, this idea of unequal and marginalized workplace has been a root in which we have developed for generations, as the many past histories of segregation and male-dominated work has been an outstanding factor in our nations. Going back to just under a century ago, this idea of woman working in workplaces was that of an unfathomable ideology, and still some of these prior thoughts have transcended our nation’s history into our current environments. The instance of this article in itself should prove only to be an awareness for other businesses, and speaks about our country as a whole- the fact that these statistics of diversity which are rather appealing in our medias should mean that such a factor is scarce, and if this is a current trending article than this idea of diversification is something uncommon that must be extended. The implementation of cultural and ethnic diversification is an aspect that still remains “pending”, but with such articles explaining the foundation that corporations such as Slack have started to make, this would only prompt a future of business diversity. But amid such a progressive atmosphere, it is still of question if some companies are purposely seeking out different types of workers to purposely create an equilibrium of workers, which would lead to company quality enhancement in terms of the vision the company portrays. This aspect of forced cultural implementation is a factor that discourages companies from doing so, creating a threshold level in the middle of non-diversified workplace but unwillingness to forcefully do so. This plague has been one of the most crucial aspects in terms of our society’s progression in certain workplace areas, and has prompted an awareness of both gender and race improvement and also a lack of such. Business such as Slack have created tremendous platforms due to their large base of workers each with different perspectives and abilities, and has been a part of such progressive movements by demonstrating their gender and other diversification factors. By deviating from the general norm in terms of our workplace related stigmas, they have allowed themselves to form a corporative melting pot of different technological innovations, informational backgrounds, and an expansion on the general level of creativity in such digital related fields. This represents the future of where our society has striven to become, yet so discouraged to do. From there incessant expansion, Slack has grown from about 20 employees across two countries to nearly over 800 employees across five countries. Globally, their workplace is made up of about 48.5 percent woman, a large portion which hold top positions. Such newly implemented polices adhere to the EEOC regulations, thus their diversification approach to such workers. This is especially interesting to me, as I have been utilizing Slack’s platform which has paved a way for a more efficient academic submission and discussion base. With this, “Several people are typing”, which proffers their success at implementing many different groups of individuals. Since last year, eight percent of workers make up the LGBT community, which only expands on to their expanding spectrums of background. Slack stands as a movement that many companies should introduce or follow, as their diversity report is a major aspect to their yearly analytics and company report. With such efforts, this company has generated an immense following as well major popularity in terms of their consumer standpoint.

  9. Mark Marino May 5, 2018 at 9:21 pm #

    Slack has been a technology company that has initiated its development in a user-friendly and education friendly software. Slack enables its users to interact with one another. This is accomplished through channels. In these channels, users can post whatever they may like depending on topic manner. Users can also direct message each other, which up until recently, were encrypted. Slack is not only a technology company that is advancing its versatility with the users but its versatility with their employees.

    At Slack headquarters, they are introducing a diverse work environment which I think is beneficial to the company. Slack makes people of different genders, race, and religion to work together simultaneously to complete a singular goal. Slack creates a workforce which allows its employees to input their ideas which then get evaluated by the company to put into their program. Diversity in the workforce has been a hot topic to say the least and out of all Silicon Valley companies, Slack seems to be at the forefront of developing its company to be as diverse as possible.

    Diversity in the workforce is a very controversial discussion as some companies embrace it and other companies stay as far away as possible. Arguments are made on both sides but, I think that companies’ best bet is to implement as much diversity as possible. Getting the most point of views and opinions will certainly expand the company as far as it can go. With that, the groundbreaking ideas and the versatility of a piece of software can be expanded tenfold.

    Slack has been brought under scrutiny for their new revelation of direct messages not being encrypted anymore and anonymous to the company. As this is a team decision, it brings about different ideas about the world we live in now. Messages being encrypted allows for criminal and suspicious activity to occur with no monitoring of what is being said. Slack now wants full control on what users say to one another. They join companies like Whatsapp which changed their terms and conditions to make sure they were able to see what their users are saying. It is like a wave that is hitting tech companies coupled with public outcry for internet security.

  10. David Kline May 18, 2018 at 5:26 pm #

    After reading this article, I truly give Slack a lot of credit for all the work they put in to help diversify the company. Not only are they diversifying with race but also with gender. It is not an easy thing to do, especially in today’s age. The thing I find most impressive with what they are doing, is they are not making it known that they are intentionally trying to diversify. the fact that they can take home part of the interview process is huge to people who feel they might be stereo typed. Not only that but every one (including white people) can feel that they got judged fairly and that the right person got the job. In my opinion this creates such a good and healthy relationship right off the bat. People can feel comfortable with the “higher ups” and actually feel satisfied when they get the job. If I were to get a job with Slack, I would feel a sense of great accomplishment because of how the hiring process is. So again, off the bat, employee moral is up and that turns over into better production.
    With all this being said, Slack still is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. One past employee named Erica Baker, an African American employee, left the company because she did not like how long it too to move up in the company. It is great that Slack is giving jobs and opportunities to so many minorities, but they still want the same chance or advancement as everybody else. 100 percent of Slack’s executives are white or Asian and only two are females. With those statistics, to a person like Erica, moving up can seem impossible. If Slack can work on diversifying the higher up positions I think they can be in great shape moving forward.

  11. CA May 18, 2018 at 5:48 pm #

    This article is very informative. It is a good strategy that Slack has developed. Increasing the number of minorities especially women in the workplace improves the culture of the company and the overall productivity of the company. Slack, has set a good example and joins the numerous companies that tout the extent of their diversity. Increasing the number of women in the boardroom and other areas of decision making tends to bring many different levels of expertise to the decision making aspect of the company’s profile. It is good to know that at Slack the number women in engineering is commendable. The population of women in most engineering companies are not very much. Carly Robinson of Slack expresses her lack of the feeling of the stereotypical woman engineer stigma she was expecting when she started working there. Diversity is a culture most companies are adopting lately and it appears Slack is far gone on the band wagon. The importance of diversity in the workplace cannot be overemphasized and it seems to be getting the awareness it deserves. We need more companies like Slack!

  12. Gary Dinmore June 1, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

    I agree with how Slack is going about their idea of diversity, without having single diversity leader and instead creating a role for the company that creates something “everyone is engaged in.” they are showing statistics far greater than that of other silicon valley companies. In this way, they are saying that everyone at the company is a diversity leader in their own regard and that only together as a whole organization can they improve these numbers.

    “…involving employees in diversity policies leads to greater results.”
    It’s obvious that Slack is a progressive company and it is not an uncommon thing to see in Silicon Valley in my opinion. There are always new methods and ideas that change the paradigm of businesses and models which are eye-opening and really helping the industries in America move towards a greater sense of perfection.

    One enormous shift of theirs is the new recruiting method they have imposed since 2015. The way they are searching in the less searched areas, smaller schools and more minority-based programs rather than just recruiting all their employees from a prestigious university is very thoughtful and smart. They put more weight on the individual themselves than they do on the numbers and accolades they may or may not have. This new approach is strengthened even more so with their implementation of blind auditions for job interviews, having interviewees show their problem-solving skills for coding and being graded upon afterward instead of in real time implementing an unnecessary amount of pressure and possible prejudice.

  13. ConradK June 8, 2018 at 12:40 pm #

    This was a refreshing article to read. Reading that Slack has taken significant measures to get rid of those things that cause their company to have diversity issues was great to see. For a company to look at their problem areas, publically acknowledge them and then actually take steps to solve the problems is impressive. One component that I would say is a good one is Slack’s elimination of the “Whiteboard Interview” to the blind code review. That was a good move because the blind code review addresses the fear that many who come from diverse groups may have going through the “Whiteboard Interview”.

    Creating an area of anonymity with its interview process in order to give candidates a fair shot is commendable. However, as I continued to read the article I wondered why Slack would not just train the actual people who are reviewing these applications and putting these people through different interviewing processes? The answer to this question finally appeared when saw that Slack has incorporated behavioral interview questions into their interview process. Not only does this protect the candidate but it also helps the interviewer become better at that task.

    The only question I was left with was what happens once these candidates get through the interview process and are later hired? How do they deal with racism and bigotry how up in other areas of the business post-hire? That aspect is also very important when it comes to diversity. This article shows that Slack is focused on bringing in diverse staff but what is it doing to retain its diverse employees?

    Slack should be proud of the results and other companies should take heed to all that this company has done to make sure that all of its staff feel like they matter.

  14. Kent Flores September 10, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    From various years of using different types of social media, I have gained knowledge of what people from my generation look for in a means of communications. Slack overall allows its users to communicate in a virtual setting that resembles that of Instagram, Facebook and adds an ease of communication through both the accessibility of laptop, smartphone, and tablet. These companies that have integrated Slack into their workplace such as Uber, Google, Linkedin, and many others, which in turn allowed for communications to become easy. Many of these companies have workers across the world and when a message from the CEO needs to be spread across various parts of the world in real time they can use Slack to create a hashtag that notifies everyone. This is useful because the message can be seen on the phone which most people have on them at all time, or on their computer if at work. This instant relay of messages allowed for the separated workers in different departments across the world to work together. Slack also allows for safe communication to occur between employees without racism, sexual offenses, and untruthful messages to be spread. Slack can be used as a means of notifications for all employees and that no matter what your educational and traditional background is like, Slack will get the message through in the most simple and efficient way possible.

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