Why we are launching our Diversity Council at Productboard
I’m delighted to announce that this week will see the launch of our Diversity Council – an initiative that will steer us towards becoming a more diverse company and a champion of equity. In this article, I want to take the opportunity to explain why we’re doing this – why diversity matters to us, and why we want to be at the forefront of driving societal change.
Beyond the business benefits
When making the case for diversity, it is common to focus primarily on the business benefits. As you probably know, diverse teams are proven to outperform homogenous ones. The reason for this is obvious – diverse people bring diverse perspectives, ideas, and ways of working to the table, allowing teams to tackle problems from different angles.
When you Google ‘Why diversity matters,’ you mostly get articles describing the business benefits of diverse teams. This is understandable, and it certainly helps organizations get buy-in for diversity-related initiatives. But in my eyes, while clearly important, the business implications aren’t the most critical reason to pursue diversity. Instead, I want to focus primarily on how diversity relates to human issues such as equity and inclusion.
Diversity is about equity
We live in a global world, and the world is a diverse place. Society is diverse. Yet, in most companies, the diversity we see in the world is not accurately reflected in the workplace. If we believe that human beings are equal, that we all have the same potential, and that we should all have the same access to opportunities, the lack of diversity in businesses is surprising – or even alarming.
Why is societal diversity not reflected in most businesses? It is not a matter of ability, but rather that history’s playing field has never been level. Some groups have always had to face more constraints and challenges than others. Access to opportunities has never been equally distributed.
It’s easy to see the inherent unfairness of this situation – that it’s a wrong that we need to right. Companies should better reflect the diversity of society, but that won’t happen without concerted efforts to level the playing field.
For this problem to improve, we need to take an approach that focuses on equity rather than equality. While equality means treating everyone the same, with the same access to resources and opportunities, equity means providing access to resources and opportunities based on individual needs. As the picture below illustrates, an equality-based approach doesn’t factor in the barriers that are holding people back, but an equity-based approach does.
Ideally, we’ll get to a place where these barriers are completely removed (see the ‘Justice’ part of the picture). But in order to get to that point, we first have to take action and drive change.
History shows us that we must act
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late US Supreme Court Justice, started practicing law at Harvard, she was one of nine women in a class of over 500. At every turn, she faced discrimination and barriers that men didn’t face.
Over the course of her career, she fought tirelessly to improve women’s rights, participating in nearly 300 gender discrimination cases. Each case she won made a big step towards a fairer, more equal world for women. But when she started out, discrimination was normal. In fact, it was perfectly legal. Without considerable efforts to turn the tide of history, nothing would have improved.
Today, there is still much work to do. Women, minorities, and LGBTQ communities continue to face barriers to opportunity that other groups don’t. For this to change, companies need to step up and take the initiative, to make the world a fairer, more equal place.
At Productboard, we want to be at the forefront of this change. We want to open the door to underrepresented groups and give them access to opportunities that have previously been limited. We want to remove those barriers that are holding some people back.
Productboard is a global company, with offices in the US, Canada, and the Czech Republic, and a growing fully remote team. Naturally, we need to ensure that our teams reflect the diversity of the societies in which they are based and tackle issues that are specific to each country.
For example, the USA has very different demographics than the Czech Republic, which is a relatively homogeneous population from an ethnic perspective. At the same time, the Czech Republic has one of the lowest percentages of women in tech globally. With most of our engineering team based in Prague, this is something we must address to drive change.
When we first started out as a tiny startup in 2014, we simply didn’t have the resources or time to be intentional about big-picture societal issues like diversity. We welcomed anyone who was skilled and willing to jump on board and help us move forward.
Today, we’re a global company with over 200 employees and 3,000 customers. We are now in a position to think about tackling such issues, and with that comes the responsibility to act. Not only are we able to think about diversity from a systemic, strategic perspective, we also have the resources to invest in this initiative.
That’s why we’re launching our Diversity Council – to invest time and resources in something we believe in. Togetherness is one of our core values, and equality and diversity are significant parts of that value. Together, we hope to play our part in leveling the playing field so that people from all backgrounds, cultures, and groups can realize their full potential here at Productboard. I hope you join our efforts!