In this episode
All Turtles CEO
All Turtles Head of People
Former All Turtles Chief of Staff
Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Webflow
“The whole point of saying something as systemic, right, is that systemic means it's not up to like individual small choices. It's kind of baked into the system. And so the way you have to work against it is to like, do things that in the individual decisions may not actually seem fair or necessary. Because it's always easier to justify any particular case. … So I kind of thought that, you know, the only way forward is to say, you know, I just have to, I just have to kind of personally do things that don't feel comfortable to me.”
“I think that at the end of the day, it does help to have someone be responsible for [diversity and inclusion] because if someone isn't, then no one is.”
“Inclusion is really, it's a feeling. … I cannot say, check the box… It's actually something where it's based on how our employees feel. So do our team members feel like they can bring their full self to work? And that not only won't be held against them, but it will actually be embraced and valued?”
Webflow’s DEI mission
Mariah wrote about how Webflow works to support and champion their entire team in radically inclusive and empowering ways.
Black Tech Pipeline
A group that All Turtles has recently partnered with to connect to their platform that brings exposure, resources and opportunities to Black technologists.
Dairien: [00:00:00] In the first episode of Culture Fit, I introduced myself as principal designer at All Turtles. I've been a member of the team since the early days, and I've been fortunate enough to work alongside a talented group of thoughtful people. But just like every organization, we know we're not perfect. All Turtles has plenty of room to grow, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
This episode is about honesty. We're examining ourselves at All Turtles and we're publishing our internal conversations [00:00:30] in a public way so we can be transparent. We believe that if we ask ourselves the big questions, we'll ensure that we do better in the future.
We'll hear directly from All Turtles' CEO Phil Libin. Phil's also the CEO of mmhmm, and he's the former CEO and cofounder of Evernote. He's led prominent tech companies for multiple decades. I'm also very excited to share interviews with the company's head of people, Colleen McGarry. We also spoke with the former chief of staff at All Turtles.
[00:01:00] Again, we're evaluating our company culture because we want to do better. We're not afraid to have honest but difficult conversations.
I'm Dairien Boyd. This is Culture Fit: Racial Bias in Tech.
Okay. So this is a really good episode. Let's get straight into it. Here's Phil Libin. He's speaking openly about the diversity and inclusion at All Turtles. Part of the reason we decided [00:01:30] to really focus on this topic, it emanates from the conversation we had earlier in June after George Floyd's murder. And we had a conversation internally within the team and it spawned into all sorts of movements. And so one of the conversations that we talked about is that racism is intentional, right? It's baked in. It was designed to be that way. And so a metaphor you've brought up before is in Japan, there's a term kintsugi which is to repair something that's broken, like a coffee cup [00:02:00] that might've broken, and you repair it, and now it's better. But maybe we've talked about this metaphor not being the right lens to look at racism. It's about redesigning something, explicitly changing the way it works. What do you think about this framing and how do we move forward with this new perspective?
Phil: [00:02:15] Yeah, I think I had always thought about, um, most social problems in this framing of things being broken and needing to fix it and needing to kind of repair the damage. And it was really only recently, and really thanks to some of the [00:02:30] things that you said, and some other All Turtles employees said, that I started to kind of rethink that, around, well. Some problems aren't there because something's broken; some problems are there because they're kind of designed that way, and redesigning something is a different motion than fixing it.
And I think this has been something that's, uh, that's been at least somewhat eye opening for me over the past, uh, over the past few months.
Dairien: [00:02:52] There are no easy answers, but you made the decision to decline any board or panel opportunities that don't include [00:03:00] women or people of color. And I believe similarly with your investments, you don't really invest in companies that don't employ women or people of color.
So could you maybe talk about this prioritization and what that means for All Turtles and how we prioritize roles and how we've seen varying levels of success?
Phil: [00:03:18] Yeah. I decided personally to basically resign from any board or group that I was on, that didn't have women or people of color. But that's a personal decision. That's just the decision of [00:03:30] saying, look, the whole point of saying something is systemic, right, is that systemic means it's not up to like, individual small choices. It's kind of baked into the system. And so the way you have to work against that is to like, do things that in the individual decisions may not actually seem fair or, or necessary because it's always easier to justify any particular case.
Right? Like every board that I'm in, it's easy to justify why for that particular case, well, it, [00:04:00] you know, it makes sense. Um, but if you, if you keep doing that, if you keep adding up all of the individual things that are justifiable, you end up with an overall society and structure that's not justifiable.
So I kind of thought that the only way forward is to say, I just have to kind of personally do things that don't feel comfortable to me, but I don't know if that's the right answer kind of in general, this was something that I, you know, decided to do. In terms of what we're trying to do at, at All Turtles and at our various companies, you know, I think there's two parts, right?
I think we try to work on things that, [00:04:30] in our opinion, make the world better, if those things succeed. So the first part is just, what do we work on? And then the second part is, how do we, how do we work on it? So like, what do we build and how do we build it? We try to make sure that the, what we build is stuff that's good for the world.
And the, and the, how we build it is, you know, it gets better and better and more and more fair and approaches the ideal of kind of where we want to be. And then, you know, we're a company. We're a for-profit company. And so the tool set that for-profit companies have is money. A company is being genuine about something if it's [00:05:00] spending money on that thing.
And so we figure out ways to spend money, to be able to have, uh, a more diverse and inclusive teams and to have a plan to increase the amount of money we spent on that in specific ways. And I think that's the way to make progress.
Dairien: [00:05:15] And so to tie the conversation back, we know that there are brilliant people that have been hindered from reaching their potential because of societal pressures.
We make a cognitive error, maybe implicit bias is something that manifests commonly, where we're relying on [00:05:30] these stereotypes. For instance, when we think of a certain profession, we also imagine physical attributes of the professional. So if I think of someone cleaning a public facility, like a janitor, that might influence my brain to visualize a certain image.
And so it's really important, I think, that we spot and address these biases. I'm curious from your position being a white male, your image represents what many think of as a CEO or a person of authority. And so these stereotypes can be dangerous. How do we navigate this? Um, and what's your perspective on this issue?
[00:06:00] Phil: [00:06:00] I think often what gets in the way of perfectly reasonable observation is personalizing and kind of internalizing it. It's very easy for me to think, well, you know, I'm not biased, right? Because like, it's easy for me to imagine that I know the insides of my own brain and I know the insides of my own heart.
And like I can say, well, I don't, I don't think I'm prejudiced. I don't think I'm racist. And I think for the vast majority of peoples it's probably like that. And so [00:06:30] anytime you have a conversation that, that gets immediately read as attacking. Someone's inner most kind of mind and morals and heart that runs contrary to how they see themselves.
It's just like, it becomes very unproductive. It's kind of interesting how I think the word systemic racism, the term I think is actually exactly right. Like, systemic means that it isn't, it isn't about like, an individual preference. It means that this is the way [00:07:00] the system is. It means that it's measurable and the measurements are like very obvious. Like, sometimes, I can't even believe that we're having debates on TV with national politics about whether or not we have systemic racism, because I'm like, well, how is that even an opinion? Whether or not we have it? You can just look at the results. Right? You can just look at the numbers. You can just look at the differences in outcome by race.
And like, they're obviously not equal. They're obviously not fair. And so of course it's systemic. The system is wired up in a way that Black people [00:07:30] and other people with disadvantages just do have generally worse outcomes across a large number of attributes. And you can't really argue that. Obviously the system is not fair.
Obviously the system is not balanced. We can all look at the same numbers. Right. And just agree that it's not fair and not balanced. And somehow it got this way and it wasn't magical. Right? It's not like we inherited the system from like, space aliens who handed it off to us and we don't understand it.
Like, we built it. [00:08:00] All of us. Like we made it. And we can make a different system and the biases that you're talking about, like, yeah, they exist in everyone or almost everyone. Some of them are benign. Some of them are very malignant, but there are results that you can measure are like unquestionable. So I think what I try to do for myself is to say, like, I just try to separate it from how I feel internally about like my own morality and what the actual effects are.
Of the companies that I [00:08:30] invest in, or the companies that I run, like how, how are they doing? How's the world doing? And it's harder to lie to yourself if you're looking at numbers.
Dairien: [00:08:37] At All Turtles, we work hard to hire a diverse workforce. We see varying levels of success, but it's something that we've been committed to, including employing recruiters, to find candidates from different backgrounds.
And so, where do you think All Turtles has room to grow in this effort in terms of fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Phil: [00:08:57] Yeah, I think, I think companies have a [00:09:00] certain tool set, especially for-profit companies. That tool set is where we spend money, and yeah, we work hard to make an inclusive workforce. But, maybe this sounds harsh, I don't mean it that way, but even more importantly than us working hard is we spend money to do it. That, I think, is for a company how you know that it's serious, is you look at the budgets. So yeah we, as you said, like, we pay recruiters specifically to send us candidates that are outside of our network, right. We specifically pay recruiters to send us candidates that are, that are women, that are people of color, [00:09:30] so that we don't get, you know, only white male applicants for, for most positions. And that, that costs money. You know, we have to pay for this and it costs time. We try to keep each job listing open for a few weeks, sometimes a month or two, rather than hiring the first person, just so that we can see an interview as many qualified people as possible.
So that when we hire someone, we want to know that that's actually the best person for the job. So like, I feel like we are at least being authentic towards that. It's not a slogan. We're putting [00:10:00] our very scarce resources towards this end. What we can do better is we could do more of it. As we start succeeding a little bit, and we have a little bit more money, a little bit more resources, we could do this more. We could do this at a bigger scale. And we have to switch to paying more attention to, kind of, the second part of having a good team, which is, you know, in the beginning, when you're a small startup building, a team is all about recruiting, right? It's all about who you hire. Once you get to be kind of a medium-sized company, and you're, you're a few years old, and we're, we're just starting to get to that point, who you [00:10:30] retain is actually more important than who you hire. Or at least as important. You know, for most startups, you don't really pay attention to the retention and career development, because it's just not that very many people that are already on the team.
So bringing new people on is important, but we were just getting to the phase now where the retention and career development is getting to be really important. Then you need to start spending money and resources on that. So we're figuring out how do we make sure that we keep the best people in, and we make sure that we, they can advance in their careers.
How do we have the right coaching and mentoring and career development? And again, it's going to come [00:11:00] down to spending money on it. It's not just talking, it's going to be having to hire coaches and trainers and mentors and have stats and see what's working and what's not. And I think those are the areas of our, of our future improvement is just spending more time and money on all of this. And also starting to focus on retention and career development, not just, not just hiring.
Dairien: [00:11:20] So the results are there in terms of ROI. When we talk to people that are on the front lines of diversity equity inclusion, they talk about like you said, retention, or even the quality of what's being produced, being elevated, [00:11:30] benefiting from a diverse workforce within an organization.
And so it seems like the obvious path as a company is to invest in this, yet companies, at the same time, at least in Silicon Valley, they seem unwilling to prioritize this unless they're constantly having their feet held to the fire. Is it a short-sightedness or are the gains too far downstream for companies to see the long-term value? Why is there this disconnect?
Phil: [00:11:52] I think you get the ROI pretty quickly. I'm thrilled by the quality of work that we produce, and by the team that we have. And there's no way we could be [00:12:00] producing, I think, similar quality work as quickly with a different team. Like, All Turtles is my fourth company, mmhmm was my fifth company.
I've never seen better teams. I don't mean better as in more diverse. They're also, they're also more diverse, but I mean better in terms of like, producing amazingly high quality work on time and on budget. And that's never been better. So the ROI has come fast, but maybe what's happening is for companies, especially tech companies, especially around here that pride themselves on [00:12:30] moving really, really quickly and producing high quality stuff fast and repeatedly,
I think the ROI comes super fast. So, if there's resistance and hesitancy, I mean, you know, maybe it's a combination of people haven't thought it through correctly. It is difficult. Right? You do often feel like you're under attack as a white guy. Like, I often feel uncomfortable in these conversations because there's a not very subtle subtext that's just beneath the surface of me feeling like I am personally being blamed for stuff. [00:13:00] Even if that's not the intent of the person I'm talking to. Sometimes it might be, sometimes it isn't, but you know, it's easy to feel bad about this. And it's really hard to work on something that makes you feel bad.
So you just have to kind of depersonalize it. You have to say it's systemic, you look at the system, you figure out metrics, you figure out goals. I try to look at it as scientifically as possible and try to not, not feel like I'm being attacked, but, but it's, it's tough. It's tough for me. And I try to be mindful about these things. I'm sure it's tough for others as well.
Dairien: [00:13:29] I want to [00:13:30] touch on your experience leaving the Soviet Union. You moved to the Bronx in New York at eight years old. Think you've mentioned that your family was really lucky to get out of that situation. Can you talk about what it was like coming into a new culture and new surroundings, new everything, essentially, and what that was like? How did that shape you moving forward?
Phil: [00:13:48] So my family and I were refugees from the Soviet Union in 1979. There was a bunch of refugees that got out around that time period. We were Jewish, we were stateless. And so yeah, we lived [00:14:00] in the Bronx. We were poor. You know, my parents came over without anything.
They were both classical musicians in the Soviet Union, which was hard to get a job as a musician, without speaking the language in your mid to late thirties in the U.S. So it's kind of interesting. Like, I, I never really like my whole identity and how I think of myself as different. Like, I'm obviously white.
But I didn't think of myself as that for a very long time, because, [00:14:30] um, it originally what I was was Jewish. And that was, at least in the Soviet Union, subject to a lot of discrimination and kind of outright violence. When I came to the U. S. I was living with, mostly a neighborhood with Black and yeah, there was a lot of Black people, here was a lot of Puerto Rican people, a lot of immigrants, there was relatively few white people. So most of my friends were people of color. All of us were programmer guards. And a bunch of my friends were, you know, I always considered to be very [00:15:00] similar to me. You know, we like Star Trek. We pirated computer games.
Several of them at least were really brilliant. And it wasn't until much later when I left this, I went to college that it kind of started to realize that like, Yeah, outcomes are different from us. Because like, I grew up kind of poorer than them. You know, we were on food stamps, we got government cheese, all that stuff.
I didn't think about race. I didn't see myself as particularly white. It didn't realize that my Puerto Rican or Black friends were that different. But yeah, by the time, you know, [00:15:30] kinda got out of that neighborhood and got to college, kind of started seeing that I was getting all these opportunities and they kind of weren't. I'm still the only person of that friend group of wound up leaving.
So it was a, it was a realization that it doesn't really matter how I see myself. What matters is how, how the world sees me and the world definitely sees me as, as a white man, that can be a CEO and is relatively trustworthy and dependable. And things are a lot easier for me than for a lot of the people I grew up with.
[00:16:00] Dairien: [00:15:59] Thank you for sharing that story. It actually, it resonates with me a lot. And I wonder, one of the episodes in the series is the pipeline fallacy. Uh, I don't love this term because I think again, it dehumanizes people, right. It reduces them to a commodity that's, it's like, someone's responsibility to feed humans to a corporation. What's your perspective on that? I'm sure you've heard the term as a VC and even today at All Turtles. What is the reality around the pipeline?
Phil: [00:16:25] Yeah, I've used that term myself. I have, when I was CEO [00:16:30] at Evernote. Somebody asked me about, in this case it was the case of women, about how many women were hired and on the team.
And at Evernote we did a pretty good job with women at the kind of higher executive levels. I think more than half of my direct reports were women. Basically every department was okay. It felt a lot better than Silicon Valley average, but, except for one department, which is engineering. And in engineering, it was like 3% women or something.
Back when I was there, hopefully it's much better now. And I was asked about this, and I, I said that I looked at it, and it's a [00:17:00] pipeline thing. That was my answer. Because when I look at how many candidates are we interviewing, we were just, we were only getting about 2 or 3% of our candidates for engineering positions are women.
And we're hiring them at the same rate as we're hiring men. So it was like, well, I find we're not getting enough candidates. So I've used that, that answer myself. And it wasn't until a couple of years later that I realized that that's just wrong. And I had to kind of realize this for myself. I kind of said, well, okay, look, this math just doesn't make sense.
I said, fine. Let's just assume that we're only going to hire Stanford [00:17:30] grads, computer science Stanford graduates. Obviously that's not true. We hire all sorts of people, but let's just say we're only going to hire, you know, the equivalent of entry-level computer science positions that are, you know, Stanford graduates. Said, okay, well, what percentage of the Stanford graduating class for computer science are women.
And the thing that year, it was something like 18%, which is like super low. Right. Obviously, you know, would it be 50%, but it's only 18%. Okay. But the people we were seeing, we were only seeing 3% women. So like what happened to the other 15%, right? [00:18:00] Like, yeah, it's a pipeline problem. But unless we were getting at least 18% of our inbound candidates being women, then like we were doing worse than the previous step in the pipeline.
So whose fault is that? And I realized, well, it's my fault. Well, at least it's my responsibility. We need to spend more money, more time. We need to figure out a way to at least not be like the kink in the pipeline. So if it really was just pipeline math, then we would have had 80% women, not [00:18:30] 3, which is still too low, but 18 is that 6, 6 X better than where we actually were.
So I think like for people who say it's a pipeline problem, well, the first step is okay, fine. Pipeline problem. Let's look at the pipeline. Let's look at the funnel. We know how to do funnel analysis. Let's look at it. Let's be honest about it. Are we, are we, are we the pinch point in the funnel. Until every CEO can say, I am not the pinch point, or at least like, the people who are under my employ are not the pinch points of the pipeline. Than we are. And then we have to fix it.
And if everyone did that, then of [00:19:00] course there'd be no pipeline problem. But at the very least, like until we got to 18%, I shouldn't have been blaming Stanford. I agree with you. It's distasteful to talk about it as a pipeline, but you know, the whole phrase human resources is distastefu to some extent. But it's also good to be able to actually measure things.
And to be honest with the numbers, and you know, if you want to think about it as a pipeline, okay. Just be honest about it and make sure that you're not the pinch point in the funnel. And I think pretty much every CEO in Silicon Valley, if they look at it that way, they're going to realize they are the pinch points.
Dairien: [00:19:29] Phil, thank you [00:19:30] again for joining us. I learned so much from you and I continue to learn a lot from you. So I really appreciate it.
Phil: [00:19:35] Well, likewise, uh, for me, Dairien, thank you for, for doing this. I've learned a bunch from you that I'm, you know, that I feel like this is the best kind of learning because like it's the sort of thing that I feel afterwards, like I'm kind of embarrassed that I learned this just now. Like, this feels like the sort of thing that I should have known for a long time, but it's better than still being ignorant of it. So, thank you for all the work and, and just for the, for the amazing work on other projects at All Turtles.
[00:20:00] Dairien: [00:20:02] Phil's a thoughtful person. It really shines in how he leads All Turtles. I'm fortunate enough to work alongside a CEO that can speak honestly about diversity and inclusion. As a company, All Turtles invests in building a diverse team. As individuals, we echo a desire for hiring more diverse talent. And so as we continue to grow, we hope to expand who we can include in the studio, not just within the team, but also the products that we build. We definitely won't get there, and we certainly wouldn't be where we are today, [00:20:30] without the head of people at All Turtles. Here's Colleen McGarry.
You've managed anything and everything related to people operations. You're essentially a one-person team for a lot of All Turtles operations. So there's a lot of pressure and accountability in that role. I think other people in startups might relate to wearing many hats. How do you balance these responsibilities and how do you navigate this?
Colleen: [00:20:53] Um, I mean, I think a common theme throughout the organization, not just with my role, [00:21:00] but with many other colleagues, both, uh, managers and individual contributors is I think what we would call ruthless prioritization. One of the things I've always appreciated actually about working at All Turtles is that everybody's realistic about that.
Dairien: [00:21:17] I think there's probably a collective responsibility of all employees at All Turtles to try to keep each other safe. And what's your perspective on this and how do we do a better job of sharing this responsibility and fostering an inclusive environment?
[00:21:30] Colleen: [00:21:30] And that's a really hard question to answer. I think that at the end of the day, it does help to have someone be responsible for it, because if someone isn't, then no one is. It is, I think, a thing that people can share in. But having someone be the end of the line in terms of accountability is how you ensure something like safety, whether it is physical safety or psychological safety, um, or economic safety.
Dairien: [00:21:59] What's your [00:22:00] general philosophy on building a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at All Turtles?
Colleen: [00:22:05] I believe in building a diverse and equitable culture in the world. Everybody deserves to be treated fairly and equally and with justice and we have a long way to go, but it's, you know, small bite sized steps and pieces, um, as we go along.
Dairien: [00:22:27] What are the things All Turtles is doing [00:22:30] to make this happen, and how can the rest of the All Turtles staff expand our ties to continue this effort?
Colleen: [00:22:38] So I think that tangible things that we do are, uh, and we're not, you know, I'm also want to say up top, but we're not perfect. It's not a flawless, there's always room for improvement and we get kind of stuck between time and urgency and bandwidth. As you said earlier, I am right now a hiring team of [00:23:00] one. But that said, some of the things that we do include writing a job description for every single job. So being clear from the get-go about what the expectations of the role are and writing it down so that there's accountability about that is one thing that we do.
We try to post our job descriptions as early as possible. We've had some that have been posted for several months just to give ourselves some time to get a bunch of candidates into the pool. Also the [00:23:30] more opportunity you have to put them on more niche, job boards or network with your colleagues. The other thing too, I think, is being very cognizant about the networks that your colleagues bring in. The people that you know are more likely to be more like you, and that can be great. And that can also lead to homogeneity. You know, we have, we have a bunch of folks on our staff right now who worked at one particular company [00:24:00] together and at various different times. And I'm very sensitive as a person who didn't work there about what it might feel like to be a person who's not in that club and wanting to make sure that we're reaching out to people who worked at different places and aren't in the networks of those people.
Dairien: [00:24:18] Thank you for the insight, Colleen, with the last few minutes, I would love to touch on retention as a general topic.
Colleen: [00:24:25] Sure. You know, I feel so [00:24:30] grateful that we have the retention that we do. So I'm going to be completely honest. We have somehow done a really terrible job retaining Black women, and it's embarrassing. And it's also really hard to talk about because it's never going to be any one issue. And so I just know that I feel badly about it and that we have done poorly and I want to fix it. That said, I feel grateful that on the whole, all turtles retention has been [00:25:00] extremely high. By and large people have stayed and we haven't put a ton of intentionality around that. So I think if we do even more people will stay even longer as we grow. We'll have just a little bit more space and bandwidth for people to grow.
And that's another reason that people can or will, or do stay at companies is because they're growing in their skills. And so that's [00:25:30] something that I think we're looking forward to in the next kind of couple of years, as things look much rosier and optimistic for AT.
Dairien: [00:25:39] I'm so grateful for Colleen. She spoke candidly. It's hard to imagine all of the challenges that Colleen has to balance. And what she said is true. Our company has failed to retain Black women on the staff. Black women aren't protected in Silicon Valley either. To the contrary we learned in the previous episode of culture fit, the tech enables harm to black women.
[00:26:00] If you followed along with the series you heard from dozens of accomplished professionals that happen to be Black, many of them women, and an easy way to prioritize black women is to simply listen. I'm very excited to introduce Cathy Dinas. She was previously chief of staff at All Turtles, and she's currently an amazing friend and amazing person.
Cathy: [00:26:20] Hi, I'm Cathy Dinas. I sort of consider myself the Beyonc of operations because, why not? She's amazing. I'm amazing. Sometimes. [00:26:30] Um, I, um, was previously at All Turtles, which is why I think you guys invited me to this podcast.
Dairien: [00:26:38] Well, you mentioned that you are great sometimes, and I can validate that you are, you are absolutely great to me at your, during your time at All Turtles. I want to thank you for the amount of love and compassion you shared with me as well as others. You took time to check in with me often, we had so many difficult conversations together. [00:27:00] I think it helped strengthen our relationship to this day. So I really appreciate what you've done for me. How do you go about building meaningful relationships in the workplace?
Cathy: [00:27:08] I think I always looked at being at work and the work relationships that I have as family. And so it's always important that I know who I work with, what their values are, how they're really feeling and make them feel important from the CEO to the maintenance person, [00:27:30] all those roles matter.
Dairien: [00:27:32] I feel that a common way people experience harm in the workplace is simply feeling alone or even alienated. I don't think this is an uncommon feeling. I imagine many people go through it at some point in their career. And I think my experiences are no different. Even at All Turtles, I can say that there have been moments where I've felt alone or alienated and not being heard or being ignored is demoralizing humiliating, even. Can you talk about feeling this sort of experience and how do you [00:28:00] navigate feeling alienated? What can someone do that's in that position to rise above that isolation?
Cathy: [00:28:06] Yeah, one thing I really liked that Phil did, um, when I was in meetings with him is he'd always turn and ask me like what I thought. And I don't think I appreciated that until, you know, now that I'm looking back. And whether he was genuinely curious about what my idea was, or just being intentionally practicing, making [00:28:30] sure someone else's voice was heard in the room. It's important because it's so easy to kind of know also make yourself shrink, to not engage. Even if you have ideas, you might be scared to speak out on that.
Dairien: [00:28:44] Colleen comes to mind at All Turtles, being the head of people operations, to try to oversee everyone within the population and make sure that everyone is taken care of somewhat equally.
Right. And I think your position of chief of staff, there's definitely overlap there. You're responsible [00:29:00] for people essentially. And that's, that's difficult. Can you talk about that? What is it like trying to help a population of people sort of in a silo.
Cathy: [00:29:09] I think it has to be. I think it's very intentional, right? It's so easy as the head of people or chief of staff to ignore things that are going on around you, you see someone with their head down at their desk, you can walk by and not say anything, or you could walk over and [00:29:30] ask the individual if they're okay, or you can send them a note later and say, Hey, I saw you seemed a little upset. Is everything okay? But it has to be intentional in how you support your team because everybody is coming to work with a different lens, a different experience, a different why, and purpose.
Dairien: [00:29:54] An individual that identifies as a Black woman, such as yourself, I feel is probably the least [00:30:00] protected in a tech monoculture. That's reflected in data. The data shows that that's the case. Colleen even mentioned candidly that All Turtles has a problem with retaining black women. I don't think that's unique to All Turtles. I'm curious, what's your perspective on that? Where are the times where you felt protected and what can entities organizations, companies do to show that they believe in the advancement of Black women and that they're there to protect Black women?
[00:30:30] Cathy: [00:30:29] Yeah. I mean, this makes me think back to a couple of years ago when I first interviewed with Phil and I could tell, like we would get along, but one of the things that I was actually kind of dwelling on and noodling on was this is someone that is extremely well known in both Silicon Valley and worldwide because of the products that he's built, successful companies that he's led. But I was also a little nervous, [00:31:00] like, okay, if I walk into a meeting with someone, are they going to close the door right before I get in or assume I'm his assistant or assume that I, you know, is I don't, I don't know what they would have assumed. And I asked him the condition that I would take this role is that he has to have my back. And I made it very clear. I was like, you know, folks are gonna look at me, I'm going to look this young for like another 30 years. Like [00:31:30] you need to also help me by standing up for me, having my back. And it was very intentional on my part. It was important to me when I started All Turtles, it was pretty diverse. I walked in, I was like, Oh, there's Black people here. Awesome. Women in leadership. Like there was a woman co-founder. I was already seeing some diversity. So I'm like, okay, we're, like, he gets it. And he's trying to build a space that is inclusive with the type of [00:32:00] technology that's going to be created. The other thing I realized was like, I do not want to be the only one.
And as I was walking in and knowing that I was the only Black woman on staff, I said the next people that we're looking for hiring, we have to be intentional about casting a wider net. And so when I, to what Colleen says in terms of retention, I think, um, [00:32:30] I don't know if I've, if I've fully processed that experience. There's so many things that I've, that I love and enjoy about my time at All Turtles. And I, I just, sometimes it's hard to even process, but I was fortunate to be able to lean on the other Black women there and to lean on you and feel kind of seen even in times [00:33:00] where I felt like I wasn't even being seen or heard. Now I feel like I'm processing over the phone and that's kind of weird, but, um, yeah, I don't, I don't know. I don't know how to put into words succinctly. I will say, I will say one thing. We learn in kindergarten, the treat others the way you'd want to be treated. And that is just, you know, I guess that's one of the golden rules. I'm going to make it a golden [00:33:30] rule. If you don't like to be interrupted in meetings, don't interrupt people in meetings. If you want to be celebrated and you want promotions, you want to be acknowledged for your work, then offer that to others as well. It is something that everyone can do and benefit from. And that's one way I think we could start protecting Black women in the workplace and all, all folks, really. Like folks who are the most [00:34:00] silent, folks who, who, who aren't really speaking out because they're scared. And just treat folks how you want to be treated.
And I, and I like, I'm super proud, I, I'm so proud of the work that folks at All Turtles are doing now. Like I definitely I'm watching and I'm cheering because I think my leaving in a way kind of sparked like a desire for more authenticity and [00:34:30] transparency. And I think that All Turtles is asking the right questions right now and coming to the right realization. I'm thankful for like the relationships I've I've made there. You know, I still see Phil as a mentor. I text him all the time and you know, everybody's learning. So I, I love to see it.
Dairien: [00:34:56] I also see Phil as a mentor, many people do. [00:35:00] But I can't thank Cathy enough for sharing her voice.
A lot of the conversations in this episode, really throughout the series, they hit home for me. It's ridiculously lonely to be the only at a company, or even the only on a team. Even worse if you're undervalued because the culture around you just doesn't get what you have to offer. It's miserable. I felt that way.
I've wondered if leadership sees me as a leader sometimes, or as someone [00:35:30] that's less than. We talked to over 30 people for Culture Fit, we spent hundreds of hours to make sure that this message was heard. The people that are often undervalued or even unwelcomed need to be heard. Intimate conversations with each guest, they're personal, and often emotional.
Intimate in a way that brought up my own racial trauma, trauma experienced during childhood and adulthood. I carry these experiences with me to work every day. And I wake up in the morning sometimes with my jaw clenched. People that [00:36:00] carry the burden of talking about race, they do so and hope that the future won't have to deal with the same mess.
What you're listening to is All Turtles growing through introspection. All Turtles has a commitment to do better. Phil, Colleen, and Cathy, they're all experts. They're experts of their craft, and they're also experts of their own experiences for the final interview of this episode. We're going outside of All Turtles and hearing from someone with a ton of things that we can all learn from: [00:36:30] Mariah Driver. Mariah's experience as the head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Webflow is something you don't want to miss. Open a note pad because she's got a wealth of insights on how to shape an equitable company through diversity. Here's the interview.
Thank you for joining us, Mariah. As the head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Webflow, what does your role entail?
Mariah: [00:36:51] My role essentially comes down to three things. Number one is that I partner with our people team [00:37:00] to audit our existing processes. So we have a hiring process, promotion process. We had a advancement process. Those are just a few of the processes that we have. So looking for differences in experience or differences in outcomes between demographic groups. In hiring, for instance, we'll look at different pass through rates for different demographic groups in our hiring process to see if we're noticing a significant drop-off for one group after a certain stage than another. At that point we can kind of [00:37:30] evaluate, what are we really looking for at that stage?
And are we potentially creating barriers to entry for specific groups? The second thing I do is I partner with our leaders to help them work through what it takes to essentially be an inclusive leader, so how they can lead a diverse team. And the last thing I do is driving accountability. So working with everyone across our company to see kind of how can we all make diversity, equity and [00:38:00] inclusion, a part of our daily jobs.
Dairien: [00:38:01] What are some of the DEI projects you've led at Webflow since stepping into this role?
Mariah: [00:38:07] I'll start with kind of a definition of how we actually define diversity equity and inclusion. Diversity is relative. And then one of the things that I will kind of challenge is that a candidate can't be inherently diverse because what makes a candidate diverse is relative to what the team makeup is.
So we really try to strive for diversity in the sense of, are we balanced? [00:38:30] And then equity is outcome. So we look at equity as if you look at the 15 people that we hired in 2019, are we seeing an equitable outcome for every single group? If all of those people are white or all of those people are male, or maybe all of those people are able bodied, that's not representative of the population we're actually interviewing and hiring from.
And inclusion is really, it's a feeling. Do our team members feel like they can bring their full self to work. That not only won't be held against [00:39:00] them, but it will actually be embraced and valued. We don't want to build a company where people feel like they can be here as a Black person, but only because other people claim they don't see color.
That's not what we want to do. That's not bringing your full self to work. That's actually bringing a part of yourself to work and having people around you say that they don't acknowledge that other part. So that's how we define the terms and kind of what we're really working towards. And to name three initiatives, one, we've launched our affinity groups.
So if they have professional development needs, [00:39:30] essentially they can meet any kind of need that that group feels would be helpful for their success at the organization. Another thing has been, we've launched a series of anti-racism workshops. And then lastly, we've recently implemented what we call the Rooney rule plus.
So it's an adaptation of a Rooney rule it's already been launched, started an NFL, which essentially Webflow mandates that every hiring team [00:40:00] and hiring manager interviews at least two candidates from an underrepresented group in the final stages of their interview process. So we're not setting a quota for who we hire, but we're holding ourselves accountable to make sure that we set ourselves up for success in hiring folks from underrepresented groups.
I mean, the only way you can hire someone from an underrepresented group is if you interview that person in the final stages. We are eradicating barriers to entry throughout the process, and that we're proactively identifying them before we make an offer. So we make sure that we're not allowing bias to influence who we hire [00:40:30] because we're not necessarily preventing or eradicating bias completely, but we're checking ourselves at each stage of the process to make sure that we do have candidates represented from different backgrounds and identity groups who have a chance to be hired for the role.
Dairien: [00:40:43] You recently wrote on Twitter that leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, it takes time. And that it's important to not rush to hasty solutions. Can you speak on this philosophy and your approach to DEI implementation? Where should companies, founders, listeners start?
Mariah: [00:40:57] It's a really good question. So I think [00:41:00] that the first step to take is to really get clear about what you're trying to do and what you're talking about.
So I get a lot of emails from folks saying, I really want to, you know, focus on D and I in my organization. What are some things I can do to do that? I often turn back to them and I say, before I answer that I would like to understand kind of, can you define [00:41:30] what diversity means to you? When you're talking about diversity, what kind of diversity are you talking about?
And once you get to that point, then the next step is naming the right problems. So if you define diversity as kind of racial and ethnic diversity at your company, and that's something you want to work towards, building more of, it's to say, okay, what is preventing us from getting there? And in order to effectively have that conversation, you can't shy away from naming things like racism and white supremacy. So how do you [00:42:00] take responsibility for the fact that if your company lacks racial diversity. That's by design. That's not a coincidence. That's not because there aren't enough qualified candidates from those groups. That's actually because the hiring process, the way that you talk about your company, are designed to appeal to a certain group, and to essentially perpetuate systems that disadvantage other groups.
And then I think lastly, The next step to take is to say, okay, how are we going? Like, what are we committed to? [00:42:30] And what trade offs are we willing to make? And I think this is where a lot of D and I efforts fail. Um, and what you see with a lot of companies who came out with anti-racism statements and saying, we're going to do better is a lot of people are now wondering, okay, what, you know, month or two months later is saying, what, what have you done?
What have you done that's better? What outcomes have changed? What are you working on? What are you working towards? And the key that was missing there for that actually to happen for their statements and intentions to [00:43:00] align with their impact is that there wasn't accountability, they weren't being held accountable.
So that's the, that's the third piece is saying, if you are a leader and you are saying, this is important to you, you have to acknowledge that doing the same thing the way that it's worked for you in the past is no longer going to work for you in the future. And how are you going to navigate that? Um, and what trade-offs are you going to be willing to make, to get there?
Dairien: [00:43:19] What kind of questions do you think tech leaders everywhere needs to be asking themselves about DEI? What questions led to an honest and productive assessment of where companies at, in your experience?
[00:43:30] Mariah: [00:43:30] I know there are a lot of people who are just starting their DEI journeys. Now the first question to ask is, why now? So why is it important now and why hasn't it been important before? And that doesn't mean that it hasn't been prevalent for African-American people, for people who suffer from a disability, from people who, you know, haven't had the privilege of going to a, an accredited university. It's been in their face the whole time.
It's unendurable. But as a leader, and oftentimes, [00:44:00] especially leaders who belong to privileged groups is it hasn't been important to them in the past because it hasn't affected them. It's benefited them. Systems that's benefited them. The reality is if you are someone who comes to me and says, I want to prioritize diversity inclusion, where do I start?
I automatically believe that your intentions are in the right place. And you're probably a good person. If you're willing to have that conversation in the first place, what prevents that conversation from advancing into a productive place? Is that oftentimes the next question is, okay, what is preventing you from [00:44:30] doing this work up until now?
And that takes a level of humility that someone would have to shed the need to be right. And to be able to say, because it wasn't something that affected me personally. That's why it hasn't been important to me before. And now I am more aware of how this is affecting me and benefiting me. The systems are benefiting me, and really disadvantages other people that I care about.
And so now I care about this and now I'm prioritizing it. And that doesn't make you a bad person that just makes you human, is that again, you [00:45:00] have these biases, you have your own blind spots to really what's going on. So. I think that is the first really important question, is why now? And I think that actually will ground the work too, because if, if your answer to why now is because it's the hot topic, other companies are doing it, you can pretty much quit there. Because that means that the only thing that's keeping you going in this work. And again, it's a long game.
It's not a short game. If the only thing keeping you going is that there's actual pressures, eventually when that fades out, your work [00:45:30] fades out. And I think that's something that, again, you don't want to get to the point of having happened. So within that question, it's kind of like, how are, how am I going to continue to hold myself accountable, to do this difficult work?
Dairien: [00:45:41] We'll leave Mariah's questions for you to reflect. And internally at All Turtles, we're going to have more conversations to examine how we can grow. One thing's for sure, it's a never-ending journey to build and maintain environments that are diverse, inclusive, and equitable. There's no checklist so much more than that.
[00:46:00] And the next and final episode of culture fit will feature experts who make the tech industry more inclusive. We'll talk about what the tech industry could look like in the future and how we'll all work together to make it truly equitable.
Culture Fit: Racial Bias in Tech
Culture Fit: Racial Bias in Tech takes an in-depth look at racial inequalities in the tech industry, from the biases that get built into products to Silicon Valley's problematic monoculture. Product and design expert Dairien Boyd weaves the perspectives of tech founders, investors, and professionals together to dismantle common excuses for why things are the way they are, and explore how to move toward a more inclusive future.
- Original Gatekeepers
- The Pipeline Fallacy
- Built-in Bias
- Internal Investigation
- The Work Ahead