By Jason Tan /
9 Feb 2015
It’s challenging to build true diversity in the workplace. Regardless of the location or position, some minorities — by gender, ethnicity, orientation, background, or other — must play against a “stacked deck” to break through and succeed against socioeconomic constraints, social taboos, and inequalities. It’s counterintuitive to recruit candidates that differ from “the norm”. Our minds favor familiar patterns and avoid change.
In its simplest sense, a business is a function of a group plus their decisions, applied to solving a specific set of problems. Keeping ethics and respect top-of-mind, businesses should strive to make the best decisions possible. A team with a wide range of opinions, backgrounds, and lifestyles can analyze problems from many different angles, likely offering a more diverse set of possible solutions.
A diverse team also cultivates a culture of acceptance and open-mindedness. In our experience, this kind of culture helps with recruiting and retention. Differences cannot simply be boxes to check off, but should be appreciated and celebrated as well. As a team grows its diversity, open, thoughtful, and conscientious communication becomes even more essential. When disagreements occur, respect and timeliness prove vital. We encourage our team to step into one another’s shoes to better understand why others think and act the way they do. Assumptions can be culture killers; presuppositions must be more clearly articulated and disputes handled with dialogue. Through strong empathy and communication, a diverse team can unite to make the best decisions.
When is workplace diversity unproductive? A team should be diverse, but not divided. I regularly remind Sifties to actively challenge the status quo — I want to hear their opinions and suggestions, even if I might disagree. Intense (and respectful) debate often forges the best decisions. But, once a decision has been made, everyone must lend their full support even if they disagree with the decision. Better to keep moving — learn from the decision’s outcome, and iterate — than to stand still. Above all else, a company must march together in one direction.
At Sift Science, two of our core values are Respect and Humility. Clichéd, we know. But we try to live these values, everyday. We believe that the best ideas can come from anyone, no matter their role or background. No idea is stupid. We still have room to grow, and can always improve our diversity. As with tech as a whole, many populations and backgrounds are still sorely underrepresented at Sift; we are, however, excited for the opportunity to learn from everyone in our geographical and industry communities. We’ve started a couple of initiatives, like sponsoring and presenting at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration and partnering with New Door Ventures for two intern cycles, but have so much more to do. If you can bring something different, drop us a line – we’re hiring.
Jason Tan is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Sift. Fueled by a passion for building great products and amazing teams, he's also held leadership and engineering roles at BuzzLabs, Optify, and Zillow.