Diversity and Inclusion: a Small Firm’s Journey
Written by: Meghan M. Boots, Senior Consultant, bluesalve partners
From bluesalve partners’ inception in 2019, we’ve recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I). We want to recruit and retain a team as diverse as the communities in which we operate. We want to build a business culture where all team members get fair and respectful treatment, where they’re empowered to contribute equally to bluesalve partners’ success.
Meanwhile, our five partners and seven associates (all white) have been busy helping clients. We’re a global firm, but a small one. Team members draw on longstanding relationships to help clients succeed; often, those relationships were built in the homogeneous business environments of the past. Because we focus on client needs, finding the bandwidth for a formal D&I program was challenging. Now and then, we’d discuss our progress, hoping new hires would magically make us more diverse. Through my work with the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA’s) D&I Working Group, I know other businesses face similar challenges. Earlier this month, I participated in the CTA’s panel discussion entitled “Launching a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.” Panelists in all different stages of their D&I journeys shared their experiences.
My Firm Becomes My Client
My work not only includes business strategy and marketing; I enable D&I programs as well. By deciding to treat our firm like one of my D&I clients, I found the right perspective – and carved out the time – to get our D&I program underway. It’s early days for us but we’re entirely committed to building diversity. We struggle to meet our objectives, but it’s heartening to have launched a formal program. Here, I share our experience so far.
To begin bluesalve partners’ D&I program, I first made sure I had my colleagues’ full endorsement. Buy-in was important; so too was creating an opportunity for all colleagues to contribute their own ideas to the initial strategy.
- Check your sponsorship. Cultural change needs strong sponsorship.
- Investment is key. Know your budget and requirements, what’s authorized, and manage accordingly.
- Know why you want a D&I program. For us, it was this:
- We knew a D&I program was the right thing to do.
- We’d serve clients better with more diverse perspectives, because we’d solve problems more creatively.
- Statistics show correlation between diversity and financial performance.
- Learn about D&I fundamentals, like underrepresentation, intersectionality, and both historical and present social injustices.
- Focus. What does “diversity” mean to you? What groups will you center around and why?
- For us it was focusing on the most underrepresented groups in the tech industry: Black and Latinx.
- In 2018, 11.9% of all workers were Black but only 7.9% of computing and math professionals were. Hispanics made up 16.7% of all workers, but only 6.8% of computing and math workers. This is what underrepresentation looks like in the tech industry.
- Know your objectives. Include measurements, timelines, and accountability, so you know when you’ve succeeded. Be realistic about timelines. D&I is a long-term investment.
Our plan has three parts:
- Lay the program’s foundation
- Recruit and hire
- Talent retention
For our “Lay the Foundation” phase, one point is to educate ourselves and prepare our “house” for new hires. I wanted us to get uncomfortable by placing ourselves in situations where we are the minorities in the room. Through doing this I wanted to give back, experience personal growth, and expand our network.
To accomplish this, we’ve paired each partner with one of the following organizations that further the advancement of underrepresented people in tech to give our talent and time:
We value these partnerships and are proud of the meaningful conversations that result from them. Dr. Nehemiah J. Mabry, PE, a Structural Engineer & Educator who is also the Founder & CEO of STEMedia has this to say about our partner Lew Brown:
"When 'Diversity and Inclusion' is just a saying without substance, it has the potential of doing more harm than good for those it seeks to empower. Lew has demonstrated, not just by his words but, by his actions that he is committed to amplifying the voices and appreciating the technical talent of those who have been traditionally marginalized."
Our “Laying the Foundation” phase also includes things like internal education and addressing our processes and policies.
Finding Balance, Making Room
The good news is that we’re doing the work! As a small firm it can be a struggle, but we’ve found a way to make room for this work because it’s important. Through our pro bono and volunteer work we’re helping our partner organizations in material ways, we’re growing personally, and building relationships.
I will continue to write about our bluesalve partners D&I journey as we work to create a more diverse team, an inclusive environment — and give our efforts the emphasis they deserve.
At bluesalve partners, we have an active product development process we can share with clients to accelerate and improve their batting average. Better outcomes are good for everyone, the firms, the industry, and their customers. Let’s all get better together.
Bluesalve partners is committed to accelerating change, growth and success for our clients.