Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 2021 update

August 11, 2021 · 4 min read

To our team,

Ignorance is part of my job. In many ways, I'm required to ignore logic, facts, and counterarguments for an aggressive belief in my vision of the future.

Unlike most founders, I'm not here to tell you this vision will change the world. A software product for creative operations shouldn't try to do that. I'm sorry. I love our customers, I believe Air is a key player in the future of work, and I'm fascinated by the pursuit of this every single day. To date, we've built a rapidly-scaling business around marketers and creatives, but we are not a social enterprise with a benevolent mission.

Where I'm trying to create a small dent in the universe is squarely within my promise to each of you. My promise that this organization and the people around you will help answer the impossible question: "What do I want to do with this one life I've been given?" This promise is larger than a product roadmap. I've always wanted to build a place where passions can be explored. Since your first day, my words have remained consistent: this is a vocational training program, we're going to push you to grow and explore your interests (no matter if they keep you here or introduce you to new opportunities).

And I'm happy to report that most of this is working. Our inclusion survey results suggest that the overwhelming majority of you feel engaged and connected. Some of you are deciding to specialize and become leaders, while others have built the confidence to leave and craft careers based entirely around your own interests (even politics!). I've always wanted this company to be that place. A great place to be from—a place that stretches you and accelerates your learnings in ways you never could have imagined. That, my friends, is a growth company.

But there's a very core aspect to this promise where I feel I haven't held up my end of the bargain. I continue to be haunted by my inability to create an organization that reflects the world around you. Your colleagues are critical to your personal growth and I have not put a diversity of perspectives in our [now] virtual room. Over the last twelve months our team has grown by 4x, but we only slightly improved our stated areas of focus. There is only one woman on the leadership team, the product team is still mostly men, and black employees make up only a fraction of our organization.

This last year was an opportunity to change and we weren't prepared. We lacked process to create safeguards, we made rash decisions to optimize for speed, and we lacked the right partners to help us accelerate this transition. My hope is that if we can take these problems seriously at 40 employees, it will serve us well as we scale to 400. My ignorance was a belief that all of this would come naturally; I thought I could speak the change into existence. But it's not organic, it's work. And it's not easy, it's effort.


There's a few key observations that will drive my next steps:

  1. Entering diverse communities takes time.

    Community driven recruiting is not a great fit for small teams that are building fast. If we want to create a solve for the future, we need to invest in relationship building and brand recognition within diverse hiring communities.

  2. External recruiters have no real incentive.

    Diverse candidates are harder to find and recruiters get paid the same as they do when they play it safe. We haven't found any success working with external recruiters on this and we will hire an internal recruiter to run this process before our next hiring wave.

  3. Interview representation matters.

    It's hard to correct an imbalance when our interview team is monolithic. We will continue to restructure our hiring process to make sure candidates meet a diverse array of employees before their final interview.

  4. Cash compensation is a real barrier.

    Cash compensation means more to diverse candidates. Many do not have external financial support and continue to face systematic disadvantages. We expect this issue to be resolved as we grow and our salary bands rise.


As we look ahead I want you to know that I will not be ignorant in my pursuit of solutions to these problems. My promise will never change, but my approach will constantly iterate and improve. Honoring this promise is core to my vision for Air. We won't try to change the entire world, just yours a little bit.

Take care,

Shane

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