How Twilio is moving beyond a diversity numbers game toward becoming an anti-racist company ' TechCrunch

The May 2020 murder of George Floyd sparked a wave of protests that drew attention to the issue of racism in America. Many companies responded by sending messages of support to those of color but have not made any substantive changes since then. Twilio's CEO Jeff Lawson has committed to working towards being anti-racist.Lybra Clemons is a long-standing corporate diversity professional. He appointed her chief diversity officer. They have been working together with the rest to implement the anti-racist vision of the company.It is a difficult and complex task to identify personal biases and institutional racism in order to create a company that actively combats all these. However, Lawson and Clemons seem determined and eager to set an example for all other tech companies.The company recently published a diversity report as part of its efforts to be more inclusive. It did so partly to document the progress it made and partially to share the lessons learned along the way.To learn more about the executives, I spoke with them.Make the effortClemons stated that she joined Lawson's executive team in September 2020 as part of an overall effort to be anti-racist. Her job was to define that definition. It was partly an attempt to transcend the superficial responses of other companies but also an honest effort to improve the way they hire people and the systems they have in place to help people feel welcomed and successful, no matter who, what, or where they come from.Clemons said that while I'm not saying all companies behave like this, there were some superficial responses to George Floyd's murder. It is my belief that Twilio made a concerted effort to be an anti-racist organization. We are currently trying to understand what anti-racism looks like. If we look at it that way, we can see how we can approach diversity, equity, and inclusion differently.Lawson claims that this is not something Lawson just learned about in the wake George Floyd's murder. This is something Lawson has been considering for some time. Kapor Capital was one of Twilio's early backers. Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor, the principals of the firm, have been preaching diversity and inclusion for many decades. They encouraged Lawson to attend meetings with other founders in order to discuss diversity during the early days.Kapor Klein spoke to TechCrunch in 2017 about the importance of creating a positive culture early in the startup's evolution. It becomes more difficult the bigger the company gets.It is almost impossible to emphasize the importance of creating a positive culture right from the beginning. It is crucial to take the time to communicate your values, principles, and how you want to appear. She said that there is always too much to do but it's much more difficult to retrofit culture or diversity and inclusion within a large company.Lawson believes these meetings with Kapors and other founders of startups helped him to envision the type of company he wanted. Lawson realized that, no matter how focused he was on building a successful startup, there wasn't a perfect moment to think about DEIB (diversity equity inclusion, belonging). It was his responsibility to address this issue as the startup leader.He has been thinking about how to build anti-racist companies over the past year. This idea he learned from Ibram X.Kendi's book How to Be an Antiracist.Anti-racism simply refers to the fact there are systems and institutionalized systems within any society that bias certain people over others. Lawson stated that the anti-racism movement is about trying to do the work to identify those systems and then asking how we can fight them.Data should be used to move, not proveClemons stated that in the mid-2000s the most common way to view diversity was to simply look at the data, and then pat yourself on your back if you achieved your diversity goals. However, she said she wanted to help Twilio to use the data to push for substantive change.Data is helping us to understand whether or not we have increased in this specific demographic or population. She explained that the data can be used to move or make changes to policies and practices.This is a journey that will help you understand the U.S. and the world's history as it relates racism, colonialism, and all other -isms, colourism, and how to address them. It is important to understand what our choices are and what our stakes are in them. Then, you can use that information to create anti-racist policies, practices, and strategies to improve our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.Guy Primus, the CEO of the company, stated that he wanted to help companies get beyond the numbers game, which Clemons referred to in a story about Valence.People want to see more people, so there is the notion of recruit, retain, and promote. Everyone is too focused on the recruitment pipeline but not retention and promotion which in turn affects recruiting. Primus stated that it was an ecosystem issue and not a pipeline problem at TechCrunch.Twilio has begun to develop actionable programs in this area.According to the Twilio report, there are a variety of programs that can help with this.Hatch is one of them, and it was launched in 2017. Hatch is looking for people from non-traditional backgrounds that have completed a coding bootcamp and then places them in a six month apprenticeship program. This program is intended to help them improve their coding skills and to mentor them.Lawson claims that 93% of those who completed the program were still employed by the company as of last year. This is a good sign that people are coming to the company. Lawson has put systems in place so they can ensure their success.Rise Up is a program that helps Black and Latinx workers move into leadership positions through a leadership development program. Twilio Unplugged teaches candidates from historically marginal backgrounds how to succeed during a company interview process in order to be hired.These programs, along with many others, are designed to support the company's anti-racism goals. Lawson is open to admitting that the system isn't perfect. He and the rest the executive team continue to learn and improve their efforts to create a company that is inclusive and where everyone is able to succeed.Twilio still has 60% males and 38% females, which is up 6% from 2020. The company's overall racial/ethnic makeup is 51% white, 26% Asians, 6.5% Latinx, and 5.5% Black. Although the ratio of whites and non-whites is very favorable, there are still significant gaps in representation for historically excluded groups.That is something that the company clearly understands. Lawson states that Twilio will do its part to improve its record and keep improving its performance by working at all levels: company, individual and societal. They share what they have learned in the report not to be praised but to help others.Clemons stated in the video accompanying the diversity report that everyone has their own experience. Everybody comes in with different experiences. We cannot change those. But what Twilio can do to make sure everyone feels like they have the opportunity to have a great career at Twilio is to provide an anti-racist environment that ensures that all can feel equal.