Watch: A Roundtable on Real Ways to Increase Diversity in the Workplace


"The time for inaction is over."

Such was the through-line in dot.LA's Thursday panel discussion on "Measurably Increasing Diversity in the Workplace."

Joining dot.LA host Kelly O'Grady was Oona King, VP of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) at Snap and a member of the UK House of Lords, and Kobie Fuller, partner at Upfront Ventures. The conversation centered on what organizations must do to ensure that this moment of acute awareness of the societal issues around DEI does not go to waste.

"I am grateful that white people have woken up," said King, who has also worked in diversity and inclusion at the UK's Channel 4 and YouTube. "But my gratitude will turn back to rage if they go back to sleep."


Four key points of the discussion are summarized below. You can view the full conversation in the video embedded in this article.

Diversity and Inclusion Must Be Embedded in an Organization's Culture

"Separate is never equal," King said. DEI cannot be a sideshow effort; it must be "built into the heart of what the business is doing."

That means setting clear goals that strike a balance between being audacious and achievable. And the goals must not be vague.

For example, King highlighted how Snap made one of its core values more concrete: rather than focusing on the importance of employees being "kind," the company went deeper. They added courage as a sub-attribute of kindness, thereby providing a clear parameter to show employees the importance of speaking up for inclusion.

Fuller emphasized that the culture of DEI must start at the top.

"Diverse leaders will disproportionately impact the diversity of people that come after them," he said. Companies must, therefore, prioritize DEI on their boards and the C-suite.

And while collecting DEI metrics is a necessary prerequisite to building the right culture, it is far from enough on its own.

Include Some Form of the 'Rooney Rule' in the Hiring Process

Fuller and King both pushed back against the common excuse that "we couldn't find anybody" to ensure a diverse candidate pool.

Often, the problem is that firms prioritize speed over inclusion, King said. They must instead understand that inclusive hiring is a long-term investment, and may require looking in new places, or rethinking the specific talents and skills being targeted.

You have to "look again, look harder, look further, look elsewhere," she implored.

King also cited data published by the Harvard Business Review showing that incorporating more than one minority candidate on a shortlist drastically increases inclusive hiring. She suggested the coronavirus pandemic is an opportune time for organizations to reevaluate and improve their hiring practices.

Fuller sympathized that startups face unique challenges in being inclusive, given their small size. But that this also presents an opportunity to confront the biases, assumptions and micro-aggressions that can lead to toxic practices, and to actively reject them from the start.

Representation = Hiring + Promotion - Attrition

"If you're only focused on the hiring, it's like filling up the bath with the plug out; you'll never increase your representation," King said.

"You have to solve this problem at all levels," Fuller added, explaining that it is incumbent on firms to ensure that they have black voices layered throughout their organization, and that doing so makes business sense to boot.

One crucial piece for incorporating DEI beyond the hiring process is giving employees the skills and training to be allies.

"The point about racism is it doesn't matter if white people think they like black people. It's a system, and it requires a systemic understanding of the barriers that are facing underrepresented groups," King explained. She added that this also applies to representation by gender, sexual orientation, disability, age and other forms by which people may be excluded.

"Inclusive leadership requires giving people the ability to see inequity," she said. "These last weeks have shown us that people do not see the same thing."

Helping people to see and understand the systemic impact on people who don't look like them will show employees what inclusivity requires, and enable them to accept the responsibility to bring about the necessary change.

Tech companies, in particular, have the power to reach billions of people. They should therefore approach product development with an eye toward inclusivity, King said, noting that this is an area that is often overlooked.

Bringing DEI into products means striving for inclusivity among the people developing the product and in the focus groups that test products and give feedback, and thinking from the start about how to ensure that underrepresented groups will use the product and receive support.

"I'm optimistic people will drive change and real action will take place. But it'll take time," Fuller said. "This'll take focused effort, investment, and doing things you're uncomfortable doing."

King called this moment the "chance of a lifetime."

"We're relying on you to speak up."

Strategy Session: How To Measurably Increase Diversity in the Workplace www.youtube.com


​Kobie Fuller, Partner, Upfront Ventures


Kobie joined Upfront in June 2016, bringing deep expertise in enterprise SaaS and emerging technologies including VR and AR. Over his career he has invested early in notable companies including Exact Target (sold to Salesforce for $2.5B) and Oculus (sold to Facebook for $2B). Prior to Upfront, Kobie was an investor at Accel and, earlier, was the chief marketing officer at L.A.-based REVOLVE, one of the largest global fashion e-commerce players. Earlier in his career, Kobie helped found OpenView Venture Partners and was an investor at Insight Venture Partners. Kobie graduated from Harvard College.

Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Snap Inc. 

Oona King is the VP of diversity, equity & inclusion at Snap Inc. Previously, Oona was Google's director of diversity strategy, YouTube's director of diverse marketing, and before that chief diversity officer for British broadcaster Channel 4. Oona is a member of the House of Lords (a life-time appointment as Baroness King in January 2011), and former senior policy advisor & speechwriter to the prime minister at 10 Downing Street.

Oona became a member of the House of Commons at 29, the second woman of color, and 200th woman of any color elected to the British Parliament. She became parliamentary private secretary to the minister for e-commerce, and secretary of state for trade and industry. Oona was voted by other MPs as "the MP most likely to change society." In the Lords, Oona's front bench roles included shadow education minister, shadow minister for the digital economy, and shadow minister for equalities.

Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA

Chief Host & Correspondent and Head of Video Strategy at dot.LA 

Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, New England's premier sports network, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.

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On this week's episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Taj Eldridge talks about his newly-launched $250 million fund, Include Ventures aimed at Black and Brown founders and investors. The fund is part of VC Include, a platform that aims to accelerate investment into women, Black, Latinx, Indigenous and LGBTQ people.

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Fifteen years after her death, science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler has joined an exclusive pantheon of space luminaries memorialized on Mars.

Today NASA announced that the Red Planet locale where its Perseverance rover touched down last month is called Octavia E. Butler Landing, in honor of a Black author who emphasized diversity in tales of alternate realities and far-out futures.

"Butler's protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges," Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance, said in a news release. "Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically under-represented in STEM fields."

Butler grew up poor in Pasadena and attended Pasadena City College, where she focused on writing. She published her first book in 1976 and broke into the mostly white, male dominated world of science fiction writing. In 1995, she was awarded a fellowship from the MacAurthur Foundation, She moved to the Seattle area in 1999, where she died unexpectedly in 2006 at the age of 58, after sustaining a head injury in a fall on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Wash.

In his own tribute to Butler, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for space science, emphasized the connection to Southern California, the home of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Perseverance mission operations.

Octavia E. Butler

Science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler grew up in Pasadena and spent the last years of her life in the Seattle area. (Writers House Literary Agency / Courtesy Ching-Ming Cheung)

"I can think of no better person to mark this historic landing site than Octavia E. Butler, who not only grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena, but she also inspired millions with her visions of a science-based future," Zurbuchen said. "Her guiding principle, 'When using science, do so accurately,' is what the science team at NASA is all about. Her work continues to inspire today's scientists and engineers across the globe – all in the name of a bolder, more equitable future for all."

The official names of geographical features on other planets must be approved by the International Astronomical Union, but NASA has a tradition of giving its own names to off-world landing sites – for example, Tranquility Base, the place on the moon where Apollo 11 touched down in 1969.

The 1997 landing site for NASA's Pathfinder mission to Mars is known as Carl Sagan Memorial Station, in honor of the late astronomer and author of "Contact."

In 2004, NASA designated the landing sites for the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers as Challenger Memorial Station and Columbia Memorial Station, respectively. Those names honor space shuttle crews who lost their lives in 1986 and 2003.

The place where NASA's Curiosity rover touched down in 2012 is called Bradbury Landing, as a tribute to Ray Bradbury, the author of "The Martian Chronicles" and many other works of science fiction.

Perseverance has already begun to venture out from Butler Landing: In addition to announcing the landing site's name, members of the mission team shared imagery from the 1-ton, six-wheeled rover's first drive since its Feb. 18 touchdown.

Perseverance’s first drive on Mars

Thursday's traverse lasted about 33 minutes and put 21 feet (6.5 meters) on Perseverance's odometer. Color pictures sent back from Perseverance's hazard avoidance cameras show the tread marks left in Mars' red dirt as the rover took its first spin. Such imagery will be used to assess the dynamics of Perseverance's retro-rocket landing, which kicked up dust and exposed rock formations at Butler Landing.

"When it comes to wheeled vehicles on other planets, there are few first-time events that measure up in significance to that of the first drive," said Anais Zarifian, rover mobility testbed engineer at JPL. "This was our first chance to 'kick the tires' and take Perseverance out for a spin. The rover's six-wheel drive responded superbly. We are now confident our drive system is good to go, capable of taking us wherever the science leads us over the next two years."

The rover's software has already been updated to replace the program for landing with the program for surface operations. Mission controllers have also conducted procedures for deployment and checkout of Perseverance's RIMFAX, MOXIE and MEDA instruments, as well as its heavy-duty robotic arm.

"Tuesday's first test of the robotic arm was a big moment for us. That's the main tool the science team will use to do close-up examination of the geologic features of Jezero Crater, and then we'll drill and sample the ones they find the most interesting," said Robert Hogg, Perseverance's deputy mission manager. "When we got confirmation of the robotic arm flexing its muscles, including images of it working beautifully after its long trip to Mars – well, it made my day."

From its vantage point at Octavia E. Butler Landing, NASA's Perseverance rover can see a remnant of a fan-shaped deposit of sediments known as a delta (the raised area of dark brown rock in the middle ground) with its Mastcam-Z instrument. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU)

More than 7,000 raw images have been sent back to Earth and are available online in a gallery supported by Amazon Web Services. That stockpile is sure to grow as Perseverance ramps up full science observations.

The mission plan calls for the rover to make regular commutes of 650 feet (200 meters) or more to sites of scientific interest. "We're going to do some longer drives," Zarifian said. "This is really just the beginning."

The primary goal of the $2.7 billion Perseverance mission is to analyze the composition of Martian soil for traces of ancient life, and store up promising samples for return to Earth by later missions over the next decade.

This story first appeared on GeekWire.

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