Diversity and Inclusion
Speed & Function is a software development company with headquarters in Philadelphia, USA and locations in five different countries. Founded in 2006 by Nick Gluzdov and Irina Abramson, the company currently employs a multinational, multi-location team of professionals of diverse backgrounds, skill sets, ages, genders, and viewpoints.
Clarifying what we mean by D&I at S&F
Diversity and inclusion have been given a lot of attention over the last few years, but there is still a lot of work for businesses worldwide to do in order to create truly equitable workforces and to ensure they aren’t just empty buzzwords businesses use to make themselves look good.
The terms are often conflated, misunderstood or treated tokenistically. Therefore, it is still worth clarifying what they mean.
A good definition of diversity in a business context is the practice of hiring people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations and abilities. No individual employee is ‘diverse’; rather, the term is about the representation of differences in a group.
More recently, the term neurodiversity has increased in public awareness, broadening the definition and including a previously overlooked group – those sometimes referred to as neurodivergent or neuroatypical (including people with ADHD, autism or dyslexia, for example).
Inclusion, on the other hand, is about how people are treated once they are employed or involved in the business – and it is absolutely critical to accomplishing true equity. A team might have a fifty-fifty gender balance, for example, but if only one group of voices is heard, listened to or respected, the organization cannot truly be considered inclusive. At worst, having a diverse mix of people but only centering certain people’s perspectives, experiences and ideas can create an exclusive and damaging culture.
Inclusion is a key consideration for 21st century businesses because it touches on issues such as power, decision-making, bias, employee engagement and integrity. At S&F we believe that diversity and inclusion are essential responsibilities – not tick boxes – for a business to focus on.
D&I in tech
As a tech company, we are aware that the industry has historically been dominated by white, cis-males and that it has a long-standing problem when it comes to D&I. We believe we have a responsibility to look for candidates from under-represented, marginalized or minority groups and to offer them the opportunities to thrive and be part of meaningful, high quality work.
We also know that the business benefits from diversity in so many ways, and we are proud that our staff speak over ten different languages and have educational backgrounds spanning everything from English Literature and Horticulture to Math and Aerospace Engineering.
At Speed & Function, we believe in using transparency as a tool for development and that businesses – particularly in our industry – have a responsibility to be transparent when it comes to this area.
The current breakdown of our employees by sex is as follows: 64.1% of employees are male, while 35.9% are female. In the software department, the split is 84% male and 16% female. Clearly, this is a way off from being equal and like the rest of the industry, there is work to do to create equity for underrepresented groups.
We differentiate sex from gender and do not have accurate statistics on gender to provide, because we do not ask people to tell us the gender they identify with.
Supporting D&I: What we do
A frequent definition of organizational culture is “the way we do things around here.” The processes, practices and expected behaviours in a company massively impact D&I, and in particular how safe, included and valued employees feel. We know it’s quite common for businesses to list what they do in this area and that it can be done as a tick box exercise rather than because D&I truly matters in the organization.
We want our people to be able to speak up, voice their concerns, doubts, perspectives and experiences. This creates a better workplace for everyone, and helps everyone fulfil their potential and do great work.
Here are some of the ways we prioritize diversity and inclusion throughout the organization.
A company’s hiring process is the beginning of the employee experience and can be the first barrier to entry for people from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds.
Our hiring process is geared towards employing people who can do the best possible job for our clients, by considering candidates based on their skills and qualifications only.
We use different sources to search for candidates, one of which is Djinni. When we find a candidate there or they respond to a vacancy we posted, we see no name or age, nothing in fact but their skills and work experience. This is a blind recruitment practice, which is useful in reducing bias. In addition, when screening candidates, we don’t ask about gender, age or any other features, just their professional qualities.
We look for competent, mature professionals who are able to self-organize and manage their time, relationships, and professional development, flexible, curious, emotionally intelligent, and receptive, regardless of their age, SOGIESC, skin color, nationality, faith or family status.
In a 2020 article for HBR, Bhaskar Chakravorti states, “To truly make the industry more inclusive, tech companies need to let go of their geographic biases and change the way they recruit, organize teams and allow employees to work.”
We take a progressive approach in this area; our staff are based in 18 locations across two continents. Every team member has access to flexible work arrangements. We have core hours, but also allow employees to fit work around their lives, not demand that their lives fit around work.
All work is project-based and remunerated based on input and results. Staff who are unable for any reason to participate in client projects are offered paid opportunities in in-house initiatives, with consideration of their individual circumstances. Technical solutions are available for persons with disabilities to enable their full participation in projects of any type.
Growth and development
As part of our commitment to being an aspiring Deliberately Developmental Organization, we offer all employees the opportunity to participate in company-sponsored regular Developmental Sprints© and other professional development opportunities (such as conferences, training and coaching).
We prioritize knowledge sharing and value transparency and empowerment in the company, giving people access to information and the opportunity to share upward feedback on a regular basis.
Team members’ advancement within the company depends on merit and performance only, without discrimination on the basis of age, SOGIESC, nationality, or other characteristics. Decision makers regularly participate in challenging and rigorous self-reflection and coaching, which can help reduce blind spots and unconscious bias through welcoming feedback from others.
Self-reflection, bias and blind spots
We constantly review and reconsider our policies and practices to increase our efficiency, equitability and responsiveness as a team. Our most senior leaders consistently ask for and welcome feedback (upward feedback), participate in peer coaching with people at all levels and functions in the organization, and rigorously self-reflect on their leadership ‘shadow’ and blind spots.
No business has perfected diversity and inclusion. Our company operates in an industry with a relatively homogenous talent pool, and we know there is always more growth available in this area.