Building a more diverse and inclusive team

Discussions from 3Box Labs on building a more diverse recruiting pipeline, team, and community.

Building a more diverse and inclusive team

3Box Labs is about to open up a lot of new roles. As we grow into our next phase, we spent a lot of time last month digging into a critical question: how do we improve the diversity of our team?

Our current team is far from representative of the global population we aim to build for. Our team of 12 is 9 men and 3 women. 9 of us are white. We are geographically spread out - but only in North America and Europe. And our pipeline of incoming applicants is more homogenous than this.

Last month we had a series of full-team conversations about our approach to building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable team. We had plenty of differing opinions and useful debates, and did not end with 100% agreement on everything. We did end with a deeper shared appreciation for how much this matters, an approach that we believe in, and some steps we are putting into action.

We'd love your support, input, and feedback as we put this into action and so are sharing thinking as well as our plans.

Why diversity is critical to us

Our team first dug into why it is important to us. There are many reasons building a diverse team matters. Bringing focus to those that hold the most meaning to our team helped us make sure we arrived at a plan of action that would resonate. It also let us get extremely specific about how this goal relates to our overall mission and the other goals — and other constraints — that we have as a team. This helped us ensure our plan of action would be practical.

After several iterations, we arrived at this summary of why this topic is so important to us, which now lives on our About Us page.

🤝🏽 Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Building a diverse team is a top priority because nothing will impact our success more deeply. Our ambitions for change are global and our team must represent perspectives from across the world we aim to improve.

  1. The challenges we face are incredibly complex. We must tackle these with ideas and ingenuities from a wide variety of backgrounds and contexts.
  2. Our technology impacts how information and identities are controlled online, with deeply personal and widespread effects. We each have blind spots and need many viewpoints to anticipate the consequences of our work.
  3. We want to face the many unforeseen changes and challenges we have ahead with a balanced and robust team, drawing on a diversity of strengths to adapt and improve through adversity.

We have work to do here, as a team and industry. It's our responsibility to model that only a diverse team working together can we succeed in building a more sustainable, fair and equitable web.

One thing absent from this is anything about our role in helping close the opportunity gap for underrepresented groups in crypto, tech, and knowledge economy jobs. We debated this internally at length, as we do feel a responsibility to advance equity more generally in the greater ecosystem in which we operate. However, we feared diluting the messaging that building a diverse and inclusive team is central to our core mission. Aiming to impact social justice in tech felt like a big undertaking and adjacent to our core goals. We have a deep conviction that building a diverse team is critical to our success as an organization, so we decided to keep our statement focused on reinforcing that rather than adding additional diversity goals related to social justice more broadly.

We talked with several DEI advisors and heard mixed reactions. One felt it absurd to make a 'business case' for an equitable team; it's simply the right and necessary thing to do. Others felt that grounding our commitment to diversity deeply in our team's mission would help us feel the priority more concretely and urgently. We ended, for now, keeping our commitment tied explicitly to our mission. We do hope that through that commitment we will be able to model equity in a space where lack of representation is too much the norm.

Our approach to building a diverse team

To live up to our commitment, we need a principled approach to hiring that values and emphasizes diversity while still holding to other values, including evaluating every candidate as an individual. We established two particularly important principles:

  1. Invest heavily in proactively building a representative pipeline for every role
  2. Out of that pipeline, hire the candidate who adds the most to our team's mission

At the end of our hiring process, we always want to hire the person that will add the most value to our team. This is not purely about their ability to excel in the role; it also includes character that reinforces our values, and capacity to add new dimensions to our team. This step cannot function in isolation, though. If we hire the best candidates from a pipeline of white male candidates, we will always be hiring white males.

We must build a broad and representative pipeline of quality candidates for every role. As noted earlier, this does not happen organically right now. We have to put significant proactive effort towards it, then pair it with a thoughtful evaluation and offer process.  This is an investment, and will take more time and will mean slower hires on some roles.

At a startup with limited resources and an urgent need to hire, this is hard. The two priorities of hiring fast and hiring deliberately - including to add diversity - are directly at odds. By explicitly tying our commitment to diversity and success in our mission together, and adding more concrete tactics, we hope to turn diversity into a top-of-mind priority for every hire.

Concrete changes we're making

Make it very clear that all candidates are welcomed on our team

Adapt our job descriptions, incorporating the knowledge that different candidates react differently to certain language and elements (e.g., men are more likely to apply to jobs where they don't meet all listed requirements). Three changes we've made:

  • Replace "Requirements" with a section called "You're likely to succeed if," which focuses on capabilities and outcomes and avoids past experiences that would narrow the candidate pool
  • Explicitly encourage candidates from underrepresented groups to apply in every job description
  • Ensure inclusive language, using a tool to detect wording that may appeal more to men than women

Share our commitment publicly. We added a commitment to diversity to our About Us page. We will also begin sharing more from inside our team about this topic and related ones, starting with this post.

Invest in proactive sourcing

We will spend time, money and creativity to bring more candidates from a diverse set of backgrounds into our pipeline. A few actions we are taking towards this:

Tech talks: our team will start doing these far and wide in the tech world to build bridges in new communities (if you'd like to set one up, reach out!)

Be wary of opportunistic hires: these tend to be from similar backgrounds, and deprives us of an opportunity to build a more intentional pipeline. This is so hard because when a great candidate from our network emerges, it's likely a very high signal on a very strong candidate. We haven't ruled this out for certain specialized roles, but we cannot let it become a habit.

Refine our interview process to value difference and remove bias

A few changes we are making on this front:

Early rounds will focus on skills relevant to the role. Later rounds, with more of the team involved, will evaluate value alignment and teamwork so there are more perspectives to balance out potential biases.

Removed sources of bias from our scorecard. For example, we used to score candidates on if they "would bring energy to our team." The goal was to find people who would energize us to work with, but it ended up creating a tilt towards high-energy extroverts which was not the intent.

Add "Would bring a new dimension to the team" to our scorecard, to make sure we consider this for every candidate.

Ensure we operate as an inclusive team

Most of our current efforts are focused on hiring. But equally essential is maintaining an inclusive team culture that is welcoming, inspiring, and comfortable to all. This is critical to retaining candidates and to make sure our outreach to new candidates is authentic. It also lets us all be happier and more productive, and comfortable being ourselves.

Seek help from groups and people doing great work in this arena

We have a lot to learn and a long way to go. There are great teams and individuals that we can learn from, support, and work with. We have a list of those we've already been inspired or educated by. Over time, we'll aim to partner with organizations driving diverse hiring in Web3, amplify the voices of those helping make Web3 a beacon of equity in tech, and make long-term commitments to support the most aligned communities.

We also continue to do more of this work in public. We hope this will allow others to learn from our experience and open opportunities to work together to improve the practices and norms throughout the ecosystem. We also hope it creates an opportunity for the community to provide feedback and advice back to us. We have a long ways to go and value any support, critiques, and help.

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