Diversity is a hot topic right now, especially when it comes to working in the field of science and technology. Black Enterprise caught up with Judith Williams, the global head of diversity at Dropbox, to breakdown diversity and lessons learned from working at two of the hottest tech companies in America.
Describe the work you’re most proud of.
While working at Google, I created a diversity disability strategy for our employees. I thought I knew a lot about diversity, but this project really opened my eyes to understand that a lot of the assumptions that we make about what people can do and can’t do are based on our perceptions of a disability.
As a community, if we think about the struggles that we in the African American community have undergone or the things that the LGBT community has experienced, I feel like we’ve have been able to get to the point where the discourse is we can do anything. The conversation on disability has been so long focused on what folks in this community can’t do. I’m passionate and proud of this project because it was such an opportunity for growth.
I’m also proud of the work I’ve been able to do on Unconscious Bias (mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes) program, which started when I led the the program at Google, this work continues today with the work that I do at Dropbox.
Why is diversity important for Dropbox?
The founders, our leaders and everyone else at Dropbox understand that there is a connection between diversity and innovation. If we want to simplify the way people work together, then we need to think about not just how some people work, but how all people work. About 70% of our users are outside of the U.S., so we need to have a global perspective.
What happens in Silicon Valley is that these companies start out with a couple of founders; admittedly, these founders are almost always two guys. When they are hiring their first group of people they reach out to their networks. They’re so focused on fast growth early on, they keep going back to their networks and the networks of the people that they hire. Of course you can assume that the company will look just like the people who founded it. Now, our founders understand diversity is the right thing to do.
Tell us about the diversity initiatives at Dropbox.
We’re having a different outreach than we’ve had in the past. In the fall we’re going to some HBCU’s and Hispanic serving institutions to do campus recruiting. We’re also attending the National Black MBA conference and the Hispanic MBA conference.
But diversity recruiting is just one part of our initiatives. The inclusion piece is even more important—that’s about the culture we’re building. This is the first year we’ve celebrated heritage month. We had a number of events for Black history month, Women’s history month, Asian American Pacific Islander month, and we’re in the middle of our Pride (LGBT) month celebrations. We are really giving the folks that work here an opportunity to celebrate what is unique and special about the cultures that they come from. And that opens a conversation so that individuals are talking about the different perspectives that people bring. We’re also making sure that as we educate our leads and our managers diversity isn’t a separate part of the way we train our managers, but it’s embedded in the flagship manager training.
We’re also being thoughtful about making community partners that help our diversity mission. So we have a long partnership with Mission High School, which is one of the most diverse public schools in San Francisco.