The Impact of Diversity & Inclusion In Product
Pivotal Labs fmr Product Lead on Increasing Diversity in Product (Part 2)
When I think about diversity and inclusion in product management, I think it’s helpful to break each term down on its own. To me, creating a diverse team is all about representation. Specifically, this doesn’t just mean having multiple races or ethnicities involved. For example, diverse teams cover a wide range of demographics – including age, gender, sexual orientation & more. Ultimately, you want to cast a wide net with the people who are on your team to drive a great conversation.
Along these lines, inclusivity is all about making sure that everyone on your team has a voice. Even if you have a diverse team, you have to make sure that everyone is contributing. Ultimately, everyone should feel welcome and never feel like as though they need to keep to themselves.
As a black man in product, I know how difficult it can be when diversity isn’t present.
Simply put, it’s hard to be comfortable when no one on your team looks like you. Most importantly, this issue extends beyond people of color. One of the biggest challenges for making product teams more diverse is making sure that you’re not “the only one” on a team. For example, women face this issue a lot – as product management is a very male-dominated function.
In my own experience, I’ve met women who refused to take product roles because they would be the only woman in the building. I can completely empathize with these concerns, as it’s difficult to be the lone champion for your people. Simply put, not everyone wants to be Jackie Robinson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or a pioneer who breaks a barrier.
Ultimately, I think product leaders need to take responsibility for solving the problem and finding the solution to increase diversity. Too often, you’ll hear the excuse of “we don’t have enough minority candidates” to reach in building a more diverse team. Or, product leaders will claim that it’s “up to human resources” to bring about real change.
Simply put, we have a responsibility as leaders to increase opportunities to fill our talent pipeline with more minority candidates. In addition, we must promote inclusive work environments for everyone in our organization.
In the end, every company needs to make diversity a shared responsibility for everyone in the building. For example, during my time at Pivotal Labs, we instituted our own “Rooney Rule” for open positions. In other words, positions would remain open until at least two candidates from under-represented groups had applied. Today, we have to stop paying lip service to the issue and take it head-on to make product management truly representative of who we are.