Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Help Scout

Leah KnoblerLeah Knobler
This post chronicles Help Scout's journey to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive team and company. Read it from beginning to end to get a complete picture of our path, progress, and learnings, or if you're more interested in seeing what our team looks like today, jump to the most recent update.

As with any company-wide effort, building a diverse team has to start at the top.

Back in July 2015, when I interviewed with Help Scout, I learned CEO Nick Francis and Head of People Ops Becca Van Nederynen had been taking steps to build a diverse and inclusive team — but looking at the About Us page, it was clear there was work to do.

Aside from the overwhelming data that proves diverse teams are smarter, more empathetic, and financially more successful, more importantly, we wanted to build a diverse team because it was the right thing to do, and because it aligned with our values.

There’s been no shortage of informative blog posts on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in tech over the past few years, so we had no excuse for not understanding how we found ourselves in the infamous hole of diversity debt. Luckily, we had plenty of guidance to help us start climbing out.


2017 DEI Update

It was easy to look around at Help Scout and notice which identities were well-represented and which were missing, but it was important to us to learn how people on our team self-identify so we don’t make assumptions.

About a year ago, we launched our first demographic survey to find out where we stood and to inform our goals and areas for improvement.

We compared ourselves to the U.S. census data, as well as to Slack’s self-reported data from earlier in 2016:

Census stats
Slack’s 2016 data reported on different categories than Help Scout, which is why “N/A” shows up for some categories.

The results showed that our team at the time of the survey was predominantly white and male, and our engineering and design teams were the least diverse teams across race and gender at 90% male and 86% white.

Defining our goals

After looking at that data, we set some goals. My main focus for 2016-2017 was to add more diverse talent to the team, but we set inclusivity-related goals as well:

  1. Improve the gender diversity of our board by selecting a woman to fill the open seat.
  2. Increase the percentage of women on the engineering team from 5% to 13%.
  3. Establish a code of conduct.
  4. Conduct one to two inclusivity trainings.

Here are the concrete steps we took to pursue those goals.

Experimenting with our candidate pipeline

To dig deeper into our hiring processes, I collected data from previous engineering hires to see how many active candidates out of the overall applicant pool were women. The numbers told a clear story:

Java Engineer (April 2016)

  • Total applicants: 535
  • Female applicants: 35 (7%)

SRE Engineer (July 2016)

  • Total applicants: 352
  • Female applicants: 21 (6%)

PHP/JS Engineer (August 2016)

  • Total applicants: 1,050
  • Female applicants: 29 (3%)

Reviewing past engineering hires revealed we weren’t attracting enough women into our pipeline, resulting in a consistent struggle to add women to our engineering team. Simply opening a technical position on our Careers page and advertising it in the usual places was not enough to effect meaningful change in our diversity efforts.

As Ciara Trinidad writes in Lever’s step-by-step guide to cultivating diversity and inclusion, “If you have been using the same platform to find your candidates it might be time to start venturing out to platforms you might not have thought of using in the past.” It was time for some radical change!

Here’s what we tried

  • 100% outbound sourcing of women and underrepresented minorities: As the numbers showed, we had no problem attracting talented male candidates who applied through our careers page or were referred to us, so we felt comfortable making this decision. I was especially inspired by Gusto’s engineering diversity efforts — they decided to outbound source 100% female candidates until they hit their goals.
  • More lead time to source candidates before advertising the role widely: As soon as we publish a job publicly, the floodgates open! As a recruiter, sifting through hundreds of candidates is a good problem to have. But for our technical roles, these candidates are predominantly male, which didn’t help us with our goal to increase the number of women on our engineering and design teams. We experimented with delaying the publishing of our JavaScript role in order to focus more on building out our pipeline by sourcing qualified women and underrepresented minorities only. This process takes longer, so having more lead time when we know we’re going to open a technical role is helpful.
  • Posting jobs on affinity group sites: We focused on posting our roles on job sites like Hire Tech Ladies, Women Who Code, People of Color in Tech, and Power to Fly.

After making those changes, we hired women and people of color for the next four engineering hires.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and improving my outreach emails to make sure I’m not tokenizing or patronizing candidates. As Trinidad points out:

“By using messaging that leads with ‘I’m reaching out because we care about diversity’ you’re making the recipient of this messaging feel like a token. This is your chance to be the differentiator; this is where you can really stand out and a bring a human approach to the daunting task of sourcing for diversity.”

And while I do mention that diversity and inclusion are important at Help Scout, I try to go further and share specific steps we’re taking, while also sharing that as a queer, Jewish, gender non-conforming person I feel able to bring my full self to work here (and as a white person, it’s likely this is easier for me).

Demographic survey, round two

We conducted our second team-wide demographic survey this June and have new data to show where we’ve grown and where we still have work to do.

Wins

This past year, we increased the number of women and gender non-conforming people on our engineering team from 5% to 13%, and overall Latinx representation on the team increased from 3% to 5%.

We also made improvements on gender balance among team leads and coaches. We are now 45% female, 45% male, and 9% gender non-conforming, and we moved closer to gender parity overall.

Gender and race across teams at Help Scout

Gender and race at Help Scout - 2016 Gender and race at Help Scout - 2017

Gender and race on engineering and design teams at Help Scout

Gender and race on Engineering and Design teams at Help Scout - 2016 Gender and race on Engineering and Design teams at Help Scout - 2017

What needs work

At 81% white, Help Scout is not very diverse in terms of racial/ethnic background of our team, and our engineering and design teams are still 81% male. This data will help us set new goals and continue our efforts to make Help Scout a great place to work for all people.

Race at Help Scout - 2017

Beyond the hiring process

While it was critical to make radical changes to our hiring process and pipeline, it was equally important to assess whether Help Scout was creating an inclusive and welcoming environment to nurture and sustain all of our teammates. We conducted our first employee engagement survey last summer, and we plan to do it again in the coming months and will include questions regarding inclusion and support.

To help further communicate our values and create a safe, inclusive work environment, we wrote a company code of conduct that all existing and new teammates read and sign off on. Our code of conduct clearly defines Help Scout’s values and how we expect our team to embody them. It includes a sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure, and it defines terminology (such as “microaggression”) that we expect our team to understand.

Additionally, our code of conduct helps to express our commitment to diversity and inclusion and creates a process of accountability when our expectations are breached.

As part of our 2016-2017 goals, we wanted to provide opportunities for our team to stay engaged in the conversation about creating an inclusive work environment. Since our first demographics study, we’ve coordinated talks and trainings for the team, such as an unconscious bias training with ParadigmIQ.

We also created a Slack channel (#diversity) to promote company-wide conversation and article sharing about all topics regarding D&I. Since as a remote team we don’t have in-person resource groups, we also created Slack channels for women and gender non-conforming folks and LGBT teammates where they can find community and support.

diversity slack channel

Lastly, it was important for us to diversify our board of directors. At the end of 2016, our board included four men, one (non-voting) woman, one person of color, and one open seat. Nick committed to finding a woman to fill the role, and in May 2017, we hired the incredible Asha Sharma for that seat.

This isn’t about patting ourselves on the back for “solving the diversity problem” now that we have a woman on the board — our ultimate goal is for our board, top management, and entire team to reflect a more representative balance across multiple axes of diversity.

Help Scout is not perfect and this is not a self-congratulatory post. We still have serious diversity debt, and we are working on putting new goals in place for 2017-2018. But we want to publicly share what we’re learning and experimenting with to add to the dialogue and to hold ourselves accountable.

Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of our company’s goals, and we’re dedicated to continue making meaningful, sustainable change toward those goals. We know that D&I work isn’t simply a checklist to cross off and be done with — we’re excited to dig in and do the work it takes to make our company a welcoming place for everyone.


2018 DEI Update

Checking boxes can never fully capture the complexity of our identities. To build an inclusive company culture, however, we need to understand how people from all backgrounds feel about their workplace, so we have to ask the questions.

It’s been just over a year since Help Scout last conducted our first demographic survey and shared the findings publicly.

Last year’s survey was enlightening: Our company, then about 60 remote people, had moved closer to gender parity — 59% men, 41% women and non-binary people. We’d increased the representation of women and non-binary people on our Engineering and Design teams, but it still sat at 13%, and overall as a company, Help Scout was 81% white.

While we still had room for improvement in many areas, we were proud to share our results along with our strategies and learnings as a way to hold ourselves accountable, to add meaningful dialogue to what’s happening around diversity and inclusion work, and to demonstrate our company’s dedication to doing better.

Now in August 2018, we have new data and insights to share and continue the conversation.

Don’t forget the ‘I’ in D & I

Meaningful diversity work is more than just representation and numbers.While increasing representation of underrepresented groups is a major focus for our company, it’s meaningless if we don’t all feel like we are supported and included. To that end, we added three questions to this year’s survey since it’s essential to know how people from all backgrounds are feeling about their place at Help Scout:

  • I feel like I belong at Help Scout.
  • I can be my authentic self at Help Scout.
  • When I speak up, my opinion is valued at Help Scout.

We wanted to collect this data to identify whether particular groups felt that their voices were being heard and whether they believe they belong at Help Scout.

We also added a few new demographic questions to learn even more about our company. After asking about living with a disability in our 2017 survey, we received feedback that the question could be even more clear — so this year, we asked a standalone question about whether respondents identify as neuroatypical, and another separate question about living with a physical disability.

To get a better sense of family status, we asked our team if they identify as a parent/legal guardian.

Last year’s survey asked respondents whether they identify as “male, female, or trans/genderqueer.” After getting great feedback from the comments on the blog post pointing out that trans people can identify as male or female, we made necessary and more inclusive improvements to that wording. This year we asked if our team members identify as a “man, woman, or non-binary,” along with a separate question about identifying as a transgender person.

The results are in

We had 72 teammates respond to the 2018 survey, our largest data sample yet.

New insights

New Insights at Help Scout - 2018

Thanks to the aforementioned new questions we added to the survey, we learned that 14% of Help Scout identifies as neuroatypical. By asking the question and sharing the data, we hope to help reduce the stigma around mental health and plan to conduct trainings around supporting our neurodiverse team.

We also learned that 35% of our team identifies as a parent/legal guardian, a data point that reinforces the importance of meaningful work-life balance, and why we love the flexibility of working remotely.

We were also stoked to learn Help Scout is 18% LGBQ. Awesome.

Disco Huzzah

Wins

We moved a bit closer to gender parity, at 57% men and 43% women and non-binary people.

DI wins at Help Scout: Gender - 2018

At the time of last year’s survey, zero teammates identified as Black/African-American. This year, we’re at 3%.

We maintained 50/50 gender balance at the manager/team lead level.

DI wins at Help Scout: Management - 2018

And on our Engineering-Design-Product teams, we moved to 26% women and non-binary people, a 62% increase from the past year!

DI wins at Help Scout: Engineering-Design-Product - 2018

And it’s important to note that while someone might belong to one majority group, they may also fall in another minority group. Again, identities are complex and a survey can’t navigate intersectionality in all its variations — it can only serve as a data point in a multifaceted and ongoing conversation.

How did we get there?

Publishing last year’s blog post helped us attract candidates from underrepresented groups by speaking candidly and honestly about our diversity and inclusion. Our own Chanita Simms recently wrote about how that post impacted her journey to Help Scout.

While many companies still hesitate to share demographic data for fear of being open about their shortcomings, we can’t stress enough how important it is to own it and talk about it. Being transparent and authentic helps build an employer brand that attracts the kind of team you want to build.

After two years of surveys, we now have concrete data to show that the changes we made to the recruiting process were absolutely leading to an increase in women on our Design-Engineering-Product teams. When we launched the search for a new Head of Design, we experimented with adding honest language to the job description:

P.S. - Yes, it’s all dudes. Although we work really hard to build a diverse pool of candidates, we’ve fallen short of our diversity and inclusion goals on the Design team. We’re excited to partner with you to do much better moving forward.

That search, along with a heavy dose of sourcing and recruiting excellent women candidates, resulted in hiring the best person for the role, Linda Eliasen. The data show that when women are better represented in leadership roles, more women are hired across the board. The results on our Design team reinforce those findings — our once 100% male Design team is now 42% women.

‘I belong at Help Scout’

One of the most exciting findings from the 2018 demographic survey came from analyzing the data from the three new questions around inclusion. For each question, over 80% of the company agreed or strongly agreed that they felt like they belonged at Help Scout, they could be their authentic selves, and their opinions mattered.

When the data was spliced to see how underrepresented groups (who historically haven’t felt as included and welcomed in tech) responded to these questions, their responses were actually higher!

What we’re still working on

Over the past two years, Help Scout has remained static in terms of overall race, at 82% white. Considering that we’re a remote-first company unlimited by geography when we hire, we could really be moving the needle here. We have no sugar-coated rationales or excuses. We’ve simply not done enough, and we need to have some difficult conversations about next steps and strategies and will have more to share next time.

We also surveyed the team and asked what they’d like to learn more about, and many responded that they want to develop more strategies to combat unconscious bias, so we’ll be planning another training very soon. We also want to organize a training to learn more about the barriers and biases for people with different physical and mental abilities in tech.

We’ve added more private Slack channels around identity groups:

  • #whoruntheworld — For those who self-identify as women, genderqueer, or non-binary
  • #Rainbowscouts — For those who self-identify as part of the LGBQT community
  • #POCscouts — For those who self-identify as a person of color

These function as remote versions of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which boost feelings of inclusion among underrepresented people in companies.

In the months to come, we’ll be setting new goals, continuing our recruiting and sourcing efforts, and continuing to encourage our team to expand and diversify their networks. This work is never done, and we look forward to sharing our progress in the spirit of openness, humility and transparency.


Spring 2019 DEI Update

It’s been nine months since we last reported on the state of Diversity and Inclusion at Help Scout, and we’re excited to provide an update on where we stand as of April 2019.

We’re starting to see some positive changes over time, as well as areas where we still struggle. We love that sharing this information helps our company stay accountable, transparent and committed to doing the work.

What we’ve been working on

Diverse teams don’t happen by accident. We’ve prioritized a number of initiatives that we believe have led to the positive changes we’ve witnessed:

  • We continue to 100% source candidates from underrepresented groups for engineering, design and product roles. By proactively diversifying the candidate pool with incredible talent, this tactic has been one of the biggest contributing factors to increasing representation across race and gender on these teams.
  • We’ve worked hard to standardize our interview process, specifically around asking structured behavioral questions — i.e., asking the same questions of every candidate for a given role and focusing on their past behaviors. Studies show that when you ask every candidate for a particular role the same set of questions, it’s a much fairer interview process and helps mitigate unconscious bias.
  • We are intentional around our new hire onboarding process and added a separate presentation about diversity and inclusion at Help Scout that helps set the tone for our company values and practices.
  • Emily Triplett Lentz, our Content Strategy Lead, audited our public-facing content for inclusivity, to ensure the language across our website is as welcoming to everyone as possible.
  • We invited two amazing guest speakers to talk to us over Zoom about excellent topics — Jennifer Kim went over unconscious bias, and Jessie Wusthoff introduced us to ideas around disability allying. We will also have Jason Wong speak to us in the coming month about bootstrapping inclusion and his experience as an engineering leader at Etsy.
  • Lastly, we’ve updated our parental leave policy. For years, Help Scout offered 12 weeks of paid leave for primary caretakers and 4 weeks of paid leave for secondary caretakers. That policy was noninclusive in its assumptions about what families look like, and it was counterproductive to retaining women, who leave industries like tech at twice the rate of their male counterparts. Research shows that the more parental leave fathers take, the more likely mothers are to return to work full time. A gender-neutral leave policy allows families to take parental leave equitably, boosts employee retention, and demonstrates our commitment to inclusivity. Our new policy is 12 weeks of paid leave for all new parents, including those who adopt and foster.

The demographic survey

We’ve adopted Culture Amp — a platform for collecting, understanding and acting on employee feedback — as our surveying tool. It helps automate and optimize our process, which will allow us to conduct this survey twice a year going forward for more accurate reporting.

Culture Amp comes with a demographic and inclusion survey template that we customized to ensure we asked the same questions as last year, as well as new questions around fairness, voice and diversity. Collecting more data around these topics only increases our awareness of how our team is feeling and whether we’re missing anything bubbling under the surface.

The data is in …

First and foremost, we’re working toward building a diverse team because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s in line with our values as a company.

Like any good business, we also inform our decisions with data — and the data about diverse teams is undeniable. Diverse companies — representing different backgrounds, identities and perspectives — are smarter, more empathetic, and more financially successful.

As we work to increase the presence of underrepresented groups at Help Scout, sometimes people ask: When do you stop? The truth is that there is no glass ceiling to this work — a company can’t check a box and be finished with diversity and inclusion. While we’re informed by and motivated to hit certain percentage goals, there isn’t a number a company should reach to consider themselves “done.”

How we look at the company level, as of April 2019

The survey had a 90% participation rate.

Gender — company-wide

Women/non-binary are combined only because the representation of non-binary team members was 1%.

We moved ever so slightly away from gender parity at the company level, but we’ve hired several new people who keep us at around the same gender breakdown as last year.

We’re working to get closer to company-wide gender balance, but we’re prioritizing how gender diversity looks at the team level, where some discrepancies appear. In other words, a company could claim to be 50/50 gender balanced, but perhaps all of the women are on the marketing and support teams — we want to avoid vanity metrics like those.

“Do you identify as neuroatypical?”

Asking whether our teammates identified as neuroatypical was new last year, and we plan to make it a recurring question. The percentage of teammates who identify as neuroatypical rose by 8% — perhaps due in part to a decreasing stigma around mental health at our company and, we hope, in general.

Parent/legal guardian status

The percentage of teammates with children remained about the same, year over year.

“Do you have a physical disability?”

The percentage of teammates with physical disabilities dropped slightly, from 3% in 2018 to 1% in 2019.

Progress

Perhaps our biggest progress marker this year has been a leadership team where women are the majority. Yes, you read that right! Our leadership team is 62% women — we’re proud of that.

Gender — team leads

Nine months ago, we learned our company was 82% white. Our current survey shows we’ve moved to 78% white.

Race — company-wide

We’ve increased representation around race for the whole company. We moved from 3% to 5% for Black/African-American representation and from 6% to 12% for Latinx folks. (For context, Ellen Pao’s Project Include was helping companies get to 10% Black/African American and 10% Latinx representation, with the ultimate goal to reflect the racial makeup of the American workforce — 13% black; 17% Hispanic).

Sexual orientation — company-wide

About 20% of Help Scout identified as part of the LGBQ community, which is up a tiny bit from last year.

“Do you identify as transgender?”

Our transgender representation increased as well, from 1% in 2018 to 3% in 2019.

Where we can improve

Gender Engineering/Design/Product teams

We still have a long way to go to get closer to gender parity on our Engineering, Product and Design teams. The data took a small dip at the time of the survey, but since then we’ve hired three more women for our Engineering team, so it’d be safer to say we’ve stayed about the same.

Age — full team

Ageism in the workplace and specifically in the tech industry is alive and well. A 2017 survey of 1,011 tech workers found that 46% of respondents said the average employee age at their company was between 20 and 35.

We’re faring slightly better, with 80% of our teammates falling in the 40-and-younger age group and 16% identifying as 41 and older. We plan to include more training around age bias in our hiring process to move the needle here.

Inclusion questions and more

Just as we did last year, we asked our team the degree to which they feel like they belong, can be their authentic selves, and feel their opinions are valued. By using Culture Amp, we were also able to expound on these topics and include new questions around fairness, voice and diversity. Specifically, some new questions we asked were:

  • How important is diversity to you?
  • On a scale of X (strongly disagree) to Y (strongly agree), do you feel that Help Scout values diversity?
  • On a scale of X (strongly disagree) to Y (strongly agree), do you feel that Help Scout builds teams that are diverse?

The responses and comments were enlightening! We were happy to see that 88% of the company either agreed or strongly agreed that diversity was important to them, and that 96% either agreed or strongly agreed that diversity matters to Help Scout.

Where things got interesting was around Help Scout building diverse teams, where only 73% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed. The comments revealed that our teammates care deeply about diversity and believe that the company does as well, but that there’s a struggle to put those feelings into practice.

Leaning into discomfort

As a company staffed by a majority of white people (myself included), I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

Again, the data supports that diverse teams are better for business. But we’re fighting against centuries of oppression as we try to make Help Scout, the tech industry, and society more equitable — and that can make people uncomfortable.

Each time we’ve shared our demographic data and our learnings, a few people criticize our process or beliefs. They claim we’re giving preferential treatment, or they declare that race or gender shouldn’t apply to the hiring process.

If we lived in a world free of bias and bigotry, then factors like race and gender wouldn’t apply to our hiring process — but we don’t live in that world yet.

Truth be told, we’ve wrestled with some of that same discomfort internally — and the best way we’ve found to work through that discomfort is to lean into it. If you’re unconvinced that gender, racial, and other biases exist and negatively impact people and organizations, one good place to start is by taking a few of the tests that Harvard’s Project Implicit offers — then take it upon yourself to research those subjects further, learn what you can, and resolve to be open-minded about how we can work together toward making the workplace — and by extension, the world — more equitable for everyone.


Fall 2019 DEI Update

Since committing to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a key part of our values at Help Scout, we decided to run our demographic and inclusion survey twice a year instead of once, so here we are with another update! Collecting data more frequently allows us to determine whether we’re continuing to make real headway against our goals or remaining stagnant in certain areas.

It’s been about six months since we last reported on the state of D&I at Help Scout, and once again we have exciting data to share as well as areas where we need to refocus our attention. After reporting on our demographics for several years, it feels safe to say this “mixed bag” of results will be common, as this work takes time and intention.

What we’ve been up to

  • We added some new Slack channels:

    • #impostersyndrome — to help teammates combat feeling like they don’t belong and to share strategies to manage it.
    • #ai-scouts (auto-immune) — a comfortable place for people with auto-immune diseases to talk about the details with people who share the experience and can provide support.
  • Jason Wong, a former VP of Engineering at Etsy, came and spoke to us about how he bootstrapped inclusion.
  • We promoted three women on our leadership team to VP level, including Megan Chinburg to VP of Engineering (more on that later).
  • We launched Help Scout for Good: As a Certified B Corporation, our purpose is not only profit, but a positive impact for employees, communities, and the environment, which is why we do everything we can to support organizations that share our values. We offer significant discounts to organizations that are working to increase access and opportunity for underrepresented groups.

A best-in-class candidate experience

In addition to the points above, we’ve spent more time thinking about our hiring process and how to continue making it inclusive. We are customer-obsessed at Help Scout, and when it comes to hiring, our candidates are our customers. We know that applying for jobs is exhausting and anxiety-inducing, and there will always be more applicants than there are open roles.

But how you treat everyone in the process, especially the people who are not selected, will speak volumes about your company and send a powerful message about your values. Word travels fast, especially when it’s negative, and if your company doesn’t treat candidates with respect, you could be closing the door to underrepresented groups looking for companies to trust.

We send a candidate experience survey to all candidates that have at least two conversations with us. In it, we track candidate NPS and ask other questions to assess whether candidates are being treated fairly and enjoying our process. Our current candidate NPS is 8.8 out of 10 — we’re proud of that!

We also created an infographic that lives on our career page and gets emailed to any candidate who enters the pipeline. It details what our interview process looks like at a high level. We love transparency, and we find making this information well known helps set expectations with candidates.

Having a structured interview process helps reduce bias and keeps us consistent, no matter who we’re interviewing (e.g., not letting some candidates skip steps or get ahead because they were referred internally). Providing clear expectations to all candidates allows them to know what to prepare for and have equal opportunity to succeed.

The high-level overview of the hiring process at Help Scout for all roles The high-level overview of the hiring process at Help Scout for all roles

Hiring people who care about D&I makes your company a great place to work

It’s no secret at Help Scout that we care about and prioritize D&I, and celebrating this work has helped us attract other excellent people that share these values:

“We found that the engineers who are excited about the fact that we are trying to recruit women and that we have that as a value — men or women — are the people we actually want to be hiring. The men who come into our organization who are excited about the fact that we have diversity as a goal are generally the people who are better at listening, they’re better at group learning, they’re better at collaboration, they’re better at communication. They’re particularly the people you want to be your engineering managers and your technical leads.” - Kellan Elliot-McCrea, former Etsy CTO

In this most recent recent Demographic and Inclusion survey, we had our highest scores yet regarding how our team feels about D&I. We’re proud that 94% of respondents agreed D&I is important to them, and 97% agreed that Help Scout as a company values D&I.

A snapshot of our scores around inclusion from October 2019 A snapshot of our scores around inclusion from October 2019

Our most recent Employee Engagement Survey also had our highest engagement scores to date, with an overall engagement score of 91% (via CultureAmp). It’s no surprise that there’s a correlation between high employee engagement and working at a company that values inclusion.

And there’s some science to back it up: One study found that the more workers agreed that “employees should recognize and celebrate racial and ethnic differences,” and the more they disagreed that “employees should downplay their racial and ethnic differences,” the more that minorities in those units reported feeling engaged in their work. In other words, acknowledging the many layers to our identities in the workplace helps us feel more connected.

How we look at the company level

We conducted this survey in October 2019 and we had a 91% response rate.

Gender — company-wide

Infographic: Gender - company-wide

We hit gender parity at the company level! While increasing representation of women at Help Scout is definitely an accomplishment, we are’t resting on any laurels any time soon as it’s still critical to examine gender breakdown by team. Gender parity overall at a company doesn’t mean much if the “technical” teams are primarily made up of men.

Race — company-wide

Infographic: Race - company-wide

In six months, we increased the representation of Black people at Help Scout by 2%; however, we saw Latinx representation decrease by 3%. Now that we have several years of data to review, we certainly made progress from 2017 when there were zero Black people and 5% Latinx. We’d like to at least reach numbers that are represenative of the racial makeup of the American workforce at 13% black and 17% Hispanic, so we still have work to do.

Sexual orientation

Infographic: Sexual Orientation - company-wide

Help Scout continues to have about 20% of the team identifying as part of the LGBQ community — we’re proud of that.

Transgender

Infographic: Transgender - company-wide

We’ve stayed about the same with our representation of Transgender employees at about 1%.

Neuroatypical

Infographic: Neuroatypical - company-wide

We saw another small increase in teammates who identified as neuroatypical, up to 24%.

Physical disability

Infographic: Physical disability - company-wide

The percentage of teammates with physical disabilities increased from 1% to 4%.

Age

Infographic: Age - company-wide

The majority of Help Scout still falls between 31-40 years old, but we’ve increased representation of teammates who are 41-50 years old since last survey. Since older people face discrimination at work, perhaps especially in tech, that’s a trend we intend to continue to improve upon.

Caregiver status

Infographic: Caregiver status - company-wide

About 38% of the company are caregivers! This data point reinforces the importance of meaningful work-life balance and why we love the flexibility of remote work.

Where we’ve made progress

Gender on Engineering, Design, & Product

Infographic: Gender on Engineering, Design, & Product

We’re proud that in just six months, representation of women on our Engineering, Product, and Design teams went from 20% to 35%.

A big factor has been having a skilled, qualified woman leading our Engineering team. We believe that having people from underrepresented groups in leadership roles helps pave the way for increasing employment from underrepresented groups.

“Give candidates someone in their leadership path that they can relate to, who they can trust to advocate for their perspectives. Build a strong bench of qualified diverse senior leadership who are known within their respective communities and you will fix your pipeline problem across the board.” Kathy Keating, engineering leader and former Apostrophe, Inc. CTO

Gender on our leadership team

Infographic: Gender on our leadership team

Our leadership team continues to be majority women, a rarity in the tech industry. The latest Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Company shows some progress in this area, but there’s still work to be done. While female representation in the C-suite is on the rise, only one in five executives in the C-suite is a woman today, and women of color especially remain underrepresented at all levels.

Where we can improve

While we’ve made great progress around gender, we haven’t made nearly enough movement around race. Now that we have more managers across the team, we started analyzing race at the manager level. Management is majority white, at 89%, so there’s room for improvement here.

Infographic: Race - managers

In the past, we grouped Sales, Marketing, Business, Support, and Finance together, but since our company has grown in size, we were able to drill down into demographics by team for the first time. We have plans to continue growing our Sales and Marketing teams for 2020 and it’s helpful to know this data when strategizing hiring. Our Sales team is majority male and the Marketing team is majority female, and we’ll work to balance these teams in the coming year.

Infographic: Gender - by team

D&I work is not a zero-sum game

One survey reported that both black people and white people believed that discrimination against black people had declined over the past few decades, but white people believed that discrimination against them was now more common than discrimination against black people. According to the study, this was because white people saw discrimination as a zero-sum game, and the more they thought discrimination against black people was decreasing, the more they felt discrimination against white people was increasing.

However, let’s be very clear — discrimination is not a zero-sum game. In other words, increasing the percentage of underrepresented individuals in your hiring funnel does not mean the process is discriminatory against white men — it means there’s a more diverse, qualified group of people vying for the same role.

We talk a lot in tech about hiring the best person for the job. By proactively recruiting a higher volume of underrepresented people to join the hiring funnel, you only increase your chances of hiring the best person. Once you work to diversify your funnel, it might mean fewer white men will be hired for roles. But to assume the process is now biased against these people is faulty. It’s our job to hire the best people for any role, and to do that, it’s critically important to expand access to the funnel.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a U.S. federal agency, encourages employers to take these measures and proactively address barriers to inequality in employment. In its Compliance Manual and Guidelines on Affirmative Action, the EEOC specifically notes that employers may engage in efforts “to overcome the effects of past or present practices, policies, or other barriers to equal employment opportunity.”

At Help Scout we take the EEOC’s guidelines to heart, and our team is more diverse today than it’s ever been. We’re proud of the company we’ve built — we have 105 people living all over the world with a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, and we’re a stronger company because of it.

We look forward to sharing our continued progress with you next year!

Leah Knobler

Leah Knobler

Leah is the Director of Talent Acquisition at Help Scout. She loves building a talented, diverse team that puts customers first. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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