Tech Sketches

Executive Team Diversity

June 30, 2020

There’s been a lot of talk lately about hiring underrepresented talent as a parallel to the #BlackLivesMatter protests. This is an important conversation and needs to be more top-of-mind especially as generational demographics continue to shift. It’s important not only to hire underrepresented talent, but also mentor and develop them in order to bring them into managerial positions. This starts a cycle of role models, mentors, and aspirants that becomes more self-sustaining.

It’s common for tech companies to list photos of their exec team on their websites. I would recommend any candidate do research on individual members of these executive teams to get a pulse on how well these companies support those from non-traditional backgrounds.

Diversity should not just be a value written on a piece of paper, but something that influences the most crucial decisions. Diversity of thought is crucial for effective business operations to avoid being blindsided.

While hiring diverse talent at the entry-level is important in order to promote a healthy cycle over the long-term, the easiest (and hardest) changes to make are at the executive and board levels. By hiring people into these positions, they de facto become role models for those earlier in their careers.

One example that comes to mind was Alexis Ohanian’s very public resignation from Reddit’s Board of Directors with an ask for them to replace him with a black member. Although Alexis himself comes from a family without strong generational wealth, he understood the symbolic impact of his act.

Although executive teams are usually visible, board directors tend to be more opaque. Executive teams are accountable to board members who are in turn accountable to the shareholders. Shareholders must value diversity in their board of directors and executive teams in order for structurual changes to be possible.

Because our primary form of organization (companies) is hierarchical, it’s important for diverse members of our general population to be represented at the tops of these hierarchies. Diversity at the top will naturally reflect downwards.


Written by Andrew Lin who lives in New York.

© 2020