Driving more than discussion: Here's what 5 local companies are doing to make LA tech more diverse and inclusive

by Michael Hines
May 15, 2019

If you want to know about the state of diversity and inclusion in any tech hub, you need to go straight to the source. We recently spoke to technologists at five local companies to get their take on the state of diversity in Los Angeles tech. While progress is being made, what we found is that there’s still room for improvement, especially when it comes to turning talk into action.

The good news is that the five companies featured here are all taking steps in the right direction and have committed themselves to partnering with other companies and local organizations to create real change that makes an actual impact. Continue reading to learn more about their efforts.

 

MatchCraft Los Angeles tech jobs

MatchCraft’s marketing platform is used by companies to sell, manage and scale search, display and social campaigns. The adtech company was founded in 1998 and has had a front-row seat to Los Angeles’ growth as a tech hub. VP of People and Culture Nicole Webb said that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Los Angeles tech companies still have work to do — but things are trending in the right direction.

 

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity in LA tech, and what trends and initiatives are driving positive change in the industry?

The Los Angeles tech sector is making impactful strides toward more diversity, but I believe we still have a way to go. However, LA and other progressive cities and states are headed in the right direction. Dedicating internal and external resources to D&I has been trending up. Larger-scale companies are creating departments or roles focused on research, data collection and implementation of impactful diversity and inclusion initiatives and hiring practices. At MatchCraft, D&I is an integral part of our people and culture team.

Other positive trends we’re seeing are related to tech-focused networking groups and panels dedicated to underrepresented communities within STEM-based fields. I believe the trend toward opening up software development and product development roles to candidates with non-traditional credentials is a meaningful way to access a more diverse candidate pool and help solve for the shortage of talent in the industry.

We engage directly with underrepresented communities within the tech sector to ensure we’re reaching the broadest and most representative talent pool.

 

What concrete steps is your company taking to promote diversity and inclusion in the wider LA tech industry?

MatchCraft takes a hands-on approach internally and externally. MatchCraft and all companies alike benefit from a non-homogenous people population. When recruiting practices and corporate culture are inclusive of diversity of thought, experience and background, everyone benefits.

We engage directly with underrepresented communities within the tech sector to ensure we’re reaching the broadest and most representative talent pool. MatchCraft will co-host and participate in our first women in tech panel this May in partnership with ModelExpand. We partner with LA based-nonprofits that focus on education and mentorship within underrepresented communities, such as Youth Business Alliance and Fulfillment Fund, to help inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. In order to impact diversity and inclusion within technology, we need to get the next generation interested in being technologists.

 

LegalZoom Los Angeles tech jobs

LegalZoom’s platform provides easy-to-understand advice on legal matters ranging from registering a trademark to estate planning and setting up an LLC. Senior Manager of Business Planning and Operations Kristin Fong said that when it comes to making Los Angeles’ tech community more diverse and inclusive, it takes more than talk to move the needle. Fong has some ideas about what needs to be done to turn all the talk around D&I into action and make a real impact.

 

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity in LA tech, and what trends and initiatives are driving positive change in the industry?

In speaking to friends who are in LA tech, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, diversity and inclusion are common topics of discussion at all-hands meetings — but very little progress is being made. The progress that has been witnessed seems to be at the lower ranks, for example, hiring a few more female and minority software developers. However, leadership positions such as director and above are largely still homogenous.

Unfortunately, just talking about the subject isn’t moving the needle. In order to make significant change, there must be solid support from the C-suite, a cultural mind shift across the company and a plan with goals and trackable metrics for diversity initiatives to move forward. To see actual results of company diversity and inclusion initiatives, positive or otherwise, one needs only to review leadership profiles of LA tech companies.

Ideally, the LA tech industry can learn from each other’s trials and successes and propel diversity and inclusion to the forefront in the very near future.

 

What concrete steps is your company taking to promote diversity and inclusion in the wider LA tech industry?

LegalZoom is making a conscious effort to categorize diversity and inclusion as a high-priority initiative. Our CEO, John Suh, is behind the effort and is pushing for actionable change. Having support and influence from the top down is a step in the right direction. To really move the needle, next steps need to include a thoughtful and iterative execution plan on inclusivity initiatives and the implementation of metrics that measure progress. Ideally, the LA tech industry can learn from each other’s trials and successes and propel diversity and inclusion to the forefront in the very near future.

 

Headspace Los Angeles tech jobs

Headspace’s app uses guided meditation to help users ease anxiety, decrease stress, sleep better and more. VP of People Operations Caroline Escalante said that when it comes to driving change, candidates and employees are being vocal about the need for more inclusive hiring practices, which has driven companies to adapt their internal policies and recruiting strategies accordingly.

 

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity in LA tech, and what trends and initiatives are driving positive change in the industry?

Los Angeles has such a wealth of diverse talent, and tapping into that talent is a huge area of focus for Headspace. It’s really heartening to see the industry shift and become more aware of where our areas of opportunity are. We know that there’s still progress that needs to be made in terms of making the tech industry more equitable and making the playing field more even. We’re seeing potential candidates and employees have a higher demand for inclusive hiring practices, and that’s driving companies to do better, which widens the net for qualified candidates and makes space for historically underrepresented groups. We partner with organizations like Bixel Exchange and Year Up to equip the next generation with skills that can help them when they enter the talent pipeline.  

We’re seeing potential candidates and employees have a higher demand for inclusive hiring practices, and that’s driving companies to do better.

 

What concrete steps is your company taking to promote diversity and inclusion in the wider LA tech industry?

When it comes to making a positive change in the diversity space, we start from the inside out. Internally, we’re planning to roll out unconscious bias training, and our internal diversity, equity and inclusion committee includes members from all across the company who are dedicated to inspiring, guiding and supporting our employees to surface areas of opportunity within and outside of Headspace. The committee is empowered to broaden our perspectives and take the lead on initiatives to improve policies or practices. The committee sparks positive change beyond Headspace by working with organizations like Out in Tech and many others who are already doing great work to put the spotlight on important issues.

 

Criteria Corp Los Angeles tech jobs

Criteria Corp’s pre-employment aptitude, skills and personality tests are designed to help companies of all sizes hire more effectively and efficiently. Seeing as how the company is focused on hiring, it should come as no surprise that VP of Sales and Strategic Partnerships Amyra Rand said the company goes the extra mile to ensure it’s able to attract a diverse and talented pool of candidates.

 

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity in LA tech, and what trends and initiatives are driving positive change in the industry?

As with tech across the board, we are still not where we should be, especially when you look at the number of women and minorities in leadership positions. I do think companies are being more intentional with their efforts, whether it’s increasing the presence of underrepresented populations on their teams or hosting events promoting diversity and inclusion. But I think there’s a lot of evidence that those initiatives only go so far.

When it comes to LA specifically, I think there is a general lack of insight into the diversity stats for our region. Seeing programs like PledgeLA launch, where tech companies in the LA area can commit to reporting their diversity stats, will definitely help. You get what you measure, and this kind of data will help us better understand how we are doing. LA is so incredibly diverse, and with tech investment growing at unprecedented levels, there is no reason we shouldn’t be setting the gold standard in this area.

LA is so incredibly diverse, and with tech investment growing at unprecedented levels, there is no reason we shouldn’t be setting the gold standard in this area.

 

What concrete steps is your company taking to promote diversity and inclusion in the wider LA tech industry?

For us, it starts with being intentional about our efforts across the entire candidate and employee lifecycle. When it comes to attracting a diverse set of candidates, we go the extra mile to remove biased language — gender or otherwise — from our job descriptions now that there is a lot of research on how word choice can subtly discourage certain groups from applying. We also like to make sure our inclusive work culture is highlighted online and on our website so that everyone feels welcome to apply.

We, of course, also use our own assessments to be more objective about who we hire and to minimize unconscious bias in the hiring process. When it comes to perks, we take into account that not all candidates are attracted by video games and foosball. We make sure our perks are as diverse as our team. Examples include amazing health benefits, generous family leave, work-from-home policies and flexible work schedules.

 

PatientPop Los Angeles tech jobs

PatientPop’s end-to-end practice growth platform is used by healthcare and wellness professionals to increase their digital footprint and modernize the patient experience. VP of People Operations Alexis Kavazanjian weighed in on how local D&I initiatives enable companies to learn from each other, while Senior Recruiter Megan Johannes shared how employee efforts have led to the formation of resource groups that drive internal and external change.

 

In your opinion, what is the current state of diversity in LA tech, and what trends and initiatives are driving positive change in the industry?

Kavazanjian: LA is such a great place for celebrating and learning about the individual differences that contribute to and make up our community. Companies play a big part in embracing those efforts by creating a space where people are not only encouraged to have a voice but are also celebrated for being part of the conversation. There are many opportunities to get involved in the community through local events. Employees are able to attend events, meet new people, learn about different perspectives and bring back knowledge to share with the team. This helps us understand what other companies are doing, share what we are doing and contribute to creating a community where we drive positive change together.

Our goal is to ensure that we create a great place to work by supporting a diverse and inclusive culture where employees are empowered and supported to grow and develop. For us, it's about finding ways to build awareness and attract people who want to be part of a company that's committed to creating an inclusive workplace. Being located in a diverse city like Los Angeles, we have a huge opportunity to celebrate diversity of thought and perspectives that reflect our team, customer and community.

Our goal is to ensure that we create a great place to work by supporting a diverse and inclusive culture where employees are empowered and supported to grow and develop.

 

What concrete steps is your company taking to promote diversity and inclusion in the wider LA tech industry?

Johannes: What has been so great about many of our diversity and inclusion initiatives is that they have been started by employees. Our Women’s Resource Group was the first resource group at PatientPop and started as a Slack channel. The group now has a leadership committee of six women and over 138 employees are involved. The WRG has hosted internal events such as a women's leadership panel, Women's History Month happy hour, Mother’s Day card making, a diversity panel discussion as well as an external event focused on empowering women in technology.

After hosting our first diversity panel, a group of employees set out to begin the larger diversity and inclusion conversation. We had our kickoff meeting last month and opened the discussion to the entire company. We decided to break into subgroups to really be able to tackle everything and make progress around these initiatives. We now have four committees within our D&I resource group that each has a specific focus: events, research and communications, talent and engagement, and community engagement. The conversation doesn't start or end with PatientPop, but we’re excited to be part of driving the positive change in our community and continuing the momentum.

 

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