Apr 29 2021
Shawn Riegsecker

3 Lessons from a CEO's DEI Journey


This is the second in an 11-part series of blog posts that focus on Basis Technologies' corporate guiding principles, and how those values show up in the workplace and in the lives of our people.

I founded Basis Technologies on 11 ideals—or guiding principles—to keep the company and the people in it on the right track as we achieve our business goals. One of the most overarching principles is our commitment to continuous self-improvement and personal growth.

Basis is committed to investing in the growth of our team members, while cultivating a culture of responsibility and accountability for everyone’s own self-development. As I think about my commitment to personal accountability and self-improvement, my DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) journey comes to mind.

Over the last few years, we increased our efforts to be a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. We have worked to strengthen the communities we work and live in, broaden our recruitment methods, and cultivate an inclusive workforce.

Sadly, our DEI outcomes have not been good enough to net the results we want. We must do more and get better at holding ourselves accountable. This isn’t to say that there has been no improvement. We’ve set goals around recruiting and hiring initiatives, have made investments in furthering opportunities for students from underrepresented groups, and have increased DEI education and resources for our employees.

But these efforts are only a start. Real DEI work requires long term effort and a deep commitment to continuous learning and improvement. As CEO, I’m determined to do what it takes to improve our representation and our eternal commitment to DEI. This begins with my own personal commitment, responsibility and need for self-development. Here are three lessons I’ve learned so far in my DEI journey.

1. Start with Education and Empathy

As a CEO, I’m constantly working to educate myself. I’ve committed myself and my executive team to at least 15 hours of education focused around DEI per quarter. Recently we’ve read Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People and How to Be an Inclusive Leader: Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive.

Education on why and how diverse representation matters is important. Identify and communicate why diverse teams are important to your company. For example, diverse teams are important for Basis because we’re building an industry-changing product, we’re servicing diverse clients, and we’re building a responsible corporate culture that encourages and values creativity, innovation, and fresh ideas from everyone. We can’t be successful when we think small or with a narrow perspective.

We have work to do on representation. Currently, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) employees make up 16% of Basis team members living in the U.S. Our goal is to almost double this percentage in the next few years.

While BIPOC talent represented 27% of our U.S. new hires in 2020, we need to ensure that these numbers stay high throughout interview stages, hiring, and retention. We’re focusing on broadening where we search for talent as well as improving interviewing training and practices (e.g. blind resume reviewing) that help to address and minimize unconscious biases.

While it’s imperative to set goals, focus on metrics, and track data around representation, it’s important to remember that behind employee demographics and representation metrics are real people. Not only does representation matter to our intellectual, business, and innovation efforts, it also affects the mental and emotional load of what our employees are carrying into the workplace and how they are able to show up for work.

We’ve created a space for authentic conversations from a myriad of voices in a series called Basis Conversations. We're also proud of our employee-created and led Community Groups (Employee Resource Groups) that serve as safe spaces for support, education, and resources. Recently, our Parents Community Group and Black Excellence Community Group hosted a conversation about how to talk to kids about race.

We have more work to do in centering our support and listening to our employees’ experiences and needs. With the increase of violence against the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community, it became clear we need to do better at pausing, listening to, and supporting our AAPI employees. Many of us will never fully understand the daily lived experiences of our employees. We have work to do in educating ourselves about what our teammates are bringing to work and how to best support them.

2. DEI is Everyone’s Job

DEI is in everyone’s best interest and is everyone’s responsibility at Basis Technologies. Studies from McKinsey & CompanyDeloitte and Gartner consistently show that diverse teams across many vectors are more successful in meeting their goals and coming up with unique, innovative solutions.

But DEI work doesn’t start and end with recruiting and hiring. We certainly need to recruit diverse candidates, but far from being HR or Recruiting’s responsibility, it's critical managers and colleagues who take on the work of creating inclusive and equitable spaces through hiring and onboarding practices and on their teams every day.

Ensuring we have a diverse workforce is only a first step. The more important step is ensuring everyone has a positive experience and chooses to stay and grow with us. If BIPOC talent, LGBTQ+ community members, or other people within an underrepresented group don’t see, meet and connect with people similar to them within the organization, its difficult to feel included and part of the team.

Ensuring that we’re always showing and proving we care about each team member's growth, happiness and career progression is paramount to our success. This is everyone’s job at Basis.

In this spirit, we are now including an assessment around embracing diversity in every employee’s performance evaluation this year. We’ll be tracking participation in DEI focused trainings and educational opportunities. From here, we will begin linking our leaders’ performance outcomes to meaningful contributions to our DEI strategy and goals.

3. The Work Never Stops

I look at DEI the same way I look at building an innovative product and platform: approach the issue with a challenger mindset, don’t buy into the way things have always been, and commit to consistent improvement at the macro and micro-level every day.

There’s never a point where we stop after reaching a certain goal—there is only progress. Our DEI work will never be over, even when we reach the initial goals we set for ourselves. It’s vital that we create and maintain a culture where everyone feels comfortable giving candid feedback, sharing experiences openly, and coming up with new and innovative ideas that we can continuously act on.

In addition to working towards progress in our own company microcosm, we need to be cognizant of how Basis can help create paths for underrepresented groups people to break into industries that have struggled to build diverse workforces. Our partnerships with organizations like CodeNation and The Boyd Initiative are small steps in the right direction.

We also must hold ourselves accountable to ensure that we have equality in both compensation and career paths. We have removed historical salary considerations from our interview process and have instituted an annual pay audit to assess parity among different demographics. In previous internal studies, we have done well relative to these metrics, but there are always ways to improve.

We will keep learning, striving for progress, and over-indexing on the amount of support and career investment we provide for our underrepresented groups in the technology and advertising industry. Our mission is to be both leaders and eternal learners in our respective industries to counter historical inequities and ensure we are a colorful and diverse team where everyone feels warmly embraced, included, and equal.

I want to thank the Basis team members whose passion has driven our DEI progress to date, including members of underrepresented groups and our Community Group members.