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Building an inclusive culture

Brittany Holloway-Brown

On the product team and throughout Vox Media, we've made a commitment to foster a welcoming, inclusive environment that's safe for people of all backgrounds, including historically underrepresented groups such as people of color, LGBTQ people, and women.

That's a big commitment. This year, the product team has started the work to formalize our hiring and interview processes to eliminate bias; established best practices for hiring and outreach in order to diversify our candidate pools; expanded a program of community events with a focus on inclusivity; formed a task group to identify harassment and abuse targeted at our staff and assess how we can help; and are exploring many other avenues, including participating in after school programs, identifying diverse conferences we can support and attend, and looking into training programs to educate our staff on topics around diversity.

And yet, we're only getting started.

In a recent newsletter, Deb Chachra defined her three laws of working towards diversity and inclusivity:

I. It is hard work.

II. You can never stop doing it.

III. You will definitely fuck up.

To which we'd add: you have to do it anyway, because it's right.

It's in that spirit that we have approached all the work we're undertaking with our diversity initiatives, including this one: we're sharing and open sourcing our product team code of conduct, both as a public commitment and in the hopes that other teams may find it inspirational or instructive.

You can find the code of conduct on GitHub at github.com/voxmedia/code-of-conduct. We anticipate it will evolve and grow with our team as well as with input from the community.

Many company diversity initiatives focus on hiring, an area we've also begun to work on. But hiring for diversity is worthless if it isn't followed up by a real commitment to inclusion: as the saying goes, it does not matter how good your pipeline is if it leads right into the sewer. Any work to improve the diversity of your job candidates needs to be met with equal or more effort towards ensuring that the culture they join is one that will unequivocally welcome them, learn from them, and adapt in response to their unique contributions.

Codes of conduct have been something of a hot topic in the tech community of late, with many people establishing them as litmus tests for industry events while others question their effectiveness. For our own purposes, we don't believe the sole purpose of a code of conduct is to prevent bad behavior: we've set very high standards for ourselves, and expect that many of us will, on occasion, fail to live up to them. In those situations, the code is useful not as a preventative but as a north star—an articulation of our values which we can use to reorient ourselves should we ever fall astray.

This code of conduct is undoubtedly imperfect—as any code will ever be. But we believe it to be a sincere representation of our hopes for our team and that to improve upon it we must first find a place to start. This is that place. Let's see where we can go from here.