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Why and How Etsy Embraces Differences at the Workplace

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As it became an imperative in the last few years for organizations to invest in diversity, a few have started identifying better ways to support and act on inclusion. At Etsy, where employees’ happiness and gender diversity has been an integral part of their culture and identity since 2013-2014, they recently took a new stand towards their commitment to inclusion through various initiatives.

At Etsy, more than 50% of the executive team and half of the board of directors are women. More than 30% of their engineers identify as women/non-binary, and more than 30% are people of color. They recently published their company’s five Guiding Principles, of which one of them states: We embrace differences, making diversity and inclusion integral part of their company’s mission to Keep Commerce Human:

We embrace differences. 

Diverse teams are stronger, and inclusive cultures are more resilient. When we seek out different perspectives, we make better decisions and build better products. 

Etsy’s leadership took greater ownership and accountability throughout the organization for baking-in inclusion within their employees’ lifecycle journey: from recruitments, career development, quantifiable benefits, promotions, competency and performance assessments, retention, as well as in everyday business interactions. As an example, to hire the best engineers without bias, they reevaluated and improved their recruiting and hiring processes through sponsoring and attending conferences dedicated to underrepresented groups in technolgy. They set up employee resource groups (ERGs) that have executive sponsors in order to empower these ERGs and allow them to have a direct feedback mechanism with management and executives. Their new retention programs include evaluating inconsistencies across the organizations, and addressing discrepancies that might indicate bias around compensation, titles, opportunities to attend conferences and trainings, and promotion cycles.

In 2013, Deloitte published a research report showing why and how diverse teams drive better business outcomes, and also outperform homogenous teams. Additional research is showing that individuals’ willingness to disagree increases considerably if the group is diverse. Therefore, diverse teams are less prone to group-think, can solve complex problems better, which leads to creative decisions and greater innovation.

Etsy’s leadership committed to bringing external subject matter expert technologists, authors and thought leaders to speak with their engineering teams, allowing them to be exposed to not just global technology trends, but also to other aspects of teams' collaboration that have a direct impact on their development and the quality of their work. These initiatives contribute to raising awareness about unconscious bias, and foster a greater inclusive environment. Etsy's engineers are able to develop a better understanding of the importance and benefits of inclusion on human interactions and innovation. 

Mike Fisher, CTO at Etsy, recently published an article about Etsy’s active engagement in diversity and inclusion, in which he mentioned that failing to be diverse and inclusive would fail their core mission and values to Keep Commerce Human. He also stated that Etsy wants to be leaders in the industry with regards to diversity and inclusion. It is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do for our business.

An ex-Etsy employee, Lara Hogan, published lessons from her employment at the company, which aligns well with various of Etsy's blog posts on diversity. According to her experience, Etsy and its leadership invest a great deal of efforts in mentoring their talent and in its women’s advancement. According to Hogan, they are successful because they deploy tangible tactics, iterate based on feedback, and measure their results regularly.

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