The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. It is a necessary call for individuals to commit themselves to forging a more inclusive world.
At Elastic, we challenge ourselves year round to think both more broadly and deeply about inclusivity. The research is clear: when everyone is from the same background, goes to the same schools, shares the same lived experiences, you can quickly slip into group think. More diversity means more view points, more ideas, and ultimately more innovation. We truly believe that here at Elastic. We want our Elasticians to fully represent the communities we live in and the customers we serve.
Are we there yet? No. But that is why we want to take time on International Women’s Day to highlight some of the ways we’re supporting the #ChooseToChallenge initiative with our global recruitment and HR policies and practices.
Building balanced teams
When I started at Elastic five years ago only 18% of our Elasticians were women and non-binary. That’s not a great figure and wasn’t where we wanted to be. Back then we were a company of about 300 Elasticians. Like many startups, we were building the bus as it was racing down the road and did not have the data or reporting capabilities to really examine our employee demographics.
As we’ve grown from a company of 300 to over 2000, we’ve been able to take a step back, slow down, and take a better look at our hiring practices and tools and look deeply at how to expand our hiring pools with the goal of driving balanced teams.
Our biggest win? Setting clear, company-wide aspirational goals for increasing our hiring rates for women and non-binary Elasticians globally, in technical roles and in leadership roles. With those goals in place, we looked at data by teams to understand what “balanced teams” looked like group by group. From there, we deeply engaged with hiring managers and functional leaders to both spread the word about how to approach hiring in a more strategic and systematic way, but also help them understand the critical role they played in attracting the diverse groups of talent we wanted to cultivate from a talent brand perspective.
Having a distributed workforce allows us to search beyond the main tech hubs of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Having a global candidate pool has always given us the opportunity to cast a wider net, a critical aspect of helping open our pipelines to a broader set of talent.
Attracting strong talent means showing potential candidates that there’s someone like them at the other end of the hiring process. We knew that having women in leadership roles was an important step in creating representation and we’ve also seen that it drives change in who we hire all the way down the organization.
Getting the right candidates in front of that leadership is also important, which is why we celebrate diverse voices on our blog. Our Someone Like Me series, as well as posts highlighting our female leadership, provides necessary visibility for potential candidates looking for examples of the careers they’d like to achieve at Elastic.
And it’s working. We’re going to reach 30% women and non-binary employees at Elastic this year. This makes my heart absolutely burst with joy.
Equal pay is a baseline
Attracting great talent is just one facet. Ensuring equitable treatment is another imperative with pay equity at the fore. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts on our equal pay initiatives here at Elastic. In the first post, I highlighted the tactics we take to measure pay equality and how we determine where pay gaps exist. In our second post, we looked at our progress, and showed how we were taking steps beyond good enough to make true pay equality at Elastic a reality. While we’re still not perfect, we continue to measure and adjust to ensure we continue to reduce the pay gap between male and female employees.
The challenge of COVID-19, and supporting our families
No one could have predicted that a year ago, our lives would be turned upside down by a global pandemic. The impacts have been particularly catastrophic for women, particularly women of color. Not surprisingly, recruiting response rates during the pandemic from women and underrepresented groups, have dropped dramatically. We’ve heard from many candidates that they are interested, just not right now. For working moms in particular, we’ve seen extra hesitancy to upset any fragile balance that has been negotiated or navigated with their current employers. I get it. I’m totally comfortable when my 11-year-old who is doing remote schooling pops into my zoom meetings with varying degrees of urgency, but I sure wouldn’t be so nonchalant about the interruptions if I had just started at a new company. In fact, it’s been reported that the pandemic is wiping out decades of progress for women in the workforce. The number of women who have left the workforce in the US alone due to the pandemic is staggering.
At Elastic, our Source Code supports a flexible schedule for parents. This has been incredibly important during the pandemic while schools and daycares are closed. Elasticians are encouraged to block off their calendars as needed — whether to help with homework, run errands, or just take a walk to get out of the house for a moment. This behavior starts at the top with our leaders. We also introduced shut it down days (two Fridays off a month) and offered additional COVID time off during the pandemic to allow our Elasticians extra time for self care and to support their families.
We’ve also tried to get creative. We held a series of “Parenting in a Pandemic” seminars with Julie King, a parent-educator who specializes in "how to talk" workshops that provide engaging and practical tips for parents. We hosted four workshops: two for parents of kids under 10 years old, and two for parents of kids age 10 and up.
Where we can do better
We recently hired Kate FitzGerald as our Vice President Sales for the Americas and Erika Chandler as vice president of go-to-market strategy and operations. Kate joins Samantha Wessels, our EMEA sales leader, and now two-thirds of our worldwide sales team is led by women. That’s fantastic.
While we need to continue hiring female leadership throughout the business we must do better at the intersection of race and gender and in our Engineering leadership roles. As Audre Lorde once noted “some problems we share as women, some we do not”. We acknowledge there are very real differences underscored by the vastness of intersectionality and we #ChooseToChallenge to improve our representation of women of color across the spectrum.
The hard lesson — one that so many tech companies have learned — is that the longer you wait to address the challenges, the harder it gets to overcome them and move the needle on representation. Large companies can’t do it from a numbers perspective without throwing out the rules. When you’re small and growing fast, it’s easy to fall into the “but we need someone RIGHT NOW” trap and use that as an excuse to to skip the necessary work of pipeline building.
The biggest needle mover for us has been clear, measurable goals that the entire business could align around. As they say, “what gets measured gets managed.” You need to measure your goals, measure how diverse your workforce is, and build a process and benefits that support your staff no matter their gender or race. There’s no silver bullet for any of the problems around diversity. The bottom line is that you’re never done. But I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made in hiring great female talent at Elastic, especially during a global pandemic, and we’ll continue doing better.