The Future is Diverse – Quality Through Diversity at Boxcryptor
Just as software is never finished, so too is the corporate culture. It also needs updates, care, and attention, so that problems do not arise and that the employees have an environment in which they like to work and be productive. For many reasons, we are currently focusing on putting together a more diverse team of people working on Boxcryptor. And because we know that well-intentioned but poorly implemented inclusion will not help, we decided to seek professional help and invited a diversity coach to join us.
Quality Through Diversity
The day we spent with diversity trainer Oda Stockmann has made our heads start smoking. We would have never suspected that there are so many levers we can push and pull to streamline our application process and outreach. A short summary of questions we discussed:
- Is our office space actually ‘attractive’ or is the description ‘flooded with light’ a much better description?
- What do the people who apply at Boxcryptor really think of the team events we prominently promote?
- Why does the word responsibility appear this often in our job advertisements?
But why are we actually bothering to check every text on our website and every point within our job advertisements, to see which people are being addressed and who are not addressed, but also meant to be involved (This is a problem specific to job descriptions in the German language, due to the distinction of different genders in nouns)?
We are convinced that we can develop a better encryption software, the more different people are working on it. That's why we value heterogeneity in the team. We already have bike-loving, Linux-loving, Monty Python and K-Pop loving people in our team, but also colleagues with characteristics we do not know about because they do not concern us as a company and therefore, we do not ask about them. Everyone should share only what he or she feels ready for.
We don’t want to be led, during the application process, by common categories like gender, age, or origin. Because these things do not really matter to us in our daily dealings - on the contrary, it is more important for us to stand up for each other and work together as a team. We want to inspire people who are enthusiastic and have the desire to help shape the company.
7 Steps from the Decision to Send an Application to Hiring
The first thing we did was to become aware of the points in the application process where prejudices could come into play that we could unconsciously transport, and at which points we could unintentionally scare people off with unfavourable formulations. The analysis showed that there are 7 points of contact:
- Title of the job advertisement
- Description text of the job advertisement
- Job information page on our website
- Application Form on our website
- Internal selection process after receiving the application
- Job Interview
- Decision-making after the interview
Coming to the realization where our behavior and thinking could potentially exclude or discriminate against people was a very time-consuming and insightful process. But with the help of diversity coach Oda, a great basis for our further development as a company has emerged.
Working With our Diversity Coach
When choosing our diversity coach, we relied on the recommendations from our network. Oda and her business Diversity is Us have been recommended to us several times. She is offering awareness coaching for companies, coaching in diversity and prejudice, and she is running an online shop for a variety of toys and empowering books.
In a preliminary telephone conversation with Oda, we first described our concerns to her: We want to receive more applications from more diverse people. We hoped to achieve this goal by thoroughly scrutinizing our application process to find out where people, who are not conforming to the classic image of a “nerd”, are being deterred.
This was followed by a personal conversation between Oda and us, in which we were informed about the various aspects of diversity. Everything revolved around how one recognizes (unconscious) biases and (if possible) avoids them. Sometimes it helps to be thoughtful of one’s own privileges, sometimes it helps to focus on other, more important qualities and characteristics of a person. There are techniques and tools to do so.
From the variety of measures diversity trainer Oda offers, we chose the workshop for our application process. The main focus was on the improvement of the texts on our website and on the process of the application phase.
Before / After: This is What We Changed After our Diversity Training
We looked at many formulations in detail. First of all, the titles of all job descriptions have been standardized. Wherever possible, we sought gender-neutral formulations. This was especially relevant for the German-language texts. In the descriptions of the job advertisements, we noticed an accumulation of technical terms. Here, Oda advised us to be aware of how visitors to our website could perceive such formulations.
The analysis of the texts resulted in some brooding and insights. For example, we did use the word responsibility very often. Oda suggested rethinking that. Is a high degree of responsibility always relevant for each position or are there nuances? As a result, the job postings now reflect much better what kind of job it is about. In the long term, we hope that through this revision, applications will fit the profile we are looking for even better.
Oda also made us aware of necessary supplements. It was suggested, for example, to add the following sentence in each job advertisement: “The list of requirements is a wish list. Please apply even if you do not fulfill all the points. You can learn a lot while working with us.” Studies have shown that such a formulation leads to more women applying for a job - but just as many men. The result is a greater diversity in the received applications from which the selection can be made.
Until now, we have proudly shown with small icons that we have regular team events. Oda has sharpened our view that such a formulation could give the impression that we would collapse in a bar every Friday night. There are many people who find this idea daunting: pregnant people, people with chronic diseases, or people who have made negative experiences in the past – just to name a few. When in reality, our team events are diversified, take place indoors and outdoors and sometimes have sports or culture as subject. Furthermore, they are always voluntary. But all of that is a bit too complicated to depict in a single image. Therefore, we have deleted this point and now indicate instead, that at Secomba you can select, whether you want to work on Windows or Mac. We decided that this is far more relevant for your daily work than the next mini golf game.
What we Have Learned so Far
Diversity is complex, and recognizing and acknowledging your own biases is stressful and time-consuming. But we have set out to follow this path. Because we are convinced that our product and our corporate culture will benefit if as many people as possible work for Boxcryptor. We are only at the beginning of a long journey and we will make mistakes, no question. But we strive for making a difference and leading by example.