Ellen Pao’s diversity project shows small gains in first report

A year ago, as a growing number of tech insiders lamented the lack of diversity in the industry, Ellen Pao set out to do something about it.

Pao, who became a household name during her gender bias trial against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, on Monday shared the first results of her newest initiative — Project Include. And while her inaugural report shows some small improvements — the companies participating increased their percentage of female, Asian, Hispanic and multi-racial employees — it mostly highlights the fact that diversifying the industry will be a long and complex process.

“There is still a lot of work to do, as the data reflect many of the patterns of underrepresentation in the tech industry,” Pao and her co-founders at Project Include wrote in a blog post. “But the improvement over large companies’ demographics is encouraging, as are the many changes between the baseline and follow up reports, though it is too early to know for sure what caused all the changes.”

Project Include’s report Monday focused on its first cohort of startups, which includes Asana, Clef, Managed by Q, Patreon, Periscope Data, Genius Plaza, Puppet, Truss, Twilio, and Upserve. Five of those companies participated in both a baseline diversity survey in September and a follow-up in June, allowing Pao and her team to track their improvements over time.

The startups saw their proportion of women increase from 41 percent to 46 percent during those eight months, Asian workers increase from 12 to 15 percent, Hispanic workers increase from 11 to 12 percent, and multi-racial workers increase from 7 to 11 percent.

And the cohort companies tended to do better than their peers who weren’t part of the study. The percentage of Hispanic workers in Project Include companies was twice as high as the industry average. And nearly half of all roles at Project Include companies were filled by women, compared with an average of 34 percent throughout the industry.

But there were also some losses during the eight months studied — the proportion of African-American and Black workers dropped from 5 to 3 percent, and transgender or non-binary workers dropped from 2 percent to 1 percent.

The Project Include team also analyzed employees’ job satisfaction. They found underrepresented people of color reported an increase in their satisfaction with communication and growth opportunities, but women, transgender men and non-binary employees reported a decrease in perceived fairness.

Pao has been fighting for diversity in tech since losing her 2015 gender discrimination trial against her former employers at Sand Hill Road VC firm Kleiner Perkins. Last year she launched Project Include with a group of female co-founders, including Freada Kapor Klein of the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Slack engineer Erica Joy Baker. The idea was to provide concrete steps companies could take to improve diversity and inclusion of women and minorities at their companies, and metrics to measure their progress.

Photo: Ellen Pao is photographed on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in San Francisco, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)


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