Live from Abbey Road Studios in London: The Spotify Inclusion Summit!

Diversity or inclusion?

The first time we had one was in 2015. We called it a “Diversity Summit” and it was all about awareness.

The second time was last year and we moved on to focus on action. We called it “Diversity and Inclusion Summit”, because we had learned that diversity is actually nothing without inclusion. We can hire all kinds of fantastic people, but if we don’t make sure everyone is included and can bring their very best to the table it will be in vain.

This year, we came full circle and just called it the “Inclusion summit”. We have reached the point where there is inclusive actions are going on all over the company and there is a need to unify our efforts. Our theme was “All together now” and it was amazing.

Yes, our entire lead team was there

Including the event team and the lead team, we were about 100 delegates from 20 different offices all over the world,  that met up for the two days in London. Except for the lead team, who were all given wild cards to the summit, everyone who was there had applied and been chosen to take part in the summit. The selection was based on the answers to the two questions “What will you bring to the summit?” and “How do you plan to bring your learnings back to your part of the company?”. We had 300 applicants for the 80 seats. That means that about 12% of our employees at the time wanted to actively engage in making our company more inclusive. That figure alone made my week!  

Diversity and inclusion is more important than ever

It was an engaged and psyched crowd that met up to share experiences, ideas, and practices for how we can all be the change we want to see. Both in our daily work, at Spotify, and in the world around us. It can be hard to work with diversity and inclusion in a global organization like ours because, well, we are very diverse! Even the way we work with diversity is diverse, and there is a need to meet up and share, so we can align our efforts, find the denominators that unite all of us and all work together in that direction.

I think during those two days, we covered every type of emotion in the book. There was sadness and joy, tears and laughter, anger and hope. We had discussions of unity and understanding, but there were uncomfortable ones too and there has to be. Because you can’t make any real change by just meeting up to sing Kumbaya together. Also, this event happened at an especially emotional time for us, just weeks after we lost a dear colleague to an act of terror. Our CEO Daniel Ek kicked off the summit by reminding us all that inclusion and diversity is more important than ever, with all the fear and the uncertainty around us.    

Making sure the inclusion doesn’t stay at the summit

In addition to truly exceptional external speakers and very open internal sharing, we had a hackathon where we kickstarted thirteen company-wide initiatives for increased inclusion. These projects were chosen from over 40 submitted ideas centered around our company culture, our product, our people and the community around us. Each hackathon team also made a plan for how to carry on with the projects after we all return to our home offices.

Inclusion 101

My head is jam packed with insights, inspiration, and ideas that deserve their own posts, but my main overall takeaways from this year’s summit are:

  1. The value of meeting up like this, to nurture and align all the good initiatives that are growing across the company, is immense. I can think of no faster or more effective efficient way to get some real inclusion action going. It’s not just important to do good things, you have to be able to do them well and this takes focused efforts and a combination of deep collaboration and diverse sets of contributions.
  2. Top management needs to be engaged and not merely supportive if you really want things to happen. Our lead team didn’t just swing by, smile and wave and tell us we’re doing fine. They were there for the full two days, taking part in the sharing and the discussions. Giving input and getting it back. This is a catalyst for action that cannot be replaced by any other resource.
  3. The one main impediment we need to overcome is the bias that we all carry with us. Every brain is hardwired with bias, and challenging our own brain is not something that comes naturally or even easily. These ‘preferences’ can prevent us from staying true to our company values even when we want to, and ultimately hold progress back. But we have a great opportunity here! We can create an environment where everyone feels they belong. And if we succeed in this mission, our biases will wither and die, and the diversity gains will be amazing.

A big thank you to all our speakers (Akala, Joy Boulamwini and Dr. Carissa Romero), our lead team, the event team, and all the participants in this year’s summit. It’s an event that will just keep on including, and there is no power in the world that will break the love and engagement and sheer goodness of those two days. ❤