Since 2015, Diversity and Inclusion has been high on our agenda at Spotify. We added Belonging to our focus areas in 2018, as it’s of utmost importance to us. You could argue that this was too late to take this stance, and we think it’s hard to disagree. Until this work is done, there will always be more we can do. And when it is done (nirvana) then there will be new things to explore, and certainly more things we need to improve upon. However, as we acknowledge the lateness within this area, we must also acknowledge that last year was of great significance to us all.
2020 Reflections On DIBs
2020 was the year most people, organisations and countries learned a few new and very important words when it comes to a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy (DIBs). With the murders of Breonna, Ahmaud and George, a long overdue and much-needed reaction to the unaddressed systemic racism, was triggered. The Black Lives Matter movement included some extremely welcomed discussion and education.
At the same time we saw setbacks for numerous women in many parts of the world, due to homeschooling and to caretaking of elderly family members – just two examples of how the pandemic magnified inequalities of distribution of work at home. Also, the pandemic has had a negative effect for many members of the Asian community, who have seen an increased level of violence and hate during this time. In addition, we’ve seen a heavy impact on members of the LGBTQIA+ community who’ve been exposed to online threats and have found themselves with less community support due to isolation and quarantine. And this is just to name a few of the negative effects.
Reimagining Our DIBs Agenda
There’s an even greater sense of urgency for us to reimagine our DIBs agenda. I don’t just mean the great collective work and progress that’s been done in collaboration with BLK@Spotify (our Black ERG) and our declaration to racial equity, which also includes amplifying Black creatives and culture on-platform, but also the work with SPECTRUM (our LGBTQIA+ ERG) and our Parents@Spotify ERG about certain impacts respectively to their community. We know there is more work to do.
2021 is an opportunity to drive and follow up on our stretched targets for 2020. It’s a chance to widen and deepen the scope and the metrics. Let’s walk the talk on inclusion, equity and impact. All of us. Let’s make this the year when we step beyond just the number of diverse hires, and crack the code of making inclusion and belonging part of the muscle-memory of our organisation. 2021 can, and should, be the year when this is a part of our sustainability strategy and vice-versa, so that we can continue to attract the right talent. The best and most successful way forward is releasing all the ways our DIBs can be a superpower for us – together. The true power of we. Everyone, working towards meaningful change.
We have an opportunity to break new ground – we like to call it “how we show up in the world”. We had a glimpse of that already when employees and managers started to tell stories about experiences where they had gotten more educated, more secure and had more impact in their teams, and also in their families. Many people had those uncomfortable discussions, taking a stance. They were educating their children for a better and more equal society and understanding and acknowledging a specific privilege. It cannot be only in the workplace – this an opportunity to have a positive impact on who we are as humans.
Successful DIBs Work
The DIBs work will have success and it will have setbacks. What we’re certain of is at Spotify our DIBs work will never include us not trying. When you try, you debate, you make yourself vulnerable, you might also temporarily go wrong, say something hurtful and most likely get stuck in semantics. It’s also taxing, it slows you down and at times creates dividing sides.
All that is what to expect. If we want it to stick and be a focus area not just off the back of 2020 but for the near future, what it cannot be is an area where people want to misunderstand each other. An area where everything is über-sensitive. Where people from a different background, culture and language cannot lean in and be part of the discussion, work and change, because they are yet to hear about the use of gender pronouns, and the quiet new use of equity besides a strictly financial benefit term, and the work towards understanding specific privilege and how it shows up in the workplace. We all understand the difference between intent and impact and have to navigate thoughtfully and carefully when we do speak and act, and it will not help the work if we get emotional and upset within the same team. Language barriers can sometimes be a speed bump that slows down the much-needed conversations and the good work.
However, what we should be most concerned about is where this is not a topic, where it’s not on the agenda, and where there are no resources appointed and no discussions being held. The certainty that there will be some DIBs efforts, and that facing difficult situations and trying, will drive us forward in the right direction, is a good reminder for a wholesome business. One where people come to thrive and are proud to work. We could even say that if you let it, your DIBs in itself can be your superpower.