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Embracing Equity in 2023

The world of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) is ever-evolving and as society and workplaces evolve and learn, we’re forever holding space to add new thinking, new focus areas and even to rewrite our strategy. 

For centuries, societies have been set up for some to succeed more than others. We as humans are drawn to those that are like us and to fear those that are not. So whether consciously or not, our society and our workplaces are based on systems that reinforce these preferences. Not because of hate alone or maybe hate at all, but to support the success of the majority designing them. So how do we forge ahead and make progress? Our answer is to double-down on designing and redesigning equity in everything we do, especially when it comes to employee and candidate experiences and processes. To do this effectively requires not just self-reflection on how we may be showing up, or on how we are learning about the experience of those that are different from us, but also requires using data, metrics and planning in those efforts. With a growth mindset about inclusion we can recalibrate not only our behaviours but our ways of working to address the bias and ultimately to create a different outcome, one that everyone can thrive in regardless of their background. 

At Spotify we’ve been walking this path more intentionally for the past 7 years, aiming to accelerate a diverse, inclusive and supportive culture where everyone belongs. We think 2023 is the right time for us to expand and refocus our (formally) DIB work to embrace Equity (now becoming DEIB). 

Inequity is a Disease Only Equity Can Cure 

Imagine someone suffering from a terrible disease with many unpleasant symptoms. They treat the symptoms relentlessly but ultimately the disease still kills them. This example can be perceived as shockingly morbid but it’s exactly what is happening when we don’t treat the root of microaggressions, bias and exclusion in the workplace. The symptoms of inequity (if we recognise that our ways of working and systems were designed for the majority) are unlikely to work for everyone. Focusing on increasing representation and changing behaviours to drive inclusion definitely helps treat the symptoms. In fact they are necessary to reduce the pain, but until we also redesign our hiring, promotion, succession planning, access to new internal opportunities, leadership visibility (and the list goes on), we will not be able to treat the ‘disease’ or make any meaningful sustainable progress. Complacency in accepting our processes as they have always been is contributing to the lack of progress in creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces. We can no longer deny that our systems were built on systematic oppression that have set a broad range of groups from women to racial minorities at a disadvantage. With this knowledge, we can effectively make progress towards powerful change and towards curing the disease. 

To do that, we have to ensure we have systems and people experience processes in place that foster inclusion and belonging at all stages of our employee lifecycle. The reality is, that in addition to behaviours that allow Spotifiers to feel understood (inclusion) and seen (belonging) for who they are, it won’t matter how much work we’ve done to accelerate diversity. Employees who don’t feel valued, or that they belong, will take their talents elsewhere. Therefore, integrating equity by dismantling systems and structures of our organisation that work against it, is key to growth and retention.

It’s important we have a shared understanding of what equity is and why we are focussing on this. At Spotify, our shared understanding is: Equity is the fair and equitable treatment of all Spotifiers, so that everyone has access to the opportunities, systems, and resources needed to do their best work. 

A Spectrum Of Activities

At Spotify we develop global programs and strategies that drive systemic change and we seek to empower voices from marginalised communities and to protect and nurture our planet. This work starts with driving equity both within and beyond our organisation. Everyone we interact with should feel like they are welcome, heard, and celebrated for who they are. That’s why DEIB, sits within our Equity & Impact team, includes Heart & Soul (mental health program) and partners alongside a spectrum of other activities such as Climate Action, and Civic and Community Engagement (to name just a few). To better understand how all these activities work together and our DEIB journey to date, you can view our most recent Equity & Impact report here

We focus on equity because it’s fundamental to our efforts to find and dismantle systematic barriers to the representation and inclusion of historically marginalised and underrepresented communities. A workplace with microaggressions and bias creates exclusion and exclusion impacts anyone’s ability to do their best work, to be creative, engaged and innovative. So we are working relentlessly to design an inclusive culture.

DEIB At Spotify In 2023

But how does this work in practice? Adding equity helps us prioritise inclusion in how we engage and support employees. We strive to focus on inclusion on purpose and evaluate what we do with a lens on equity to create systemic change and have the greatest impact.

Here are a few examples of how we are prioritising this work in 2023

  • DEIB and relevance of different concepts varies substantially around the world. We are focused on effectively navigating the meaning of diversity locally by investing in understanding the local differences and gaps where our band members are, and meeting them there. For example, gender inequality is a global issue whereas religion and ethnicity reign in the Middle East and Africa, and race is the predominant challenge in the US. The list goes on. 
  • Foster an inclusive mindset to transform our culture. Defining what this means and providing our Band Members with the tools and frameworks to approach empathetic and inclusive leadership through discomfort, reflection, seeking input from others, especially those who have experienced exclusion at work, not being defensive and taking action through allyship. 
  • Increasing the literacy of DEIB topics from our metrics to specific tools on how to build an inclusive culture and inclusive hiring practices. 
  • Recommitting to address racial injustice and equity. This starts with looking within – at our culture and how we help create inclusion and belonging. How we continue to increase representation and accelerate the growth and careers of our talent. It also extends to our platform and communities around the world. 

In the last decade, the focus on Diversity and Inclusion has evolved from being one focused mainly on legislation and compliance globally, to DEIB as a driver of cultural transformation centred around inclusive empathy-driven leadership. This kind of leadership drives a sense of purpose, engagement and retention of talent. This is a game-changer in the field of HR and to capitalise on the momentum we need to redesign our workplaces, systems, ways of working (whatever you want to call it!), to focus on equity as the driver of how we design our workplaces. 

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