At Azavea we strive to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment that makes our colleagues and prospective colleagues feel welcomed and supported. We continuously consider how we can improve our hiring practices to bring in a more diverse talent pool. However, to hire diverse applicants, we must ensure our culture is inclusive, but we cannot have an inclusive culture without equitable company policy. As we consider how to thoughtfully grow and strengthen our welcoming and supportive work environment, we reflect on what we have learned over the years in order to chart our path forward.
Azavea was predominantly led from a white, male, cis-gendered perspective at its start, and DEI must be at the forefront of our practices and priorities as we move forward. Our organization has significantly changed over the years and we hope to continue to see Azavea improve in terms of diversity. We recognize that as our organization diversifies, we must constantly be open to learning to effectively foster an inclusive organization.
In 2019, Azavea formed a DEI Working Group to evaluate the state of DEI within the company and produce a report with recommendations on how to build a healthier work environment. Prior to this, DEI was regarded at Azavea in our hiring and workplace practices that considered accessibility, dependent care, support for nursing mothers effort, sharing pronouns, and gender-inclusive bathrooms. However, we did not have a group with a consistent focus on promoting inclusion at Azavea. The report the DEI Working Group produced included the recommendation to establish a permanent council. This led to the formation of the DEI Council and DEI Council Charter to inform how it would operate starting in 2020. The Council aims to identify Azavea’s DEI priorities and facilitate the implementation of sound DEI practices. Today this group is made up of 9 members representing diverse roles at Azavea.
As it was for many organizations, the Summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd was a period of reckoning at Azavea. While we recognized the larger issue of systemic racism, we also re-evaluated how our organization was perpetuating this system. We had to look at our own power structures and the way in which our organization upheld white supremacy. This resulted in an increased focus on DEI efforts through our DEI Council, more financial resources, and serious commitment from our leadership team to regularly evaluate our policies, practices, and leadership structure. We worked with an external consulting firm, Building for Mission, to help us determine the specific measures that the Council would prioritize in its first year. Today, the DEI Council and specific sub-committees are working to roll out the plans that we outlined with Building for Mission to improve some of the policies and practices that shape who we are as a company.
The DEI Council currently meets biweekly to discuss progress on the Council’s ongoing projects, to surface information received elsewhere to the whole Council, and to coordinate new projects. Today, the key projects that the DEI Council and its subgroups work on include:
- Standardizing hiring training across all teams to reduce bias in the hiring process
- Making salaries, promotions, and raise processes transparent to reduce bias and better enable all employees to advocate for themselves in terms of compensation
- Publishing a library of DEI resources for Azavea managers and other employees to support their learning
- Encouraging DEI learning and team building across the company
Outside of our DEI Council, we ask that diversity is at the forefront of all our colleagues’ minds at the company. To drive employees to consider this topic in their daily lives, we discuss DEI learnings in annual performance reviews. The council also encourages individuals to lead ad hoc training and learning groups that all Azaveans are encouraged to participate in.
As a certified B corp running Azavea includes more than driving profitability. Rather, we’ve pursued work that aligns with our values and invested in making Azavea a great place to work. Early on, this meant providing support for employees through paid parental leave, health insurance, and promoting professional development. Today, as we continue to grow and diversify our workplace, supporting employees also means making the workplace accessible to, inclusive of, and equitable for all. This includes diversifying the leadership who implement these practices. We will continue to evolve and do the work to effectively build a company with DEI as part of its core values. Read more about our company values, team, and open roles at our careers site.