DEI, Belonging, and Values Fit in the Workplace

The latest episode of Distributed interviews Sid Sijbrandij, Co-founder and CEO of GitLab. The episode prompted me to revisit the comprehensive GitLab Values page. There’s lots of good stuff in here.

Diversity, inclusion and belonging are fundamental to the success of GitLab. We aim to make a significant impact in our efforts to foster an environment where everyone can thrive. We are designing a multidimensional approach to ensure that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute. We actively chose to build and institutionalize a culture that is inclusive and supports all team members equally in the process of achieving their professional goals. We hire globally and encourage hiring in a diverse set of countries. We work to make everyone feel welcome and to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities and nationalities in our community and company.

We demonstrate diversity, inclusion and belongings when we foster an environment where everyone can thrive and ensuring that GitLab is a place where people from every background and circumstance feel like they belong and can contribute.

Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

I like the addition of belonging to DEI. That’s an important part of Employee Resource Groups: fostering belonging. Belonging helps address the leaky pipeline, and hiring for values fit instead of culture fit helps address getting in the pipeline in the first place.

Culture fit is a bad excuse

We don’t hire based on culture or select candidates because we’d like to have a drink with them. We hire and reward team members based on our shared values as detailed on this page. We want a values fit, not a culture fit. We want cultural diversity instead of cultural conformity, such as a brogrammer atmosphere. Said differently: “culture add” > “culture fit” or “hire for culture contribution” since our mission is that everyone can contribute.

Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

I love the rule-of-thumb: culture add > culture fit. I might add it to my old, neglected list of rules of thumb for human systems. Changing the framing from fit to add better includes neurodivergent people.

Speaking of neurodivergent people, the page has a section on neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity is a type of diversity that includes: autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, cognitive impairment, and other styles of neurodivergent functioning. While neurodivergent individuals often bring unique skills and abilitieswhich can be harnessed for competitive advantage in many fields including cybersecurity, neurodivergent individuals are often discriminated against, and sometimes have trouble making it through traditional hiring processes. These individuals should be able to contribute as GitLab team members. The handbook, values, strategy, and interviewing process should never discriminate against the neurodivergent.


Source: GitLab Values | GitLab

“The handbook, values, strategy, and interviewing process should never discriminate against the neurodivergent.”

Wow, it sure feels good to read that so plainly written. Here’s some previous writing of mine to help avoid discriminating against neurominorities at work and, instead, create belonging.

DEI at Work: The Familiar Life Cycle

Employees responded mostly positively to the first part of this note. But Hansson went further, taking exception to the use of the pyramid of hate in a workplace discussion. He told me today that attempting to link the list of customer names to potential genocide represented a case of “catastrophizing” — one that made it impossible for any good-faith discussions to follow.

Source: 🚨 What really happened at Basecamp – Platformer

If you do any amount of DEI advocacy, you’ll run smack into claims you are “catastrophizing” at some point, usually from a straight, abled, neurotypical, white man living life at the lowest difficulty setting. Sad to see such claims coming from people I thought knew better. This attitude is the true bad-faith and makes discussion and advocacy a trudge for marginalized people.

But the idea of worker-led efforts on diversity issues got a frosty reception from the founders last year, employees told me. They were allowed to work on the project, but did not feel as if the founders were particularly invested in the outcome.

I know that feeling. Every DEI worker does.

“At the end of the day, they are not interested in seeing things in their work timeline that make them uncomfortable, or distracts them from what they’re interested in. And this is the culmination of that.”

That too is familiar.

  • Employees rally to create ERGs and do the work of DEI
  • Little to no investment from the powers that be
  • Accusations of catastrophizing from the powers that be
  • Shutting down uncomfortable but necessary discussion
  • DEI workers thoroughly demoralized

There we have it, the DEI life cycle at many companies.

Previously,

Wellness, Ableism, and Equity Literacy

Disability is a form of diversity, not a synonym for unhealthy.

Source: Ableism is the wellness issue we’re not addressing | Well+Good

Wellness is oblivious to its pervasive ableism.

The idea of wellness centers around being the best we absolutely could be by embracing healthy lifestyles and habits, but makes one big assumption: we are all able-bodied, and most issues are solvable through healthy eating, exercise, and potentially even expensive products. Baked into this is a healthy dose of ableism-preconceived notions and stereotypes towards people with disabilities. Whenever I look at trends surrounding food choices, exercise, or products, the people speaking about them or benefitting are overwhelmingly able-bodied.

For wellness to be fully inclusive, it needs to feature bodies that don’t look and move the way an “ideal” standard might. Most importantly, we need to be part of the industry’s conversations as a demographic that gets told we are unwell, but lives the healthiest lifestyles we can given limitations from our brains and bodies. To dismantle the ableism problem in wellness, this means a large industry needs to begin featuring and consulting people with chronic illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and physical disabilities as well—because being alive, capable of self-acceptance, and being our best selves should truly be for everybody.

Source: Ableism is the wellness issue we’re not addressing | Well+Good

Representation and NAUWU principles matter and make things better. I’ve dabbled with Apple Fitness+ within the limits of my chronic conditions. I appreciate the disability representation and diversity I’ve seen on screen so far. More, please.

To be effective, wellness needs to get equity literate, get structural, and design for real life.

Beyond their community health activism and their work to establish organizational wellness practices and spaces, the revolutionary groups of the ’60s and ’70s also understood that political education, fighting in the streets, and engendering reforms and services for their communities were inherently therapeutic and empowering. “Part of being a healthy human being is reclaiming your dignity,” says Dr. Bassett. “To stand and fight is an act of self-preservation and an act of reclaiming one’s health.”

The group of teens and young 20-somethings conducted several operations that helped lead to reforms. In Chicago, members followed the model laid out by the Black Panthers and tackled food insecurity with grocery giveaways and a free breakfast program. Additionally, the Young Lords established a free clinic that included a dental program as well as education on health and nutrition. In New York City, it initiated free food programs, provided political education with its Palante newspaper and weekly radio show on WBAI, and recruited members to escort children to school safely. Moreover, they organized famously gutsy actions that served the community with preventative care and forced an otherwise negligent government to take notice and start heeding the needs of marginalized communities.

Source: Historically, ‘Radical’ Groups Have Often Positively Impacted the State of Wellness and Health in the U.S. | Well+Good

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