What are the best practices to starting something like this at a small company?

Is it ever too soon to start a D&I program?


Never too early! “Build the ship as you sail it” they say.

Start-ups and small businesses have the wonderful advantage of baking in D&I into their DNA.
If you want your team or company to have certain values, or to care about certain things, to have diversity of thought and of identity, the easiest time to do it is in the first 200 people — or the first 100 if possible. After that, a lot of other stuff takes hold. Hiring often has a network effect, where the first 100 people hired, are likely to define the next 200.

So that’s wonderful that you’re thinking about this, now. We surely didn’t have it right at the start, but with perseverance and constant reflection, we’re on our way.
Looking forward to reading how others have started their programs!

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Agreed @emily! I would even say - don’t wait till you’re 100 employees!

So much of the initial culture, values and business trajectory has to do with the founding team. In that regard, it can pay dividends to make sure your founding team and first executives/leaders are D&I advocates in the organization. If this group is all straight, white, able-bodied cis-men; I would focus on encouraging them to get comfortable with D&I topics (vs. throwing them into the deep end). Allow them to explore why D&I is important to them, personally. Think about how they like to learn - do they like to read books, listen to podcasts, or “experience” their learning? If they like books, for example, suggest something that will open their eyes to D&I topics. If they like reading fiction - that works too! (The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin is so good - it’s a D&I story, but in a really compelling sci-fi/dystopian series).

In short - find how they like to learn, and lead them on their journey. Hell, if they like twitter, suggest some accounts they should follow to broaden their perspective. Good luck @Melissa_Haas!

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+1 to everything that’s been said so far. There’s a real advantage to starting early too - back in 2014, I co-founded the D&I taskforce at my startup when we were just 10 employees. That, among other things, led to some significant milestones in diversity - a 50/50 gender balance, significant representation of LGBTQ, Black/Latinx employees, parents/caregivers, etc - something that people used to say was “impossible” for a Silicon Valley company.

I write a lot about D&I at small teams at my blog, https://inclusionatwork.co and also have released a Udemy course (https://udemy.com/diversity-inclusion-building-a-grassroots-foundation) just on the topic! Use the code “PeopleGeeksAMA” for discount :slight_smile:

Best of luck!