Slack is borrowing a rule from NFL to increase the diversity of its staff

Slack is borrowing a rule from NFL to increase the diversity of its staff
Credit: Debby Wong /

Diversity is a tricky thing to get right, demonstrated well this week when a man sacked from Yahoo in 2014 filed a lawsuit against his former employer for gender discrimination.

This, in a company where 76 percent of leadership roles were done by men in January 2015 and 62 percent of staff were male.

Slack, meanwhile, has been beavering away since it released its first diversity report in September last year trying to work out how it can do better.

We are trying to change the culture that can make Silicon Valley feel like an unwelcome place for many people. Part of transforming that culture includes accountability and transparency.

Now its announced that it’s going to implement NFL’s Rooney Rule, named after Dan Rooney, chair of the Pittsburgh Steelers and head of a diversity committee that created the ruling.

Basically, Slack’s pledging to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring for senior-level roles, just as the NFL does for head coach and manager jobs.

It’s something Facebook and Pinterest are testing, hoping it will address underrepresentation of women, black people and other minorities in its growing workforce.

The company has added 200 people since it first pulled the data, now totalling 370 people working out of San Fran, Canada, Ireland and Australia, so things are generally on the up for everyone’s new favorite work platform.

Although it admit it’s seen a drop in the number of women managers, Slack’s black population is growing, even in technical roles, and its LGBTQ crowd has grown from 10 percent when it first did the survey to 13 percent today.

Responding to company feedback, it’s changed its methodology, including letting people identify as being from multiple ethnic groups, as opposed to having to pick ‘other.’

But the company also calls itself out, particularly on representation of people of color leading its tech teams.

We recognize that we still have a long way to go. For example, while there are women leaders in our engineering and technical organizations, there are still no leadership positions in engineering, product or design held by underrepresented minorities. This is a glaring omission for a company where 13 percent of the global engineering organization reports as underrepresented minorities.

That’s one reason why it says it’s introducing the Rooney Rule.

The company also admits it only has white dudes on its board. “When we begin to add outside directors, addressing this will be an important priority,” Slack said.


Diversity and inclusion: an update on our data [Slack via TechCrunch]

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