A Time for Reflection and Action: Snowflake’s New Diversity Council is Born
Jun 30, 2020 | 4 Min Read
Author: Eve Besant
The past several months have tested the human spirit.
With so much heartbreaking national and global news and its reminder of how deep racism still runs, there’s been a lot of soul searching among companies and individuals. I have been thinking a lot about what I care about, what kind of company I want to be a part of, and what my role is in shaping positive change. Engaging work is important but, by itself, not enough—I joined Snowflake for its special culture and strong core values above all else.
Our founders were very thoughtful and deliberate in creating and communicating our core tenets to every single job candidate and employee from day one. I still remember my interview two years ago. One entire interview segment was a discussion about Snowflake’s values and their important role in helping us achieve great things together.
One of the values that resonated most with me back then, and that I view as the cornerstone to our success in the future, is our value about “embracing each other’s differences.”
Embrace Each Other’s Differences
Accept and appreciate everyone from every walk of life. Be conscious and mindful that others may have a different experience from your own. Use our differences to strengthen who we are.
If we’re a more diverse and inclusive company, we’ll be a more successful company—for our employees and our customers. Snowflake has always been committed to fostering this core value, but we have undergone several years of exponential growth and, with that growth, a tremendous amount of change. We have grown from being 50 people on one floor of an office to nearly 2,000 employees around the world. We were due to really self-examine as an organization: Has our value of “embrace each other’s differences” persisted?
People come to Snowflake for a range of reasons; that’s part of what makes it awesome. Some were enthralled by the technology, others loved the opportunity to build, and others followed a leader who inspired them. But as our extended family has grown, it has also taken more effort to maintain our “embrace each other’s differences” value and left us asking if we’ve done enough. Further, we’ve also found ourselves asking if there’s more we could and should be doing to help make Snowflake even more diverse and inclusive.
Overwhelmingly, Snowflake employees have said “we want more.” We need and want the organization to be more active and intentional about promoting our values around diversity and inclusion throughout our business. But who is “the organization”?
The “organization” conveys a vague sense that “someone” needs to do “something” or “the organization” needs to do more, but organizations can’t take action; only people can take action. As the collective owners of Snowflake and the Snowflake culture, we ALL are “someone” who has to act.
The Diversity Council Is Born
Snowflake’s CEO and Executive Leadership Team understand that true change happens from within. Structural change requires much more than an executive mandate; it needs to be cultural across the entire organization. With this belief and in response to employee feedback, they sponsored the creation of Snowflake’s first Diversity Council.
The Council is responsible for examining Snowflake’s diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and steering our progress through innovative new ideas from across the entire organization. This is an issue I am strongly passionate about, so I was delighted and honored when they asked me to help turn the Council from concept to action and impact. We launched the week of June 10.
The Council has fourteen representatives spanning every functional area with an eye towards diverse representation across a range of demographics. We are 50% female, 50% persons of color, 21% LGBTQ, 7% persons with disabilities, and four generations. We were also very conscious not to assemble merely an impactful band of “others” and included a number of strong allies, as well. While the official Council representatives are limited to fourteen, the outpouring of enthusiasm, support, thoughtful ideas, and willing hands from across the entire community has been overwhelming. I received over 300 responses to the initial email I sent out sharing the launch of the Council, all expressing support and ideas.
The sponsorship from the top brings credibility, validity, and accountability. The community-led efforts bring passion, authenticity, and an ear to the organizational “streets” with the ability to get things done—fast.
Snowflake Has Another Important Value: “Get It Done”
If there is one thing I know to be certain about Snowflake, it is that we are a company of action. The Council has had its first two meetings and has been heavily oriented around tangible action and demonstrable results. We are equally as committed to managing and measuring our forward progress around diversity and inclusion as we are for every business imperative. And because we are a data company, the approach of gaining insights from the data, setting targets, measuring results, and iterating is in our DNA.
We have quickly narrowed in on how we can take action to impact positive change.
At the outset, our focus is oriented around three core strategies:
- Target awareness and skill development within our employee community.
- Enhance diversity and inclusion within our employee community.
- Build external partnerships and invest in future development and growth.
Each of these areas is deep and rich, with a large subset of related ideas and initiatives we are prioritizing. In these early days of our Council, we are working to set the balance between casting a wide net of ideas and creating focus for near-term action. Our initial efforts have been focused on defining a charter, determining the indicators of success, and defining paths of engagement with the broader community. We have also identified deserving organizations to channel employee donations and the personal matching funds committed by our Executive Leadership Team. Our conversations have been robust and council members are 100% engaged. It’s exciting progress in just the first couple of weeks, and I look forward to sharing more about our initiatives and their impact soon.
Living Our Values Every Day
Snowflake is not our CEO’s company or HR’s company or our investors’ company. Snowflake and its culture belong to each of us: We “own it.” To me, this is the most rewarding aspect of working here and the efforts we are embarking on through the Diversity Council. We are laying foundational groundwork that will ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion for right now and for the future of the company. This is indeed a marathon, but I am very encouraged by our early progress.
More to come!