International Women’s Day 2020

It’s not about approaching diversity and inclusion—it’s about practicing it.

By Laura Baldwin
March 8, 2020
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I was recently asked, “How do you think businesses should approach diversity and inclusion?” The question really forced me to think. I’ve seen an increasing number of companies publish their yearly diversity statistics and celebrate their progress. In truth, I’ve taken a similar approach in an annual post for O’Reilly employees. Every year. Like clockwork.

But I’ve come to realize that it’s not about approaching diversity and inclusion—it’s about practicing it. When we approach something we think of it as a one-time problem we need to fix or some singular thing we need to achieve. Something that can go neatly into a report or a blog post. But when we put our vision for diversity and inclusion into practice continuously over time, we open up powerful components that can help drive a successful Next:Economy business. 

Not long ago O’Reilly was trying to understand why we were struggling to add diversity within our online training hosts. So we brought in an outside firm. They took one look at our “work with us” video used to recruit new trainers, and found it layered with white men talking about how great it was to work with O’Reilly. How we didn’t realize it ourselves before that moment, I don’t know. I mean, what kind of impression did that make on the diverse trainers who saw it? Certainly not a welcoming one. But the simple change of producing a new and more inclusive video helped everyone who saw it understand that there was a place for them within O’Reilly. Almost immediately our talent pool grew, and our events have since expanded exponentially as we’ve added new topic areas and fresh perspectives. And it came from a place of genuine integrity as O’Reilly’s entire editorial program is run under the direction of two strong and intelligent women: Rachel Roumeliotis and Mary Treseler. 

It was like a light coming on. We suddenly saw that as an organization we needed to practice diversity and inclusion continuously versus addressing it with a one-time approach. It needed to permeate everything. But how to do it? How do you make such a shift in the culture of your business? The key is getting outside of yourself and consciously looking for the hidden biases that are stopping you from advancing your workforce—in every aspect of your business. To accomplish that, every person in every division of your organization needs to understand that this practice is an expectation in everything they attempt. 

The best example of O’Reilly practicing diversity happens within our event business. We offer hundreds of all-access diversity scholarships to O’Reilly tech conferences each year. Which is really an investment that helps ensure strength of diversity in technology today and into the future. We also hold ourselves accountable for including a diverse population of speakers and attendees, which helps to democratize thought leadership. Everyone on our event team has built diversity and inclusion into their decision making. It is not an after-the-fact exercise, but instead a discipline practiced every day in every decision. 

Of course there‘s always room for improvement, and we still have a way to go. We’re not the only company working to bring inclusivity and diversity to our business, and the competition for candidates is intense. So at O’Reilly, we work hard to build a great culture—one that makes us a terrific place for everyone to work. Where we live by a set of ethical operating principles, constantly seeking to promote from within, and growing talent by providing opportunity regardless of gender, race, religion, age, orientation, or disability. By practicing diversity and inclusion. Every day.

There are countless examples of women leaders at O’Reilly. From executives and engineers, to product and content managers, and throughout sales, marketing, operations, finance, and customer success. On this #IWD2020 I don’t want to simply publish stats. I want to continuously practice the celebration of their remarkable work and accomplishments every day in service of our mission and our customers.

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