Industry: Technology
Headquarters: Santa Monica, CA
Employees: 5,300
Challenge: Reaching ambitious DEI goals within their company
Solution: A data-informed approach to tracking diversity data on a regular basis

Overview

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, is transparent about their work to prioritize DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion). Like many companies, Snap acknowledges in their Diversity Annual Report that there is more work to do to improve representation. Their forward-looking strategy is organized around three key pillars: inspiring empathy, redesigning systems, and driving accountability. Teams across Snap—including the Data Science and People Analytics team – are taking a data-informed approach to bolster representation and to stay accountable.

How are they acting on their DEI plan? By gathering data from employees and using it to assess their progress while protecting the privacy and trust of the employees they’re seeking to benefit. They are actively working to increase their DEI initiatives with the aim to create a company and a product that better reflects the profile of their diverse community of Snapchatters.

Challenges

Snap set very ambitious representation goals and acknowledged that the work required to get to a place of inclusive representation will take time, intention, and commitment.

Snap’s own data shows that from 2019-2020, despite setting big goals, representation numbers have stayed largely the same with underrepresented U.S racial groups in leadership roles only increasing from 13.1% to 13.6% and women’s representation increasing from 32.9% to just 33.1%.

Other areas saw a decrease in representation, notably the number of Asian employees in leadership roles, which decreased from 16.5% to 14.3%. The company flagged this as a weak point given overall Asian representation in the company was at 34.4% and then set a public goal to increase representation in leadership for women, Asian team members, and members from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

Over the last year, Snap made gains in certain priority areas such as nearly doubling the percentage of women in tech leadership roles and more than doubling their hiring of Black women overall.

“DEI is a code that many have been trying to crack for quite some time and have, unfortunately, not moved the needle much on over the last decade.”

— Kami Tillman, Head of Data Science and People Analytics at Snap

Still, Snap acknowledges they are not where they need to be in terms of diversity representation. Many organizations have tried, and failed, to improve their DEI numbers so Snap is not alone in this uncharted territory. To overcome these obstacles, Snap has had to learn quickly, adjust its approach as necessary, and methodically test processes to make gains. In addition, Snap wanted to make sure it was capturing an inclusive dataset from its team members and being thoughtful in how it handled the data.

Approach

In order to drive the change they seek, Snap’s approach is to weave DEI into everything they do. DEI is collective work which can’t be outsourced to just one person or just one team. They see DEI as everyone’s job, not just the job of the underrepresented groups.

Snap sees data as one of the most important tools to drive their DEI goals in the right direction. A big piece of their work is understanding the various levers that create more equitable processes, a more inclusive work environment, and a more equitable workforce. Visier enables Snap’s People team to access data on demand. Because they can see progress made on a monthly or quarterly basis, the team can compare progress and make adjustments as needed instead of waiting an entire year for a new report.

Using data tools, Snap can track the differences by quarter. They can drill down and see how hiring changed, how attrition changed, who got promoted, and who left the company. In addition to collecting the data and viewing trends, they are keen to analyze the changes they see. They call this the “thoughtfulness approach.” Understanding where the numbers go up or down is important, but it’s not enough. The thoughtfulness comes in when they take some time to look at where the movement and the change is happening and why.

The privacy challenge of gathering employee info (and from various geolocations)

“The thing that is of utmost importance to us is the privacy of our team members. We really want to make sure that folks feel comfortable sharing their information. And so when we do that and we ask them to put their trust in us, we want to make sure we’re also protecting them,” Kami said. Their solution was to work out comfortable, aggregated data thresholds with their employment legal team and privacy legal team to really make sure that her team is aggregating data in such a way that no one is able to identify any singular employees based on their demographic information. They then set those aggregated thresholds on the backend of the tools they use, including Visier, to make sure that folks who have access to this information can’t drill into it unless that minimum threshold of twenty people is met.

“There is a little bit of difficulty with collecting information in specific countries, and we have to be really careful about which questions we ask,” Kami said. “We report on gender globally, but we report on race/ethnicity only in the U.S. at this time. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve kind of slowly started to add on additional countries where we’re collecting that information, because we want to make sure that we get it right.” Their team partners with the DEI team and external cultural experts to understand what categories we should be considering in countries outside the U.S. That way they can ensure they’re being thoughtful when describing an “underrepresented” group, who’s actually underrepresented in that jurisdiction.Snap also includes information about LGBTQ+ status and first-generation college graduates in the Diversity Annual Report; previously these questions had only been asked in the U.S. This year, they are also sending out the survey to those in Canada and Australia. Currently a little more than half of their people are in the United States, though they’re hiring more rapidly so the demographics continue to change.

Applying a thoughtful approach to analytics

Snap learned that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to every area of the company. Each part of the organization faces different challenges and has a different way of getting where they need to be. Analyzing the data reinforced that they needed a flexible approach. The biggest lesson they learned was to feel empowered to switch their approach when something wasn’t working and to create models with as many inputs as possible and to be able to adjust them as necessary. For example, the engineering organization and the marketing organization are completely different entities requiring different approaches. While they need to look at the big picture, they also need to be agile in thoughtfully analyzing data coming from various organizations —for instance, maybe one department hires frequently so they’ll see a lot of variation in their reporting data, while another department may contain long-tenured employees whose personal information stays constant over a long period of time.

Accountability is valued at Snap. Being able to access immediate data showing even the smallest amount of progress helps. The overall goal of “improving DEI” can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. To keep the company motivated, Kami’s team creates bite-sized, achievable goals. Being able to show progress encourages people to keep working towards Snap’s vision.

Results

Snap’s People Team say that having access to the DEI data insights of the organization has certainly created more empathy. It has allowed them to show each business leader what the makeup of their team is and where there may have been gaps in the past. And it has also helped them to drive accountability mechanisms to create a more inclusive and diverse organization.

Access to information about its people has helped Snap’s leaders take a data-driven and human-guided approach to make changes for the better. This transparency has highlighted the experience of team members and allowed business leaders to be more thoughtful in the strategies and messaging they present in their organization. Data shows where the roadblocks are, where Snap is stumbling, and where it’s thriving. Collecting and listening to this data enables Snap to track progress over time and see which actions change the landscape in the organization.

Having access to DEI insights has created an actionable plan for the company. The metrics tell a story. They inform and allow the company to see where the gaps are, but also help them to strategize so they understand what they should be striving for, where they might find the talent they need, and how they can improve the experience of everyone who works there.