Diversity & Inclusion Deep Dive with Culture Amp’s Head of D&I, Steven Huang

The tenets of nurturing workplace inclusivity include creating an environment where all are encouraged to listen, learn, be open-minded, and lead with a genuine curiosity. Here at Greenhouse we talk a lot about helping companies kickoff diversity and inclusion initiatives, and want to elevate voices throughout the Talent and business worlds that are working toward recognizing and mitigating bias at every turn to create a better employee experience. Because at the end of the day, isn’t our ultimate goal to make the world a better place?

I had the privilege to catch up with the head of D&I at our customer Culture Amp. Steven Huang lives and breathes diversity and inclusion, and after hearing him walk a riveted room of New York-based Talent professionals through their diversity training workshop, I understood why.

In this interview, Steven shares how he found himself in this role, why the Head of D&I is only a one-year stint at Culture Amp, and offers some advice to everyone who is embarking on creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Greenhouse : You are the very first Head of D&I at Culture Amp, that’s incredible! What’s the story behind how you got here?

Steven Huang: This is a question I get asked the most! In a nutshell, I got into the Head of D&I role because a series of people decided to take a chance on me.

Ten years ago, I started my career as an actuary doing life insurance calculations; but I didn’t find the work to be particularly meaningful on a personal level. Even though I didn’t know anybody at Facebook and didn’t have any HR experience, they took a chance and let me be their first HR analyst. Through analyzing survey data and building out our HR metrics capabilities, I discovered something: a company culture isn’t equally distributed - people experience it differently. Specifically, I highlighted that men were scoring higher on our engagement metrics.

In seeking to understand why that might be the case at Facebook, I discovered a wealth of research on implicit bias, social identity threat, and belonging; and I soon discovered that it wasn’t something uniquely wrong at Facebook - this exists everywhere! My eyes had been opened, and I couldn’t look away.

I joined Culture Amp as an early employee and within the first month, Bronwen Clune took a chance on me: she gave me the opportunity to work with Paradigm and build the Inclusion Survey. As we tested and iterated the Inclusion Survey, we found it was the best tool to measure intersectionality, opening up new pathways for me to learn about diversity and inclusion. All of sudden, experts at Box, Stripe, Reddit, Square, and other companies across the world started taking the Inclusion Survey. As I helped them digest and action their results, I honed my own narrative as a D&I expert. When it was time to form the Head of D&I position at Culture Amp, I relished in the chance to execute my own vision.

There isn’t a straightforward way into the Head of D&I role; but look for people that are willing to take a chance on you.

GH: I’ve heard (from you) that the Head of D&I at Culture Amp is a rotational role. How did your team come to the decision to make this a one-year role and why?

SH: When I was speaking to Heads of D&I about taking on this role, they each mentioned how draining the role can be. It’s an impossibly large endeavor: building a diversity and inclusion function internally, serving as the face of D&I externally, and grappling with all of this in our current polarized climate.

I believe that diversity and inclusion can be led by one person, but it’s owned by everyone. By making the Head of Diversity and Inclusion an annual rotation I’ve sent a strong signal to my company: “I am leading the efforts around diversity and inclusion, but we are all owners.”  

By rotating, each Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Culture Amp will bring their diverse perspectives to the role. Everybody has the ability and opportunity to lead the diversity function at Culture Amp; whether you’re a salesperson or an engineer, whether you’re in all of the marginalized groups or none.

As sad as it will be to leave this role at the end of the year, I will be 10x more excited for the next person to take on this challenge. I’ve learned more than I have in any other time in my life and I can’t wait to amplify another person’s voice.

GH: If you could tell every single person in the world one thing about diversity & inclusion in the workplace, what would it be?

SH: Figure out, for yourself, why you care about diversity and inclusion. Everybody can have a different reason and I think that’s ok. Our reasons are deeply personal. I’ve met some leaders that care because it leads to better business decisions and financial performance. I think that reasoning is a little flawed, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. For me, it’s because a diverse and inclusive world is the only sort of world that I want to live in. It’s the future I want to create for my family and friends.

When you really sit down and have a good think, you’ll realize that there are so many reasons why you care about diversity and inclusion. Keep thinking about it. Take that energy, harness it, and channel it! Most of us have some privilege in our lives, too - think about how you can use your privilege to help others.

GH: This last one is a fun one. What was your dream job when you were 10 years old?

SH: Honestly… I have no idea! One of my fondest memories at that age was playing chess with my Grandpa, but I don’t think “professional chess player” ever crossed my mind. I had a big imagination though, so I probably wanted to be an inventor. I went on to study entrepreneurship in college, so building something new and disruptive has probably been in my head since the early days!

Many Talent professionals get into the field after bouts in other industries - from finance to marketing. Diversity and inclusion roles are cropping up in every industry and city, and rest assured this is no trend. As more businesses elevate the importance of the people behind their products and services, the greater the opportunity for Talent pros and passionate individuals to explore new tactics and keep the conversation going in the world of D&I.

Want to learn more? Download our free eBook from Greenhouse and Lyft to discover additional diversity recruiting strategies.

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Dinah Alobeid is Director of Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has 10 years of communications experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn

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Diversity & Inclusion