When we formed Arcweb’s inaugural DEI Committee in January 2021, one of our broad goals was to research new DEI learning options for the company. We had previously used an online platform that gave staff a fairly standard DEI training experience—the sort of training you would expect a company to offer mainly because they had to do it.
We knew our hearts were more in it than that. We didn’t have to provide DEI training for staff—we wanted to. It’s just one piece of how we would continue to grow as a more inclusive organization.
We went to work in early 2021 looking into alternatives to traditional DEI learning. We weighed the pros and cons of having a consultant do an in-person workshop or purchasing a subscription to an online service. We ultimately ended up subscribing to Paradigm Reach, an online platform that focuses on sustained learning rather than “one-and-done” mandatory education. We selected Paradigm Reach for the following reasons:
- It’s women-owned and BIPOC-led. (Diverse procurement is also a long-term goal of ours.)
- Paradigm Reach’s platform promotes sustained learning throughout the year, rather than spending a similar amount on a one-day workshop. They provide suggested learning journeys and have plenty of content for us to work with, as well as frequent updates.
- We wanted modern, progressive topics, with enough variety so that staff starting from all different levels of education and familiarity would get something from it.
- Paradigm Reach has an interactive component to it. In addition to online courses, we use the discussion guides that go along with the course to facilitate collaboration afterwards. They also have quarterly live workshops that are included with an annual subscription.
- There are a multitude of educational resources available on-demand that we can share with staff. This was important to us because our DEI committee is volunteer-run and are not expected to be experts. We seek out content curated by those who are experts in the DEI world to share with staff.
Managing Unconscious Bias Course
We launched Paradigm Reach for all staff in September 2021 with our first group course, “Inclusion at Work: Managing Unconscious Bias.” After some research on the matter, we decided to make this course optional. First and foremost we found that there was no cut-and-dry answer to whether optional or mandatory DEI learning was more beneficial, and it depends on the company’s unique needs. We also found some research that said staff could respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance. We had to trust that we knew our employees had already been well-engaged in anti-racism conversations amongst each other, and that most would do the course even if it wasn’t mandatory—but we also accepted that we may just have to try it out and change course in the future, if needed.
We assigned the online course to everyone (as optional) and gave staff three weeks to complete it. Then, the DEI committee facilitated a group discussion on unconscious bias using a guide provided by Paradigm Reach. We opted to stay together as one group because we aren’t a particularly large company, but this also could have been done in breakout groups. Some of the prompts included:
- What lessons stuck out to you as particularly relevant to your work?
- What are areas of your work where you evaluate other people, and what strategies might you use to mitigate bias in those evaluations?
- What types of day-to-day interactions are most relevant to you, and what strategies might you use to mitigate bias in those interactions?
We ended up having 75% of staff complete the entire online course, and nearly everyone at least listen in on the group discussion afterwards. Just over half of all employees chimed in during the group session.
This ended up being more productive and emotional than any of us could have anticipated. We talked openly about the inherent lack of diversity at our company and many others like it, and the effects of that on underrepresented groups. We explored the inner workings of our minds using scientific evidence from the online course that explained why we make quick judgments about others and talked about how we can work to mitigate bias.
After the group discussion concluded, the DEI Committee sent out a short survey via Culture Amp to gather feedback on both the course and the discussion. We wanted this feedback in order to structure our next DEI learning topic accordingly, and to see if we had made a good purchasing decision or should re-evaluate next year. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we received a few suggestions that we will incorporate next time, like letting people submit anonymous comments for the group discussion and sending out the survey immediately after the meeting concludes so it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. We also received some open-ended responses about what topics staff would like to see next. We currently plan to do our next group course in March on Practicing Allyship.
In between these larger online courses, we have been sharing resources from Paradigm Reach and various other sources with staff in a monthly newsletter and a dedicated Slack channel. Our DEI learning objectives will continue to evolve, but it’s already clear that our current process of finding a new vendor with specific criteria, facilitating DEI learning, and gathering feedback has been a great way for us all to keep growing and encourage staff input in the process.
Arcweb’s DEI Pledge
As our DEI Steering Committee navigates its first few phases, we plan to learn, grow, and be a consistent voice both within our community and beyond. We hope other tech organizations, large and small alike, have the courage to institute bold DEI initiatives and share their experiences in their communities as well.
We believe that results are the real proof of success, and Arcweb is striving for purposeful action and endless improvement. Stay tuned for more updates and insights from our committee.