Diversity and inclusion(D&I).
We’ve all heard some iteration of the phrase before. And we’ve all wondered what that actually means.
In theory, it’s something everyone supports, but what does it mean for a company to actually be diverse and inclusive?
If you ask any HR professional or corporate executive, they’re quick to say they have no problem embracing D&I initiatives. But policies are only phase one.
Diversity does not equate to inclusivity.
The next (crucial) step is creating a work culture where people of all backgrounds feel included and supported, and safe.
While we don’t have all of the answers at ZoomInfo, we do have a Global Inclusion and Diversity Initiative, commonly known as GIDI. With over 300 employees participating, we wanted to share how GIDI came to be, and how it can serve as a model for other companies in their diversity and even more importantly, inclusion efforts.
What Is GIDI, And How Did It Get Started?
GIDI stands for Global Inclusion and Diversity Initiative, and comprises five Employee Resource Groups (ERGs):
- Zoom In Color
- Women’s Initiative Network
- ZoomInfo Pride
- ZoomInfo Military and Families
- Zoom Around The World
Each group is open to anyone to join, meets regularly to discuss and plan events, and ultimately serve as support groups for employees.
If you couldn’t already tell, GIDI is a pretty special thing to me, and an integral part of ZoomInfo’s culture. Yet what makes it truly special is its origin story.
Basically, it started with a few employees and a meeting.
GIDI Trailblazer Cassie Harris chatted to me about what it was like at the beginning of GIDI’s formation.
“We had at the time someone who was really spearheading [the group], like trying to get everyone involved and get this done,” explains Harris.
“And when we met the first time we started to draft what’s now become our charter to be able to say, ‘This is what we’re about. And this is why we’re here. And this is what we want to do for the business and for ourselves, honestly, like for us, as people, as individuals.’”
The group was genuinely started by employees who shared a common idea, and thought it would provide representation, as well as a place to feel supported in an industry that is, in reality, still working on diversity itself.
While more companies are working toward prioritizing diversity, it’s no secret the workforce demographics within the tech industry have traditionally leaned heavily toward white males.
This history meant many tech companies had to create workplaces where underrepresented groups ARE represented.
“I think with any group, they want to be seen, they want to be heard and they want to be understood,” explains Trailblazer of Zoom In Color Cam Johnson.
Getting HR Buy-In
You can have a passionate workforce, but without the support of leadership, it’s difficult to make any waves in overall company culture.
Luckily, when it comes to things like diversity and inclusion, and making the workplace safer and more inclusive for everyone, it’s easy to make a compelling argument.
“We had pretty much HR buy-in immediately. Once we were like, “Hey, this would be a cool thing.” They were like, “Absolutely, you guys want to do this? This sounds great. How can we help?,” Trailblazer Cassie Harris explains.
“And so, it became super easy for us to be able to go through and kind of pitch that idea after getting HR buy-in, which was literally a conversation, that’s all it took was one conversation. We then drafted up our outline from that meeting and we sent it to [the CEO]. We were like, “Hey, what do you think about this? Because we’re going to do it.”
The truth is, whether an established department of a company or not, D&I is an important topic that employees will discuss naturally.
With GIDI, the discourse around social issues were happening organically, in the kitchen at lunch, during coffee breaks, in meetings.
The logical next step was to form real groups where people could openly discuss the things they were already talking about, to leadership.
The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion
There are a host of statistics out there that essentially say the same thing: diversity in your company is beneficial to your bottom line. Take these for example:
- Companies that report above average diversity on management teams report innovation revenue that was 19% higher than companies with below average diversity in leadership.
- 67% of respondents to a Glassdoor survey reported saying that workforce diversity is important to them when considering employers and job offers.
Yet GIDI and other D&I groups aren’t formed because it’s good for profit. Rather, they’re formed because it’s beneficial to the people that make up each business. The rest of the perks (such as reduced employee turnover and increased productivity), are simply the cherry on top.
GIDI was extremely impactful and beneficial to ZoomInfo employees, like Trailblazer Josh Compton. “I thought if there was a way for me to find my footing and just help others out and help them out with stuff that I figured out while working here and just being your authentic self while you’re at work, I thought it was a good idea,” says Compton.
Another benefit of having groups likeGIDI at your company is that it attracts people who want to work in a place where they can actually excel and succeed.
Trailblazer and member of Zoom In Color, Cam Johnson, ZoomInfo’s employee resource group for Black professionals, reflects on why GIDI and D&I are important to him.
“One of the new people on my team, when we were going through the interview process said it’s refreshing to see a sales leader who looks like me, and I want to be in your shoes someday,” explains Johnson.
“And the reason I’m going with ZoomInfo and I want to work with you is not only because you have a great product, it’s not only because you’re about to IPO, it’s because I see someone that looks like me being successful. And I haven’t seen that at any of the four tech companies I worked for.”
Why We Have GIDI, And Why You Should, Too
GIDI happened organically, and entirely through the efforts of employees who had an idea and decided to make it happen.
While this isn’t the case for all companies, we hope it can provide a framework for others.
We know the positive impact and have seen it first hand. Josh Compton reflected on what it felt like to have their first GIDI event.
“We had our first ever Diversity Day last June. That was the first big goal, to officially launch GIDI and all the ERGs. So, we had the launch of it last June, and we had a really cool event where we had set up tables outside so the employees could actually come outside,” explains Compton.
“And then, within the next two months, the previous head of GIDI had traveled to the other two offices, so Waltham, Bethesda, and Philly, and hosted their own Diversity Days, a smaller event where she had ordered cupcakes and stuff like that, and those were given out and shown to just everyone. And then just from there, GIDI just took off.”
GIDI went from just an idea, to a group at ZoomInfo that now has over 300 hundred employees actively involved.
If you get nothing else out of this origin story, walk away from it knowing that all it takes is a passion for inclusivity, and a willingness to learn , no matter what.