Markita Jack, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Iterable, joins William Tincup to talk about how remote work has impacted DEI initiatives on this episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast.
Iterable is a cross-channel platform that powers unified customer experiences and empowers marketers to create, optimize, and measure relevant interactions and experiences.
Markita is an expert at developing and building strategic HR partnerships and leading teams. This is a convo you won’t want to miss.
Listening Time: 35 minutes
Enjoy the podcast?
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast with William Tincup. Of course, comments are always welcome. Be sure to subscribe through your favorite platform.
Transformational DEIB leader focused building inclusive cultures focused on the employee experience. Human centric HR design building capabilities to drive tangible outcomes. Passionate about developing and building strategic HR partnerships and leading teams.Follow Follow
This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. And you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today, we have Markita on from Iterable. We’re going to be talking about how remote work has impacted DEI initiatives. Can’t wait to get into this, but I’ve been looking forward to this all week. So without any further ado, Markita, would you both introduce yourself and Iterable?
Yeah, so hi, my name is Markita Jack. I’m the head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Iterable Inc. Iterable is a cross-channel platform that powers unified customer experiences and empowers marketers to create, optimize, and measure relevant interactions and experiences that our customers love. Our organization was founded in 2013. Today, we sit at right around 501 employees with offices in San Francisco, Denver, New York, London, and also a really, really emerging and growing remote community of which I’m a part of.
That’s fantastic. So when we say impacted, so first of all, you’re in the thick of it, right? You’re on the front lines of DEI. And so you’ve got a lot of things that programs that you’ve seen worked, things that you probably have seen that haven’t worked. As it relates to remote work and the impact, what are some of the pros and cons that you’ve seen?
Yeah. It’s a great question. As we all know, the pandemic has created opportunities and challenges for everyone and also forced organizations to really look at things differently. Working remote used to be a luxury, if you will, almost a reward. But now, it’s an expectation for organizations to offer not necessarily… It could be remote, but some form of flexible work, right? And how we approach work.
So I would say is, the events of the past 18 months and beyond have really created an opportunity for organizations to look at things differently. I think we’ve been forced to be more creative about how work is done, what work looks like and really the continuum, if you will, or the balance between who we are professionally in our organizations and who we are personally.
So some of the challenges I think that it’s presented is I do believe that it is really heightened the awareness or shown a light on, if you will, the accessibility of Internet and technology, right?
So, one would assume that everyone has access to the Internet and technology. And that is an assumption.
And in DEI, that is a privilege. And so you have people, the majority, sitting from a place of privilege, assuming everyone has technological capacity within their homes. And so for some, that was a barrier to being able to go remote. And so the companies were prepared to allow them to go, but many people did not have Internet or access to Internet or the equipment needed. One of the opportunities, I think, is really making sure that there’s accessibility for everyone, and so that reflects on the equity of it all.
And so I might have the luxury to have an office in my home where I can set up and be very focused while someone else may not have that luxury, they may have to set up in a kitchen or a common space, which really does not allow them to focus. Those are some of the challenges I’ve seen with being remote, but then there’s an amazing opportunity to expand our talent pool, where organizations look for talent, the opportunity for more diverse representation, not only in terms of the physical things like gender and race but also geography.
As you can imagine, the culture on the West Coast and San Francisco is probably quite different than where I am in the south, right? And so you have a convergence of geographies, which to me create an awesome way to look at things in new perspective.
And also, I love the way that it now creates more of an opportunity for people that may have physical disabilities that may prohibit them from going into an office or create more challenges. We now are able to open another door for people that are differently able to really tap into those talents and allow them to really work from wherever they are. So I think there are amazing opportunities that are on the horizon. I think that’s just a tip of the iceberg, but I think that there will be amazing opportunities that come from this.
You brought up privilege, and first of all, I love that you brought up privilege. How do you demystify and explain privilege to people that maybe can’t see it or maybe not as aware of it as they should be. How do you kind of… in a positive way?
How do you bring them into that world?
Yeah. And so part of it is really, when you think about there’s this underlying negative connotation that comes with privilege. So people automatically feel defensive if you use the term that you might have privilege.
So I think one way to demystify that is really to engage in deep conversation to establish some type of common ground to take away the punitive nature of it or letting people know that there’s really no indictment because, think about it, we all… Don’t we work so that if we have children that they have access to more than we did?
I think there are some terms that have become more polarizing and people are kind of afraid to either acknowledge that it exists or afraid to confront it, but we have to discuss those things. And so I think once you can open the door to understanding that privilege, it is what it is, right?
But how do we expand it in a way so that more people have privilege or access? I think one way you demystify it is really creating a sense of… We don’t have to… It doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. We can acknowledge that we have privilege.
And also giving people perspective because if we think about it, most people at some level with some lens have some type of privilege. They may just not really think about it or understand it. And so, I think unpacking it with people is one of the ways you can broaden the conversation, you can demystify it, and then also allow people to feel the way they feel and express it, right?
So if they feel a certain way about terminology, allow them the opportunity, the grace, and the space to really share either like, “That term really makes me uncomfortable” or “I think privilege appears to be entitled, and I shouldn’t feel that it’s a bad thing to have privilege.” Allow a person to express because you can’t change how people feel. You should allow them the space and grace to feel the way that they need to feel. That opens a door for deepened conversation and better understanding.
It’s funny because what comes back at as you speak is two kind of pillars of vulnerability and trust, right? You’ve got to allow yourself to be vulnerable. On both sides of this, whether or not you have privilege or whether or not you don’t, you’ve got to be vulnerable enough to then be able to communicate.
And you got to trust the person that you’re talking to or group of people that you’re talking to, that it’s not going to blow back on you in some way, so be negative in some way.
Yeah. I think that’s so important and really, one thing I love and that’s amazing to me about Iterable, is that our core value is really align with vulnerability in creating psychologically safe spaces. We have four core values, growth mindset, balance humility, and trust.
And so, we’re fortunate that we create the foundation for our iterators to feel psychologically safe, to feel that they can be vulnerable. So yeah, it’s very important. So what do employees and candidates want to know right now about remote on one side and DEI on another? What do they want to know? What are they asking you? Again, you’re here on the front of this so what are the barrage of questions that you get or either around or remote or DEI or both?
Yeah. So really, around remote you, it is creating equitable space when people aren’t necessarily in the room. So the one thing that COVID did for lots of people, it put more people in a remote situation. So really thinking about, I think as organizations, we had a chance to reflect on how water cooler conversations advance work, what happened really outside of the formal meeting environments work towards progress.
And then, as we think about remote, people are really concerned but still making sure that they have a voice and a seat at the table, that they can perform and be promoted and have organizational growth for their careers. Really, what does that look like? Also, our leaders are leaning in like, how do I create inclusive teams when remote? How do I make sure that everyone’s voice is heard? That everyone re is represented? What tools and resources?
At Iterable, one thing that we’re doing is creating a toolkit for leaders to help them to ensure that they’re inclusive with all types of people on their teams. If we are having water cooler conversations, that should be moved to a formal meeting to make sure that everyone on the team has a voice. You have to be cognizant of people that aren’t speaking up in meetings.
So those are the things that people primarily are really concerned about, about making sure that even though they may be remote, that they have the same ability to contribute and be effective as those people that might be in person or choose to be in person. And that you are also not penalized for choosing one mode of work over the other, right?
And so that there is equity and not only opportunity, but in compensation, as you are well aware, it is public information that we’ve moved to a geoneutral compensation ban. Just to make sure that people are paid for their experience in the work that they bring and so that’s also important. And then, when it comes to DEI, what we are hearing a lot-
Let me ask you a quick… I’m sorry-
Oh, sure, sure.
… for interrupting. When you made that decision, first of all, I applaud that decision, I agree with that decision, and I’m sure that there was probably some reluctance somewhere, maybe in the compensation department. But how did y’all make that decision?
The one thing I will tell you is Iterable is highly collaborative. It’s a highly collaborative environment. No decision is made in a silo. We make sure that we bring all the appropriate people to the table to represent the respective areas, whether it’s compensation, whether it’s finance, whether it’s people operations, and also the executive team, and really thinking about the benefits and the opportunities of it, and really assessing long term what aligns with our global strategy. One thing about it is making sure people are paid more based on experience and not penalized for where they sit in the company or-
Or where they live.
… it’s not in the geography. Yeah.
Yeah. I think that’s so important. I’m so glad that you hit on that because it deals with equity, right?
So if John was… Two salespeople, if John was living in New York City and Cathy was living in Topeka, John’s getting paid more, but they’re doing the exact same job. We’ve got at least a hundred years of inequity so we have to deal with it. When it comes to pay, we don’t need to create more. So I really applaud, I absolutely applaud what y’all have done. And I interrupted what you were talking about, so I apologize.
No, no, it’s okay. No, please. I think that’s so meaningful because that’s one less thing in terms of parity and gender pay and the pay gaps and equity. It’s the path toward the right direction. And we all know the events of the last 18 months have put women behind several, several years. And the last thing we need to do is go backwards in that space, but creating more parody there, so thank you for the deep dive on that question.
But where I was going with the DEI and kind of what’s on top of mind in terms of DEI, it’s really correlated very closely to that previous conversation. It’s really about making sure that people… What are the better opportunities for diversity? I talked about people that are differently able now. As well, so how do we make these spaces equitable and inclusive?
So when you’re in a Zoom call, “Wow, how am I to make sure I’m inclusive?” So really thinking about things differently and making sure people have a sense of belonging and level of comfort with technology so that they can feel that they can actively contribute. It’s even thinking about how we collaborate in this virtual space, learning new collaboration tools in terms of like, “I’m learning new things, right?”
So there’s diversity of experience with things like Google Docs and Teams and Zoom. I find myself in a room with people probably that have more technical expertise than I do, and I lean on them. So I think in this space, looking for ways to create equity in this new remote workspace, whether it’s equity in compensation, equity in access, equity in programming and benefits because as you can think about it, well-being, that benefit and how employees feel and how they experience life has really taken a front seat, not only in the past year, but as we think about moving into remote capabilities.
So how do we incorporate well-being when you’re on a Zoom call like back to back to back? That’s really your only mode of communication. So by nature, you’ll have more Zoom calls, but how do you make sure you’re intentional about scheduling time for lunch or scheduling a break to walk around the block.
And helping people understand flexibility means that I might work two hours in the morning and take a break to do some other things, but then come back that evening to finish. And as long as the work is getting done and we’re able to perform and contribute in meaningful ways, that should be okay.
Right. And again, it’s interesting because you do see some of the articles that are out there around how hybrid is going to create some inequity of those that go to the office and those that don’t. I’m not sure how that’ll play out. And again, we’re still on a pandemic, so a lot of that is in front of us.
I did have a question around like I look at diversity inclusion, belonging, equity, equality, all is a journey. One company’s journey is not another company’s journey. Everyone’s doing things a little bit differently. Some of it is the same, but some of it they’re on their own journey trying to get to a place. For you, where do DEI initiatives come from? What’s the genesis of where they sprout up from?
Oh my, that is a really, really good question. I think they sprout up as the organization unfolds and blossoms and the overall strategy. I think it comes from when you’re assessing the business need, just like you assess any other business need.
When you think about what you need from a financial perspective in terms of resources or what you need from a technological perspective, I believe that there has to be this intentionality at the onset of the organization, ensuring that DEI has a place within the strategy and built into the fabric of the organization. It’s amazing when it blossoms up, but I think that there should be huge intentionality around embedding it and integrating into the organization if you can as soon as possible. So I think it has a place with every other strategic pillar within the organization.
It’s interesting. I absolutely agree. And I think when you’re, let’s say, a startup or you’re new, you can start with a blank sheet. You can build it in and bake it in from the very beginning. It’s maybe a bit harder for companies that have been around for a hundred years and having to undo or unpack behaviorally or structurally, or whatever, some of those things that are there.
But again, I absolutely agree. It’s just as important as finance. It’s just as important as marketing. It’s just as important like it’s woven into all those things. But if it’s truly… You’ve used the word intentionality a few times, which I love. Again, if it’s truly not just lip service and it truly is something that you care about, then there’s an intentionality to it, then it’s strategic at that point.
Let me ask you a question about how do you connect remote employees to the DEI initiatives that you have? You have structurally, there’s tactically or you’ve been strategy wise, but how do you connect them to those things?
For me, it’s about really making sure that remote employees are seen as another population of employee, right? So we have a remote employee affinity group, and so just like any other underrepresented minority, you have to kind of look at it.
Diversity has so many lenses and work location and work mode is one. So the way we’re able to do that is to treat that population as such, so they have an affinity group, so they get to meet with the other affinity group leaders to talk about DEI strategy, to help inform it to advance advocate and celebrate diversity.
And so I think it’s really looking at the remote population, very similar to the way we do with other diverse populations. We talk about underrepresented minorities, we have an affinity group for women at Iterable. And so I think it’s really integrating them into the strategy and not having them thought of as an afterthought, but really a forethought.
So I think that’s something that as human resources professionals we’re going to have to do going forward because more and more they’re becoming prevalent. And so giving them a voice and a seat at the table as we do this work is also critical.
When you explained that you’re talking about SIGs and ERGs, and basically creating a group for remote so that they can then, just as any group would, express kind of the pros and cons and this, what they need. So it brings me to how you listen. So your finger on the pulse of all employees, but obviously we’re talking about remote employees here. How do you keep a finger on the pulse of what you don’t know? Because again, you’re like just everybody else and myself. You’re learning about what you don’t know as you’re going through this and as it relates to remote, how do you get feedback on things that you need to then bolster and initiatives that you need to add to the list, et cetera?
Yeah. So one thing I just absolutely love about my organization is there are so many modes of communication and ways that people can plug in, and they are encouraged to give their feedback. One, we have a two engagement surveys a year just to really assess how our iterators are feeling about a multitude of things, but also there is a DEI index or inclusion index that we use as a part of it to get feedback and get insights.
Also, we have town halls where we get together, and we allow people to speak up and we want them to speak up. And we celebrate people that ask questions and speak up and express how they’re feeling. Obviously, during our performance management process, we encourage people to speak up.
Many of us, as leaders, we attend AG events, AG meetings because here’s a thing, people have to trust and feel like they have a relationship with you before they will just start to open up and speak up, so you want to make sure people feel psychologically safe. And the more you can support a psychologically safe environment, the more willing they are to speak up and share things and insights with you that you might not have otherwise had.
So really, it’s about creating a very effective communication system and partnerships. Senior leaders cannot sit at the top of the house in ivory tower and send down [inaudible 00:23:44], but we have to be amongst, in the midst, in collaboration with, as a part of. So I think that’s really, really important to really advance communication in this space. And I’m excited to say that we do a lot of that.
I love that. Again, feedback is so important, but it isn’t just feedback for feedback’s sake. And also, you touched on, it’s safe. Again, you can say what you need to say, you have a place, you have a voice. We’re listening. We might not be able to A, do something about it, but at least we’re trying and at least we’re going to give you a safe spot to have an opinion, which I think is really important to start with.
And then, it obviously carries over into action, which is one of the things I wanted to ask you about is how do you keep people up to date? I’ve seen folks that do annual reports on DEI and quarterly reports and different types of reporting mechanisms, et cetera.
And again, there’s no way to have it all figured out and there’s no way to be successful at everything at the exact same time, so stated and covered. But how do you communicate back to both your executives, the rest of the executives and your team and the employee population in general, and kind of the status where you’re at?
Yeah. One thing is about setting realistic expectations. To your point, there is no silver bullet that you do this one thing and it’s all fixed, right? It’s a journey. So to me, it’s really important that at the onset, as you begin your work, that you set realistic expectations of what those updates and that communication looks like, right?
And so the fact that, “Hey, we’re going to celebrate progress. So to do that, we will have quarterly updates in a manner and in a way in which you can ask questions, right? So we do have goals related to representation and DEI work, and so regularly communicating our progress against those goals and what we’re doing to really meet those goals. And that comes in the form of sometimes data presentation, but you also have to make sure that sometimes numbers can be a lot for people, so how do we really tell the story?
So it might be in the form of quarterly updates. It may be in the form of fireside chats. I just completed a AMA, which is something that we have at Iterable. It’s a session that says ask me anything. And so we had an AMA together last Friday where iterators were able to get on the line, and we talked about DEI and we talked about initiatives and work, and even reiterate as I want to call to action, how can I help? What can I do to move the needle? So sharing ways in which everyone can play a part.
And so again, quarterly updates during our town halls, also the AMAs. We also have things that we call them hour of understanding where if there is a DEI construct that needs unpacking and people want a deeper understanding or if there’s something that has happened in our society that really impacts who we are as people, we can jump on a call and talk about it.
And that’s another way where you can share, “So here’s the things that we’re working on.” And also, I have an open door. That’s always been my policy. I think that I don’t ever want people to be in a situation where they’re afraid to share how they feel. You cannot tell someone how to feel, right? And so the more we can allow people the space, depth, and breadth to share genuinely and authentically their thoughts and emotions and how they feel, they’re more willing to share with us like, “Here’s some things that concern me” or “What kind of progress are we making?” Or if they don’t understand, they will seek understanding.
So those are just a few examples of how we do things in Iterable, our culture. And because we have a people-centric culture and a people-first culture, we want to see the human element first in always putting ourselves in the seat of the other person and making sure we listen to understand and not listen to be heard.
One of the things I love about what you said is, even you didn’t use these exact words, but I got the point is that diversity isn’t just one person’s responsibility. It’s everybody’s responsibility. DEI, again, you need a point you need a lead, you need budget, you need technology, you need all those things, of course, but you also need everyone’s buy in and everyone to be rowing kind of in the same direction. And you need everyone to be thinking about it.
And I think you all have done a wonderful job with that. The last question that I have before we roll out is tough conversations. You could just pick him out of there, but just tough conversations. How do you create a safe environment? And again, with remote employees as well, how do you create that safety to where you’re going to have… People are going to see things differently.
And it’s a tough conversation. Out of my eight ancestors, seven of them fought for the confederacy. It’s the fact that all seven of them fought for the state of Virginia. On some level, I’m embarrassed by then. On some level it’s like, “Well, please…” Most of these kids were like 16 years old, so it is what it is. However, I can kind of see the other side of that, of course. But that would be a tough conversation, right?
Just that alone, just having the conversation, I know there’s a thousand other ones, how do you navigate and help people navigate having those tough conversations?
Yeah. One thing, and it’s interesting you said that I had this conversation recently, not within Iterable, just in general. We have had so many tough conversations over the past 18 months. We’ve probably all gotten to be really good at it, right?
Good point. Well, to speak to-
But I think it’s a-
… Me Too, Love is Love, Black Lives Matter.
Thankfully, society is actually… You’re right. We’re more open with than we were prior to those societal movements, right?
But I think fundamentally what we all have to understand is, whether we agree or disagree, we have to respect one another or we should respect one another. And even if you don’t agree with someone, if you fundamentally come from a place of respect, I think you will have far better outcomes. And for me, having difficult conversations, it’s inevitable. I think you do more detriment if you are unable to have a difficult conversation.
Because to me, can you think about every time… There has been so much to accomplish in trust, in relationship-building with the people that I’ve had difficult conversations with. I’m like, that is such a catalytic piece of developing a really, really strong relationship. And so now, with that being said, a lot of the topics that we talked about are highly emotional. People are highly sensitive about it.
And the one thing that I will say is that you have to understand that your job is not to win them over or make them believe what you believe.
That’s right. That’s right.
I think the goal should be to create a bridge to better understanding and mutual respect-
Listening and respect, yeah.
You got to be open to it. I mean, that’s the thing is you’ve got to actually be open. And again, there’s vulnerability. We get back to that, that you’ve unlocked this. We’ve got to be vulnerable. We got to trust the other-
… person. Got to respect their perspective. We might not agree, and again, that’s [inaudible 00:32:17], right? But ultimately, their experience and their opinion is important. And it’s enough to respect.
I love this. You and I could talk for days and you’ve got a job that you have to do, so I respect that.
What I would like to say, yeah. And one thing that’s so interesting to me is when you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, if we can’t embrace perspectives that are different than ours, then what are we really doing?
Right. Yeah. I mean, where are you learning? That’s the thing. I used to tell people, “I’d look at a VC firm out of Silicon Valley, and it go to the partner page and it was 40 middle aged pear-shaped white guys. I’m like, “That must be a very easy job,” because everyone’s got the exact, the same experience. However, there’s no conflict, like diversity on some level creates conflict and in a good way, not a bad way because you , in a good way as you learn.
If you’re open and receptive and you’re respectful, et cetera, you learn. And then, all of a sudden, you can innovate. You can use that conflict to innovate and do different things and motivate people. And so, I think it’s actually the folks that do a better job of DEI are just stronger companies, just fundamentally stronger company. So thank you so much, Markita, for coming on the Recruiting Daily podcast. I’ve absolutely enjoyed this conversation.
Likewise. It is really been my pleasure and I would be remiss if I didn’t invite our listeners to check out Iterable at www.iterable.com or even check us out on LinkedIn and connect with us. It’s just been my absolute pleasure to talk about something that brings me joy and something that I love to do, William, and so this has really been a great conversation. I appreciate you for having me.
Vice versa. Thanks for everyone listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Until next time.
You’ve been listening to the Recruiting live podcast by Recruiting Daily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.