Originally published as a Forbes Council Post by Chris Ronzio.
I’d be lying if I said I’d had a clear plan for fostering inclusion from day one. Of course, I wanted an inclusive company culture (what founder doesn’t?), but that isn’t where the company’s first efforts went by any means.
Starting a business is a lot like the early stages in those home improvement shows when they tear down all the Sheetrock and hand a hammer to the closest person with a heartbeat and a smile.
Regardless of what skill sets they bring, everyone chips in to get the early momentum going, and the easiest hires are often the ones in your close network. You don’t focus on unique perspectives — you take whoever is closest to you, and you work hard together to create a viable business. Or at least that’s what I did.
When I started Trainual, I turned to my brother, two employees from my existing consulting company and a friend of a friend. They were there when I needed people who believed in what I was doing as much as I did.
A few months into this venture, I joined a local startup group that shared how underrepresented women are in tech (even today, only 34.4% of all employees at the five largest tech firms identify as female). The group was working to attract women members to our cohort, and I started sifting through my network in search of women founders. There were few to be found.
When I met with my team a few days later, this was still top of mind. As I looked around the table, I was proud that we had an equal ratio of men to women on the team. This was by no means strategic, but it felt like confirmation that we were doing something right.
As your organization matures, crafting an inclusive culture becomes less about massive changes, like demoing walls, and more about specialized, detailed work, like interior design. It’s at this stage that the impact of different perspectives and experiences gets magnified. Here’s how our company has leaned into this stage to empower our women employees:
Accommodate family needs
As a parent myself, I never wanted anyone to feel like they needed to choose between being a parent and a professional. I always considered these two roles as going hand in hand.
For a small tech company, we offer generous parental leave, with up to 12 weeks of paid time off, regardless of how team members decide to grow their family. That’s because we don’t want a job — even a dream job — to stand in the way of personal goals like being a parent.
Even back in the office, I encourage work flexibility to accommodate family needs. Women are still responsible for a disproportionate amount of domestic work. So, to make my employees’ lives a little easier, I want them to have power over how and when they work.
Provide equal pay for equal work
The pay gap is notorious in tech. Companies tend to pay women between 4% and 45% less for the same roles as their male counterparts. The longer they stay with the company, the larger this gap grows.
I created a policy that ensures every employee is compensated equally and fairly based on the role’s market value. That way, male and female employees receive equal pay for equal work — no exceptions.
Open further opportunities
I don’t want to be an obstacle in someone’s career. From day one, I make sure everyone knows that my network is extended to help expand their reach. If there is someone I know who they want to learn from or work with, I provide the opportunity and make the introduction.
This goes for learning opportunities and networking events, too. If my team members can communicate how an opportunity will help them succeed, I make it happen. In 2019, this looked like flying team members to industrywide events, paying for workshops and courses, and encouraging women employees to attend women-in-tech networking events during work hours.
Empower women voices
I believe that women’s voices need to be part of the conversation for our industry to improve. But too often, they get muffled in the background.
Each week, half (or more) of my company’s content comes from women thought leaders — whether this is on our blog, social media or in-app webinars. This is not a coincidence. We also secure speaking opportunities for our female employees to share their knowledge and experiences within the industry.
Fast forward two years, and we have 42 employees, 43% female. While we continue to focus on the details, we are widening our view to ensure our company becomes more inclusive moving forward.