Diversity Happens One Hire at a Time


Neetal Parekh | Flickr

Companies that realize they’re too homogeneous often complain that the pipeline is empty or the talent pool is depleted — or they find some other metaphor to excuse their inaction. In the end, if you want to diversify your team, you just have to start hiring people who are different from you, whoever you are.

Meetup’s founder Scott Heiferman realized this a few years ago and started taking steps to bring more women into the company’s top ranks. As Jessi Hempel lays out the story (Backchannel), there’s no magic formula or shortcut to achieving such a goal, though there are specific measures that seem to help — like promoting from within and reaching out to candidates who aren’t actively job-hunting.

Meetup’s saga isn’t all rainbows. The company has now redressed its gender imbalance at the top, but it still has an all-white leadership team. Heiferman and company learned one key lesson: Beginning to forge a more diverse team is tough, but once you start, it gets easier, as the company’s visible profile changes and new hires see that you’re actually serious about creating a more inclusive culture.

Uber Drivers are Employees, U.K. Says

An employment tribunal in Britain ruled that Uber drivers are not self-employed contractors and that they are owed holiday pay and should earn the “national living wage” minimum (The Guardian).

That drives a pretty big stake through the heart of Uber’s business model, so the company, which has 40,000 drivers in the U.K., says it will appeal. Union officials cheered the ruling and predicted that it would force other gig-economy platform operators to change their models, too. Will Uber respond as it did in Austin, Texas, by simply pulling up stakes and abandoning the U.K. market? Can it afford to? Could it afford not to? Once the lawyers finish their work, this one should get interesting.

Micro-factories Strike Blows Against Inequality

Small-scale urban factories in cities provide a rare ladder for poor American workers to climb into the middle class (The New York Times). Of 252,000 U.S. manufacturing firms, only a few thousand employ more than 500 people. Most employ under 20.

These smaller producers — boutique or “craft” manufacturers, like Baltimore’s Marlin Steel, profiled in the Times — pay their workers better than most service jobs, and offer more stability and opportunity for advancement. They’re nimbler than larger competitors and they’re often able to weave tight bonds with their communities.

But their small scale also means they can’t always win pricing concessions on materials and health plans or pry lucrative tax breaks and subsidies from government. Automation is changing their landscape, too: Thanks to investments in robots, Marlin has quintupled revenue while growing only from 18 to 24 workers.

In the Future, You Won’t Own Anything

The digital era has made a hash of the idea of ownership in the realm of intellectual property — music, books, images. But you still own your car, right? That may be changing too, writes Union Square Ventures’ Albert Wenger.

Tesla recently announced that it was baking self-driving tech into all its new cars; future software upgrades will make those systems functional. But the announcement came with an asterisk: Tesla was not going to let you take your self-driving-car-of-the-future and hire it out to Uber or Lyft.

As Wenger points out, this restriction represents “the fascinating encroachment of Software Enduser License Agreements (EULAs) on physical objects, as those objects embed more and more software.” These agreements depend on the idea that you never actually own a piece of proprietary software, but rather, you license its use.

Nobody ever reads the EULAs that govern the software they use every day, and it’s highly unlikely that will change when the legal boilerplate starts to cover stuff like cars. But what happens when there’s a EULA attached to your pacemaker? Maybe we need to think this one through better.

“Price” and “Pricing” Are Two Different Things

Transparency in price and pricing is much touted as one benefit of efficient digital marketplaces. But the two — which represent the “what” and the “why” of the cost of goods and services — don’t always go together, writes Kyle Thompson-Westra (NewCo Shift).

The best online stores, like Amazon, are great at price transparency — telling you exactly what your purchase will cost, without hiding add-ons like shipping and taxes or throwing complex rebate schemes into the mix. Pricing transparency is another matter entirely: That’s when a vendor makes sure you understand how and why a particular item costs what it does.

The most problematic markets, like healthcare, lack both kinds of transparency. New markets — like Uber’s rides-on-demand — sometimes change the kind of information they give customers: Uber used to offer pricing info by warning you of surge multipliers, but it has moved to telling you the final price of a ride in advance. We can’t help thinking that more info is better than less.

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