The Diversity I Seek

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The Diversity I Seek | An Open Letter To My Skill Scout Colleagues

Elena Valentine

Dear Skill Scout Colleagues,

A couple of days ago I shared a celebratory post on LinkedIn after our exhilarating team design session. I attached a team selfie along with the message “This team. The future is female. The future is diverse.” I was coming off of the high of new ideas and how we were going to implement them. What's more, our fun (and funny) team head-shot session was icing on the cake to an already memorable day.

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For the most part, this post was taken positively. However, I received a comment and message from one of my connections who felt "deeply offended." As someone raising a son, they felt my post that “women are the future” was hypocritical and in direct conflict with my messages on diversity. I wasn’t taking into account the equality for all genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. Upon further reflection, I realize that my words were politically charged. “The future is female,” while an emblem of the women’s rights movement with renewed popularity, has it’s controversy.

To be clear, my statement does not exclude men but rather centers and celebrates our work with women. To my current male colleagues, you play such an important role. And for that, I should honor you separately for being some of the most supportive allies I know. I imagine that to partner with us, you kind of have to be and I thank you.

On the same hand, let's look at the ecosystem we coexist in. There is a very real global 12 trillion dollar gender equity gap. Out of the 500 CEOs on the Fortune 500, 32 are women. And out of those 32, 2 are women of color. This is the backdrop by which Skill Scout exists, and how my leadership is influenced.

Now I admit, we are far from a Fortune 500 company. I recognize that my ability to take a strong stance on this subject or my influence on our culture presents a different set of advantages and challenges. That said, I thought I would take this opportunity to share the principles I stand by:

Lead from the top. If Abby and I aren't leading by these principles, no one will. This also means we back these principles by action. While many of us on the team are women we experience womanness differently- similar to maleness. This can be uncomfortable for us to acknowledge and discuss. In doing so, it highlights the inequalities and disparities between how we perceive the world and vice versa. We get to know each other as people - acknowledge our differences and similarities, challenges and successes inside and outside the workplace. And we're a better team because of it.

Be blatant about the diversity you seek. We invest time intentionally. I’m passionate about building a team where women are heavily represented, with an emphasis on women of color. It’s happened on more than one occasion where we walk into client workplaces and staff do a double take. I’m proud of that. Abby and I founded Skill Scout with the commitment that we wanted our workforce to make just as much of a statement as the solutions we offer. I invest my personal time being an active member of organizations like Let's Vibe who have connected Skill Scout to not just an incredible talent pool but have also provided me the space to sound board my ideas around how we continue to build our workforce intentionally.

If you don't see the community be the community. A few days ago Miasarah, Colette and I launched Mezcla Media Collective, a hub for women of color and allies behind the camera. We are so excited for the potential this community has in elevating our ability to build relationships with other women. And, in the case for Skill Scout, a new outlet to finding and working with great talent.

Start early. We don’t have an official head of HR or a diversity officer. Heck, we don’t even have an employee handbook or vacation policy. Whether you’re 2 people or 1, it’s never too early to foster a culture of inclusion and instill purpose in the workforce you build - including freelancers.

Engage your male colleagues. Skill Scout is about 70% female. Our male videographers, editors, audio engineers, and developers choose to and appreciate working with a team of strong women. This is about balance and encouraging voices of all backgrounds, not exclusion for any reason.

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This is not the first and won't be the last time I'm called out for my views or approach. While I want to be optimistic, to say that our society will ever be rid of inequalities or inequities is naive. What's more, whether we want to or not, as entrepreneurs and leaders of organizations everything we do or don't do, say or don't say is a political statement especially in these politically charged times.

My approach to diversity is one that rights inequities wherever I have access to do so. I will continue to post, like, share and celebrate our platform and what we stand for. I do this fully knowing that there will be people who vehemently disagree. And I'm okay with that. Well-behaved women never made history, and politically correct or veiled indecisive comments have never moved the needle. Thank you for being such an integral part of Skill Scout’s journey and for informing what our stance should be. Now let's get back to changing the way companies attract diverse talent!

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Meet the amazing team I get to work with everyday.