Having a diverse talent pool is the best way to foster new ways of thinking. The $13 billion tech Giant Twilio (NYSE: TWLO) is leading by example in diversifying the tech industry. And Lybra Clemons is the company’s greatest catalyst for change.
A seasoned C-suite executive with over 15 years of Human Resources, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion (DEI) experience at Fortune 500 companies, she is responsible for guiding and scaling inclusion strategy and diversity initiatives across Twilio’s global workforce. Prior to Twilio, Clemons was global head of Diversity & Inclusion at PayPal, where she managed and oversaw all global diversity initiatives. She has also held critical roles in Diversity & Inclusion with Morgan Stanley, The Brunswick Group and American Express. She serves on the board of directors of Makers and How Women Lead Silicon Valley Executive Board of Advisers, and has been recognized by Black Enterprise as one of the Top Corporate Women in Diversity.
According to one study by Fortune magazine, less than 1 percent of employees at major tech companies are Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or Native American, only 5 percent are Black and only 7 percent are Hispanic.
So, what’s the answer to addressing such a dearth of diversity in tech? Earlier this month I sat down with Clemons on The Caring Economy and we spoke about actively working to address this divide and ultimately make tech a more inclusive industry. In particular, she is helping her colleagues become actively anti-racist.
It starts at the top
Twilio was ahead of the tech curve in committing to DEI work in its staffing. Clemons notes: “Before Covid they posted a Chief Diversity Officer role in January 2020 that reported directly to Jeff [Lawson], the CEO. It was a very proactive measure to say we care about diversity so much we want to see a C-suite executive that reports directly to the CEO because we recognize that DEI needs to be woven into all the work that we do.”
Expand your reach
Effective recruiting requires leaders to stretch beyond their comfort zones. The challenge begins before active recruiting starts. The pipeline of students graduating with computer science degrees will not fill the demand of available tech jobs in the future. Companies like Twilio are trying to harness new pipeline potential by reaching students at a younger age and inspiring them to pursue both technology degrees and technology careers. Clemons shares some of the ways Twilio is seeking diverse tech staff at conferences and industry gatherings, as well as how they are doing their part to develop the youth ecosystem and diversity for the future technology workforce.
Put effort into retaining talent
Of course, recruiting diverse talent alone isn’t enough — there should be an equal focus on creating a culture of inclusion, where employees feel both valued and empowered. One step is affinity groups. Clemons notes: “Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a helpful means to the diversity ends. They are the backbone of this they are the ones that are helping companies drive this work, particularly around learning and education.”
Reinforce the commitment to DEI and being anti-racist
How does the rubber meet the road in Twilio’s commitment to DEI and its declaration of becoming an antiracist company? Clemons summarizes: “Our CEO and the executive team in 2020 are the ones that said we are going to become an anti-racist organization… this was being driven from the top down and came from them with a public declaration. . . Jeff and I are working together on a daily basis to ensure that this is bolted into all of the work all of the decisions that we make as well as me being on the executive team so an any meetings or we’re making any decisions hand to do with the company the business or so forth we are leveraging an anti-racist framework to ensure that we’re driving as much equity as possible.”
What is being anti-racist at Twilio?
Twilio uses IbramKendi’s How to Be An Antiracist for its foundational work. Clemons states: “It’s about the choices that you’re making and so we build a framework based off the principles and values of anti-racism and were using it and decision making so any decision that we made whether it’s about an M&A deal or about whether we’re going to list our vaccine mandate. Whatever it is, were using at the very least the framework we’re attempting to use the framework in a way that helps us to check ourselves so that we are tapping into this growth mindset. Doing whatever we can to promote equity at any cost.
What about detractors?
On the topic of detractors and naysayers, Clemons acknowledges: “People are human. People are other product of their environment. What they need to know is that we are unapologetic about our commitment anti-racism or unapologetic about our commitment to promoting equity at all costs. So, we provide space for people who don’t agree and that’s OK if it’s not disruptive or disrespectful. You have a right to have different point of view.”
Readers can tap into Clemons words of wisdom via The Caring Economy podcast, wherever they download their podcasts. And they will also learn from other inspired leaders as they steward their brands through the challenges and opportunities of contemporary life.