Creating a new kind of socially progressive corporation

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Interviewed by Marc Weber on 2022-11-28 in Healdsburgh, CA © Computer History Museum In this joint interview with Freada Kapor Klein, Mitch Kapor talks about his goal to create a new kind of socially progressive corporation when he cofounded software publisher Lotus Development Corporation. He describes hiring Freada Klein as Director of Employee Relations, Organizational Development, and Management Training. Her charter was explicitly to make Lotus the most progressive employer in the United States. Among the many moves she took to fulfill that challenge, Klein created a Diversity Council that represented every dimension of difference and included representatives from the lowest to the highest paid employee ranks. Corporate America had been making intermittent efforts at diversity and inclusion since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among tech firms, Boston minicomputer pioneer Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was a leader with its company-wide Valuing Differences training seminars and hiring practices. Klein had cofounded the first group to address sexual harassment in the U.S. They both describe how with Kapoor’s support as Lotus’s CEO, she helped shape a set of policies that linked managers’ bonuses to employee evaluations on their adherence to company values, including diversity. This sort of tie to compensation remains rare today. She also helped create an ombuds function and made Lotus the first tech firm to sponsor an AIDS walk when the disease remained highly stigmatized, and other corporations refused to take a public position. Klein went on to consult on diversity to a wide range of corporate clients, both in tech and outside, as well as to the U.S. government on the Civil Rights Act of 1991. She and Kapor married long after both left Lotus, and their venture firm and foundation support a variety of diversity, inclusion, and education efforts, including this series of oral histories. The two of them talk about the overall failure of corporate diversity efforts to substantially change the low percentage of BIPOC participants in the tech industry, and analyze some of the possible reasons why. For more information on the founding and growth of Lotus please check Mitch Kapor’s oral history in our collection. * Note: Transcripts represent what was said in the interview. However, to enhance meaning or add clarification, interviewees have the opportunity to modify this text afterward. This may result in discrepancies between the transcript and the video. Please refer to the transcript for further information – http://www.computerhistory.org/collec… Visit computerhistory.org/collections/oralhistories/ for more information about the Computer History Museum’s Oral History Collection. Catalog Number: 102792788 Acquisition Number: 2022.0168

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Transcript

Intro
0:10
I’m Mark Weber of the Computer History Museum and I am here on November 28 2022
0:17
with Frida Klein Cape or nope I took his name
0:24
we’ll leave we’ll leave it free to kateboard Klein and Mitch cable
0:30
uh one of whom is a pioneer of personal computer software another one is a
0:36
pioneer of diversity in the high-tech industry um so thank you so much for doing this I
0:44
really appreciate it and I wanted to so Mitch did an oral
Freadas background
0:49
history 15 16 years ago so we have your background pretty pretty well
0:56
Frida if you could just very briefly give your background up to Lotus and you
1:03
found the organization for sexual harassment I believe during your PhD or before that anyway okay
1:11
uh so briefly I think it’s fair to say I’ve always
1:16
been an activist and I chose my colleges
1:21
applying to college by the strength of their political movements and so I went to UC Berkeley and
1:30
in doing field work with UC Berkeley I was working with one of the first Rape Crisis centers in the U.S uh
1:38
I moved to the east coast and continued that work and in working at the
1:43
Washington DC Rape Crisis Center we started getting calls about what we now
1:49
call sexual harassment but women themselves were making the connection that when their boss said sleep with me
1:56
or you lose your job that it was very similar to sexual assault or attempted
2:01
sexual assault so I did a survey always being interested in research did a
2:07
survey of the 200 or so Rape Crisis centers in the U.S at the time
2:12
mid-1970s to see if they were also encountering the same kinds of calls we
2:19
were getting at the D.C Rape Crisis Center and every single one of them in
2:24
fact had gotten that kind of call within the past year so along with two
2:30
colleagues we started the first group on sexual harassment in Cambridge Massachusetts the alliance against
2:36
sexual coercion in 1876
2:42
I was involved in lots of things became an expert witness I went back to graduate school to get a PHD in social
2:48
policy and research with the dissertation on sexual harassment twenty thousand research subjects ten thousand
2:55
men ten thousand women and I was recruited by lotus as I was finishing my
3:01
PhD my job description at Lotus was to make it the most Progressive employer in
3:08
the U.S and then let me back up and just some Mitch where did where did the impetus
Mitch background
3:15
come from for these Progressive programs at Lotus and um you know is it is there
3:22
a larger story of social activists entering the corporate world or was it really unique there
3:28
well in my case it was more personal than political in the early days I had
3:36
graduated high school at 16 because I’ve skipped a grade so I was younger I was a
3:42
nerd at a time when there was no internet culture nothing cool about it and so it was really a social Outsider
3:50
uh and my interest in Lotus when it became
3:56
unexpectedly very successful was to build the kind of culture where even a
4:02
misfit like me would feel included so that I didn’t want to send rocket
4:09
ships to Mars but I wanted to have a kind of a workplace where people could be themselves didn’t have to be somebody
4:14
else didn’t have to conform to arbitrary standards as long as you contributed to the work of the company
4:21
so that that is what initially fueled it and the idea of being the most
4:27
Progressive company was that from you was that after Freda came and other
4:33
people well the um a woman named Janet Axelrod who was
4:40
actually hired to be the office manager and as all too often happens in tech
4:46
companies became the first VP of Human Resources uh was very left political and had
4:54
inclinations in that direction and that got me started thinking about these
5:00
kinds of things and it quickly became uh you know clear that there were
5:05
just significant issues we were growing very very very rapidly
5:11
and um did people feel included did they have a voice were people well treated all of
5:18
the issues that I always in companies prior to Lotus had a very short tenure I
5:24
had a very bad attitude towards Authority but I I mean more to the point they weren’t the kind of place where I
5:31
saw I felt respected and I just wanted Lotus to be different and it was clear they were going to be larger structural
5:38
issues we would have to tackle about which I knew absolutely nothing but could see that there was something
5:45
important to be done there and that’s what gave rise to the idea of well let’s
5:51
how do we make a good culture here how do we have good values how do we practice them how do we put all that in
5:56
place but as I said I knew nothing about how to do that and so when you came in Janet Axelrod
6:05
was already doing things I mean you’ve quickly became the uh
6:11
director of employee relations organization but was that no that was that was my job when I came in Janet was
6:19
my boss she also had never had a human resources type position before hadn’t
6:25
done anything on organizational development as Mitch said I mean she was the all-around office manager and it’s
6:33
quite the norm for Tech startups to have a young woman usually a young white
6:39
woman in that position and then oh you like people or oh you’re good with people therefore you can head Human
6:46
Resources so for a company that was going to go public and I came in when there were
6:53
fewer than 300 employees and I left a couple years later and there were 2 700
6:58
employees that’s not the kind of growth that someone with no background no experience should be running
7:06
so Janet hired a couple of us who had some experience on on how to do this and
7:13
I always said I had the fun stuff I had the employee relations and organizational development and employee
7:19
surveys and all the things related to diversity and philanthropy and culture those were all under under my purview
Marion Gardner
7:31
and I think now forgetting which interview was but somebody mentioned
7:37
Marion Gardner sacks so tell me about
7:43
what was her role in it she worked on my team at Marion I don’t remember what her
7:51
title was she worked in the training and development group um which was headed by somebody named
7:57
Bob Nicholson um and Bob reported to me uh and so Marion was part of part of my larger
8:05
team and it might be the connection that when she left Lotus she went over to
8:11
head human resources at AIDS action uh okay I think that’s probably the
8:17
connection from the interview on the March yeah um
Diversity Council
8:22
and by the way we had wanted to interview John and Alex whatever we saw that she had passed away right before
8:29
yes the um and then there’s a number of initiatives
8:35
that I wrote down from some of your old Lotus documents from the email you sent
8:42
me and I’m wondering you know to go through them over ask but also how
8:48
common were these at the time I mean there’s the diversity Council the the Lotus Grapevine the kind of
8:55
Ombudsman ombuds function the um employee surveys tied to manager
9:02
compensation which sounds fairly unusual but I don’t know um Sullivan principles Court sponsorship
9:10
the so I mean I
9:15
I don’t want to read read through them through them all I’ll get to them but I mean how where did these ideas come from
9:23
to like do a diversity Council to were these from you guys were you copying Dak
9:29
which apparently was a leader with some of this Barbara Walker at deck I don’t know that name no okay
9:37
um so the diversity Council was something that I started shortly after I came in and I was looking at a diagonal
9:47
cross-section of the company and I wanted every department or division as
9:54
well as every level represented as well as demographic groups to come talk about
10:01
what was working what wasn’t working who felt included who felt excluded what what ought we be doing to promote
10:08
diversity to promote inclusion people weren’t talking about inclusion back then
10:14
and I think someone else who’s been one of the Computer History Museum interviewees Matt Stern
10:22
uh so my first few days on the job in 1984. I went around and introduced
10:29
myself to every person who worked in Cambridge and Matt
10:36
was I don’t know how long he’d been at the company in 84. he was a year yeah so
10:43
he’s in his early 20s early mid-20s and I go and he puts out his hand and he
10:51
says I met Stern I’m gay what are you going to do for gay people at the company and I said that’s great let’s talk
10:59
there’s a lot we can do for gays and lesbians of the company I mean that was a huge Plus for me I later found out
11:08
that there were no other tech companies no other corporations without gay
11:14
representation on a diversity Council I mean most of what passed for diversity in the 1980s
11:23
and this has been true of every diversity effort you know whether it’s
11:28
80s or 90s or currently that the gains have been primarily by white women much
11:35
more than by people of color and certainly more than by lgbtq plus populations and that continues to to
11:43
this day so we were very different in really having a racial Equity lens an
11:49
intersectional lens including lesbian and gay employees who and we had ways
11:56
for employees who were out like Matt to participate and we had ways for
12:01
employees who weren’t out to to have their voices heard also how could they
12:07
participate if they weren’t out anonymously anonymously or by using what
12:12
we said we let everybody in the company know everybody who was on the council and said you can talk to any of these
12:20
people confidentially you can get a question a concern something to them and
12:28
it can come without your name attached to the diversity Council it also one of the other things you asked about the
12:34
Lotus Grapevine was something that I started and from my
12:39
various research positions and looking at employee complaint systems that was part of my responsibilities at Lotus it
12:48
was clear and my years of being an expert witness it was clear that
12:53
for-profit institutions and large non-profit institutions universities for
12:58
instance and government agencies that had an ombuds had lower rates of all
13:05
forms of bias harassment and discrimination and especially lower
13:10
rates of more severe forms because they provided a safe mechanism to service
13:15
those issues early and get them interrupted and that was different from the fact
Lotus Grapevine
13:22
that people could talk to anyone on the diversity Council this was more embedded in HR yes okay so we started something
13:30
called the Lotus Grapevine um and I had these custom-made purple
13:35
boxes that were in every building in Cambridge in every building throughout
13:41
the world where a Lotus had an office and then I borrowed some of the Wizkid
13:47
Engineers this is all pre-internet you have to remember way pre-internet so I
13:53
borrowed some of the whiz kid Engineers to build a system where employees could
14:00
write to me and all their identifying information was removed
14:06
um and um so there was also there was a digital
14:11
um as well as paper forms in a box uh Grapevine and
14:17
you could each person who used it could choose to be anonymous or submit confidentially so
14:25
if it was confidentially they told us their name they told us whether they wanted to be contacted at work or at
14:31
home because not everybody had a private phone extension and so we were trying to
14:39
anticipate everything and be incredibly respectful about how we get back to individuals if it was Anonymous and the
14:47
group reviewing we used to call them the Lotus grapes the group reviewing the grapes if we felt that it was
14:53
representative or an important issue we would put it in a monthly newsletter uh
14:59
and say this is what surfaced and this is what we were going to do about it what Mitch did is that every
15:07
um all what we now call All Hands meetings um we’d remind people about it and Mitch
15:15
said everybody had to answer and we would we would route the grape to the highest
15:23
ranking person responsible for that area so if it was a benefits issue it went to
15:29
the head of compensation and benefits if it was
15:36
um you know something about how Lotus was doing its marketing and who was or wasn’t represented it would go to the VP
15:43
of marketing in comms and what Mitch
15:49
told his direct reports is he would hear about anybody who didn’t
15:56
answer within five business days so what we saw over and over again about
16:02
the success of initiatives at Lotus is the commitment was unequivocally from the top
16:08
and so those things were answered people got back to me didn’t matter if it was
16:13
you know a manager a VP or whoever but the highest ranking person is who I would send it to and they would get back
16:20
to me and a whole lot of things would change and Mitch would do an annual state of the grapes
16:26
stand-up report about what had changed in the company due to employee
16:32
suggestions of course this is for many topics not
16:37
just diversity inclusion but that was a significant portion of it yes many of them were but it was also I mean it was
16:44
totally random stuff like can we Lotus had shuttle buses between the buildings in Cambridge and it one of
16:52
the engineers because he signed his name one of the engineers asked if we could
16:58
make the shuttle buses available to take any employee to any Boston area
17:04
restaurant for lunch which we thought was a one of the indicators of the entitlement of the
17:11
culture so I’m just going to annotate this and
No Adult Supervision
17:16
you can use this or not there’s a couple things to understand about why all this happened I mean one part of it was we
17:25
had no adult supervision at Lotus so it was like just us so there was nobody to
17:30
tell us we couldn’t do these things or actually nobody to say things just aren’t done that way I literally had no
17:37
idea and the board was actually for better for worse not really engaged in
17:43
in these kinds of issues so we had a lot of running room to innovate and do
17:49
things like a diversity Council the second thing I want to say is that the
17:55
kind of people who came to work at lotus in those early years were typically not
18:00
people who had been in the tech industry and not in senior positions because we
18:05
were still two new different and and Flaky and so um there wasn’t a that changed but there
18:13
wasn’t a lot of pressure to do things the way things are usually done and then finally your background and the
18:22
training you got as an undergraduate in political thought and you can characterize it how how you want to
18:28
characterize it but was very concerned with issues of distribution of power and representation and and that training and
18:36
that kind of thinking entered into how you uh how you wanted to structure things at Lotus certainly didn’t come
18:42
from Harvard Business School I did take some business school classes and organizational development and all
18:49
that and I’d been working for 10 years prior to going to my PhD
18:55
program but the the intellectual tradition was much broader than what you would get it was it was more Berkeley
19:02
and less business school yeah and there were no particular companies to look to as a model
No Companies
19:08
no IBM had some reputation for being concerned with diversity so did Duck but
19:15
I mean they were not they were not direct things that you could learn no and what was interesting thing is again
19:21
no internet so when I wanted to find out what anybody was doing I was you know I was reading management journals I was
19:30
reading Tech literature and I would call people and I would say can you tell me about
19:36
your uh they used to be what we now call employee resource groups are used to be
19:41
called Affinity groups and so I would call somebody at Apple or
19:47
Compaq or digital companies that don’t exist anymore and say what are you doing
19:52
about this or you know tell me what kind of how you incorporate diversity into
19:57
management training and so I was I’m a researcher by training I was always reaching out to find out what’s
20:05
going on and there were little things little initiatives various places nobody had a strategy
Sullivan Principles
20:12
and like the Sullivan principles and other guidelines were actually in the rating
20:19
of Managers from the I mean they were held accountable to some of them well the Sullivan principles do you want to
20:26
talk about it so the Sullivan principles were about not doing business with South Africa
20:33
under apartheid but they also there’s a whole list of things that South Africa couldn’t meet
20:39
but aren’t they a broader set of like employees should be absolutely equal in
20:44
the workplace yeah separate two separate initiatives yeah because when I look up Sullivan
20:51
principles I see both but oh okay okay so you were saying that in the context of of apartheid yeah got it right
20:59
um and about not doing business with South Africa but we had these employee
Employee Surveys
21:04
surveys that Frida set out that were Anonymous and confidential and
21:11
aggregated together kind of the attitudes and feelings of people about workplace issues did you have the
21:16
resources you need to get your job done you know were you planning to stay or
21:22
you’re thinking about leaving in the next year covered a very broad range and it was the results were all aggregated
21:27
together you know by by department and people got the feedback and it was highly revelatory because people trusted
21:34
it and they were very honest and they could show you where the issues and problems were either locally or or or
21:40
globally one of the things that Frida did was to ask individual employees to evaluate
21:49
how well their particular manager and also their VP uh
21:55
lived the corporate values in their day-to-day work and day-to-day relationship and
22:02
then we tied a portion of that manager’s bonus to those ratings so we’d close the
22:08
loop that is still something that was very bold uh uh and shows that we you know it was
22:15
taken seriously and is still not done elsewhere to my knowledge certainly not
Customer Support
22:20
not widely done but that’s called put your money where your mouth is right not systematically yeah yeah
22:26
the other thing we used to do to keep it real was we would make every
22:32
manager go on the customer support lines and listen to the calls that came in
22:38
from people to to feel their pain people they wouldn’t do it they hated it
22:43
because it was like really hard because people would call up and they were unhappier they were stuck of it but it
22:48
was incredibly useful for trying to keep alive a sense of empathy
22:54
about what the end users of the product were actually going through well and I felt it was very important on the
Managers
23:00
non-engineering side of the house to understand who’s who’s responsible for our paychecks
23:06
and everybody ought to feel connected to the customer and to the product and so
23:11
one of the one of the ways that we put all this together is that if you were a
23:17
manager and had not signed up for your to listen in on the customer support line or
23:24
if you were a manager and had not turned in all your performance reviews by the end of the year you didn’t get a
23:31
bonus doesn’t matter what you knocked out of the park and so again we were trying to align all incentives to do the
23:39
right thing um and again highly unusual then and
23:44
unfortunately still still too unusual you see all kinds of instances of Bad
23:51
actors who are great sales people or great coders
23:57
um they’re just well that’s just so and so that’s what he’s like that’s what he does and
CEOs
24:05
we don’t want to lose him we’re great CEOs even worse and they’re usually he
24:11
they’re still unfortunately there’s some some she’s joining the ranks but
AIDS Walk
24:18
and um so do you want to talk very I mean my
24:24
colleague David Brock did a great blog on the uh the AIDS report for the AIDS Walk
24:30
um you want to just very very briefly talk about that and about the philanthropy Lotus philanthropy
24:40
well so the AIDS Walk was something very specifically I called around and I
24:47
remember talking to somebody at Levi Strauss because they were at you know sort of the epicenter of AIDS activism
24:54
had shifted to San Francisco and uh Levi Strauss was a progressive
24:59
employer in general in that era and so I was trying to track down what they were
25:04
doing what kind of employee policies and benefits what they were doing educating
25:10
folks and talk to them about sponsoring a of local Boston
25:17
AIDS Walk and they they said oh no they would never do that because they would lose
25:23
shareholders customers they they did not want to do they would do
25:28
they were doing all kinds of support with their employee Affinity groups and Community work and volunteer work and
25:35
all that they did not want to come out pun intended
25:40
um in in public support in a way that would hurt their bottom line
25:46
and so I couldn’t find anybody who had sponsored any corporate AIDS Walk and
25:52
reported that back to the management team and thought that we should still do it
25:59
and your dad and and we did did not get pushed back from yeah no we we did it we
26:05
were right you know there’s some photographs you’ve seen of big Lotus Banner
Accessibility
26:11
and I mean the so early on you were dealing with
26:17
race lgbtq IA
26:23
ageism I believe accessibility
26:28
and I mean were there any things that you didn’t do that have become important now or and how much ahead of the curve
26:35
was this at the time I think we were way ahead of the curve on
26:41
new issues on racial equity on child care all right yeah you started them and
26:48
it’s it’s pretty pathetic that all of these issues are still important issues
26:54
and places where companies fail their employees
Lotus Philanthropy
27:00
and um take well Day Care also equal benefits the same-sex Partners was
27:06
fairly new at the time right um and for the Lotus philanthropy what
27:12
were your other what was a typical thing to support well philanthropy had
27:17
sort of two buckets one bucket of philanthropy was about donating product services including
27:25
training um and so we were trying to get non-profits to become
27:31
much more digitally literate to use Lotus products and everybody else’s
27:37
products also to look at ways to um be more efficient and gain scale that
27:45
non-profits who are trying to make the world a better place it’s really where you want to leverage technology and that
27:51
was a bit of an uphill battle but we did we offered that we offered products and training classes
27:57
to two non-profits and tried to get the word out about that and then there was
28:03
outright grants of money and some of those were locally focused in the
28:09
Cambridge area and some of those were responsive Grant making to things that came over the transom
28:17
um and so it took a while to evolve a sort of established set of of
28:24
philanthropic concerns but there’s a strong employee voice in it because it was largely employee driven it was an
28:31
another sort of employee committee that separate from the diversity Council separate from the diversity Council yeah
28:38
so one thing we didn’t do is we didn’t have a DOT org there’s but there were no dot orgs
28:44
because it was the 1980s we could ask how things have evolved.com
28:50
but the idea of having a sort of separate but parallel organization or a
28:56
subsidiary or a distinct organizational group that was impact focused within the
29:03
context of the larger thing that was an idea that really took the internet to bring about so you’re asking it’s a big
Dot Orgs
29:10
tech companies had a separate Foundation but that was often later as well
29:15
right we’ve got you know before we got it in right got an endowment and it was
29:20
over there for for Ford Foundation was family money not the true that’s not connected yeah but if you think about
29:27
Intel or some of those yeah Packer well those those are those those
Intel
29:34
are the founders those were family corporate foundations were I don’t know the history there yeah
29:44
um well they were usually donations of stock at the when the companies went public to
29:50
establish the foundation right and education where I mean were you thinking also one of the ways with
29:57
diversity to I mean to try to get more people trained and
30:04
it might might be future employees was that we weren’t doing access at that
30:10
point um one of the things that’s pretty interesting is that there were more
30:16
women studying computer science in the 1980s and then almost any time since
30:21
until very currently those were overwhelmingly white women but it was not
30:30
because software was packaged and it was packaged with documentation
30:36
documentation departments were overwhelmingly female but these were technical women
30:42
um and so it was interesting because there was not um there was not the same gender split that
30:50
you see more recently since package software went away when
30:56
it’s just downloaded so the only technical women people see
31:01
now are programmers and there was just not a sense of a
31:06
different path for technical people true and testing used to be more of a
Outcomes
31:12
thing too um so how did in terms of outcomes how
31:19
did you measure or did you try and I’m sure you try but I mean how how could you evaluate the
31:25
impact of this program well in different ways one of the things that made it incredibly difficult
31:32
speaking as a researcher to measure impact was the insane growth
31:37
because there were just too many variables and there were too many new people who hadn’t participated in in a
31:44
survey or whatever it was um but we do know that a lot of the
31:50
lotus firsts attracted Talent we do know that people came to us
31:57
because we did those things because we cared about those things and just as you
32:02
see today diversity begets diversity if the world
32:08
sees that you’ve got a senior person you know be that a black person be that
32:15
a gay person be that a latinx person you know whoever who’s doing well and speaking out and
32:22
taking a stand on issues it it drives it’s a great recruitment tool
32:27
and retention tool and also the network just networking
Diversity
32:34
from the people that are there but did you formally track like
32:40
the percentage of women in different levels or percentage of minority we did and we cared about it in hiring but
32:47
again because we were growing so quickly it was hard to attribute
32:53
the growth of you know women in a particular position or you know black
32:59
programmers it was hard what do we attribute that to because
33:04
these I can’t remember we had at one point there was somewhere north
33:11
of 20 contract recruiters sitting
33:16
opening mailed in resumes you got to kind of remember what what
33:22
those days were were like so yeah it’s hard to track the effect
33:28
when everything’s just exponentially sure um and
33:34
so moving sort of toward impact and probably when when you left
33:40
to become a consultant but how did the lotus’s Innovations get adopted by others or did they and also the Boston
33:48
you know deck certainly consider themselves a leader in this is there
33:53
something about you know some of the progressive values in New England that was unique to the area
34:01
and what do you feel that other companies did follow
34:07
directly copy a I think Lotus alumni yes were the best culture
34:16
carriers and for years and years and years I heard from
34:23
former employees who were now you know whether they were the VP of engineering or whether they
34:29
were the VP of human resources or wherever they went different positions they would call for advice or
34:37
you know can you help me adapt the Lotus policy on whatever or how would you
34:44
handle this situation yeah the Boston software scene it was
Boston Software Scene
34:52
like a very bright meteorite I mean it it it it it it flared up like the meteor
34:59
hitting the atmosphere but then it you know the center of Matt things moved to Silicon Valley and the
35:07
impact that Lotus had I grew three to very much happened through its alumni who spread out over the tech
35:15
universe and had influence at all the different uh companies that they
35:20
subsequently went to um and how what made efforts at other
35:28
companies succeed or fail in around diversity and inclusion well I think two
35:36
things most importantly as I mentioned previously whether there was unequivocal
35:41
commitment from the top that made the single greatest variable
35:46
to predict the successor failure of any culture effort or diversity effort is
35:52
really the commitment the sophistication of the CEO and the commitment
35:58
um and um you know that where what I talked about
36:05
before in terms of aligned incentives that’s one practical manifestation of of
36:13
commitment from the top and then look unfortunately the economic climate
36:21
makes a huge difference about whether the budgets are sustained whether if
36:27
you’re in a quote unquote War for talent diversity is much more important than if
36:32
you’re in a hiring freeze or a layoff mode
Other companies
36:39
um so were there other companies you’re aware of that did like directly tie
36:45
compensation like bonuses um there were I mean I know that there
36:51
were because I’m trying to think of all the people who contacted me and said how did
36:57
you do this how did you set it up and um you know the other piece that goes
37:03
side by side with the commitment from the top is a risk tolerance a tolerance
37:10
for pushback by customers or board members or shareholders or somebody
37:17
um and some of the places where Lotus alumni went and tried to copy
37:25
things they didn’t have their they didn’t have the support of their senior managers and so they were either
37:32
kind of check the box performative measures um or they were just outright told no
Risk tolerance
37:40
well and not just the Senior Management but I think the larger context is
37:46
that lotuses people policies were really driven
37:52
out of a sense of what was going to work
37:59
for people not what was going to minimize the risk uh you know to the
38:07
management but the entire employment law profession is organized around that
38:12
latter principle of minimizing risk and so in order to really have a progressive
38:18
culture you you have to tackle that because the minute you try to do something if the lawyer says oh you
38:25
can’t do that or that’s risky and the CEO says I got to do what the lawyer says and game over and that’s a battle
38:31
that we are still fighting 40 some some years later so you have to have some risk tolerance
38:38
to actually do the right thing that’s right you have to believe that in the long run doing the right thing is
38:44
actually good for the business that sort of short-term risk mitigation is long-term not a good idea
38:51
Pennywise in town Pennywise and pound foolish but that is yeah right over the years we’ve had employment lawyers and
38:57
we I get this question still from the founders in Cape that we back in cable capital and say well you know
39:04
we decided to do this survey in our our employment lawyer said no you can’t collect that data
39:11
it’s what if you think it’s a bad idea to know how your employees are feeling
39:16
yeah like your business isn’t going to survive I don’t care what your lawyer says
Data collection
39:22
the mere idea that collecting data gives you uh unnecessary exposure is
39:30
nuts nuts yeah but prevalent yeah
39:36
no I can see but if you don’t business might make it but you’re losing out on things
39:43
that could make the business stronger you are and you know so in our collection at the
39:50
Museum we have some a few things from Fairchild a few from Lotus a lot from
39:56
deck unfortunately we we have all their kind of PR and press stuff and around
40:03
the documentary they did but we don’t have the actual records of
40:09
the valuing Diversity Program there so it was very disappointing we thought we had you know where we went through but
40:17
um Dex certainly portrayed itself as being a Pioneer in this um and that the they tried to make a
40:24
number of arguments that have made business sense that it was this is what gave them business strength they did so
40:30
I mean you did Consulting to them after yes they were a client of mine after I
40:36
left Lotus yes and they did they did take it seriously
40:42
um by the mid to late 80s
40:48
when they were trying to implement a lot of the diversity initiatives
40:55
their culture was set and that’s another Point here which is the most successful
41:03
initiatives are baked in at the beginning and so there were some very senior
41:10
managers that deck that were um not bought in at all
41:17
and so unless somebody was going to tie their promotion and
41:24
bonus and everything else to you got to do this
41:29
there were Pockets that functioned with a high value of diversity and Pockets
41:36
that functioned with a disregard and with Ken Olson how how much did he
41:44
believe in believed in
41:51
and I know a conversation I had with Mary Rowe who was the opposite MIT who
41:58
talked to Ken and um
42:03
many of Ken’s values were driven by his religious beliefs
42:10
and so it gave a very strong moral fiber and a very strong emphasis to the
42:17
culture but it also meant that there was a certain rigidity
42:22
to what was forever off limits well I do remember lots of discussion
42:30
about alcohol for instance and no alcohol at any company event
42:37
now you know I mean I wouldn’t put having alcohol at a company event at the top of my list of progressive whatevers
42:43
I do remember it as symbolic so I’m in raise age things like that he
42:51
was supporting yes veteran status you know military yeah
42:58
and who are your other clients in that oh my goodness um or typical ones if
43:04
well lots of lots of startups that came from came from Lotus Founders
43:12
um I was also lots of my clients were also big International firms and not just
43:19
Tech and so everybody from Goldman Sachs to McKinsey
43:24
to Harvard Business School the U.N the World Bank
43:33
and I mean no any place that you know these Elite institutions run largely by
43:40
white men who would periodically have zipper problems she was the final common pathway she
43:48
would sooner or later get the call to that’s when they would pick up the phone we have a problem that’s right that’s
43:55
often what what prompted it but not always who would who would be calling the corporate Council or the uh
44:03
sometimes corporate councils sometimes bored if it was the CEO
44:10
often The Wall Street Journal
44:16
so you were your firm was providing help with whatever issues they might
44:22
well because of my research background I wouldn’t go in unless I was allowed to do a rigorous both quantitative and
44:30
qualitative fact-finding of what was going on and so there were a bunch of places that just
44:36
wanted um you know PR or performative nonsense or something
44:43
and I would say wrong person wrong firm so and how would you do quantitative how
44:51
would I do surveys okay so to go in and to find out okay is this an isolated
44:56
problem or is there you would go in and first always do focus groups to find out
Focus Groups
45:02
what you should actually be surveying on so it was a very rigorous multi-step
45:08
process and you had certain standards about who had to be in the focus groups
45:13
if the company wouldn’t make a representative set of people available to the focus groups you would say I
45:20
can’t design right I had to have the employee rosters and pick the focus group participants myself and I would do
45:26
it random so you know if it was a 40 000 person company I
45:32
put everybody into their various departments and demographic groups and said okay for this group I need every
45:39
50th person for this group I need every fifth person and literally I went through their employee rosters not
45:44
knowing anybody and picked them picked out the names and then I’d submit them for and I would send out the invitations
45:52
and companies that would say that would say oh no no you can’t have this person you can’t have this and
45:58
um the only you know they’d say okay this person’s on medical leave or this person gave notice I’d say okay but if
46:04
they say no this person’s a troubled maker I’d say I want them in that’s who I want tell me who the other ones are so
46:11
a lot of companies would call you and what they wanted was for you to just do
46:16
your thing come in and deliver your your thing you say I don’t have a canned thing I only do customized work right
46:23
that fits your particular situation your employees and that
46:29
yeah yeah I need to know what’s going on right and this was I mean sexual harassment
46:35
was a common reason to be brought in but were some also around diversity oh yeah all kinds
46:43
of all kinds of what we think of as a a broad definition of diversity issues
46:48
sometimes it was it was turnover it would turn over in a certain department or turnover of you know we can’t retain
46:56
black employees or uh Polaroid had been a good an example
Polaroid
47:05
of a progressive company at one time is that yes yes they had been and we had some
47:12
we had a couple of Polaroid managers in the ranks of lotus managers
47:18
and that is actually one thing I did is you know I would welcomed any manager who’d come in to
47:24
Lotus like what what worked at your last company tell us
47:30
our once we had a big sales force they were almost all IBM
47:35
so we had a lot of a lot of fun undoing the IBM culture
47:41
did they sing You the song ever onward IBM most of them said IBM stand for I’ve
47:48
been moved
IBM Sales Culture
47:53
well it’s not just the IBM cultures the IBM sales culture yes they were it was just you know yes
48:00
that part of IBM culture at all yeah but it was about you know making your quota
48:06
it was an army of navy blue suits yeah
48:12
but they were good salespeople for well for a certain definition yes for a certain Market I mean for major
48:19
corporate costs yeah yeah well in the systems architect I mean they did know how to integrate technical people into
48:26
the sales organization and I think that was not as well known or understood at
48:32
the time right technical pre-sales sales engineers and yeah yeah right
Customer Success Managers
48:38
now we have customer success managers and um
48:45
Wikipedia said uh you Freda were involved and gave input
48:50
on the Civil Rights Act of 1991. I did did that I mean most of the the major
48:56
law had been set by the 70s is that right for I mean the framework of
49:02
affirmative action Civil Rights Act of 1964-91 and some of the other things
49:08
modified it but yes I testified in Congress and for the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which was right after Anita Hill
49:16
had had been um subpoenaed and testified
49:22
she did not come forward voluntarily people say she came forward voluntarily that is not what happened
49:28
I remembered she was subpoenaed I thought my vague recollection she was sort of
49:35
asked yeah she was subpoenaed um but did did that over the course of
49:45
really from the 70s till now how much has has the legal framework changed in a
49:50
way that really has impacted this work okay
49:56
not all that much and not all that positively and I often say with
50:04
a little bit of hyperbole that discrimination law is the worst thing that ever happened to diversity
50:11
because I don’t mean that entirely that there was very important
50:16
protections that got put in place in in the 60s in particular
50:22
um but as the example Mitch gave earlier of employment lawyers use the threat of a
50:31
discrimination lawsuit to not do things that need to be done in terms of
50:37
making workplaces more welcoming
50:42
comes an excuse or their genuine life fearful but right
50:48
either way it doesn’t happen well if an employment lawyer sees employees
50:54
as enemies who might file lawsuits against the company you’ve already lost
51:01
yeah didn’t you also have an objection to sort of the fundamental definition or
51:08
the way sexual harassment law is framed which is its own issue well it wasn’t
51:14
ever uh sexual harassment came in the side door of sex discrimination law so there wasn’t nobody ever debated what it
51:21
should cover what it shouldn’t cover it was not it evolved through case law
51:26
uh in a not very helpful way
Mandatory Reporting
51:31
um in what way well
51:37
and again it is um there is a range a very wide Continuum
51:45
of behavior that falls under the definition of unwelcome sexual attention
51:51
and for it all to be lumped together and so the worst things about how sexual
51:59
harassment law has evolved is sort of mandatory reporting
52:04
mandatory investigation and so if you’re
52:11
you know a black woman engineer and your VP of engineering makes an
52:18
offensive comment in all hands you don’t want to file a formal
52:24
complaint and have an investigation that’s the end of your career and so there’s no nuance
52:31
about how might I get the message that that comment or so-called joke was
52:39
inappropriate so that the person understands the impact of their behavior as a leader
52:46
but it’s not necessarily especially if it’s done in a setting like in all hands and it’s not attached to any one person
Tech enabled ombuds
52:54
and I’m assuming that something like the Lotus Grapevine was designed to deal with exactly exactly and for years I
53:02
looked for a tech enabled ombuds and we actually found someone
53:08
she’s been in the cable Capital portfolio a company called equitable and
53:14
that’s exactly what they do they are a tech enabled ombuds and they’re they contract to a company though yeah
53:21
exactly because it seems like something that makes sense to us yes right yeah
Inhouse training
53:27
and I mean in at deck you did I presume some sort of training of employees but I
53:34
mean that’s become its own whole kind of world but were you doing that in-house bring in outside people
53:42
when I was doing it at digital yeah well I was a consultant two-digit oh but
53:48
sorry back at Lotus at Lotus what I’m saying is today there’s firms that do nothing but come in and do trade right
53:54
right did that exist no in the earlier mid 80s and when did that well there
54:01
were man Management training companies have always existed and and so in terms
54:06
of what they included um and we we did work with some
54:14
um and required them we required diversity of their trainers
54:22
um and we required a um a customized curriculum
Consulting
54:29
so they could add that a few basically yes yes
54:34
but I mean when you were doing consulting was there were you providing some of
54:40
that or not yes you and your Associates yes and Associates of Klein Associates I
54:46
had how many people that did I had teams of people that were some
54:52
were employees but most were specialized by geography and or by
54:57
industry and so if we were going to go into a hospital Network
55:03
I wanted people who not only understood about diversity but they also understood about health care
55:09
and so same thing about educational institutions or Tech
55:15
so that some domain expertise was important Financial Services law firms
55:20
but ombud services ombuds like Services have never become a
55:27
niche like that essentially if they haven’t and they should it’s it’s baffled me because there’s plenty of
55:34
data um about how effective they are if there were an ombuds privilege so
ombuds
55:42
that certain classes of communication were privileged it would ease the fears and concerns of management about putting
55:49
it in ombuds because now some are worried that this stuff comes in and it’s gonna get subpoenaed get subpoenaed
55:55
and they don’t want it on the record and so that is one piece of policy Improvement of if there were a legal
56:03
privilege there used to be and it eroded eroded but if it came back that would actually
56:08
make a difference so now I learned that from her everything I know about this
corporate diversity
56:15
but the now it’s not only not privileged but it can be subpoenaed and also uh
56:21
some of our triggers mandatory reporting right could
56:27
but that’s only in certain circumstances right yeah it’s all uh it depends how it’s how it’s constructed and yeah
56:36
um so can you trace kind of the really broad
56:41
brush Strokes how have diversity corporate diversity programs changed
56:47
80s we’ve talked about more the 90s 2000 2010s what are the what are the big
56:55
sea changes well mostly corporate diversity and Tech
57:01
especially I would say gets a failing grade um there’s been no
57:08
sustained effort that has made a measurable difference I think that’s sort of the the headline
57:16
I think there are many people many academics who’ve documented that
57:22
literally billions of dollars have been spent and over decades with
57:29
really um rounding error kind of improvements
57:35
and what’s remarkable to me is for any other business issue
57:41
you would see boards and shareholders and others up in
57:47
arms how can you spend all this money how can you say that these are your priorities and you fail year after year
57:53
after year and the people heading the efforts and the CEOs stay in place
57:59
so I think it it is a you know a
58:05
conspiracy if you will of the culture which is to say it just isn’t that important
taking precedence
58:11
well or that there are other things which are more important and they take wind up taking precedence
58:18
I mean if you talk to well-meaning CEOs I mean they will talk
58:24
about if you really want to bring about change you you have to change a lot of
58:30
things internally you have to change the culture and culture changes hard it’s really hard and business is already
58:37
tough and most people just give up and it’s not clear
58:44
when and how to do it if you’ve already built a company
58:50
that isn’t diverse and now how do you retrofit it
58:56
how do you turn the Titanic around but I mean if you if you’re hiring
turning the Titanic around
59:03
includes more diverse people just natural turnover would push you toward
59:08
more diversity right no not if the culture is one that isn’t welcoming right if there’s a revolving door so
59:15
companies have in fact upped they’ve done better at increasing the diversity of new hires than they have at the
59:22
diversity retention because retention or promotion right
59:28
people they come in they go out that’s universities have some of that so
59:34
I mean 90s 2000s 2010s any particular
59:40
Milestones or landmarks that change things look I think along the way there
59:45
have been many big events you know whether you talk about
59:52
Anita Hill then we saw a repeat with Kavanaugh’s
59:57
hearing then you talk about George Floyd being murdered uh then you can talk about
1:00:05
timnant Gabriel and the other ethical AI people being fired from Google there are
1:00:11
these events that happen and there’s periodic uproar
1:00:16
sometimes very localized and sometimes industry-wide and sometimes National
1:00:23
and there’s a burst or a flurry of activity and then it dies down without much
1:00:29
lasting change there’s a study done I want to say it was the Washington Post
1:00:36
many people tried to track the corporate commitments made after George Floyd was
1:00:42
murdered and what’s actually happened there was about 50 billion in
1:00:49
commitments 0.5 percent has been spent
1:00:55
okay so I do think some things are different
1:01:01
so there is now a vast body of well-accepted research Within
1:01:07
the academic and practitioner community that documents all this and explains a
1:01:16
lot of it in fact you started Level Playing Field Institute in 99 with an explicit Mission saying corporate
1:01:24
efforts of diversity have failed I want to understand why and so what the
1:01:29
studies this the the levers study corporate the corporate
1:01:34
leavers and Tech teams that sort of analyze the experiences of different
1:01:39
groups of people of black and latinx and lgbtq and why they stay or go for
1:01:48
reasons of unfairness and the patterns are different but they’re all very predictable it’s all
1:01:53
you know that research and other research done not I mean by a variety of
1:01:59
people uh is widely cited in way and it didn’t didn’t used to
1:02:05
exist so now nobody can say oh we didn’t know there was a problem I mean that’s
1:02:10
not a good faith thing uh to say anymore so that that is different that
1:02:19
potentially sets the stage for better things to for Action yeah
1:02:25
well the changing demographics in the U.S in
1:02:31
particular is something that I think of as a positive and that
1:02:38
has had definitely had an impact there’s been some tension
1:02:43
along the way but I think everybody recognizes the growing diversity of the country the
1:02:52
majority of kids in K-12 education for more than five years now has been you
1:02:59
know black and latinx and Asian it has been other than white
1:03:05
and so if we’re talking about our future Workforce I think everybody understands that’s
1:03:12
what we’ve got to pay attention to I think there’s some other trends that are really totally fascinating about
1:03:18
people doubting the value of higher education questioning about Elite institutions and
1:03:25
who gets in and why Legacy admits versus Merit and I think all these alternative
1:03:31
Pathways into Tech in particular are very promising for making a much quicker
1:03:38
difference in terms of of preparing talent for tech jobs
1:03:43
yeah let me also say even the silver lining of the hyper partisan
1:03:52
political atmosphere now is that it’s just a well-established fact
1:03:59
that identity matters and who you are and that you have a right to that it’s just that some people enforcers really
1:04:05
don’t like that they don’t like it enough that they’re doing what they’re doing but it’s a testament to the fact
1:04:11
that it’s that the landscape has changed dramatically which isn’t to say it’s a
1:04:17
good situation now but it is one in which um
1:04:23
people are not who are not included who have not been given access or opportunity are not just going to go and
1:04:31
you know hide somewhere and pretend that none of this happened so
1:04:36
don’t know what’s going to happen but not that we’re not going back well what I do wish and what still
1:04:43
baffles me is that more people don’t vote with their feet in their pocketbooks
1:04:48
that I would have expected but I’m an optimist I would have expected by now
1:04:54
this sort of separation of companies by culture and values
1:05:00
and that there would be some companies that are exponentially more diverse than
1:05:06
others and it just hasn’t played out that way and some I think it’s confusing to
1:05:12
figure out between as you were talking about before between all of the corporate PR
1:05:18
it’s really hard to figure out from the outside what’s it like
1:05:24
to be fill in the blank what what’s it like to work at this place I have I have
1:05:29
a theory about this yeah well it’s like climate change which is that
1:05:35
um you know it was a long time when people are talking about climate change but it was just not taken seriously it’s now
1:05:42
taken seriously by everyone except Fringe and and you know and the rear guard and we haven’t had that
1:05:48
Inconvenient Truth moment in diversity I don’t know you know if or when we will
1:05:53
but it’s still possible to kind of if you’re in business and in power to sort
1:05:59
of take a business as usual kind of stance even acknowledge against the issues we’re working on but you know it
1:06:06
it the I don’t know what kind of event or events it would take some
1:06:11
people thought it might might have been George Floyd’s murder but we’re not there yet
1:06:17
curious could still happen though I’m curious what you think I mean
1:06:22
having grown up mostly in Silicon Valley um worked in it you know it seems that
1:06:28
there’s sort of a shadow ecosystem of employees of tech companies are much
1:06:34
less diverse than contractors in the whole support system whether it’s
1:06:39
translators or contract testers or riders or whatever and they can be older
1:06:46
less white less male and it seemed you know there in a way there is diversity
1:06:52
but it’s unequal in other words the the more diverse people are there they’re just getting paid a fraction and they’re
1:06:59
not on the campuses they’re second-class citizens right no benefits so I mean but
1:07:05
I wonder if that’s why the system in a way you get the benefit of the the brains of a lot of these people you just
1:07:11
and it’s even better you can pay them Less in a way I mean it seems like there’s an almost but they’re not
1:07:17
typically in the real positions of power which most of these Silicon Valley companies are engineering cultures and
1:07:23
the engineers are ones who are hired and they’re replicating their own eliteness
1:07:28
by hiring more people like them out of Stanford and MIT and you know with
1:07:34
certain pedigrees and credentials and so the two the two-tier system I mean
1:07:39
doesn’t really Sur it doesn’t serve the interest of diversity it just oh no not at all right
1:07:45
but you’re saying you don’t get you don’t get their brains or their you don’t know that that’s right that’s
1:07:50
right so the whole effort to recruit people of color into the Googles and
1:07:56
other uh companies in non-technical roles we’re always critical of that
1:08:01
because you’re not going to be I learned this from her you know in the seat of power influencing the company you’re not
1:08:07
taken seriously I mean heck at Google if you didn’t get your PhD from a top-tier
1:08:13
institution they didn’t think that you were going to succeed they might hire you but they wouldn’t you know
1:08:19
they were Google was asking SAT scores of people who were in their 40s yeah I
1:08:25
know I did a interview people for the Google corporate history project
1:08:32
just so yes it was very bizarre
1:08:37
um but also and then we’ll we’ll go to the one word the um
1:08:43
there is a huge difference in the Bay Area at least in diversity within uh
1:08:48
Federal and City I.T and software departments and companies now I presume
1:08:55
that is mostly because of what is that more networking people no have connections there or is is that
1:09:03
the various laws that are actually being applied more within government departments why is there such a a big
1:09:10
difference well Mitch referenced the tech lever
1:09:16
study that we did in 2017 uh out of the capor center and it looked at why
1:09:22
different groups demographic groups voluntarily leave Tech and one of the things in the core of the
1:09:30
study was a couple thousand engineers um and one of the things we found is
1:09:36
that engineers working as engineers in non-engineering
1:09:42
companies had much better experiences so there’s something about the tech
1:09:49
culture of a tech startup where everybody in power is
1:09:55
in an oven from Tech that makes for a more exclusionary environment and so if
1:10:02
you’re the you know you can be head of engineering
1:10:07
of a hospital system and
1:10:12
you can have a billion dollar budget we know somebody in that position and how you’re treated and how you feel
1:10:21
about your workplace is dramatically different than if you’re working in a
1:10:26
tech company what would be an interesting piece of research if it hasn’t been done is if you controlled
1:10:31
for not the budget but the type of technical work that’s
1:10:37
being done like if you had some categories like this is what it means to be working on operating systems or
1:10:43
system software this is systems integration and this is sort of front-end UI and if you control for that
1:10:50
across employers I think one thing you would find is that different employers have a different mix it’s like you know
1:10:57
if you’re government I.T they’re generally not developing new operating systems whereas Google and meta in
1:11:04
effect are because I think some of the self-replicating elitism has to do with
1:11:10
those with the categories of work that are being done because they say oh well if you didn’t
1:11:15
get your PhD from Stanford we’re just not going to hire you or
1:11:21
things things to that effect but it makes sense but I would want to see the research to see if it actually how
1:11:27
strong an effect it is yeah because I it strikes me as two parallel worlds in some ways
1:11:34
yeah my word is empathy if you’re a technical person
1:11:41
you have the ability to manipulate these symbols to write code to cause computers
1:11:47
to do absolutely amazing things I would ask you have empathy with a 95
1:11:54
percent of the population that does not have that skill set uh or or inclination
1:12:00
at least not to you know a developed kind of degree and to be empathetic and understand what their experiences like
1:12:08
in using the things that you are in the process of creating because a little empathy goes a very long way to making
1:12:15
products and services that are usable and and enjoyable
1:12:22
that was going to be my word oh yeah I’m sorry
1:12:28
you did a great job um okay um
1:12:34
my word is bias we all have them
1:12:39
and they’re not necessarily bad things we have biases towards places we like to
1:12:46
go Foods we like to eat the challenge is to be aware of our own biases and where
1:12:52
they come from and whether or not they’re accurate and which biases we’re
1:12:57
applying in the workplace can we look at removing some of those
1:13:04
biases from day to day workplace practices how we hire how we assign how
1:13:11
we promote How We Do performance reviews who we include for after work drinks so
1:13:17
I think it’s really about hold up a mirror and look at your own biases and
1:13:22
decide which are good ones which are helpful and which are actually in the
1:13:27
way

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