Zach sits down with Mariah Driver, head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Webflow, to talk about their journey in creating a more inclusive and equitable place to work.
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and we’re here, y’all. You know, it’s a new day, a new week, a new opportunity to–what do they say? Get out there and make a change. I don’t know. I’m not trying to hit y’all with something too generic. I am honestly, like, really thinking about this murder trial of Derek Chauvin for his murder of George Floyd. And, you know, folks have reached out to me and asked like, “Okay, well, you know, are you watching the trial live?” Like, “How are you keeping up with it?” And I’m conflicted, because work and life is exhausting enough. And it feels as if, you know, we’re just leaning into trauma. At the same time, you want to know what’s going on, because you want to hope that the outcome of this trial will be different. And then there’s probably some level of just morbid curiosity as to what’s going on. Right? It’s just conflicting. For me, I’ve made the decision that I’m not going to be watching live, right? Like, I may use Twitter to check in from time to time, but I’m not going to be consuming that in real time. It’s almost like George Floyd is being murdered all over again. And these discussions become some litigation of his humanity, rather than some true pursuit of justice, even in the commentary from both the prosecution and the defense. Both of them claim that this has nothing to do with policing as a whole, but rather an individual. And so, like, even getting that bit of information, y’all, was frustrating. It’s easy to look at individual case to individual case. It doesn’t require any level of critical or systems thinking. It doesn’t force us to investigate patterns of behavior or to connect common threads and themes. Frankly, it absolves us of any type of accountability and consciousness that comes with examining patterns and themes. And it’s just the safer thing to do. I want you to know, if you’re listening to this, especially if you’re a Black or brown, that I see you, and I’m right there with you in being exhausted by the reality of white supremacy, and not just white supremacy and the acts and the harms that are enacted upon Black and brown bodies every day, but the systems that refuse to name the harm that white supremacy creates and sustains. It is exhausting. It is depressing. It is defeating. And my hope is that you find some level of release or escape, comfort in your day, as we’re constantly faced with these oppressive realities. You know, I’m really excited though, like, all of that being said, about the conversation I had today with Mariah Driver. Mariah Driver is the head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Webflow, and, you know, we had a great conversation talking about a wide range of things, from anti-Asian racism to anti-Black racism to white supremacy as a whole, patriarchy, capitalism, the challenges that DEI faces today, the future of DEI. We even talked a little bit about if she had hands or not. For those who don’t know, like, just black vernacular, if you have hands, that means you can fight. Alright? I promise it makes sense in the flow of the conversation. Pay attention, you’ll check it out. Look, we will be back, and I look forward to you all checking out this conversation. See you soon.
Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. Today, let’s talk about a couple of different ways you can use Linkedin to find a new job. Many of us started LinkedIn profiles, filled them out, and sort of left them to die. We know that we are supposed to have a profile and that they can supposedly help us land a job, but we don’t necessarily know how to locate the job opportunities that may be out there. So I want to discuss a few methods to help you throughout your search. You may be aware that LinkedIn has a job board where companies can post new opportunities. Most of us just come and search for a job title, and that’s it. But what if I told you that you could filter your results by LinkedIn features. For example, you can use the filter on LinkedIn’s job board search to find jobs only in your network, meaning you will only see jobs where you have a LinkedIn connection. You can then reach out to your connections before applying to learn more about the job and even potentially ask for a referral since we know that can make you more likely to land an interview. You can also look at the alumni connections you have for any role posted on LinkedIn to reach out and do the same thing! Instead of search for job titles, you can also search by skills. So maybe you know there’s a skill, function, or software that you’re really good at and want to do more of in your next job. You can search for that skill to see what jobs are available. So let’s say you’ve been in HR and you’ve gotten some experience with organizational development, but you want to get more. You can search for organizational development in the job board to see what type of roles may be available to do more of that. Or maybe you’re in accounting, and you became an expert on the Great Plains software. You can search for you that as well. Did you know that you can search for remote roles on LinkedIn too? Instead of putting your city and state in the location portion of the search, type in remote. If you’re looking for remote opportunities based in your city, you can still search for the city and state, then click the “remote” filter in the options under the search bar. Just remember, this will show fewer results as we are narrowing it down by geographic location. Lastly, don’t be afraid to search through hashtags like #jobs, #applytoday, #joinourteam, #hiringnow, and #nowhiring. You can also search for more specific hashtags like #accountingjobs, which would lead to more tailored opportunities. The moral of the story here is that there are numerous ways to search for roles on LinkedIn. Make sure you’re taking advantage of all the avenues LinkedIn offers to help you land that new gig you’re looking for. Thanks for tapping in with me today! Don’t forget; I’m now taking submissions from you all on career questions, issues, concerns, or advice you think may help others! So make sure to submit yours at bit.ly/tapintristan. This tip is brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @layfieldresume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.
Zach: What’s going on, how you doing?
Mariah: Hello. Busy time in the world, sad time in the world, but I’m really glad to be here.
Zach: Look, I’m glad to have you here now. Of course, we’re going to talk about your journey. We’re going to talk about Webflow. We’re going to have a conversation I think, considering the fact that we’re recording this on March 18th, I’d like to understand a bit more about how you, as a diversity equity inclusion leader are processing the senseless white supremacist tragedy that befell that group in Atlanta. And then two, where Webflow is on creating equitable and inclusive spaces for their Asian and Asian American, East Asian employees? As well as what is Webflow doing to create, or to make Webflow a choice destination for that group, that committee?
Mariah: I think first to just to speak about the last 24 or 48 hours. And this is a peek into the life of an EDI DEI practitioner is the violent and horrific attacks on the Asian community that happened. The murders in Atlanta, the way that the media spoke about them, who was centered in that discourse, who was given the benefit of humanity and bad days, was heartbreaking. And I, alongside a lot of other folks probably had the first instinct to try to suppress those emotions that come up, when that happens. So, the first thing that I have learned to do is to just process it on my own first. Even if it’s not an event that directly affects the racial groups that I belong to. I’m biracial, but I identify primarily as a Black woman. And I’m processing it and creating space for that grief and that trauma witnessing that we do. That was the first thing that I had to do for myself. Because I knew it was going to be a long day of holding space for other people’s pain and other people’s trauma. And I wanted to be able to show up that way. So that was the first thing, was just recognizing, checking in with myself. But the way at Webflow we responded, and I said this to my CEO. I said, it’s both heartbreaking and inspiring, to see good we’ve gotten at and how quickly we’ve been able to respond to these racially traumatic and politically charged events, against certain minoritized groups. Because they’ve happened so frequently, that it’s gotten to the point where now it feels like we can respond within hours. In ways that we weren’t able to do before George Floyd. And it was inspiring to see at Webflow, a group of folks from our ERG. The first thing was checking in with our Asians at Webflow, ERG Group, and their leaders. And just acknowledging what happened, letting them know that the rest of the ERG leads were on standby for anything they needed. Whether that was surfacing resources for managers. Whether that was finding trauma and healing specialists, we were there, and just wanted to create that space for them. Knowing that they were likely creating a space for their community as well. So the first thing we did was checking in with them, asking what they needed. We identified a need for pretty immediately or some kind of space for the community to process, and work through, and start to heal from the events. And I think one thing that I am beginning to learn on my own learning journey. We’re all on our journeys, even as EDI practitioners. It’s one of those fields where the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. Is that our Asian community was expressing that they are not accustomed to taking up space. And they’re not accustomed to asking for help, and they’re not accustomed to being burden. There’s a fear of being burden with their brief, with their pain, with their fear. Even within their own group, they recognized that. So the first step I took was to find a trauma and a racial trauma specialist who helps create spaces for healing, for processing, especially for racially triggered events and violence. So we did that for our Asians at Webflow Affinity Group. A few of them took the day off. We educate. I sent a note to our managers with a guide for how to respond to, and support teams through a racial crisis, or political crisis. And part of that is acknowledging what’s happened in pretty much every meeting. And identifying the folks in our team who are at the center of harm, checking in with them letting them know they can take time off. Letting them know they’ll take on projects that they have for meeting a deadline. Giving them that option, being really proactive. And just really asking what they need versus assuming what they need. And lastly, our, our DEI council came together and we created a list of resources. The first thing everyone asks is what can I do? Where can I donate? We scramble we’re in the face of these horrific events, that we both could have, and probably knew were predictable, but also feel very powerless in responding to. So we created a guide of resources. A lot of them focused, actually not on just educating folks on what happened, but actually educating folks on the long and erased history of violence and anti-Asian racism in the United States and outside of the United States. That only bubbled up to the surface after COVID hit, and after our last administration. So we created that list of resources. We ended up publishing it publicly, to share with our community. To invite them in to engage in this reflection, and then also propose some ideas for how to engage in effective allyship for that community. So yeah, that’s how we responded yesterday. And the biggest thing that we focus on in any event, like this is just centering the needs of the community. Asking, instead of assuming, and then really investing the time and the resources into supporting them. And I think that was our priority yesterday, and I was really proud of the team for mobilizing around it. And getting all of that together. And then, our CEO acknowledged it in our all team meeting today, spoke a bit about it there. And a lot of folks from our council, went to some trainings today on how to engage in effective allyship. And disrupt these bystander effect of a lot of this.
Zach: It’s interesting, I was just talking to another leader about this very thing. This an anti-Asian hate and racism, and thinking through a bit about systems and being a systems thinker. I think that some of the challenge with historical DNI is that it’s so individual focused. And not necessarily as thoughtful on the systems that we’re trying to either shift, or engage, or interrogate to create impact. And so, as I hear what you’re talking through and the work that Webflow did for their own employees in creating that space. I think about just how rare that is. Considering, I’m a Black man, I’ve yet to have anybody, I’ve yet to have any org, certainly not the org that I work at now, provide targeted resources for racialized trauma and healing, that is unique. And I’m curious when it comes to investment in your group and your space, what informs that? How do you get the capital to even do that? What was the process for Webflow to approve that type of expense?
Mariah: First Webflow is a visual development platform. So our goal of the product ultimately, is to increase access, open access to building for the web. Which is the world’s most powerful medium that only a sliver, sliver, sliver, sliver of the population has the ability to build on for, because it requires the ability to code, for the most part. Or you go to a Squarespace, or WordPress, or Wix and your control over what you’re creating, what you’re producing is severely limited by the constraints of that platform. So our goal, is ultimately to democratize access to this, to power, to opportunity that the web presents. And so, when I first started doing this work, it was just myself. I started at Webflow three years ago, I was on the marketing team, and this was just work that I had started doing on the side with my CEO. I was the first Black woman to join the team. And I had built up enough trust in my leaders, and especially, my CEO, that I was able to ask, are we planning on prioritizing, hiring other Black people, or just developing any strategy around diversity and inclusion, as we started to scale? And like most CEOs I’m sure his answer was, I’m thinking about it. I care about that and I don’t know where to start or what to do. And so, how I began this work was actually just in my 10% time working with him, to figure out how do you go about building a diversity and inclusion strategy? How do you go about even figuring out where we were? How do we know where we’re starting from? And how do we legally collect demographic information? And how do we prioritize diversity in hiring without perpetrating this idea of quote unquote diversity hires getting a leg up because of the way that they identify? So there were so many unknowns, and that is, I am an academic at heart. And I studied critical race theory in both South Africa and in Washington D.C. And so for me, this was a bunch of question marks, and I’m super attracted to question marks. It feels like a bit of a mystery and an adventure to investigate. So I went down the rabbit hole of finding all of the resources, all of the guides, all of the discourse out there about diversity and inclusion. And interestingly, I was really disappointed by what I found. And it wasn’t to the fault of the creators of that content. I think it was more disappointment in, I’m reading about these theories, and about these practices, and about these recommendations from experts. And then, I’m seeing in the workplace, and in tech, that nothing is changing. And so for me, it was this question of, okay, so are we going to follow what everyone else is doing, knowing that, no, the needle is moved when other folks are doing it? Or are we going to figure out a different way to go about this? So my CEO and I, for him our mission to democratize access to the web, our core to that mission is diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s creating equity in the world, which is opening access to opportunities. It’s ensuring that ecosystems for creatives and for entrepreneurs are valuing, and respecting, and uplifting everyone, and not excluding anyone on the basis of their identity. And just being a representative of the world that we live in. Which right now, the creators of the web or not. And so, that is the impetus is that he, and I think this is the advice I give to all DEI practitioners who are just starting out, is if you have to fight for budget, for DEI. Or you have to make the business case to the people in power at your company. That’s always going to be a battle. And so, I got very lucky that I was working with a leadership team and especially a CEO who inherently felt and understood the importance of it. And felt personally committed to prioritizing it alongside the development of our product, and our company, because he did not see the opportunity for those things to be decoupled. So that’s where the impetus for this. There’s no question of, do we invest in this area? The question is how do we invest, how do we scale, and how do we make sure this is sustainable? What we don’t want to do is over invest in the beginning, and then have to work back, to take things off later down the road. So strategic investments have been a core part of what we’ve been doing. But with every round of fundraising, we go through, we increase the amount of money that we’re committing to these efforts. And I feel so fortunate that, when I have come to go to my CEO, or Head of People that it’s never been a question of, is this a worthy investment? Or is this, for in this case, our Asian community at Webflow, do they need this? That’s never been a question. So I’ve gotten very lucky in the sense that I have their trust to make strategic investments. And that they’re willing to, and they understand the core importance of it beyond just this nice to have.
Zach: Yes. I’ve had conversations with other other women who identify as Black, on Living Corporate and they talk about their role as diversity officers, or in some way, they’re like the leader of people, but they own this is part of their role. And a pattern that I’ve seen is that most of these roles, they churn out after about a year and a half, two years, because there just isn’t that support. And there’s not that investment. It’s almost, okay, why did you even hire me, if you’re not going to invest, not going to listen to the things I say, you’re not going to take my recommendations? Does it feel natural at this point to be heard? Or was that something that’s like a new experience? And I’m not trying to, but perhaps I am projecting a bit project a little bit. But I think about my experience in corporate America. Often I feel, as a Black person, even as a man. Of course I benefit to a degree, from patriarchy, of course. But as a Black man, I’m not heard often. I do feel I have to fight and prove and justify my stance on any one thing, when I make a recommendation. That seems to not be the case for you at Webflow. And I’m curious, is that feeling different, or are you accustomed to that now? What is that like, feeling that support that you’re describing?
Mariah: Yes. I won’t say that the workplace I’m in, or any workplace I’ve ever been a part of has embraced fully me, my blackness, sometimes the hammer I take to the patriarchy, and white supremacy, and the systems that perpetuate both of those things. II’ve gotten lucky in that I have a lot. Starting at Webflow early on, I think was a large and significant benefit for me, given that I was able to I have a strong foundation of trust, with the people who have been there the longest and the people in positions of power. And I think that interpersonal trust is a huge, huge leg up. And that’s usually the barrier between Black women for instance, and white male leaders. Is that there is an especially, for Black men, that trust and is inherently effected by these stereotypes of Black women as angry, and of Black men as threatening. And so, I think I started and I had to prove, I will say, for all of my career, in every context, every meeting I go into, I go into it with, maybe there’ are Zoom filters in the background. But the most prominent filter is honestly the filter on how I show up. How I speak when I swallow my tongue, when someone tells me, Oh, you’re so articulate. Which happens to me on a weekly basis. So there are things that I know the boundaries, it’s conditional. And I won’t say that it’s conditional, with my leaders necessarily, because I really do believe that they have proven that we can have candid and honest conversations about how we work, and what my role is. But I will say in the workplace in general, that filter, which is a survival mechanism, hasn’t disappeared. And I don’t think it will for a long time. White people have to prove themselves to us for enough time for us to be able to let that one go. But it is something, I guess the question is how does that feel? Does it feel different? I still go into most conversations assuming that I won’t be able to influence a decision. And I won’t be able to, and that my idea won’t be taken. And just assumed is fully thought out, and fully strategic, and run with. That being said, so I am surprised every time it happens and it does happen more frequently. Fortunately for me, more frequently than it has ever happened in my career before. But I think there’s a limit and there’s still a feeling of conditionality around what it means to be a Black woman or a Black man in the workplace. Even if you do have leaders who support you and are willing to amplify your voice and support your work. You’re still having to prove yourself every day. And you’re still conforming to the ideas of what of professionalism that white supremacy has defined. Many of which of those ideals are not reflective of Black culture and how I will and would be if I was bringing my full self into work. But I do feel we’re starting to make a lot of progress in the way of changing those norms. And instead of asking, inviting Black people into the workplace and asking them to change themselves, is actually starting to change the workplace. And I think that’s the conversation. That’s where we are right now as an industry. And I think that’s going to be the only thing that, as you hinted at earlier, not a lot of Black women and Black men stay in the workplace. Attrition is as large of a problem if not larger than retention is. And it’s because you are inviting a different demographic of a team when you’re inviting Black people into the workplace. But you treat them and expect them to show up like white people and you manage them like white people. They can’t survive, they can’t stay there. You’re subjecting them to trauma every single day. And so, what we’re starting to see is that’s shifting and that we’re starting to acknowledge that leaders have to adapt their workplaces to the needs of their changing demographics and diversified teams. Versus asking their teams to conform to the workplace that was once very homogenous.
Zach: Goodness gracious, Mariah, you’ve got bars?
Mariah: Don’t ask me to rap. My brother and my brother will attack. He’s like, please never do that.
Zach: Goodness girl, that was insane. I feel you. Amen. Preach. If I didn’t, goodness gracious, sometimes I just have to wave my hand. Amen. For real. And I appreciate the candid answer. You’re speaking to something that is ever prevalent, even when we get the small bits of support that we need to be effective at our jobs, and navigate these spaces. Which is just the reality of patriarchy and white supremacy. You said that at the top of this. I’m curious, where do you foresee diversity, equity, and inclusion going? As it pertains to naming systems and naming ideologies that enable trauma, that enabled harm for individuals who have been marginalized, for oppressed communities? Do you see it continuing to grow in that space? Or do you eventually see a clawback where we’re getting more into, I’m going to call it like this conservative whitewash DNI, that’s frankly, diversity of thought, heavy on unconscious bias, high binary analysis or understandings of identity. Almost like an ignore, almost like a dismissal of ethnic and racial identities and the ratio of trans identities. Where do you see the space in this work going over the next, I’m just going to say three or four years?
Mariah: Yes, it’s a good question. So there are a few things I see happening. If I had to describe the current state of DEI and what this transition [inaudible 00:23:22]. For a long time, DEI has been a check the box, compliance driven, in HR, Affirmative Action space. And I talked to a lot of DEI leaders about what changes we’re seeing, because we’re all going through it. And all of us are trying to figure out what’s happening in the space, and what other people are doing, and what’s changing, and what’s now acceptable, and what we can ask for, and what we can demand for our teams. But I think what’s happening is it’s the DEI quite frankly, used to centre white comfort. And it used to center this idea that diversity, equity, and inclusion programs equally uplift everyone. And they create a culture of inclusion for everyone. And everyone benefits when we prioritize diversity and inclusion. And let’s get real, when we start making, when we start prioritizing diversity in our hiring process and we deprioritize referrals because those are predominantly end up benefiting white men and whatever the homogenous group is on the team. Their referral networks are 99% similar. So, to be honest, us taking away saying we’re going to actually deprioritize referrals, because they’re preventing us from driving equitable hiring outcomes. The white men, the white women who used to benefit from being able to send a resume and have their friend, and then their friend getting hired. They’re not equally benefitting. That’s not comfortable for them. That might not, in that moment feel like this strategy is actually improving their life, because it’s taking away a level of power and privilege to reset the balance. So I think for a long time, DEI was kind of confined to this comfort, this white comfort centered compliance driven, check the box, programmatic space. And I think now, there are two phenomenon that are happening, I think are changing this. Number one, Gen Z is coming in and Gen Z is loud. They’re loud and they are demanding and they are what a lot of people would call «the woke police». But they have a lot of Twitter followers. So people are taking them seriously. And they want to see whether they’re white, whether they’re a member of a minoritized group, they want to see workplaces that are not just saying they care about diversity and inclusion, but are actually walking the walk. And when things like these shootings in Atlanta happened, I know for a fact that if I was to sit back, if our leadership team was to sit back and say, nope, we’re not going to do this any more. And I was to sit back and say, nope, we’re not going to do or say anything. There would be a lot of white people at my company who would have been making noise about the fact that that was unacceptable. They would have been been saying that. And I think that level of allyship and that amplification of white allyship, and able-bodied allyship for our disabled community, and even Black allyship for our Asian community in the workplace. That we are starting to really hear and center, recenter the focus so that white comfort, and this compliance focus for that, for so long, has prevented us from making any real change. Is starting to shift into more of a systemic change focus. Which is that, in the short-term, we are willing to accept discomfort. We are willing to accept uncertainty. We are willing to accept that we won’t, our leaders may not always say the right things, but they’re going to say something. And they might be vulnerable about that in the process, because we realize all of that is necessary to actually create a workplace, where equity and inclusion are not just prioritized, but they’re reflected in our outcomes, in our hiring outcomes, in our promotions, all of that. And right now we’re in this space of innovation, which is really cool. And I think it’s a little bit difficult for this to happen in HR, to be honest. I think that’s what stifles a lot of innovation in this area in particular. But what I’m seeing with a lot of other DEI leaders is that number one, they’re moving out of HR. Number two, they’re getting a lot more backing when it comes to financial backing, funding, and investment. They’re given teams, they’re given resources. And also we just have a community of DEI practitioners who are no longer doing this work in a silo. So we have other people to lean on and to collaborate with outside of our companies. And we’re really starting to rethink the things that we had assumed we had to do. Which is, we’re rethinking our unconscious bias trainings, the best use of our time or energy. Or maybe is it more important for us to focus on, let’s say integrating inclusive leadership curriculum into our existing manager training, so it’s not a separate thing. And I think things like that, we’re starting to do more of. So I would say, to answer your question about where this space will be in four years. I think that there’s going to be a lot more money behind it. I think we are going to see fewer white people in DEI leads positions. I think we’re recognizing that unfortunately, privileges can really prevent and stifle the ability to effectively do this work. And unfortunately, that falls on a lot of trauma for the people of color who are doing this work as well. But I think we’re probably going to see a much more diverse slate of EID and DEI practitioners. And I think that we are going to see this space transform into one that is more innovative, more creative and less averse to conflict, or discomfort, or compliance. And I think that’s really how we’re going to see change happen. So I’m excited about that. I think we have a lot of problems, we have a lot of barriers to overcome in between now and then. But I do think that the level of transparency we’re starting to expect from companies will help drive that change. And make it no longer acceptable to say you’re committed to DEI, and have all white leadership teams.
Zach: So a few things, I’ll say this, the one thing you said that stuck out to me was this idea around centering whiteness in general, and then white comfort specifically. And frankly, it’s what makes Living Corporate or what has made Living Corporate as a platform so attractive, or unique to folks. Because we literally come on here and we name the things that your average corporate space won’t name. I agree with your point around, I’m so excited about Gen Z coming. And I’m excited about our own generation too. Now, a lot of us are still scared, but Gen Z is not scared. They come and they’re no, no, no, no, no. I want to smoke right now, actually. And I don’t actually care if y’all want to fire me. I don’t care. I’m working five jobs anyway. It doesn’t matter. I’ll go get money, doing whatever. Their whole mindset and how they think about, and how their focus seems to be much more civic-minded. And they have expectations. Even if they can’t articulate the full complexity of a thing, they are resolute in what they want to see and are willing to raise their voice to get that expectation, to get that result. And that’s exciting to me. I’m curious, we talk about and look, Mariah, straight up, for all those listeners, I’m going to tell you straight up. We had all these questions where I dropping some different kinds of heat. I’m over here, wait a minute now she has got me going, I have new questions.
Mariah: We’re improvising. That’s what we’re doing. [inaudible].
Zach: So it’s interesting though, you talked a little bit about inclusive leadership, and you talk about integrating those expectations just for everyone’s day-to-day job is… My challenge continues to be, as we think about these organizations is what does it really look like to fundamentally shift leadership, mindsets, and behaviors? When you think about a lot of these programs, here you have ERGs and yes, I might bring in a speaker or we might do some type of event, or we might do a happy hour or whatever the case may be. But we talked about the brass tacks of really shifting and changing policy and radically re-imagining what a leader looks like in an organization. Because that’s how things yeah. But I don’t know where I’m seeing DEI having a strong voice in that work, the radical reimagination. Or I’ll even just say a dismantling of abolishment of certain policies that create harm and or just have such wide gaps. That it’s easy for them to be exploited at the expense of Black and brown town. I’m curious about what are your thoughts on that?
Mariah: This is a tough area. And I actually don’t know that I have seen. I think the leadership piece is core to the ability for underrepresented talent to succeed, and to grow, and for this work to really start to take root. And I don’t know if I’ve seen, candidly, I don’t think I’ve seen any company get this right. Like perfectly scale this kind of new shift in what leadership looks like and actually hold people accountable for it. I think there’s a lot of aspiration in the industry for what we want our leaders to not just do, but the types of leaders we want them to be. And but I do think there’s an appetite for it, both within leadership. I think, [inaudible] leaders who are hungry. They’re hungry for this information, this education, this growth.For me, what it comes down to, is to change systems. And in this case, we’re talking about both processes, and talking about behavioral systems, the systems of behavior, patterns of behavior. I studied psychology. So this is where I am maybe bordering on pessimist realist, but I don’t believe that you can change behavior without changing incentives. And without changing and, without creating new incentives. And getting rid, and identifying what behaviors previously were incentivized that are preventing progress in this area. And how you create accountability levers for that. So that’s for me, how we start to move and again, drive a systems change. It’s not just focusing on changing the people, because the reality is, if I’m relying on changing people, and changing their default patterns of behavior, and changing their opinions, and convincing them of the moral or business case. I’m going to be doing this work for a hundred years and nothing’s going to change. But I think what we can do is we can start to identify, that people’s behaviors are guided ultimately by systems of incentives and rewards. So they are doing the behavior that’s serving them in some way. And so if they’re engaging in behavior that is non-inclusive, that is perpetuating microaggressions. Maybe they’re hiring all of their friends. Maybe they’re only promoting the folks in their team who looked like them. They’re doing that because number one, there’s no punishment for it. And number two, it’s serving, it’s benefiting them. They’re getting to work with people who look like them, and therefore they’re more comfortable around. And so, I think what I’m trying to focus on is, and I’ll provide an example of how we’re doing this at Webflow. Is how do you actually change the incentives so that inherently a manager is able to see, and a leader is able to see. If I choose this more inclusive behavior, or if I decide to speak up against this pattern of hiring within our kind of homogenous networks. I will be rewarded for that, versus I will be told I’m falling things down. And so, one thing we’ve done at Webflow just to start this process. And again, I’m very candid and I think that we have not figured this out, and we have not gotten this right. But is starting to integrate inclusive leadership as a core element of our career development pods for managers. So when someone is being considered for a promotion, they are evaluated, not just on the core role responsibilities, but also their inclusive leadership assessment. So have you attended anti-racism? The bare minimum is going to the trainings. Anyone can, you can on Zoom. You could not even be at your computer and be at the training technically.
Zach: Like [inaudible] the button and walk away.
Mariah: Yes, exactly. Like very low bar there. But so it starts with things as easy, as simple as, are you putting in the time? Are you putting in the time to go to the things that you are literally required to attend? The next level is let’s look at ,we’re becoming a lot more transparent and frequent, and accurate with our data collection. So let’s look at your hiring patterns. How have you been prioritizing and hiring teams that reflect the diversity of your candidate pools? And how have you been working with the recruiters effectively to attract and make sure that we’re advancing diverse talents through the pipeline, at equal rates? Who have you been promoting? How have you been supporting your communities? Things like that. Have you been engaged in the DEI council? So we look at all of those. And so the good news is that, these now are not just like, Oh, you’re a good person manager for doing this extra work. It’s actually an expectation for them. So we’re trying to start experimenting with this, to see if managers know that like this actually could help me get my promotion, even if it has to come from a very selfish place. We’re selfish animals. That’s just what we are. So might as well work with it. II’m happy with that. So I think that we’ll start to see that’s the positive side of it. And then there’s the not so pretty side of it. Which is that the only way you’re going to change this system and change the status quo of leadership is if you start to become intolerant to exclusionary, harmful discriminatory behaviors. And what I say there is, if there is a manager who has had two people on his team report instances of feeling, either like inadvertently, blatantly discriminated against, or even just disrespected, or even undervalued, or not hurt, or not recognized the same way as their colleagues. And you don’t do anything about it, that you’re sending the signal to your team about what is okay and what is not. And so, that’s where it’s going to perpetuate itself. And that’s where the rubber meets the road, and where it sometimes does get difficult for leaders to make those kinds of decisions. But ultimately, you’re not going to be able to change the status quo without starting to really draw the line on what you tolerate from your leader.
Zach: Yes. And it’s just real bars. And I’ll say this, it’s like white supremacy and patriarchy is so, so deep and entrenched in corporate America. That what you just described, folks would call radical. Folks would call that radical. And it’s no, it’s actually not, but it is relative to this because, just basic accountability. So, let me ask you a question and I promise this is not a case interview. But I’m curious about this.
Mariah: Case interview is a triggering word. I went through those consulting firm interviews. I’m, oh man, got right back. No, it’s okay. For me, I’m ready for it.
Zach: Here we go. So what I’m trying to understand when it comes to incentivizing inclusive leadership behaviors. For executives, the incentive, should it be bonus? Should it be a bonus that you receive, or should it factor into your bread and butter salary? Why, also?
Mariah: Good question. I think are pros and cons to both. I think anytime there’s a bonus system, the immediate thought that I have is like, Ooh, are we just paying people to do the bare minimum right thing? That feels a little bit to me like, ah, that’s just, I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel about that. I think this is a tough question. What I will say is, you experiment with it. No one has gotten, and this is where I come back to the innovation piece. No one has gotten this right. No one’s figured it out. And so, the only way we’re going to figure it out is if we start trying things out, measuring the effectiveness of them, iterating on them, being open to being wrong. Being open to having our minds change and doing it over and over again, until we figure out something that’s actually driving change. And we have a way to measure that. So to answer this question, I think that I personally might start out with when you introduce these new, and I think this is kind of where you get the board involved too. Is when you introduce these new metrics for what it means to be a successful leader, and an effective leader, and an impactful leader that includes kind of inclusive behaviors. That maybe you start out with a bonus system where you say, we’re going to start rewarding this behavior, see how that changes their behavior. If it doesn’t move the needle, then maybe you do need to go to a more of a loss mindset of, your full salary is contingent upon you meeting these expectations. So that’s how. And then see how it goes, evaluate it again. Get feedback from the leaders themselves too. I think it’s important that they get buy-in as well. And then if that’s not driving change, and it doesn’t seem sustainable, then you can pivot and shift. But I think the biggest thing is being open to trying something out. And I think that’s where we get stifled a bit here, is that, if you propose that idea to a CEO, for instance, a lot of times they’ll come back with, well, what other company has done this? And tell me, how has it been successful? Sometimes you cannot. There are a lot of times in DEI where you can’t point to a company that’s done that.
Zach: Mariah, I hate that. That’s such a cop out to me. It’s like, come on. I don’t like that at all.
Mariah: Yes. And it’s just so antithetical to the narrative that tech promotes, which is we’ve gone where no one has gone before. And I’m like, let’s go where no one has gone before. And they’re, no one’s–
Zach: No, show me someone that I can follow.
Mariah: Yes, I need to go down the path more travelled, even if it’s downhill. That’s where we are. But I will say that I think that there’s smaller steps you can take. And that’s kind of where this risk aversion comes in too. That’s the old school of DEI, is it’s very risk averse. It’s, we don’t want to anyone off. We don’t want to make any white people uncomfortable. We don’t want to risk tweeting something and some white members of our community saying that we’re being like too liberal, or too political, or whatever. That was the old school. And we’re moving into the new school where you have to be willing to take risks, because that’s the only way you’re going to get things to change. And it’s just making sure they’re strategic, and that you’re investing in the right place. So, I don’t think that I would necessarily recommend introducing that kind of bonus system, especially at an executive level. Until you’ve really, really clarified what you want to see, and made sure that those executives feel supported in making those changes, and feel set up for success, because otherwise it could then backfire. And again, DEI could be seen as a check the box thing. But I will say money, people follow money. So I won’t say that a bonus system would be completely off of the table for a road less traveled to experiment with.
Zach: I respect that. Look, Mariah, I told you that we would get you out of here, but you and I just had a really good conversation. I hope that you come back, because I have appreciated the dialogue we’ve had. And look, before I let you go, let me just ask you, what are you excited about with Webflow, for the next 12 months? And why should Black and brown folks want to work with Webflow?
Mariah: This is a good question. I’m going to answer the second question first, because this is the one I’m most hype about. So for Black and brown folks, this is my pitch to work for Webflow. Number one, we are a remote first company with great perks and everyone likes perks. Number two, we have an incredible, we call it our what folks, typically name employee resource groups or ERG. We call them affinity groups, and we have an affinity group called Blackflow. And it was actually our first affinity group that started. And leaders are paid for this affinity group to do the work in the infinity group. The group is funded, this group is so fun. This group is like, we have these coffee chats, and we actually had a coffee chat trivia I think it was during Black history month. And the leaders planned it. And it was like a guess. We each had to submit a baby photo and the game was guess whose baby photo this is.
Zach: That could have gone left.
Mariah: And it dawned on me that this was the first time that I’ve ever played a guess who’s baby photo this is. With any level of confidence that I wasn’t just going to be found out immediately, because I was the only brown. And I’m biracial, my proximity to whiteness when I was a baby was very, very close. So, but it was still not in every other game like that, I played, it’s me and a bunch of white people. And they’re Mariah, god!
Zach: Oh, something tells me that this might be you.
Mariah: Yes, sure luck. And I said that at the start of the game, and everyone was damn, this is the first time I’ve played this too. And that’s the case. That being said, I have got pretty much every light-skinned baby, everyone guessed it was me. Obviously, it was not me, but you still don’t get away with that. The guessing doesn’t get any better necessarily, based on the group. But I will say our Blackflow group is amazing. We have our leaders, Sean and Amina they just create a great space. We’ve grown our Black employee base from 4% to almost seven and a half percent in about six months.
Zach: Oh, you are all actually doing work over there.
Mariah: So when we say like Black lives matter, we are literally, they matter so much that, Oh, we are actually going to hire Black people. So number one, we have a very incredible community of Black and [inaudible 00:47:47] folks at our company who are also just fun. I think during a lot of the last summer, we just needed a space to just be Black. And to say, Oh, guess what this white person said to me today. And sometimes that’s just what you need. So the group is amazing. Everyone who’s joined has said, this is the first time they’ve been a part of a group like this. Zero per cent attrition from anyone in our Black affinity group or any of our affinity groups. So if you need a case for why ERGs are worthy of investment, cite the fact that we have not had, out of anyone who left the company, not a single person has been a part of one of our affinity groups. And then, I think what I’m most excited for. So that was just a piece of it.
Zach: A little taste. Okay, cool.
Mariah: I’m just pitching Black folks to come. Yes. But you have to join to figure out the rest of the fun that Blackflow does. I think what I’m most looking forward to for us over the next 12 months. We are really, really doubling down on our investment, not only in DEI, but also in accessibility and in social impact efforts in general. It’s a large sum of money, which I cannot announce now, because we will be announcing later.
But we’re investing a lot of money. We’re putting our money where our mouth are. We are investing in our ecosystem because we realize that just focusing on our internal employee base is not going to move the needle on systemic inequities within the creative space that we’re serving as well. And then, I think in general, I’m really excited about how collaborative this work has become. We have a DEI council with five executive sponsors and 12 members of our team who are also paid. We also compensate everyone who’s doing DEI work, in addition to their normal job. And we have a ton of work that’s going on on that side. We have an accessibility task force that’s doing a lot of work. And a working group dedicated to that. So I feel this momentum where all of those kinds of, Oh, I would like to do this, but. Those buts of, I don’t have the time. I don’t have the resources. I don’t have the bandwidth. I don’t have the people. Those are all gone right now. So I truly do feel like we are on this path to completely demonstrate that, a company that started out with white leaders, and with majority white employee base can reflect the diversity of the world that we’re serving. And not only our internal community base, but in our leadership levels, in our customer base, I think we are on a path to do that. And I am excited about it, scared about it. But I think what’s most exciting is that I’m working with people. I feel like I’m part of a team who’s all motivated to change and risk things, and try things out, and take that road that no one’s ever taken before. And hopefully, start to show other companies what they should, and can be doing. So I’m excited about that.
Zach: My goodness, Mariah, you really have a knack for this whole speaking thing. You should do this more often. You know what I mean? I don’t know, maybe if you were the head of diversity and inclusion for Webflow. I don’t know, something like that, where you can really speak. Because you have a knack with this.
Mariah: It’s my honesty. I think I have that. My mom, when I was growing up was always a little bit worried about it. She was, you have a big mouth, and you have no filter, and that’s a bad combination. And I’m like–
Zach: Now Mariah, here’s the question. Do you have hands?
Mariah: Oh, I have hands. Yeah.
Zach: You have hands?
Zach: Your hands work?
Mariah: My hands work. Yes. They work.
Zach: Mariah, this has been fun. I appreciate you. Listen, you all heard this incredible interview with Mariah Driver of Webflow. Make sure you check out the links in the show notes. Mariah, you’re a friend of the show. I hope you’ll come back for a part two, three, four, five, something, because this was incredible. And just thank you so much.
Mariah: Thank you. This was fun. I’m definitely down to come back and do some more pew, pew, pew, dropping the bars. My brother’s going to be “You’re so embarrassing, Mariah. Someone take the mic away from her.” But yes, this has been a pleasure, and I love going off the script of questions. So I appreciate you fooling with me on it.
Zach: No problem. We’ll talk to you soon.
Mariah: All right. Thank you. Bye.
Zach: And we’re back. Y’all, I just want to thank Mariah again for being a guest on Living Corporate. Shout-out to Webflow, the things that they’re doing over there. Shout-out to, you know, everyone’s speaking truth to power and really taking risks, right? Taking risks. The era of trying to walk this line or, you know, balance or something, you know, we’re past that, y’all. And the thing about is history, it’s cyclical, because we’ve been past that for over 100 years, 150 years. But we’re really past it. And if you’re hearing this, you know, please take this as encouragement to use your voice, use your power, use your platform, whatever that may be, be it at your board seat, be it at your nine to five job, be it the blog that you write, be it your LinkedIn page, be it your Twitter account, be it, you know, the dollars that you have at the time and the talent that you have, use it to push back against systems that continually oppress us. Right? Use it. Use whatever you have. That’s the only way we’re going to get free. Now, I also recognize a lot of us don’t necessarily want to be free. A lot of us want to be white. We want to be in a position of authority and power. We don’t necessarily want to share, we simply want to be in the position that we see the majority group so we can control and dictate and command. But for those who are passionate about true freedom, who are passionate about real equity, who are passionate about dismantling systems, this is the season to step up and do something. Do something that may scare you a little bit. Step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. Push past your own fragility, push past your own insecurity, and do it. Until next time, this has been Zach. Catch y’all later. Peace.