At Marvel our company mission is to:
“Create the all-in-one platform that democratises the design process, making it more productive, inclusive and fun.”
We believe the future of design is making it more inclusive. Especially when products serve a global audience, getting the right voices involved in design, matters.
In order to achieve this, more voices from across the organisation should be involved in the design process, resulting in better products being built.
And don’t just take our word for it! Diversity of thought and opinion in the design process really does lead to better results.
- A diverse team offers more chance for empathy with your users as outlined by Martin Eriksson at Mind the Product.
- A study by McKinsey found companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- It’s only by including diverse perspectives and experiences in your product process that you can successfully build products for a diverse user group says Modupe Akinnawonu at the NY Times.
- Diverse teams produce better outcomes by the Harvard Business Review.
Marvel’s company mission guides what and how we build our product, and it also reflects how we act internally too.
Starting with Diversity & Inclusion
We’ve had a Diversity and Inclusion steering group at Marvel since 2016 when we raised our first round and were deciding what kind of company we wanted to be.
During the 2020 summer of Black Lives Matter protests, we introduced several changes at Marvel in response, including internal training, education budgets and internal resources. We also tripled the size of our Diversity and Inclusion steering group in order to dedicate more support to more work we wanted to do in this area.
How we switched to Balance and Belonging
Our team researched how other companies handle diversity and one article from Atlassian resonated with us as they discussed compelling ideas around building equitable, balanced teams. They suggest the term Balance and Belonging is more representative and inclusive than Diversity and Inclusion.
We were struck with what they said about Balance, and how the term includes those who might be left out of the “diversity” conversation – caregivers, those with invisible disabilities, or those with intersectional identities.
Balance also does a good job of conveying the continual, ongoing work necessary to balance multiple voices and perspectives. Rather than “diversity” which we felt sounded more like a hashtag or box ticking exercise where you consider that you’ve achieved it. Balance implies constant checks and tweaks to become and then remain balanced as our work is not short term but a continual process.
Belonging applies equally to all team members rather than Inclusion, which has notes of the majority represented group “budging up” to make room or to go out of their way to make space for others. We believe Belonging is something that everyone comes to work to feel. And to feel they can be fully themselves at work and be accepted by the community.
Belonging, in particular, has been so relevant to the Marvel team during the coronavirus restrictions. We believe people come to work to belong. To feel connected to others; part of a community, and part of a wider purpose of the company. The personal wellbeing side of belonging at work is a little more challenging to maintain remotely!
The words together – Balance and Belonging sound relevant to the whole team. Perhaps because of how Diversity & inclusion have been used/misused at times, it can sometimes have connotations of being a fringe initiative. Or of perhaps only being relevant to underrepresented groups. Balance and Belonging to us sounds more neutral and more relevant to the whole team. Something everyone could and should care about and contribute to.
Unanimously the team agreed that Balance and Belonging suited us better, and the name was changed! Diversity of thought that led to a better outcome was demonstrated :)
More than a hashtag
After we’d agreed as a team to rename ourselves to Balance and Belonging, I had an experience with a recruiter that totally validated the rebrand.
While briefing a recruiter for a job role, I outlined - as we do with all recruiters - that we only work with those who can commit to helping us source a balanced set of candidates. In every sense. Educational background, nationality, life experience, gender, ethnicity; to name just a few. We want to see a range of candidates, because if the pipeline isn’t balanced, our hires, and therefore our team, have no chance of being so.
In reply, this recruiter said: “OK, interesting approach,” and did a small, barely audible chuckle.
The email they sent following that call included an overview of what we’d discussed, with bullet points summarising the profile of the person we were looking for. As the last bullet point in a long list of items, they had included:
It’s the #diversity that got me. That hashtag tells me it was so clearly a box-ticking exercise to them; the last bullet point; the least important aspect of the role we had discussed on the call.
Now, this may be reading too much into this one sentence. But I just thought this fully illustrated why moving to a focus on Balance over Diversity was right for Marvel. Diversity has become a bit of a hashtag. Which trivialises the efforts of teams genuinely trying to build a balanced team.
Needless to say, we did not work with this recruiter!
Our next Balance and Belonging team initiatives
What’s next for the Balance and Belonging team at Marvel? During this year and particularly through the lockdowns, our focus is on Belonging – maintaining connections between all our team members, and making sure everyone feels involved.
As a starting point that means creating a better remote culture, more team activities with Balance and Belonging in mind, monthly 1:1 coffees for team members to connect, and company-wide lunch ‘n’ learns on a range of topics including productivity, giving feedback, side projects the team are working on and more.
Additional initiatives we’re working on:
- A review of all our internal policies from an equity building perspective
- Ensuring we shortlist a balanced set of candidates for every recruitment decision
- Rethinking our interview processes
- Reviewing our new-starter buddy guidance
- Updating onboarding with a greater focus on belonging
- Including a wider range of holidays in our team calendar, not just Christmas and Easter!
- An interview series showcasing design talent from underrepresented voices
We know there’s a long way to go, and the most important thing is to continue to do the internal work. Both as individuals and as a company.
We’re keeping focus on these Balance and Belonging projects by talking about them at a company level. By including progress in all-hands presentations, up there with company stats on revenue and performance. Which is exactly where they should be. Embedded in the fabric of the company; constantly and always evolving.