The Value Argo AI Places on Diversity and Inclusion
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There are countless studies on the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce, and most focus on the fact that diversity is good for business. We couldn’t agree more, but at Argo it’s more than that. Our technology is being developed to improve the lives of everyone, and our team should reflect that.
Recently, we were the proud recipient of the Pittsburgh HR Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Award, recognizing the steps we’ve taken to create a welcoming space for everyone. It was a fantastic achievement for our team. We took some time to celebrate, and afterwards we noted that our work doesn’t stop with an award! Two and a half years after launching Argo, our diversity metrics in technical roles remain similar to other tech companies — which can only mean one thing:
We have a lot of work to do.
Gender. One obvious challenge: gender diversity. Fifty percent of Argo’s operations staff identify as female, but among our technical staff it’s only eight percent. Although this disparity is not unusual in large tech companies, we are committed to doing better. And to do so, we’re supporting initiatives that get more females into the technology field. That means sponsoring women-focused conferences, panels and community events. It also means getting the next generation excited and prepared for technical roles, which we’re doing by sponsoring local STEM programs and hosting school classes from elementary through undergraduate.
Recruiting. Our recruiting team is focused on equal opportunity hiring, extending training opportunities to our hiring managers, expanding diversity on our interview panels, and increasing diversity-focused outreach efforts. For example, research has shown that the wording of job descriptions may discourage some people from applying, so we’ve focused on updating our job descriptions to eliminate language that ideal candidates may interpret as disqualifying.
Retention. Studies have shown that women leave tech at much higher rates than men, for many reasons. One of the ways we’re tackling this is by offering a generous parental leave policy, encouraging all parents to bond with new family members and each other. Employees are encouraged to take advantage of this policy — and have even been promoted while on leave. Time doesn’t stop when an employee takes time off; merit must be recognized and celebrated.
Openness. While our leadership is working hard to put the right tools in place to support diversity and inclusion, it’s equally important to cultivate a culture that incentivizes and empowers our workforce to do the right thing. Our folks aren’t afraid to speak out when they see behavior that conflicts with our core values, and our performance review process accounts for inclusive behavior as an important piece of evaluation criteria.
Empowerment. We are empowering our workforce to be partners in creating the diverse and inclusive culture all of us want. Many asked for more ways to meet each other in and outside of work, so we fostered the development of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs. These self-identified groups exist to broaden exposure and education of their diversity group, as well as foster community within Argo. Anyone can join any group they wish, and may form a new one at any time. Our kick-off ERGs were for parents, young professionals, women, LGBTQIA, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants. Every group is led by a self-nominated employee, is offered an executive sponsor, and receives financial resources for internal and community events, outreach, and learning opportunities. The Pittsburgh Women@Argo ERG recently held a day-long summit with a representative from Carnegie Mellon University who spoke on the science behind gender differences in negotiation skills. Women@Argo also hosted internal panels on work-life integration, and design-thinking exercises on how Argo could further improve recruitment and retention.
Mentorship. Inspired by Women@Argo, we launched our Mentorship Program in 2018, which brought together ambitious folks with mentors from across the company. The goal was to encourage our diverse talent to partner with career mentors within Argo, and to build a foundation that promotes equal opportunity in the workplace. Our class of 2018 had a 62% diversity enrollment rate. The resounding feedback was that this kind of hands on support is invaluable, and so we’re building the 2019 Mentorship Program on the pilot season’s successes in anticipation of another great program year.
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Education. Universities are not graduating an adequately diverse population of people with the skills we need to build our business — which is why we’re expanding our youth outreach by hosting countless school groups that are interested in seeing the magic of autonomous vehicles, and even giving them the opportunity to shadow an engineer. These are great ways to inspire kids to get into technical fields; and our employees love the engagement, too.
Internships. We’ve received a lot of acclaim for our Internship Program. Our interns are immersed in real world engineering problems, and our engineers love working together with them to find solutions. Our goal is for every intern to have an experience that makes them want to join the company.
We aim to radically increase the diversity of our Internship Program every year. In 2018 our class was 27% female and 59% underrepresented groups. We hope to improve these numbers in 2019 by recruiting at events like Lesbians Who Tech and Women in Computer Vision (WiCV), as well as universities with greater ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity in their student populations.
None of this would have been possible without the dedicated folks at Argo making diversity and inclusion a priority. We are all fully committed to supporting the company and improving the diversity of our workforce. We never stop educating our team and managers on how to foster an inclusive environment — as well as what they can, and should, expect from their peers and leadership.
Argo is about two years and a lot of hard work away from our first commercial deployment. If we’re going to get there, we need to continue to attract and retain world-class talent, and we want them to find Argo to be a welcoming place where they are free to be their best. We want to build the most diverse and inclusive space we can possibly build. We want to build a strong company, together with you.