Buoy’s Active Allyship: Our DEI&A Journey
PublishedApril 7, 2021
2020 was a wake-up call for Buoy. After the murder of George Floyd and the widespread protests against police brutality and racial inequality, we, like many other companies across the globe, took a hard look at ourselves. We knew we needed to do more, with the key word being “do.” Doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion goes way beyond verbal or monetary commitment or a social media post. Real change can only happen when we put words into action. And while establishing DEI&A initiatives at our small (but mighty!) startup is only part of the bigger solution, we are wholeheartedly committed to evolving our programs by actively shifting our behaviors and mindsets to more diverse, inclusive and equitable practices. Together, we’ll work to institutionalize these practices across the business landscape and in our personal lives, holding each other accountable as allies for People of Color to bring about real change.
First, a definition.
For us, it started with defining what we stand for. As a healthcare technology company striving to be the best way to get better, we need to ensure we’re the best way to get better for everyone, and this begins with how we build our products. That’s why we expanded our focus to include the Inclusivity and Accessibility of the products we build, and now refer to our company-wide initiatives in this area as “DEI&A”, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. You’ll hear us refer to DEI&A going forward.
Deliberately expanding our focus intentionally allowed us to include the whole company in our efforts. DEI&A is not just a People or HR initiative, nor is it just an Executive team responsibility, and it’s certainly not just the role of the PoCs at Buoy to drive this work. Our DEI&A team includes representatives from Product Design, Product Management, Engineering, Legal, People, Medical, Marketing, and Business Development teams. Each and every one of them contributes and brings back the learnings and strategies to their respective teams.
Next, a baseline.
We knew we needed a better understanding of where we stood as a company. In July of 2020, we conducted our first company-wide, anonymous demographic survey and achieved 92% participation. Recognizing our baseline was our first step towards capturing a fuller understanding of our workforce and identifying possible gaps, so we could work towards building a more inclusive and vibrant work environment. We looked at company-wide demographics, new hire/applicant data, and our product principles and user-demographic data to assess where we were, and where we aspired to go. We compared ourselves to the tech industry nationwide, which is, frankly, a low bar. "And we asked ourselves, is this where we want to be? The answer was a resounding no."
"And we asked ourselves, 'Is this where we want to be?' The answer was a resounding 'no.'"
Looking into our workplace...
Race at Buoy
Generally speaking, Buoy race statistics are somewhat comparable to the demographic breakdown of the tech industry nationwide, but the percentage of Black employees at Buoy is lower than the tech industry baseline (7%).
Gender at Buoy
While Buoy gender statistics are comparable to the tech industry nationwide, the number of females in leadership roles at Buoy exceeds the tech industry baseline, with females making up 47% of the leadership roles at the company.
Sexual Identity at Buoy
To date, industry-wide data for LGBTQ+ representation in technology is not readily available. Nevertheless, our efforts to ensure our hiring, recruiting and inclusivity support for the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance. While an overwhelming majority of our employees identify as heterosexual, Buoy has made a concerted effort to support queer communities through campaigns and statements from leadership, which includes LGBTQ+ representation. In addition this past year, we felt it was important to show our allyship externally 24/7, so we reformatted our logo on all social media platforms to pay homage to the inclusive Pride flag.
Looking into our product...
Our navigation platform is meant to be the best way for all individuals to get better, so we must continue the work to ensure we’re building for everyone.
Here’s where we stand today:
- Currently, the medical models powering Buoy’s platform only incorporate race when medically appropriate, so statistics on the race of Buoy users are not readily available.
- Medical content on Buoy’s website is written at a 6th grade reading level and Buoy’s website is designed to be accessible by those using assistive technologies.
- Roughly 70% of site visitors identify as female, 30% identify as male, and fewer than 1% identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. Roughly 60% of Buoy users are under the age of 44; 40% are age 45 and above.
What’s next for Buoy?
Keeping in mind the gaps we identified and baselines we set in 2020, we know we have a lot of work to do in 2021. As mentioned before, we have a cross-functional DEI&A team that collaborates regularly to pulsecheck where we are and discuss current and new initiatives. After looking into recommendations to model what larger public or highly profitable organizations are doing, it became clear that we needed to create our own playbook for our 90-person, venture-backed startup. What follows is what we have committed to for 2021. We hope other companies like us will share their experiences and learnings - we can all get better by doing this together.
1. Building a diverse and inclusive workplace
Here’s what you can expect from Buoy:
- An annual DEI&A report: Our goal with our first DEI&A report was to empower and inform Buoy employees on where we stand currently, where we’d like to be, and encourage active allyship daily. We will continue to build on this, and we’ve committed to completing an annual DEI&A report - making our first publicly available report come to life in 2021. While we know this report just represents a moment in time, it will be a reminder to ourselves and others about where we started and how we’re doing. Please share yours with us, too! We’re looking for ideas on how we can do this better.
- Diversified recruiting partnerships: We realize we need more diversity within our teams at Buoy and have committed to partnering with organizations to help diversify our recruiting efforts including Girls who Code, HackDiversity, and job postings at HBUCs. Additional ideas for meaningful recruiting partnerships? Reach out.
- Annual employee and new-hire DEI&A training: In 2020, we did our first company-wide Diversity & Inclusion training with The Darkest Horse. This was eye-opening and so well-received across the board. We’re now committed to company-wide DEI&A training for all Buoy employees and instituting a DEI&A educational session for all new hires on Buoy’s diversity efforts. We’d love to learn more about how you’re including DE&I in your onboarding or ongoing team training.
- Vendor/partner due diligence questionnaire: While we’re relatively small, we still believe we can help raise the bar for all companies. As we continue to reinforce our DEI&A programs and policies, we’ll hold our vendors and other collaborators to the standards we’ve set for Buoy. In that same spirit, we will refuse partnership with companies that don’t share our commitment to DEI&A. Have you done something like this at your company? Tell us about it.
- Ongoing easelining and evaluation of inclusion-specific efforts: For the first time, we added inclusion questions to our Engagement Survey. We are currently baselining this metric and it will serve to hold us accountable moving forward, with quarterly pulse checks to ensure all employees can do their best work at Buoy.
2. Building a diverse and inclusive product
To start, we’ll focus on the following:
- Product accessibility: We’re focused on making accessible product design part of our standard operating procedures. Currently, we operate by the Web Accessibility Initiative’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) and seek to maintain the AA technical standards as written in the guidelines. We have shifted from a reactive approach of addressing accessibility gaps when we find them to a proactive approach of building accessible products from the outset.
- Product DEI&A audit: We’re aiming to bake DEI&A into every stage of the product development lifecycle. Our Design team has developed a set of Design Acceptance Criteria to assess all new feature designs internally before the feature gets built. These criteria include assessments of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the user experience design and an assessment of accessibility for the user interface design. Any features not achieving the max score on these Design Acceptance Criteria must now be redesigned before being built.
- AI bias in healthcare: We recognize AI is inherently biased in healthcare, and we have the power to shift that. We aim to address bias by being deliberate in the choices we've made in our medical models and triage rules. We are actively exploring opportunities to use new datasets and work with our AI Advisory Board to detect bias in our AI.
I look forward to using this blog as a vehicle for myself and other members of the team to share Buoy’s DEI&A journey. Let’s hold each other accountable in actionable allyship – it takes a village, after all. To help keep this a live, active discussion, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chanté Thurmond, MA, BSN, and Rada Yovovich of The Darkest Horse Ventures , LLC, sat down <virtually> with the entire Buoy team in the fall of 2020 and together we had some very powerful and vulnerable conversations. We highly recommend reaching out to Chanté and Rada to get your organizations involved.