Creating company culture starts day one

Many founders are brilliant product people and will tell you that managing a company and creating culture is the biggest thing that they struggle with.  Creating company culture starts when you go from one person to two, aka day one.  On the other side, the importance of working in companies where you fit into the culture is just as important.  You could go see ten companies in one building on one day and feel the different vibe the second you walk in the door.

Katherine Zaleski wrote an editorial that was published in the NYTimes on Sunday about gender-blind job interviews.  She writes about the new gender-masking tools that are being built by start-ups.  I have been pitched by a few of them and although I appreciate what they are trying to do, I don’t believe that software is the fix to gender-diverse companies.  It might help women get through the first couple of interviews easier but building an inclusive company is not a software fix.

Building a gender-balanced company is about creating a culture that women and men feel comfortable in, where respect and collaboration is a priority, where respecting parents to make their children their number one priority is embraced, where each team works hard to make sure that there are just as many women at the table as men, where the C-suite also has as many women as men and where a myriad of faces is an important consideration.

All of these factors are as equally important as the product that the company is built on.  It is about creating an inclusive environment and by making this a priority from day one.  The data has shown that companies with strong diversity are more successful.  It is hard work to build a company that has a product-market fit and it is just another step of hard work to create diverse gender-balanced companies.  The rewards will pay off and in time it will become easier to do so because the environments are built for everyone and anyone.  This is not one of those fixes that can happen with software, it is about building a culture with eyes wide open.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Agree. No software will help unless the CEO and the founding team are aware of their own biases and willing to look beyond them.

  2. awaldstein

    There is no reason why companies should not reflect the diversity of the markets they service.That is my core view that has guided me building teams for a very long time.

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. Kirsten Lambertsen

    It’s so important for those of us in tech to remember that software isn’t the answer to everything. One thing I’d chime in with is that I’ve personally seen masking (not just for gender, but for other factors as well that are subject bias) have a very positive impact on hiring within an organization that was already (i) quite diverse and inclusive (but not enough!) and (ii) beyond small startup size (a few hundred emps). It can be a valuable part of a process of both reducing and identifying areas of unconscious bias. Even leaders who consider themselves utterly devoted to diversity should be equally devoted to rooting out their own unconscious biases, which might be one of the hardest things to do.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It is hard for the tech world to realize that software isn’t that answer to everything.

  4. Jeremy Robinson

    I design, run and coach in Diversity Programs at large companies [among other interests] and have done for for more than fifteen years. I’d be entirely delighted to be out of job doing this. The fix is very straight-forward as mentioned in your post, Joanne. Make sure companiesand Boards have an equal number of Women Leaders as Men. And while we’re at it, also allow for representation of Leaders of Color, LGBTQ Leaders and those with Disabilities. Diversity in Leadership is great for business. The message is clear. It seems to be taking a little while to be catching on.Maybe some businesses would rather be comfortable than successful? Participation with diverse colleagues makes some people uncomfortable butthat changes over time, and anyway, intentional discomfort is a useful growth plan.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I might be an eternal optimist but I am not sure it is comfort but laziness. It is easy to not create a diverse work environment but the work to make it diverse on all levels does pay off.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      Remember when white people were “uncomfortable” with black people in their schools, work places, communities? It’s not just about discomfort, it’s about willfully maintaining the status quo.

      1. Jeremy Robinson

        Good point Susan. I was referring to the hope of the diversity vs. the actuality of exclusion, and resulting power dynamics, etc.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Oh yes, I know 🙂

  5. Alison Winer Dinerstein


  6. Heather Wetzler

    I think software can help with unconscious bias – that seems to be where the trouble begins, especially in tech. So many people hiring want someone who went to Stanford and worked at Google. I think the hiring part can really be helped by software. But then there is the inclusion part – I love this line from this article : “Many people think that diversity is simply about having a diverse team, one that has representatives from different genders, races, and ethnicities. While that is a start, according to Heidi Grant-Halvorson PhD, of the NeuroLeadership Institute, “Diversity is getting asked to the party, while inclusion is getting asked to dance at the party.”…I love what Intel is doing: “Intel Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, talks about the corporation’s $300 million initiative to increase diversity, the largest such investment yet by a technology company. The goal is to make Intel’s U.S. workforce mirror the talent available in the country by 2020.”…They are actually going to beat the 2020 date, which is so awesome!!I think the best example of what happens when there is poor company culture is Uber. What is their market cap now? Again, if they were diverse……and had a better company culture…….The lack of diversity is a big problem. I was at edtech week in NYC in December and the amount of edtech’s pitching with zero diversity, even on their advisor boards, was shocking. How can you even think about education or having an edtech fix and not have a diverse advisor board. shocking.

    1. Gotham Gal

      years ago I went to an education event in NYC and found 90% of the audience white male in black suits. It took my breath away.I love that quote. “Diversity is getting asked to the party, while inclusion is getting asked to dance at the party.” It can be applied to many things!

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Me too! Love that quote!

  7. Katharine Zaleski ?

    Thanks for keeping this conversation going @gothamgal:disqus. Glad you liked the piece and I’m enjoying all these comments. More to come on the topic…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Loved it.