This guide is our first step in working towards a diverse and inclusive BB. It’s a living document in which we can come to a mutual agreement on the language, concepts and values of diversity and inclusion across the company. It’s a work-in-progress that combines principles with policies in an accessible manner.
While the conversation around diversity and inclusion usually happens on a moral high ground, we want to talk about things in a language everyone speaks and understands. That’s what this guide is for. It’s our point of departure, and will grow into different shapes and formats in the future.
As an ambitious digital studio, we develop products that meet the needs of a wide range of users. To understand these needs, we’re actively searching for ways to shine a light on our blind spots, whether it is in the products we want to build, the problems we like to solve, or the company culture we try to create. We believe this can only happen if we work towards a diverse and inclusive working environment – together.
The lack of diversity and inclusion in our industry is not something that can be solved easily. It requires a cultural shift, which will not be an overnight success. To start the work as a group, everyone needs to feel included in that group. As smaller parts of a bigger whole, we define the direction of our company together. We want you to feel like you belong, and invite you to bring your entire selves to work every day. Regardless of your identity, experiences and beliefs.
We believe that fostering a working environment that embraces differences will make us more flexible to the rapid changes in our industry. A diverse team will help us recognise the unmet needs of users and clients, leading to more creative and innovative solutions for the complex problems we're trying to solve. Our ultimate goal is to unite a diverse group of people who are able to communicate across their differences and work closely together in an inclusive workspace. To make this happen, we need to move away from passive tolerance and work towards a pro-active approach. That’s the only way we can make a change – within the company and the industry at large.
This guide is not the final outcome of our mission, but a starting point of an ongoing conversation and iterative process. Your input is highly needed to move into the right direction as a group.
Code of Conduct
This code of conduct applies to interactions in different areas of our shared professional lives – in the online spheres we work in (including but not limited to Slack and social media platforms), across the offices, and at all events hosted by BB.
BB should be a friendly workplace where everyone feels welcome and safe, be it during a project, in a meeting, or during a get-together. As a company, we embrace a diverse and inclusive culture and are committed to providing fair opportunities to all, regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or any other aspects of appearance or background.
Everyone is required to be friendly and respectful; harassment or bullying in any form has no place at BB. This includes offensive verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking and following, photography, audio or video recording against reasonable consent, sustained disruption during meetings, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Harassment does not need to be recognised as unwanted or unwelcome by anyone other than the person being harassed. People asked to stop any harassing behaviour are expected to comply immediately. Anyone violating these rules may be sanctioned.
If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please reach out to our People and Culture team. They are there to talk to you remotely or in person about the problem and can help you figure out what steps to take. You can share your concerns about small violations with them, but they will also be there in situations where more drastic action needs to be taken. In all cases, they will make every effort to stay in clear communication with you, maintaining confidentiality whenever possible. Depending on the severity and urgency of a particular issue, they may need to share the report with others. When this is necessary, you will always be kept in the loop about the progress.
Depending on your comfort level and the severity of the situation, here are some other things you can do when something goes wrong:
- Address the situation directly. If you’re comfortable bringing up the incident with the person who initiated it, pull them aside to discuss how it affected you. Be sure to approach these conversations in a forgiving spirit: an angry or tense conversation will not do either of you any good. If you’re unsure how to do so, try discussing it with the people around you first — they might have some advice on how to make this conversation happen.
If you’re too frustrated or feel too uncomfortable to have a direct conversation, there are a number of alternate routes you can take.
- Talk to a peer. Your colleagues are likely to have personal and professional experience on which to draw that could be of use to you. If you have someone you’re comfortable approaching, reach out and discuss the situation with them. They may be able to advise on how they would handle it, or direct you to someone who can.
- Talk to your project manager or team lead. They probably know quite a lot about the dynamics of your team. They may also be able to talk directly to the colleague in question if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe doing so yourself. Finally, your manager will be able to help you figure out how to ensure that any conflict with a colleague doesn’t interfere with your work.
*In creating this code of conduct, we were inspired by the Vox Code of Conduct.
First of all, we need to know what we’re talking about when we refer to words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ in this guide. They form a complex and multilayered subject, often explained by several abstract concepts. All these words flying around can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose track of the specific issues they address. We’ll focus on only five of them in here.
For a more detailed overview of definitions, see this glossary of terms we’ve compiled over the past few months.
In the most simple sense, we define diversity as the differentiation of individuals to each other. To have an ‘each other’, we need to have multiple people – one person can never be described as ‘diverse’. As a company, we would like to work towards an environment in which differing identities – in terms of age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation – co-exist.
Diversity can only thrive in an inclusive culture. When diversity is the invitation to the party, inclusion would be the invitation to dance. To be included means we all share a sense of belonging* to the company and have equitable access to resources and opportunities, regardless of our differing identities. To create an inclusive culture, we collectively need to recognise and remove the barriers that prevent people from having access to these opportunities.
*In psychology belonging is viewed as a fundamental human motivation, which sustains our physical and psychological well being. To belong is to have a sense of connectedness with other people. It’s is not just a feeling, but a basic human need. See The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation, Roy Baumeister & Mark Leary, 1995
Equality vs Equity
When we speak about diversity and inclusion, we often connect it to the idea of creating equal opportunities for everyone. There is, however, a slight but important distinction between treating people equally, and treating them fairly. To treat people equally, every individual is being given the same opportunity, status and rights. This is only fair if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. Equity acknowledges the advantages and obstacles of different social groups and tries to overcome imbalances between them. We believe that focusing more on equity (even over equality) will lead to the inclusive company culture we’re aiming for.
Social Groups (or Identities)*
As individuals, we all have a personal identity, which we refer to as “me”. We describe our social identities – or the social groups we belong to – as “us”. When we think of what it means to be included (or not), it’s often related to being in or out of a social group. When there is an “us” to be included in, there can also be a “them” who are not included. We want to create plenty of space for our multiple identities, groups and expressions. At the same time, we need to ensure everyone feels they belong to our company as one whole group of BB'ers. It's our mission to create an environment in which there is enough space for both.
*We consider a social group when two or more people interact with each other, based on matching characteristics or unifying experiences. These interactions could be based on interests or choices, such as being into bread making, cycling or beekeeping, or they may be more related to who we are, such as being women, or being parents. The concept of social groups is based off of the work of Henri Tajfel and John Turner, Social Identity Theory.
It's important to recognise that there are multiple voices within a social group; there is no singular way of experiencing an issue. We all identify with a gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender, etc. These identifiers do not exist separately but overlap each other, creating intersecting systems of advantage or disadvantage. That you're fighting for a collective cause – let's say, women's rights – doesn't mean your experience of "being a woman" is the same as the person next to you. The term intersectionality reminds us that we always should let people serve as spokespeople for their own causes. Including multiple voices is the only way we can make equitable change.
*The term intersectionality was coined in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the complex experiences of black women, who face multiple forms of structural discrimination. See her her TED talk on the urgency of intersectionality, in which she explains the concept very clearly.
As a small team, we spend a lot of time together. While it makes a lot of sense to celebrate what we have in common, we encourage you to be even more interested in, respectful towards and non-judgemental about our differences. Being a part of our company should mean that you can be who you are – or want to be – without feeling excluded. To best understand each other’s interests, backgrounds and thought processes, we should avoid making assumptions. That’s the only way we can truly work together, learn new things, and come up with the best possible solutions for the problems we’re trying to solve as a team.
Deep Sea Divers*
Diversity is often described as an iceberg. We differ from each other because of our characteristics. Some of them are immediate and obvious, like our biological sex or physical ability, while others are hidden under the surface, like our mental health, value systems, or gender awareness.1 To understand our differences, we invite you to be deep sea divers. Dare to look beyond appearances, and be curious! Not only to be a nice and approachable person, but even more to broaden your own perspective. As people, we’re continuously growing, both on a personal and a professional level. Embrace these changes – in others and yourself.
*The immediate characteristics are the ones we are born with, such as race and age. We describe these characteristics as ‘inherent diversity’. Most of these characteristics are visible above the surface, while others are not always obvious, like a person’s ethnicity. We call the characteristics below the surface ‘acquired diversity’, referring to the characteristics which are generally developed through life experiences and choices. These traits are typically invisible and can be constantly developing and changing. The concept of acquired and inherent diversity is based on Disentangling the Meanings of Diversity and Inclusion in Organizations, Quinetta M. Roberson, 2006
No matter who you are, implicit bias is real. We all come from different backgrounds and are shaped by different experiences. It’s hard to recognise our implicit biases or cultural blind spots, as they are deeply embedded into our brains. These biases don't always indicate “wrong” or “bad” intentions, they are part of us being human. That doesn’t mean the concept and existence of biases absolves any form of discriminatory behaviour. It takes time and effort to change our brains and systems, but we believe we’re all capable of using our critical skillsets to override our biases.
Open communication is what we all thrive on. We encourage you to speak up, bring your own ideas to the table and initiate discussions about the things you care about. We also know that making your voice heard is not always easy. Make sure to give room for others to speak. Be respectful and including towards those who have a smaller voice. Be critical and honest, but always in a constructive way. We build things together – an inclusive culture is one of those things.
We all love good conversations. Meetings, however, often tend to turn into black holes in which time seems to tick more slowly – especially when the same people keep on hijacking the conversation. Be aware of interruptions, and point them out. Consider sharing the discussion points beforehand so everyone can prepare themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask ‘dumb’ questions or state the obvious – there’s no such thing. We work on complex projects, and explaining what you’re doing while being stuck on a puzzle can be hard. Listen actively when somebody struggles with something, use the meeting to figure things out collectively.
Express yourself in a language that everyone understands. Speak English in meetings, on Slack or at the lunch table. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes if it isn’t your native language. Ask for clarifications if you don’t understand something. Fair chance you’ll learn some Slovakian, Lithuanian, Italian, Filipino, Russian, Portuguese or Romanian along the way. In case there are no words left: physical comedy is always an option.
Words can be very harmful, always be careful in choosing them. Remember that sexist, racist, and other exclusionary jokes are never appropriate nor funny. Also be aware that offensive language often takes the form of microaggressions — subtle put-downs which may be unconsciously delivered or received. Speaking loudly to a blind person, calling something unpleasant “gay”, or congratulating a person of colour for being articulate. Regardless of intent, these actions have a significant negative impact that slowly adds up. If you see these things happening around you, don’t be afraid to point them out.
Diversity and inclusion do not only revolve around our connection with others; it’s also about the physical spaces we work in. Our offices are designed to make you feel at home and cater to your needs. Feel free to dance around in the hallways if you need some exercise, sit near the windows if you need some sunshine, or hide in one of the many corners if you need some me-time. If the design of the space is hindering you in any way, please let us know.
Space as Resource
We work in spacious, well-equipped offices that can be deployed for various causes with very little cost or effort. If you spot an initiative with good intentions but no resources – invite them over and provide them with the space they need! Want to share something about yourself? Give a talk about that obscure hobby you have, show us the documentary that has changed your life or cook that special dish that reminds you of home. We organise international breakfasts and themed movie nights across the different offices, and are keen to do more together.