Asana Poaches Diversity Manager From Facebook

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Asana just announced that it’s hired Sonja Gittens-Ottley, formerly of Facebook, to serve as the productivity startup’s first-ever head of diversity and inclusion.

Back in July, after someone called out Asana for its clear lack of diversity, Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz said that the company was aggressively recruiting a potential diversity lead who is both black and female. It looks like that aggressive recruiting paid off.

Gittens-Ottley comes directly from Facebook, where she worked as a global diversity program manager under Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity. Moskovitz recognizes that hiring Gittens-Ottley is a first step in creating and fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment at Asana and throughout the tech industry as a whole.

Like a handful of other tech companies, including Slack, Airbnb and Pinterest, Asana is working with a diversity consultant startup called Paradigm, led by Joelle Emerson, to implement unconscious bias (a.k.a. anti-racism) training and ultimately develop a strategy to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace.

“For most of Asana’s history, I (naively) assumed that we would excel in our diversity goals naturally simply by creating an environment that is warm and welcoming to all,” Moskovitz wrote on the company blog today. “But in spite of our values and good intentions, we have so far failed to build a team as diverse as we desire. We understand now that we must make a focused and sustained effort to succeed.”

Asana, which has just 175 full-time employees, says it’s the smallest tech company that has created a dedication position for diversity and inclusion. Other tech companies that have heads of diversity, or are looking for them, include Airbnb (~1,600 employees), Dropbox (1,200+), Facebook (11,996), Google (59,976) and other large tech companies.

Asana’s size, in relation to its efforts around diversity, is notable because it should be easier to instill diversity and inclusion in a smaller company, rather than a large one. Though, it would’ve been better if Asana had started paying attention to diversity back in 2008 when the company was founded.