A look at Square’s first diversity report and ally training for employees

Square, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, has released its first diversity report, which, not surprisingly, looks very similar to the below-par numbers of other tech companies. But, unlike other tech companies, Square does not “subscribe to a ‘pipeline’ excuse,” the report states.

Square is 36.7 percent female globally, and 57.3 percent white, 6.4 percent black and 5.8 percent Latinx in the U.S. Although Square’s overall representation of people of color is low, there’s greater representation of POC at Square than at companies like Facebook (2 percent black, 4 percent Latinx), Google (2 percent black, 3 percent Latinx) and Twitter (3 percent black and 4 percent Latinx).

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Because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only asks about gender and race, Square conducted an inclusion survey, which more than 80 percent of employees completed, to look at things like sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, veteran status and primary languages.

“A lot of other ways we think about diversity and inclusion were included in the survey, like is English your first language, the education status of your parents and if you’re a caregiver for someone other than your children,” Square diversity and inclusion lead Alicia Burt told me. “Those are things that we think are really important in making up a person.”

After the inclusion survey, Burt said she took some high-level takeaways to the company. For example, Burt reported to the leadership teams to pay closer attention to time zones.

“When you have decision-making meetings late in the day, be mindful of the fact that you have parents on your team,” Burt said. “And don’t change the schedule at the last minute, and rotate who owns the meeting so that it’s not constantly being prescribed by San Francisco.”

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Ahead of the company’s release of the report, I had a chance to sit in on one of Square’s ally trainings for employees. Square sees ally trainings as an additional tool to help foster acceptance and inclusion among all employees, regardless of things like race, gender and ability. Square licenses the ally training from Frame Shift Consulting.

The goal with ally training is to “give people the tools and the language to use in order to educate one another to be an ally, so we’re not always depending on the woman in the room or the marginalized person in the room to be able to defend themselves, because it’s exhausting,” Burt said.

The training I attended, which had 15 Square employees, kicked off with introductions and preferred pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc). The 1.5-hour training went over terminology like privilege, oppression, target and ally. It also defined various gender identities, like cisgender, transgender, non-binary and genderqueer.

After we did intros and went over some terms, we broke into smaller groups and went through a few hypothetical scenarios. The first was about bias against transgender people, in which a co-worker came out as transgender and a problematic co-worker didn’t understand why they had to use different pronouns. The task was to speak up about overt oppression and discrimination as an ally.

In order to ensure Square employees felt safe and able to speak honestly, I agreed to not report their individual comments. Though, something the facilitator brought up as a potential way to respond as an ally was to compare it to how people don’t tend to make a fuss over name changes when someone gets married.

The second scenario involved being an ally to people with disabilities. The example: a manager suggesting scheduling a hiking offsite for employees, and you know a team member has a disability that prevents them from walking long distances. A potential ally response is to suggest an offsite that is accessible to people with disabilities.

We went through a couple of different scenarios before wrapping up, but that was the gist of it. I personally left the training with a better awareness and understanding of how to be an ally to people with disabilities, as well as transgender and gender non-conforming people. I think every company could benefit from offering something like this to employees because we all could be better allies.

Square has conducted five ally trainings in its offices in St. Louis. The ally training I attended in San Francisco was the fourth one Square offered to employees. Eventually, Burt wants every manager to go through the training. Down the road, ally training will be part of Square’s onboarding process.