Sponsorship and mentorship

screenshot of HBR with our article in the top spot

Mentors share advice, sponsors share opportunities. Both are important and useful, but sponsorship accelerates careers. Underrepresented people are over-mentored and under-sponsored.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had several firsts:

It was exciting and humbling to have smart women I admire open doors I didn’t even know existed and support me to be successful. Alex saw this opportunity to write a piece on hybrid work and DEI measurement as a way for me to meet her editor Ania Wieckowski. Alex has been a guest on CBC radio many times and pitched the two of us to Michelle. Alex and I had a quick prep call to make sure we both knew the key points that the other wanted to make. Michelle mentioned the session went well to Janella, who phoned and asked if I could do an on camera interview. Even though I have the skills to do all of these things I hadn’t had the chance to do any of them before. I’m grateful and humbled to have had these opportunities.

How can you sponsor others? How have others sponsored you?

Strategic and effective storytelling with data

vertical bar graph with 3 bars: first bar: women in tech globally 11.6%, women in leadership roles, underrepresented minorities 8.3%

I was delighted to speak at Data Science by Design’s Creator Conference. DSxD is a community of researchers, educators, artists, computer scientists who conference organizers described as curious, dynamic, creative and interdisciplinary. I chose to talk about the challenge of communicating about diversity metrics in a way that informs and inspires your audience to want to push for change using Mozilla’s last external diversity disclosure as an example. 

Here are 3 important things to keep in mind when storytelling using data:

  1. Understand who your audience is
  2. Share the context of the data with your audience
  3. Think about how you want your audience to feel  (and what you want them to do) after seeing the data 


As this was an external disclosure it is obvious that one audience was people outside Mozilla. Transparency about DEI metrics is table stakes for companies that say they care about these things. It’s also an important part of a company’s employer brand, especially for younger workers. When I’ve been interested in a job, I’m checking to see if companies are sharing their diversity metrics, what photos they use to illustrate who works there, what diversity in senior leadership looks like and how they’re telling the story of what their culture is like. When I see stories of free beer Fridays, ping pong tables and “a work hard play hard” culture, I am much less interested in applying. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t like ping pong, and I value work-life balance.

Equally important to me was the internal audience at Mozilla. We had done a lot of internal systems work including redesigning our hiring process, removing meritocracy from our governance and leadership structures, and improving accessibility internally by live captioning all company meetings being more intentional about accessibility at events. I wanted people to see that all of these projects laddered up to measurable change. I wanted them to see progress and feel proud of all of our hard work.


A few years ago this is something I would have said: 

By the end of 2019, representation of women in technical roles was 21.6%.

This would prompt many questions from people, including:

  • Is this any good? 
  • How do we compare to other companies?
  • How do we compare to the labor market?
  • What does our pipeline look like?
  • Are we getting better or worse?
  • What do you mean by technical role? Is a data analyst a technical role? What about a data scientist? 

Context is so important! 

I decided to add an explainer video to the disclosure to help people understand the context. In addition, the video starts with the big picture context on why we were invested in D&I at Mozilla: 

  • from the the individual experience of feeling like you belong
  • to being directly connected to the mission “to make the internet open and accessible for all”
  • as well as the business case on innovation and performance.


Taking a data-driven approach is necessary in an engineering organization–most people want to see and understand the numbers. For the last diversity disclosure I prepared, I saw the opportunity to try and tell a story that could connect to people’s heads and hearts. 


A rainbow-colored, watercolor "emotion wheel"-- a circle divided into six pie-like wedges. Each wedge has a core emotion written in the center and related emotions written in a middle and outer layer. The top wedge is yellow with "joy" at the center. Moving clockwise, the next wedge is orange with "genius" at the center-- then red with "anger" at the center-- the bottom wedge is blue with "sad" at the center-- then purple with "fear at the center" and finally green with "disgust" at the center.

I wanted them to feel something, whether that was pride at the progress we’d made, or frustration that we weren’t making change quickly enough. My ideal outcome was to pique people’s curiosity and have them ask “what can I do to make Mozilla a diverse and inclusive inclusive place?”. My worst case scenario is that people heard this update and thought “meh, whatever”.

Here’s the 3 minute video:

Drew Merit is the illustrator who brought this idea to life.

I’d love examples from your work, or examples that you’ve seen out in the wild where people have used data to tell a story that inspires the audience to take action.

Distributing DEI Work Across the Organization

I enjoyed being a guest on Seed&Spark‘s first monthly office hours session where Stefanie Monge, Lara McLeod and I talked about distributing diversity, equity and inclusion work across organizations.

Here’s some of the work that I mentioned:

Diversity, Astrology and Inclusion: not a valid approach

horoscopes chart in cosmic blue and purple

Edit: Thanks Tim Smith for letting me know the ChartHop website now shows that this is all an April Fools’ day prank. I fell for it. Kudos to the commitment to write a 13 page fake report and for your social team’s convincing response.

I first learned about ChartHop’s Charting Better Galaxies product on Dr. Sarah Saska’s Instagram account. It is the first workplace diversity, equity and inclusion tool that’s based on astrology. I thought there was a 50-50 chance that this was an April Fools’ gag. It turns out it’s a real thing and that they got $14M in Series A funding last year.

Here’s some of their key findings from a 13 page Guide to Workplace Astrology:

Key Findings: Virgos are the most highly represented sign across the industry.; There is a representation gap in senior leadership. On average, Fire Signs make up 40% of leadership positions.; Earth Signs are the lowest paid across industries and roles by sign type.

um…WHAT? This makes me really angry.

This product is problematic for several reasons:

  1. There are legitimate systemic inequalities in the workplace and in society. Racism, sexism, abelism, homophobia, transphobia and other systemic oppressions mean that our current systems are inequitable. Thinking about systemically oppressed astrological star signs trivializes real inequalities.
  2. Unless staff are explicitly opting in to have their employer derive their astrological sign from their date of birth, this is an unethical use of data.
  3. Extrapolating people’s personalities based astrology stereotypes is garbage and not appropriate for the workplace. Imagine getting feedback in a performance review based on the stereotypes of your star sign? Gemini 5/21 - 6/20 You have big and creative ideas. Yet, you struggle to move forward with decisive action.

For me, astrology is one of many tools I use to reflect on myself and my life–I’ve got the CHANI app on my phone. However, it’s completely inappropriate for workplaces to do pay equity analyses based on star sign, determine an individual’s leadership potential based on star sign, or to do organizational design based on star sign. Also: astrology goes against some people’s religious or epistemological world views.

As a DEI practitioner and consultant who uses data driven and research backed approaches I see ChartHop using familiar words and phrases like: representation gaps, aggregated and anonymized data, data and resources to address workplace inequities. However, visualizing a work force’s astrological signs is not a valid methodology for diagnosing inclusion issues, nor is it a useful thing to help make the workplace more diverse, inclusive or equitable.

In 2003 it was estimated that the diversity, equity and inclusion industry was worth more than $8 billion. There has been huge growth since last year and there have been a lot of new companies with technology tools to surface bias, new job boards to connect with underrepresented talent, and lots of people entering the industry as consultants.

I’m glad that most organizations know this is something they need to develop a strategy for.  I’d encourage practitioners and business leaders to think critically about what they’re prioritizing and measuring. I’m excited about some of the products and services that I see, as I think they will contribute to long term, systemic change and more equitable workplaces. ChartHop’s product isn’t it though.



StatsCan’s COVID impact report: same storm, different boats

5 origami paper boats
Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

Many people have said that while we’ve all been in the same storm with COVID, we’ve been in our own boats. People have had very different experiences during the past year, based on their gender, race, geographic location and more.

Today Statistics Canada released a report about the social and economic impacts of COVID, which includes some disaggregated data. Some of the findings aren’t surprising:

  • In Montreal and Toronto, mortality rates are higher in areas with greater concentrations of Black Canadians
  • Indigenous groups are experiencing greater health impacts

I wish these findings were written with an equity lens. Systemic racism, colonization, poverty, income inequality, employment precarity, access to clean water and adequate housing are all connected to who was hit hardest by COVID. Naming these factors means that we need to own that our current systems and policies are not working for everyone. It means that we need to take responsibility for advocating for change.

I’m glad that we’re starting to see disaggregated data in Canada, so that we have data to better understand systemic inequality and so that we can make better policy to change this.

Still, I want so much more. I want to see data presented in an intersectional manner. I suspect COVID has hit women of colour hardest, especially Filipino, South Asian and Black women who work in health care. Without quantitative data it’s hard to do a systems level analysis to understand who is most impacted.

I want language that is in plain English. Initially I thought that “not indigenous or a visible minority” meant white people, but journalist Jessica Galang pointed me to this StatsCan page:

The “Not a visible minority” category includes persons who gave a mark-in response of “White” only; persons who gave mark-in responses of “White and Latin American”, “White and Arab” or “White and West Asian” only; persons who gave a mark-in response of Latin American, Arab, or West Asian only, along with a European write-in response; and persons with no mark-in response who gave a write-in response that is not classified as a visible minority. As indicated previously, this category also includes Aboriginal persons.

This definition is super confusing.

I want this data presented in an accessible way. This horizontal bar graph graphs race categories, citizenship categories, educational achievement categories, age group categories, and sex categories together. From a methodology perspective I find this very confusing. This graph doesn’t have alt text, so it excludes screenreader users. There’s a data table below this graph is accessible, but the graph isn’t. I don’t think this meets the standards in the Accessible Canada Act, which is especially disappointing from a federal government department.

Title: Proportion of Canadians who have experienced COVID_10 symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic, by sociodemographic characteristics, Canada, September 2020. horizontal bar graph that shows various race, citizenship, education, age, and sex categories.

I want to see more data along other dimensions of diversity, especially disability and sexuality. From listening to people around me, I know that COVID has impacted people with disabilities harder than people without disabilities. I wonder if queer and trans people have been impacted in a different way too? Without data we don’t really know, and more importantly we continue to develop policies that don’t account for systemic ableism and hetrerosexism.

Finally, I want to rethink the race categories in Canada to use language that is respectful and reflects the ways that communities talk about themselves. I’m a mixed race person. My mom in Japanese-Canadian and my dad is white, of Scottish and Irish ancestry. I’m a woman of colour. I hate the phrase visible minority as it centers whiteness and is colonial. I know this isn’t easy for so many reasons and it makes it harder to map historical trends.

If you care about how data can be used in ethical ways to highlight inequality and as a tool for systemic change, check out The BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner’s report on Disaggregated demographic data collection in British Columbia: The grandmother perspective. The phrase “the grandmother perspective” came from Gwen Phillips of the Ktunaxa Nation, who is a BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative Champion. This phrase speaks to the importance of relationship. Disaggregated data is a tool to help us move towards equality and justice. She says, “we are not measuring race, we are measuring racism. Racism is a systems failure; that must be made clear when talking about race-based data.”

Activism Outside and Inside the Institution

Activism inside and outside the institution: Strategies and tactics for increasing diversity, equity and inclusion Tara Robertson Slides: http://bit.ly/KPUactivism

The recording for the talk I did for Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Digital Pedagogy Webinar Series is up. Here’s the video and the slides.

I submitted the title and abstract 6 months ago and as I wrote the talk I realized that the dichotomy of inside/outside is much messier than the title suggests. It’s a false dichotomy to frame burning it down from the outside or building building new ways of doing things on the inside. Most of us, whether we are inside or outside an institution, do both–we build new things AND destroy barriers and structures that need to go. 

The talk had four parts:

  1. Introducing myself and sharing some context about where I’m from.
  2. Sharing about some of the queer and feminist activism I did in my 20s and 30s, including The Lesbian Avengers, swimming on several International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics teams, The Glasgow Women’s Library, and some of my union involvement especially speaking up for sex workers rights at the Workers Out human rights conference.
  3. Defining what I mean by diversity, equity and inclusion and talking about some of the work I led at Mozilla.
  4. Naming 3 people who I see as possibility models of powerful change agents within their organizations as well as make bigger ripples for change in the world.

Dr. Dori Tunstall, Respectful design + decolonizing hiring @deandori_ocadu

Dr. Dori Tunstall is the Dean of Design at OCADU. She’s leading systems change work at her university. This is visible through her work on respectful design and leading very successful Indigenous and Black faculty cluster hires that are both shifting representation and more importantly changing the culture of the institution. Follow her Instagram account  where she spotlights Black and Indigenous fashion and design and models self-care/repair as a leader.

Dr. Ninan Abraham, What have we been missing in racial equity in academia?

Dr. Ninan Abraham is a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Zoology and the Associate Dean of Equity and Diversity in the Faculty of Science. I tuned into his February 11th webinar titled “What have we been missing in racial equity in academia?” and it was the most robust diversity data analysis I’ve seen in a post-secondary institution. Two things that stuck with me were the observations from the hiring funnel analysis and how the term racialized (and who sees themselves as racialized) isn’t straightforward. Look for these findings in a forthcoming publication with Carola Hibsch-Jetter, Howard Ramos and Minelle Mahtani. 

Annie Jean-Baptiste, Founder of The Equity Army

Annie Jean-Baptiste is the author of Building for Everyone, the Head of Product Inclusion at Google and the Founder of the Equity Army.

The Equity Army is a community of learners, builders, dreamers and doers who are committed to ensuring everyone, especially historically underrepresented people, feel seen in any product or service. The Equity Army meets in an informal cohort model and learns about product inclusion, shares resources, hears from subject matter experts, and most importantly, takes action.

I’m part of the current cohort and it’s the most diverse group of people I’ve ever worked with. I can see the diversity on so many intersectional axes: race, age, gender, disability, geography, education, industry, role and level. I’m sure there’s other dimensions I’m not able to see yet. I’m massively excited to have found a community to learn and take action with.

As we all do the work of diversity, equity and inclusion as activists in community or as activists within our organizations it’s important to have community to learn from, to share courage with, and to be accountable to. What community do you need to do this work?

Diversity, equity and inclusion core competencies: Get cross functional projects done (Part 5 of 5)

Latina woman writing on a poster board paper while 2 Black women offer ideas
Photo from WOCinTech chat, CC-BY

This is the last post in a weeklong series exploring DEI professional competencies. Again, I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday’s post was about influencing others. This post will explore getting cross functional projects done. I’ll also share some other DEI career resources. 

Great ideas without action are totally meaningless. As a DEI leader you’ll be working across departments and functions to get stuff done. Strong project management skills and collaboration are key in making change to existing processes and developing new ways of doing things. Here’s two examples to illustrate this competency. 

One of my first projects at Mozilla was working with People Ops and a Tableau expert in IT to build a dashboard to track our diversity metrics, which was more difficult and time consuming than I first thought. When I started the project was off the rails, so I suggested we restart by introducing ourselves, what we thought we brought to the table and then developed a RASCI for the project. With these foundations in place we shifted us to be a very effective team. We completed the project and became friends. Having a dashboard for diversity metrics was important as leaders owned accountability goals and needed to know how they were doing.

Engineers started Mozilla’s first mentorship program. I joined the team and was the only non-technical person and marvelled at some of the skills and ways of thinking that the others brought. It was one of those wonderful experiences where we were more than the sum of our parts. We were a small group of people with different backgrounds, doing different jobs, at various job levels and we were able to stand up and support a mentorship program for about 100 people. I credit the leadership of Melissa O’Connor, Senior Manager of Data Operations. She often said “tell me what I’m missing here” to invite different options and ran the most efficient meetings I’ve ever attended in my life. 

Great ideas without action are totally meaningless. Turning thoughts into actions as a leader in DEI is a necessary art–to get things done you’ll need to effectively collaborate with people at different levels and in different functions. 

Additional resources on DEI careers

I’m excited to be one of the panelists for Andrea Tatum’s DEI careers panel tomorrow, January 23. The event is sold out but she’ll be simulcasting live on YouTube at January 23 at 10am Pacific. Andrea also introduced me to Russell Reynold’s list of competencies of a Chief Diversity Officer

Aubrey Blanche’s post How can I get a job in D&I? starts by trying to talk the reader out of going into this line of work then gets into five key areas of expertise. 

Dr. Janice Gassam’s Dirty Diversity Podcast has an episode where she interviews Lambert Odeh, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Olo Inc. on How to Land a Career in DEI.

Diversity, equity and inclusion core competencies: Influence others (Part 4 of 5)

red paper plane leading a group of white paper planes, all are facing to the right

This is the fourth post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I wrote about being a professional change agent and the need to meet people where they’re at and help them change their perspective and behaviour to be more inclusive. Today I’m going to explore the ability to influence others

DEI leaders need to be able to influence beyond their small team, at all levels of an organization. The way I did this was by building authentic relationships, learning about what other people’s priorities are, and negotiating how to be mutually successful. 

For example, I reached out to the AV Operations team to advocate for live captioning for our big internal meetings to increase access, both for people who were hard of hearing, people who process content better with text, and for people for whom English was an additional language. They worked to make this part of the workflow and handled the administration with the captioning vendor.

Over a year later the AV Operations team reached out to me to partner on the sound quality in the office meetings rooms. As a distributed workforce we spent a lot of time in Zoom meetings and some rooms had better sound quality than others. Also, for some neurodiverse people they were too noisy and echoey and made it exhausting to be in meetings, so it was an accessibility issue too. 

I recently did CliftonStrengths and one of my top strengths is Woo, or winning others over. CliftonStrenghts describes this as: “People exceptionally talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with someone.” DEI leaders have little if no formal power, so being skilled at this is necessary.

This is the fourth in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post, the last one in this series, is about getting cross functional projects done. 

Core competencies in DEI: meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive (Part 3 of 5)

2 blank speech bubbles on a pink background
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

This is the third post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I described how a DEI professional needs to be able to translate academic research into action as well as be able to measure the impact of programs. Today I’ll talk about meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to be more inclusive

For me, doing this work in a professional context means meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to where they need to be. Building trust with leaders is key to being successful in this line of work. When leaders are vulnerable and honest with you about their process of unpacking their own biases or learning about inclusion you can be a trusted partner to help them move forward on their journey. 

I loved working with senior leaders who invited feedback on how they were showing up. I supported a manager in levelling up his knowledge of gender, so that he could continue to foster an inclusive environment. I encouraged several executives to share a bit more about who they are and their fears and vulnerabilities to come off as more human and so that staff would share their fears with them. Trust allows for an authentic relationship where we can do hard and necessary things together.

I had a lot of 1:1 conversations with people at all levels of the organization about the intent of their actions and the actual impact on people. The key to having these conversations well is to be able to offer clear and direct feedback with empathy. Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor offers a great framework for this. 

tattoo of a lit match on the inside of my forearm

Looking back to when I was an activist in my 20s I was extremely self-righteous about my politics and very judgemental about where other people were at. There’s no way I would’ve been able to be effective in this work with that mindset. This tattoo on my left forearm has a few meanings for me. One is to remind me of when I was younger and wanted to burn down oppressive systems and as a reminder to meet people who are in that place with patience and empathy so we can build together. 

This is the third in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will address influencing others as a core competency for DEI leaders. 

Core competencies in DEI: Translate academic research to action and measure impact of initiatives (Part 2 of 5)

closeup of a Pyrex measuring cup
made to measure by Chuan Chew, CC-BY-NC licensed

This is the second post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I wrote about strategy as a key competency for leading DEI work. Today I’m going to explore translating academic research into action and measuring the impact of initiatives.  

I love doing DEI work in the corporate space because it allows me to bring my values and all the different work experiences I’ve had (feminist organizer, academic librarian, accessibility leader, workshop facilitator) to this work. These are emergent problems, meaning that no company, industry or country, has solved them, so we need to try new things and figure out if they work. This means keeping up with the current research and being able to translate it to programs and initiatives and measuring the impact of programs. 

When I started at Mozilla I started a Zotero library to keep track of all the research and reports I was reading, so I could easily find that specific study on psychological safety in the workplace  that had the survey tool questions. I adapted these for our employee engagement survey so I could measure if a pilot program improved psychological safety on teams. I also read various posts on the impact of hiring referral programs at other companies and then working with our Talent Acquisition team to look at our actual data to understand if the referral program was helping or hindering our diversity efforts.

This is the second in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will explore meeting people where they are at and helping them move to be more inclusive.