Starting our antiracism journey

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Twilio: Our 2020 Report


  • Lybra Clemons Headshot_edited.jpeg
    Lybra S. Clemons
  • Jun 24, 2021
TLDR

Chief Diversity Officer Lybra S. Clemons and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Lawson share how Twilio is redefining its DEI strategy through an antiracist lens.

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Watch: Reflecting on 2020

Lybra S. Clemons and Jeff Lawson

Let’s be clear that 2020 was a tough year. We started off with a pandemic, witnessed ongoing violence towards the Black and API communities, and weathered political turmoil around the globe. When it came to racial justice, Twilio, like many companies, made it very clear that neutrality is not an option and committed to becoming an antiracist company. 

“No one is born racist or antiracist; these result from the choices we make. Being antiracist results from a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society. Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do.” - Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist

To honor this commitment, we set actionable company-wide business priorities and measures (BPMs) to further equity in our systems. We did this in the form of the following Racial Justice and Equity Initiatives:

  • Launched RiseUp, a cohort-based, targeted leadership development program for new Black and LatinX Twilions. 
  • Refined The Inclusion Rule, an internal recruitment process to ensure a diverse slate of candidates.
  • Opened our BetterUp Coaching offerings to all Black and LatinX Twilions, with a focus on career planning and development. 
  • Expanded Hatch, a six-month software engineering apprenticeship program open to individuals from nontraditional and underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Enhanced our Be Inclusive curriculum to build a common language around inclusion and support Twilions in mitigating their own biases.
  • Refined Twilio Unplugged, an interview preparation series aimed to provide candidates with the right tools, skills, and resources to pass our interviews.
  • Leveraged the Bar Raiser Program, which works to mitigate bias from our hiring process by including a neutral interviewer.

These efforts were not only rooted in antiracism, but they were also a catalyst for a new way of thinking. We know it is not enough to simply say we are committed. We need to shift the way we do business and operate as a company. This is the time to leverage our products, people and resources to create a more just and equitable world. Our unique position as a driving force of engagement and communication across the globe means that we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to model inclusive practices and behaviors for our customers and fellow industry leaders. It also means that we have a responsibility for creating an equitable and inclusive workplace for the diversity of Twilions today and tomorrow.

We believe the DEI landscape needs to evolve to reflect the fact that we are not seeing notable progress across the industry. In 2020, we were not only inspired to become an antiracist company, but we hypothesized that antiracism could be a framework that could effectively drive DEI across the board. So we are testing this theory.

Twilio does not pretend that it has all the answers. We will make mistakes. We have made mistakes. But we will examine our imperfections in an effort to reduce them—and we are committed to sharing what we learn in this report in future years.

Embedding antiracism in everything we do

Moving forward, our DEI strategy will function through an antiracism lens. Though the term “antiracism” is most widely used in the United States and specifically refers to race, it speaks to something quite universal: the necessity of ongoing action to challenge and redistribute power. In this vein, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion requires intentional, moment-by-moment action without a finite endpoint—and it requires this on a global scale.

We believe antiracism will enable us to both broaden and deepen our DEI work. We will take the principles of antiracism and extend them to serve other underrepresented communities, like those who identify as LGBTQ+, have a disability, or have military experience. Through antiracism, we can also deepen our understanding of specific and intersectional identities, like how colorism can drastically shape one’s experience. Lastly, through continuous self-awareness, we will better understand how our work must be structured in different regions across the globe. In short, while antiracism in itself does focus on race, we believe the framework to becoming antiracist will effectively serve all of our communities. 

There is no playbook for how to become an antiracist company. The road ahead will include its fair share of challenges, but we are ready to take them on. To start, we are broadening our aperture beyond what DEI looks like in our field. At Twilio, this means we’re expanding our set of metrics to better reflect what DEI encompasses today.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion should not be confused with a single representational datapoint.”

Lybra S. Clemons

Shift 1: Rethinking representation

Tracking representational headcount data was the primary DEI practice of the 2010s, but this is simply not enough. We must broaden our use of data to understand what representation looks like when it comes to retention, compensation and advancement opportunities. Twilio was initially focused on reaching a number of representational goals by 2023, which had incredible intent and were a core part of our work to-date. That said, as we’ve further reflected and thought about how to embed antiracism into Twilio’s core, we recognize the unintended impacts of setting a long-term representational goal and are now moving beyond solely focusing on those metrics.

In our experience, representational goals can create a singular sense of what a diverse, equitable, and inclusive Twilio “looks” like, reduce our work to only hiring, or perpetuate the idea that “this work ends when we hit X%,” when in fact, it’s never-ending. Also, when the primary DEI success metric is representation, it commonly leads to the prioritization of hiring diverse teams, not recognizing that this work means nothing if we cannot retain diverse teams. In short, we cannot simply aim for an overall point-in-time representation. 

Instead, we are rethinking representation to be an important piece of a broader suite of indicators. We will take a holistic approach and commit to evergreen action throughout the full employee lifecycle as individuals, as colleagues, as managers, and as leaders. Every action and every system will provide us with an opportunity to revisit our commitment to becoming an antiracist company. 

Here’s how this new repositioning will show up in our DEI strategy:

  • Attract talent from different communities and demographics: see upward trend and yearly improvement of compositional diverse teams at all levels via hiring and retention.
  • Drive equity: sustain yearly improvement of equitable promotion, advancement and reward of our diverse teams at all levels
  • Create a culture of inclusion: yearly improvement of inclusion index scores by our diverse teams at all levels.

Shift 2: Using data to move, not prove

We see a norm of “proving progress” in our industry as a result of the focus on representational goals. Though the intention is accountability, it can obscure the “why” behind using metrics in this work. Data should be used to highlight areas that need action, not to pat ourselves on the back or affirm our work. We don’t want to use data to prove whether we are or are not diverse, equitable, or inclusive; instead, we want our data to support clarity and drive action for mitigating any inequity within our systems and processes.  

As we shift our focus from just representational goals to concrete action, we will use metrics in order to more equitably attract, develop, reward, and include talent from all demographics. Below are two ways we plan to do this:



Drive change by being specific in our data.

If we are not being specific with our DEI data, then we are missing an opportunity to understand the unique experiences and challenges within our community. Historically, Twilio reported its data based on Global Women and Underrepresented Populations (which included US race/ethnicities, LGBTQ+, People with Disabilities, and Veterans). Though a nod to inclusivity at first look, it resulted in data that generalized these groups’ experiences and made it difficult for us to know where to prioritize our efforts.

In this 2020 report, we will only be sharing our Global Women and largest US race/ethnicity demographics (Asian, Black and LatinX). As we continue to update our data in the future, we will track and measure progress along specific demographic groups. At a global level, this includes women, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals; and in the U.S., this includes U.S. race and ethnicity, as well as veterans.



Drive accountability by being transparent about our data.

Below are some of our metrics from 2020. They are not comprehensive, but highlight that we are focusing on data that offers insight into diversity, equity, and inclusion across the different segments of our employees’ lifecycle.


Some of these lifecycle indicators include hiring, retention, pay, and promotion.

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Attrition rates 2020

Women attrition rates were consistent with the overall attrition rates at Twilio and US Asian, Black and LatinX attrition were consistently 1pt lower than the company average.

Director + leadership parity 2020

Workforce representation 2020

Pay equity

Twilio designs its compensation structure to be fair and equitable at the outset but we know it’s critical to check our work every year by engaging a third-party vendor to assess employee compensation on a global basis to ensure that we pay fairly and equitably through a rigorous statistical analysis. This analysis considers elements that impact compensation like location, level, role, and performance, and if we find differences in pay based on gender or race, we make upward adjustments to address those differences. This analysis also helps us understand how our processes are working so we can continue to evolve our practices to ensure equity and fairness. We continue to maintain a range of parity and remain focused on reviewing our practices to ensure we can maintain this as we grow.

2021 & beyond

We are building broader accountability measures for our new approach to DEI to ensure systemic changes that promote equity for all employees. This means we need to activate antiracism at the individual, company, and societal levels.

Individual

We want to ensure that each Twilion understands their role in being an owner of this work. Our intention is to educate, equip, and empower each and every Twilion to be an owner of diversity, equity, and inclusion at our company. We will be asking Twilions to leverage our 4Cs framework, as this work takes being Committed, Curious, unComfortable, and Courageous.

When it comes to educating about antiracist behaviors and interventions, we know that every person is at a different stage of their journey. As such, we are aiming to develop a learning program that meets people where they are and outlines where they fit into this work. Similarly, it's often easy (and common) to just think of DEI training as limited to individual-to-individual interactions. We are trying to support our employees to see themselves both as individuals as well as system-creators and changers, whether that means empowering them to build psychologically safe spaces or participating in one of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). What levers can each of us pull?

Here are a few ways that Twilions are building a more inclusive Twilio:

Did You Know? series

To support individual contribution to this work, Twilio recently launched a Did You Know? series that gives Twilions a platform to create awareness and promote inclusion. Check out a recent episode here:

Did you know: Model minority myth

From the Asians @ Twilio ERG

Safe spaces

This past year has really demonstrated how difficult it can be to compartmentalize what is happening in the world from getting your work done. We don’t believe folks should check their feelings at the door. Instead, through our safe spaces program, we create opportunities for employees to engage in a psychologically-safe environment for group dialogue and to share their feelings/emotions. For many, it’s an opportunity to hear other’s perspectives and lived experiences, resulting in Twilions better understanding one another. 

Employee Resource Groups

Individuals have the option to either join an Employee Resource Group as someone who identifies with that community or as an ally. Through ERG events and programs, Twilions get to learn more about the rich, diverse community within Twilio and how we can better celebrate and elevate these communities.

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Company

As a company, we have an enormous responsibility to build systems that foster a workplace rooted in equity. To hold ourselves accountable, we have taken the following actions to ensure this critical work is moving forward:

  • We’ve set company-wide priorities and measures for 2021 that focus on antiracism and furthering equity in our systems and processes. Leaders will receive data-driven action plans across the full-employee lifecycle, not only a representational check-in. 
  • When we share updates on our DEI efforts, we will prioritize sharing what's worked and what we are going to do next in order to continue improving.
  • We are building out partnerships with changemaking organizations like Out Leadership and Advancing Women in Tech that serve as touch points in supporting us to drive equity across each stage of our employee lifecycle.
  • We are connecting with DEI leaders across the field to discuss and build the next generation of best practices (check out ENGAGE).

We also understand that how and what we build has the potential to perpetuate racism or be a part of societal change. From how we code to how our products are used, we must continue to be intentional and proactive. These are some steps we are taking to do just that:

  • We ban any organization identified as a hate group from using our platform (as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and/or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
  • Twilio has assembled an Ethical Use Working Group to develop a framework for the ethical use of Twilio services (with Lybra Clemons as a core committee member). 
  • Twilio has created a working group that aims to reduce and eventually eliminate potentially oppressive terminology from its internal code. 
  • We are working to ensure our products are accessible. 



Societal

We are also committed to action outside of Twilio. In 2021 and beyond, we will continue to look for opportunities to proactively speak up and drive change in our communities. We are currently in the process of defining what our antiracist commitment means externally around the world. Ongoing efforts to ensure fair and equal access to voting and increase equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines globally set the stage for this work. Read more about how we are using our people, platform, and capital to create a more just and equitable society in Twilio’s 2020 Impact Report.

"Every moment is a chance to approach our impact anew in order to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce and world."

Lybra S. Clemons

Our commitment to the Twilio community 

Our work to date was driven by our commitment to doing the right thing. We are grateful for the progress we have made, humbled by our learnings and realizations, and hopeful for this new journey ahead. While there is no clear roadmap to becoming an antiracist company, we are excited by what we will accomplish and learn along the way.

Twilio’s executives will continue to be held accountable for the work we initiated through our Racial Justice and Equity BPMs. They will also be key leaders and contributors in Twilio’s journey to becoming an antiracist company. By sharing this report and future progress, we hope to influence our industry and encourage our customers and partners to build every system with equity in mind. We will step into the uncomfortable place of building from the ground up, especially when best practices or what is currently in place aren’t working.

Our commitment is to not keep doing the same thing and hoping the outcome is different. Our commitment is to not say we have it all figured out and know exactly how to get there. Rather, our commitment is to be courageous and creative in this new path towards promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our behaviors and in our systems. Every moment is a chance to approach our impact anew in order to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce and world.

This is our commitment to Twilions, our customers, and our community.

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Lybra Clemons Headshot_edited.jpeg

Lybra S. Clemons

Lybra S. Clemons is Twilio’s first Chief Diversity Officer and is responsible for building and scaling all global diversity initiatives. Lybra is a seasoned c-suite executive and proven leader with over 15 years of Human Resources, Talent, and Diversity & Inclusion experience across a variety of Fortune 500 companies.