Skillcrush News

A Long-Term Plan for Anti-Racism at Skillcrush

Black Lives Matter

This is a working document. Last updated: June 30, 2020

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Skillcrush Long-Term Anti-Racist Plan

Our ultimate outcome is to become an actively anti-racist online tech education company that works against racism in all facets, internal AND external to our organization.

The following are our first pass at a series of specific outcomes that we believe will build towards our ultimate goal, and the actions we plan to take to achieve them. As we know better, we will do better, and plan to treat this as a living document that we will update quarterly if not more often.

Outcome

Build consciousness about diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism within every aspect of the company.

Actions

  • Introspection, internal reflection and education, including but not limited to:
    • Solicit anonymous feedback from the team as to our strengths & weaknesses as a company in the form of a diversity and inclusion survey. Already completed.
    • Ask about the racist / anti-racist implications of every major business decision. Immediate and ongoing.
    • Enable our staff to self-organize around learning more about anti-racism, for example supporting them in reading anti-racist texts and giving them time to discuss with their colleagues during work hours. Ongoing.
    • Hire a facilitator to host a company-wide anti-racism workshop (currently sourcing educators). Within the next three months.
  • Add anti-racist language to our mission and company values. Within the next three months.
  • Share everything with the team and publish everything we’re doing publicly to be held internally and publicly accountable. Begun upon the publishing of this plan.

 

Outcome

Increase diversity on the management team (currently 3 white women, 2 straight, 1 LGBTQ).

Actions

  • Work to hire a BIPOC to work on the management team. By the end of 2020.
  • Identify ways in which we need to restructure and rework the way we work together as a management organization in order to ensure that a BIPOC will feel like a valued and respected member of the team. Immediately and ongoing.

 

Outcome

Increase diversity across all the teams with a particular focus on the representation of Black and Latinx staff, with the goal of having 50% of our staff self-identify as BIPOC.

Actions

  • Fill our pipeline with 50% BIPOC for all open positions by identifying avenues for recruiting that go beyond sharing roles with job boards aimed at underrepresented groups in tech and halting hiring processes when we fail to reach this benchmark. Immediate and ongoing.

 

Outcome

Create an actively anti-racist culture at Skillcrush where BIPOC staffers thrive.

Actions

  • Track promotion rates to ensure that BIPOC team members are promoted at the same rates as white team members and recognize that they may require a different kind of support and mentorship than their white colleagues in order to be successful. Within three months.
  • Continue to ensure that BIPOC team members are paid in line with our transparent salary tiers and that these don’t create pay disparity between BIPOC and white team members. Immediate and ongoing.
  • Track tenure by demographic to ensure that BIPOC are not leaving at higher rates than their colleagues and aid us in identifying problems with inclusion so that we can immediately address them. Within three months.
  • Identify resources & training for white managers to better prepare them to support BIPOC team members. Within three months

 

Outcome

Improve the experience & outcomes of our BIPOC students.

Actions

  • Speak to BIPOC students about their learning experience at Skillcrush, and experiences applying for jobs in tech in order to identify material ways we can improve their experiences and outcomes. Within the next three months.
  • Host dedicated town halls for BIPOC students to speak about their experiences as students at Skillcrush and as adults trying to break into tech. Within the next month.
  • Ensure that BIPOC students are at least proportionally represented in all discovery user interviews. Immediate and ongoing.
  • Explore ways to make our courses more accessible to Black women through scholarships and/or partnerships with other organizations. Within the next six months.
  • Identify resources & training for white and non-Black instructors & TAs to better prepare them to support BIPOC students. Within three months

 

Outcome

Steward our business resources towards companies whose anti-racist values align with ours.

Actions

  • Develop a set of criteria by which to assess a company’s anti-racism. Within the next month.
  • Divest all advertising dollars from Facebook and Instagram. Immediately.
  • Explore opportunities to support Black-owned businesses or individuals as an ongoing part of our business (via advertising spend, or other business needs). Immediate and ongoing.

 

Outcome

Continue to deepen our understanding of media representations of BIPOC, and the ways in which we must actively dismantle racism in all aspects of our product design, curriculum, and marketing.

Actions

  • Put together a workshop for our internal design and marketing teams on media representations of Black people throughout American history. Within the next month.
  • Internal marketing team will educate themselves on how to achieve inclusive and anti-racist writing, editing, positioning, messaging, and representation. Beginning within the next month and ongoing.
  • Product & design team will work to educate themselves on the intersections of race, racism, and design in tech. Beginning within the next month and ongoing.
  • Curriculum team will represent the experiences of BIPOC in our classes through diverse on-screen representation, visual depictions of learners, and highlighting of exemplars and subject matter experts. Immediate and ongoing.
  • Represent the experiences of people of color, and Black people in particular, on our blog and across all marketing distribution channels — by covering topics relevant to people of color in tech specifically, and hiring writers of color to contribute to our blog. Ongoing and publicly reported quarterly.

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Skillcrush Staff Demographic Information

All of the following are self-reported and shared in the spirit of transparency. All data is current as of June 2020.

Race & Ethnicity

  • 21 White (84%)
  • 3 African-American or Black (8%)
  • 1 White & Latinx (4%)

Gender

  • 21 Female (84%)
  • 4 Male (16%)
  • 25 Cisgender (100%)

Sexual orientation

  • 2 Bisexual (8%)
  • 3 Gay or Lesbian (12%)
  • 20 Straight/Heterosexual (80%)

Disability 

  • 22 Team members report no disability (80%)
  • 3 Team members report an invisible disability (12%)
  • 0 team members report a visible disability (0%)

Leadership

  • 3 White (100%)
  • 3 Female & Cisgendered (100%)
  • 1 LGBTQ (33%)

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Skillcrush Student Demographic Information

All of the following are self-reported and shared in the spirit of transparency. All data is current as of October 2019 and the data set includes 429 students.

Race & Ethnicity

  • 281 White (67%)
  • 72 African-American or Black (17%)
  • 39 Latinx (9%)
  • 41 Asian or Pacific Islander (10%)
  • 10 Native American (2%)

Gender

  • 371 Female (87%)
  • 49 Male (12%)
  • 3 Non Binary (1%)
  • 3 Prefer not to say (1%)

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A Reflection on Past Failures, Lessons Learned & Future Anti-Racist Plans

The events of the last few weeks have caused a powerful shift in consciousness, for the country, for white people, for me personally, and also, for the leadership and staff of Skillcrush.

The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, David McAtee, and so many many more, along with the ensuing protests against police brutality, have led us to reckon with the pervasive racism, racial violence, and white supremacy in our country. We’ve taken concrete action in the short-term (read how here), but we’re simultaneously beginning the long-term internal and personal work necessary for any action to have structural staying power. In other words, we donated, we spoke out, and now we are committing ourselves to the critically important work of continuing to bring about systemic change in tech and beyond. Tech isn’t a safe and supportive space for all — especially not for people of color, and Black people in particular.

It’s a lot, and this process can’t happen quickly—this onion is layered, and we are just beginning to peel it.

Over the past eight years, we’ve taken many steps with the goal of building an anti-racist company, but by many objective measures we have much work yet to do. This moment is a profound opportunity to try to understand and take responsibility for why we’re still so far from having achieved it. And we believe that in order to be actively anti-racist in the tech community, we first need to be actively anti-racist in our own organization.

How can we build a truly anti-racist company? And what has prevented us from doing so? 

These are two questions that we will wrestle with for a long time, but the best answer I have at this moment is this: my modus operandi has been to focus #1 on gender and to find ways to combat and work around gender discrimination in tech and the working world at large. Our mission as a company is to “improve women’s quality of life through digital empowerment and skills to enter high-earning and flexible careers.” What I realize in this moment, however, is that my white/heterosexist/abelist/cis-gendered privilege has allowed me to believe that focusing on women was all-inclusive. I acted on the assumption that we didn’t need to always and continuously reinforce our commitment to fighting for women of color, LGBTQ women, non-binary folks, disabled women, and older women, because “women” was an umbrella term that captured them all.

But by NOT continuously asking ourselves what the impact of a business decision, or product change, or design update, or student support change was on all women, and Black women in particular, we’ve allowed cis-gendered white women and their needs to stand in for all women simply because in our culture there is no neutral—neutral is racist. And “women,” on its own, we considered to be neutral and was thereby a racist lens with which to review our decisions. This behavior is textbook non-intersectional white feminism, and even though I knew that and could identify it in other people, I haven’t always been able to see when it has come up in myself and my own organization.

As I renew our organizational commitment to anti-racism, I have to acknowledge that the answers we have today are incomplete and we don’t fully know what we don’t know—we don’t know yet what our other blindspots are or how big they are. The best we know how to do, at this moment, is to put forward a list of outcomes that we believe are the hallmarks of an anti-racist organization and our first pass at the actions we plan to take in order to realize those outcomes.

We expect that, in the process, we will uncover things about ourselves, our organization, and our world that are deeply uncomfortable. I know we’ll also have to consider the inherent contradictions and challenges of being anti-racist, feminist, and capitalist at the same time. And all of that together will powerfully shape how we proceed, what outcomes we are able to achieve, and whether our initial methods prove to be the right ones.

We don’t know what will be the best thing we can do to work towards Black liberation, but we’re committed to figuring it out. We write this statement in an effort to be transparent about our thinking and to make it possible for you to hold us accountable. 

We welcome any and all your feedback via email at hello@skillcrush.com.

With love, and in solidarity.

Adda Birnir
Founder & CEO

Adda Birnir

Adda is the CEO and founder of Skillcrush. She lives in Queens, NY with her husband and young son.