Asana’s new Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Sonja Gittens-Ottley
Our vision for Asana has always included building a diverse team.
We see this as critical to creating a culture that attracts the best people in our industry—whether or not they themselves are from underrepresented groups. Hiring from diverse backgrounds is necessary for manifesting an inclusive environment for both our current and future employees. Hiring great people is an exciting win all by itself, but hiring a diverse great team has also been shown to increase team creativity and will improve the empathy we have for our customers by creating a team that is more representative of them.
Thus our diversity goals are reflective of both the culture we’d like to work in and the strategy that best leads us to success with our mission. Moreover, as a company, we strive to be the change we want to see in the workplace. And the workplace we want to see in this world is radically inclusive.
This announcement promises an acceleration of our efforts.
We’ve got a long journey ahead to manifest those ambitions, but today we’re excited to take an important step forward with the start of our Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Sonja Gittens-Ottley. Sonja joins us from Facebook, where she helped lead their global diversity and inclusion initiatives, including developing external partnerships and supporting talent outreach programs.
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. 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.
In the past year, we have been executing a distributed version of that effort internally and externally, including talking publicly about our intentions, conducting trainings for our Asana team on the impact of unconscious bias in the workplace, and participating in events that highlight talent traditionally underrepresented in tech. We are a bit wiser, but unfortunately no more diverse than when we started. We must do more—a lot more.
Joelle Emerson of Paradigm has been an incredible coach for us as we seek to make impactful changes. At our very first meeting, she emphasized the importance of hiring someone dedicated to diversity, who can think about the problem continuously, take on larger projects (like making changes to our recruiting process or to internal practices that affect diversity and inclusion), and help both nurture and focus our collective energy to create great outcomes.
Thus, this announcement promises an acceleration of our efforts. We’re grateful that we can benefit from Sonja’s passion and experience in building the team and culture we aspire to be, and excited about how much more we’ll be able to accomplish with her leadership.
As far as we know, we’re the smallest tech company to create a dedicated position like Sonja’s, and we’re extremely enthusiastic about what that means for our future.
Like most tech companies, we already have some catching up to do and it is difficult to imagine Asana succeeding without making a lot more progress. Fortunately, we know it will be much easier to build the environment we want in the long run if we start while we’re small. As far as we know, we’re the smallest tech company to create a dedicated position like Sonja’s, and we’re extremely enthusiastic about what that means for our future.
As we go, we’ll share what we learn about how to be successful, as well as more information about our progress.