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Hacking diversity with HubSpot’s Katie Burke


HubSpot, the inbound marketing software company with roots at MIT Sloan, is committed to diversity, but still has a ways to go, said Katie Burke, MBA ’09. Recently promoted from vice president of culture and experience to chief people officer, Burke is the first female member at HubSpot’s C-suite.

Burke highlighted HubSpot’s 2016 diversity data in a recent blog post. The 10-year-old company, based in Cambridge, Mass., has more than 1,500 employees worldwide.

“As a general rule, I think the more comfortable tech gets talking about diversity and inclusion and admitting no organization has it all figured out just yet, the easier it will be to find a more impactful path forward. Humility drives much more interesting conversations than hubris,” Burke said.

Burke recently discussed HubSpot’s commitment to diversity.

In your  post, you wrote: “While we’re seeing some early signs of progress on gender diversity, you’ll see we haven’t made the same traction on diversity of age or race.” What progress would you highlight in those areas?

We released the data to demonstrate our commitment both to being radically transparent about our organization, even when it’s hard, and to help spread the word that we are actively looking for more diverse and female candidates to join our team.

To truly transform the face of tech, we need more individuals who [are] first in their families to attend college or work in a corporate business environment. Our team held two events focused on helping first generation students learn more about tech and prepare for interviews. One was in Cambridge and one was in Dublin, Ireland. We plan on doing even more of these events.

We developed a training to help front-line employees become champions of inclusion throughout our organization and launched a mentorship program specifically for employees of color at HubSpot.

Why is finding and recruiting minority candidates such a tough problem?

I always cringe when people call finding racially diverse candidates a “problem.” There is no question we all need to help meaningfully transform the top of our recruiting funnel, but positioning finding diverse candidates as a problem makes it easy for people to pass the buck to society or external factors and not on things they can personally do to. I consider rebuilding our funnel an opportunity, both to get more innovative in how we think about our talent pipeline and to ensure that we are being thoughtful about how we define success, what we recruit for, and how we grow and promote people internally.

There’s no question tech needs a better pipeline of more diverse candidates over time, but I also think all of us can be doing more to diversify our networks, rethink our existing processes, and ultimately create a workforce that looks more like the world we are building our software for day in and day out.

At HubSpot, 32 percent of HubSpot employees in leadership roles are female, which is a 7 percent increase since 2015. Looking at this progress, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud that the female leaders we have added are already impacting the business. For example, Barbara McCarthy joined last year as director of engineering in Dublin, and she’s not only helping us build a better product with her technical talent, [but she also] led a panel of all men in Dublin regarding how men and women can work together to tackle diversity and inclusion in tech and wrote this blog post about how she’s encouraging her daughter to be a superhero, not a “girl superhero.”

Tell me about the events HubSpot has done, like “Add the Women Back” to Wikipedia.

I loved the Add the Women Back event because it was entirely conceived and executed by one of our engineers. She noticed that Wikipedia had too many male executives listed as leaders to count, and not enough dynamic women in tech highlighted with entries. She wanted to fix it, we just gave her the tools, support, and promotion to make it happen.

You’re speaking at the Sloan Women in Management  Breaking the Mold Hackathon later this month and the theme is “Hacking Diversity.” Do you think diversity can be “hacked”?

What I know for sure is that traditional solutions and ideas won’t meaningfully transform diversity and inclusion at most organizations globally, so an event that matches big brains and technical savvy with a massive challenge facing tech and business generally seems to me a wonderful place to start. One of the reasons I chose to attend MIT was that as an institution it is unafraid to question and challenge the status quo — hacking diversity is just one example of that commitment.

The MIT Sloan Women in Management  Breaking the Mold Hackathon is Feb. 25 at the MIT Media Lab .

For more info Zach Church Editorial & Digital Media Director (617) 324-0804