How diversity, equity and inclusion are intricately woven into our culture

Being inclusive has been a part of our DNA since our inception. It began with the belief that educational pedigree, prior experience, proficiency in language aren’t the only predictors for success. Rather, it’s one’s attitude and work ethic, combined with a passion for one’s craft. 

With this lens, our hiring has been quite diverse since the early days. We hired people who came from all kinds of backgrounds and were willing to push the envelope and make a difference. 

Every voice matters

As a fast-growing startup, we were willing to try many ideas, fail quickly, learn from mistakes and move forward. We believe that every idea is a good idea, and everyone has good ideas. So “Speak up” became an inherent value in our culture. And once people realized and internalized this, the floodgates to great ideas—be it for marketing, product, or HR—were thrown open. 

We even created a tool called “voxpop” to listen to the voice of our people and evaluate their ideas. On merit, not on who they identify as a person. For us at Freshworks, every voice matters.

One of the statements in our vision is that we will strive to be a company that is loved by all its employees, customers and shareholders—in that order. To be loved by employees means we bring to life experiences that matter to our employees. 

As we started listening more keenly to the voices of our employees, we realized we don’t have enough representation of women in every function, at every level. While we were doing OK in improving our gender diversity, it wasn’t enough. We figured that unless we are deliberate in driving this, we can never get close to achieving parity. That’s what led us to pledge last year on Women’s Day that within a year, we would get to a third of our workforce being women globally. 

So, what changed?

Once we made this commitment, it made us look closely at all our people practices, and question if they were aiding or hindering diversity. 

For instance, we started looking closely at our talent pool at every level, and ensured we had a diverse pool. We took a hard look at some of our Job Descriptions and made sure they were written with no bias. For some roles/positions where the balance was quite skewed, we looked exclusively for women candidates. We reached out to a number of talented women candidates, and grabbed each opportunity for hiring them. 

Slowly, but surely, we started moving the needle. 

We increased diversity across all levels—from the boardroom to the management team to the entry-level college grads.

Bringing women back

Many talented and qualified women often take a break from work for life reasons—and many never return. We reached out to over 400 such women last year to understand what it would take to bring them back, and have been working on launching our Return to Work program. The pandemic also created an opportunity to attract talent from multiple places, with flexibility in timing and location.

An important step we took toward ensuring gender balance and equity was in the realm of pay parity. Studies show that, on an average, women earn less than men for the same role. This happens for a number of reasons—from negotiation skills to the break in their careers. At Freshworks, we started doing a rigorous review of our compensation parity almost three years ago. Today, we take pride in having corrected any historical differences that might have existed. Every year, at the end of our annual pay cycle, the leadership team reviews the pay parity data to make sure nothing is amiss. And as we continue to build Freshworks with new hires, we ensure that the offers to men and women are on par.

Last year was challenging in many ways, and we helped our team members adapt to the new normal of the pandemic in a number of ways. We also realized that our women employees were even more challenged because the lockdown and the work from home regimen had put additional stress on them with respect to home and childcare. We have tried to help in multiple ways, from flexible work hours to providing online care sessions for their young kids and, in extreme cases, counseling and helping combat domestic abuse.

Raising the bar

All of this made us realize that the diversity agenda needs to be taken up at the highest level possible for an organization: that we need to make it not just a leadership agenda, but a boardroom agenda as well. 

Today, on March 8th, as we reflect on the year gone by, I realize it’s been significant in more ways than one. We came pretty close to meeting our pledge—we achieved 32% instead of 33% of women in our workforce. But more than numbers, it’s a shared mission across the organization; more than hiring, it’s about removing barriers to success. More than anything, it’s about creating a place where everyone can belong. Yes, we didn’t achieve our target. We achieved much more.

Cover Design: Jason Naveen

[Do join us in our Recruitment Drive for HER from March 8-12, 2021 or just spread the good word :)]