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Cultivating Engagement, Diversity, & Belonging at Yelp

It’s not news that diverse, engaged employees make for more profitable, productive workplaces. What’s been more elusive is the path there: how can we effectively diversify a company, foster a spirit of inclusion, and create a workplace where everyone feels they belong? 

At Yelp, we’ve decided to address this by making diversity, inclusion, and belonging a business priority. In the six years since Yelp released its first diversity report, we’ve grown significantly, and our approach to diversity and inclusion has evolved accordingly. We found that progress requires pressure at every level–working with recruiting to default to more diverse hiring pools, mentoring individuals to accelerate their careers, and holding leaders accountable for diversity in their departments. 

All of these efforts culminated in the most diverse Yelp to date, as shown in the 2019 data below. In addition to our usual annual update on our organization’s makeup, this year we wanted to share our current framework, specific actions, progress, and growth areas in our journey so far, which we expand upon below the data.

Yelp Diversity 2019

Overall
Sales
Technical
G&A
Leadership

Race / Ethnicity

Gender

Hiring is the lever for company-wide diversity, so we’ve decided to share hiring data for the first time this year. We want to be clear on what demographic change at scale requires: hiring classes dramatically more diverse than the org to date. 

Data on Yelp Hiring Diversity, September 2018 - August 2019

Diversity Highlights of the Last Year1:

  • The number of employees at Yelp in underrepresented minority (URM) groups increased 22%
  • The number of URM managers increased 24%
  • The number of women managers increased 3%

1 Time period spans the 12 months of Sep ‘18 – Aug ‘19   

Yelp 2019 Diversity Initiatives: What We Did

At Yelp, we’ve come to map diversity, inclusion, and belonging onto particular metrics and initiatives. Diversity describes Yelp’s gender and racial diversity overall, inclusion addresses equity and equal opportunity for advancement within Yelp, and belonging is ensuring that everyone can bring their full selves to work. 

Diversity: Org-Wide Diversity

Yelp has a diverse set of consumers, and our salespeople interface with a diverse set of business owners every day. If we don’t have a commensurately diverse set of employees who can relate to and solve for the problems our consumers and business owners face, we miss out on our core mission to connect people with great local businesses. 

To advance diversity in the org overall, we partnered with our sales, technical, and recruiting leadership throughout the year to develop strategies to attract more diverse talent. We dedicated recruiters full time in the sales and technical orgs to focus solely on sourcing, coaching, and hiring diverse talent. On the sales side, the incredible diversity of the Washington, D.C. area was a major benefit of opening an office there, and we have witnessed the improvement in our sales diversity in the last two years. In the technical org, we set the bold goal to source 50% women and more underrepresented minorities for all roles. This required shifting focus to schools with more diverse student populations and increasing engagement with conferences that support underrepresented talent (including Tech Intersections, Grace Hopper, and AfroTech). 

To control for bias on the interviewer side, we standardized our sales manager interviews and our technical phone interview processes. People managers and recruiters went through bias interruption training and participated in discussion groups, where they translated academic findings into tangible actions for sourcing and interviewing candidates. 

We believe the 22% increase in URM employees overall in the last year attest to our commitment to and success in changing Yelp’s demographics, and we look forward to building on this momentum in the coming year.

Inclusion: Equity in Advancement

While talent is evenly distributed across race and gender, advancement is not. At Yelp, underrepresented minorities make up 24% of our org, but only 12% of our leadership. The current racial and gender leadership representation gaps would organically correct over the course of decades, but we weren’t satisfied with waiting that long. We set out this year to remedy this historic underinvestment with overinvestment and made strides by empowering local department heads with data and holding them accountable for growing the diversity of their people managers. 

In the Local Sales org, we partnered with sales office leads to take a deep dive into our Manager Development Program (MDP), identifying systematic interventions that would increase the diversity of our candidate pool. We know from research that women, especially minority women, are less likely to nominate themselves for leadership opportunities or apply for jobs where they do not meet or exceed every named qualification. As of 2018, we now email every sales representative qualified to apply to MDP so they don’t take themselves out of the running. The results have been incredible: women today are better represented in sales management than in sales overall, and consequently, we are now trying to replicate this practice across the company.

We instituted a sponsorship program for people of color in Local Sales, asking office heads to actively overinvest in our diverse talent. Given our leadership imbalance, affinity bias is more likely to benefit white employees than others, so we purposely scheduled more interactions between leaders and sales reps of color and asked about these mentees during diversity updates. Stories from office heads about discovering talent and future leaders began to emerge, and our leadership has grown more diverse over the course of the year.

At this year’s Local Sales Manager Summit, our team created and facilitated “How To Interrupt Biases and Become an Upstander,” a live seminar where we fostered discussions on all the necessary (and sometimes uncomfortable) topics of diversity and equity. This opened the door for ongoing conversations about race and equity, and we have continued to adapt and deliver this training to departments across the company. 

In the technical org, women made huge gains in leadership representation in the last year, nearly closing the gender representation gap. The technical org also launched a leveling system, which will help us systematically track career progression and pay equity. Our Sales organization has long practiced pay equity due to the clearly structured pay by role, and we are proud to say that the technical org adjusted compensation this year to join them in equal pay for equal work (more on these findings to come).

For external manager hires in the sales and the technical org, we partnered with various diversity-focused recruiting agencies and specifically asked all others to bring us a diverse slate of candidates. 

The results of these internal and external efforts were a 24% increase in URM employees in management in the last 12 months–while URM employees remain underrepresented in management, we are committed to creating, continuing, and spreading initiatives to accelerate diverse leader hire and promotion. 

Belonging: A Workplace for All

Employees who bring their whole selves to work are more engaged, creative, and productive. Covering, or consciously changing how we present to hide an outsider identity (e.g., ethnicity, class, etc.), drains a person’s energy with negative health and work outcomes over time. 

The primary way we support underrepresented groups and communities is through our Yelp Employee Resource Groups (YERGs). This year, we’ve invested more resources than ever before and were wowed by all the programming and communities Yelpers built. Hundreds of hours of meetings from 36 YERGs produced over 160 events across our offices in the last year. Here were a few of our favorites:

Beyond the workplace, we continue to make our app a tool to help everyone find places to belong in the world. This year’s release of C-section rate, gender neutral bathrooms, and “Open to All” data allows our employees and consumers to find spaces where they can feel welcome as they are. 

What’s next

We strive for Yelp’s workforce and leadership to be representative of the communities our offices occupy. While we celebrate growing more diverse every year, we want to ensure that these changes are lasting and produce increased representation up the career ladder. That said, promotions happen over the course of years rather than months, and we acknowledge that seeing proportional representation in leadership will likely be a multi-year effort. In the meantime, we will continue to create and support programming that keeps underrepresented talent on an upward trajectory and that fosters allyship and belonging in the office.

While we certainly aim to do more, we’ve witnessed huge strides in the last year in making Yelp a diverse and inclusive workplace where anyone can belong and thrive. As Yelp continues to grow its reach and impact, we will continue to advance diversity, inclusion, and belonging among our employees and in the world.