Intentionally investing in Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Blend
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April 15, 2019 in Blendkind

6 minutes

Intentionally investing in Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Blend

Ulysses Smith hero

A few years ago, I experienced a pivotal moment that prompted me to really embrace myself and come into my own. While I’ll spare you the details of the experience, it dramatically shaped how I live my life. To those who ask or want to listen, I express that because of it, I now live my life as an unapologetically Black and unapologetically gay man. This was impossible for me to say even 10 years ago.

Growing up in northern Florida — which is, in fact, “the South” — I was pretty accustomed to overt acts of bigotry that drove me to conceal many parts of myself from those closest to me. It was normal in my mind to live in fear and secrecy, and to never allow myself to be vulnerable, honest, or authentic.

But what was truly troubling for me was when I moved to New York. Everything was different: the weather, the architecture, and the people. No longer was I surrounded by the common practices that exemplify Southern hospitality, or our very peculiar way of communicating. Unlike in the South, where I knew who did not like or accept me, or which places were unsafe for me, in New York, bigotry was more passive and microaggressive. It was difficult for me to know what was truly a ‘safe’ place — and that was terrifying.

Knowing what it feels like to be intentionally excluded and unwelcome in spaces like New York and northern Florida is what drives me to build inclusive ones for others. That’s the passion I’m bringing to Blend.

My decision to join Blend

This is the mission that drives my actions in this new role. I want to create a place where people do not have to feel like they must conceal the most important parts of themselves in order to be accepted or valued in the workplace. I want to create an environment where we are able to engage in the uncomfortable and to learn to see the world through the lens of someone else. I want to cultivate a culture that leverages difference to create an even better product and even brighter futures.

I know this is a tall order, and the data that we are releasing publicly confirms this. We have embraced a culture of confident humility — knowing that achieving our purpose will be extremely difficult, but having the courage to find a way anyway. These big goals are what shape our new beliefs and principles in support of a fresh start for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) programs at Blend.

Why we get up every day

At its core, DIB centers around three specific beliefs in support of Blend’s vision and purpose: becoming the equitable employer of the future, creating an accessible consumer lending ecosystem, and demonstrating impact beyond the office.

Becoming the equitable employer of the future

Our goal is to continuously set the standard for equity and inclusion as both an organization and an employer, and to develop the inclusive leaders of tomorrow. We actively remove arbitrary barriers to workforce participation and fervently challenge bias in our processes. We establish and maintain a culture where every person feels like a valued and essential team member. We invest in people’s development so that they are able to do their best work creatively and authentically

Creating an open & accessible consumer lending ecosystem

Access to opportunity is key to economic mobility and transferable wealth, and Blend is one tool intended to provide more gateways to opportunity for more people. Our team is dedicated to building transparent products that allow lenders to more easily connect with and serve historically underserved borrowers, for example, those who can’t visit a bank branch during regular business hours or those who don’t have a desktop computer. We harness the ingenuity of our diverse teams to build better paths for consumers to access financial capital.

Demonstrating social impact & community investment

A sense of purpose, alignment of values, and company involvement in social causes influence and drive our company culture. We take down the walls of our offices to make meaningful connections and lasting relationships with local communities. We invest in the local communities where we are present and use our purchasing power to provide economic stability. We do not back down from stating our position on matters impacting the most vulnerable populations or threatening our commitment to equity and accessibility.

Our DIB pillars at Blend

Blend’s DIB framework rests on three core pillars. Each year, we’ll select objectives and key results for each of these thematic areas and adopt a series of initiatives to achieve the stated objectives.

Talent – Investing in top talent from varying backgrounds at all levels of the organization

An organization makes no greater investment than in its people. Not only do we want to attract and hire the brightest minds, but we want to bring together people of different identities, backgrounds, and experiences to solve complex challenges and make consumer finance simpler, faster, and more secure. In addition to bolstering our recruiting efforts in underrepresented communities, we commit to removing structural barriers to the participation of historically marginalized groups across the tech industry.

Experience – Cultivating a brave space where all individuals can participate fully and learn from one another to recognize and challenge bias

Bringing people together is only one step toward achieving a culture of belonging. Our goal is to create a workplace where everyone feels like they are essential to our team, are valued for their individual differences, and can fully participate in an environment free of bias without limits to their potential. We want all Blendkind to embody confident humility and be equipped with the interpersonal skills they need to meaningfully engage across difference and to lead diverse teams.

Impact – Demonstrating personal and professional commitment to the organization and its values through community engagement

We recognize that disparities between groups exist in tech and across the world, and that Blend has a role in eliminating barriers to equity. We also recognize that our presence in any community has a direct impact on the economic and social circumstances of the people living there. Our goal is for Blendkind not only to engage in the everyday activities provided at our offices, but also to demonstrate our cultural values by making a positive impact on the communities in which Blend is present and beyond. We know that actions speak volumes, and we are committed to earning the trust of communities around the world by demonstrating behavior consistent with that of a responsible global citizen.

This is what’s driving us toward continued success. Not only are we building an amazing product, we are building an even greater place to work. If you’re looking for meaningful work and a great community to call home, I encourage you to join us in our endeavor.

Photo credit: Kaitlin Sullivan

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