“What gets measured, gets managed.”

This well-known quote is often applied to business situations like marketing or product creation.

But the basic truth is applicable to almost any situation: When we really want to focus on something, we pay close attention. We want details that can help us make good decisions.

And at Buffer, we want the details that can help us grow as an inclusive and diverse team.

We’re at 34 people right now, and we’re growing faster than we ever have before. Buffer is hiring for 10 positions right now.

As we grow, we want to be conscious of how we grow: With a focus on the 10 core values that guide us, and with an awareness that a diverse team across a variety of perspectives not only helps us represent our audience better but also makes us more innovative.

We’re not where we want to be yet in regards to a truly diverse team, but we’ve taken some small steps in this direction, including:

As we’ve shared these changes and efforts, one of the major comments we’ve heard in response has been: “Great! So what kind of difference has all of this made?”

Good question!

pablo (23)

What gets measured, gets managed.

We’re grateful for the companies and individuals who’ve created frameworks to share, measure and understand tech and startup diversity data, including initiatives like Tracy Chou’s Women in Software Engineering Stats and DoubleUnion’s Open Diversity Data project.

Today we hope to add our own small contribution to this big effort with the Buffer diversity dashboard.

diversity dash

How the dashboard works

With this dashboard, we’re sharing real-time data on the demographic diversity of the Buffer team, as well as those who’ve expressed interest in joining our team, in the specific areas of:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity

You can explore this self-reported data in a few different ways—view the makeup of the Buffer team and/or our candidates through these three lenses with either bar graphs or pie charts, or check out the raw data and comments as they come in.

team diversity pie chart

We also have filters for each subset to allow for drilling down deeper into any part of the data.

diversity dashboard

For a little extra context, we’ve also identified the most and least diverse areas for each of these three demographics.

How we’re collecting the data

We began collecting this information on a voluntary basis on May 18. All the applicant information comes from a Wufoo form that those who apply for a role at Buffer are invited (though not required) to share with us after their application is submitted. Here’s what it looks like:

diversity form

(The open comments field is new as of this week; we’re interested to see how it will be used!)

In order to avoid bias in any particular direction and to comply with the guidelines of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, this information is collected totally separately from all applications and doesn’t travel with an individual in any way.

UPDATE 6/25: Thanks to some great feedback, we added a new field to the voluntary spreadsheet that asks users to choose between the options of publishing the data to the dashboard or keeping it private. Both are great options!

We use Zapier to feed the Wufoo information into a Google Spreadsheet that’s published to the web and feeds the “Raw data” section of the dashboard. Then we used the R shiny server project to create the various graphs and comparisons. The code is fully open source, in case any other organizations might want to give it a try. (More info on the technology behind the dashboard is over at the Overflow blog, with a full report from Michael.)

All Buffer team members were invited to take an identical survey in order to compare our team versus our candidate pool. We’ll re-survey the team every quarter to keep the information current.

Since we’re a remote team and can add new teammates in any part of the world, we’re also collecting data on which part of the world applicants come from, though we haven’t used that info just yet.

What comes next

Sharing the dashboard is the very beginning of what we hope to do with this data. We’re only just now getting enough information to begin to make interpretations and discover possible disconnects in our recruitment or hiring process that we might address.

We want to make the data more interactive so it’s easier to interpret and understand change over time. We’d love to add graphs representing the demographic makeup of the workforce of San Francisco (Buffer’s official home, though we work all over the world), the United States, and even the world in order to see how our team makeup compares to these benchmarks, kind of like this graph from GigaOm:

overall-diversity-final-new

And we want to add new areas of study over time, because we know that the areas of gender, ethnicity and age are only a small part of understanding true, intersectional diversity.

But the main thing we want to do with this dashboard is use it to better understand how we can grow as a diverse and inclusive startup.

Right now, we don’t have a team makeup that feels representative of our community, and this dashboard could be key to figuring out why that is and making changes. Are our job opportunities reaching all kinds of people and communities, including underrepresented groups? Could we change the way we hire to eliminate more bias and create more inclusivity?

We hope the dashboard will be a way to benchmark all our future efforts and discover what, if any, changes we make will have an effect on these numbers. What gets measured, gets managed.

We want your thoughts

Making Buffer more inclusive is an ongoing effort, and members of the Buffer community have been amazingly kind to share their thoughts with us.

I’d love to hear feedback on how the dashboard looks and operates. By open sourcing the code, we hope that you’ll share your ideas or improvements with us. If you make any great changes, send us a pull request so we can add it our dashboard! And if you’ve got any additional resources or ideas, I’m keen to hear all of it in the comments.

The diversity dashboard is thanks to the hard work of lots of members of the Buffer team, especially Michael, who worked on the data, and Julian, who worked on the visualizations. Niel and Kevan offered great guidance.

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Written by Courtney Seiter

Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.

  • Brooke

    I think this is incredible! With the state of race relations in the US, age discrimination, and equal pay for women still being a huge uphill challenge, we need more companies being proactive and transparent about how they are approaching diversity issues. Thanks, Buffer!

    • Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here, Brooke! We’re excited to keep going in this area. :)

  • The Buffer Diversity Dashboard is super cool and a great way to make visualizing the team easy. Thanks for continuing to share awesome insight into the Buffer team and the cool things they’re doing.

    I’m sure this dashboard will help when continuing to create an inclusive team. Do you think it could also bring the possibility of excluding job candidates? Say, not consider one over another because they live in a place where you already have a number of employees?

    Do you see yourselves tracking other traits in the future? Education, personality types, pet ownership, favorite food, and more. It would be very cool to see the how diverse and similar the team is on many levels and topics.

    • Hey Ben, these are great questions! We keep this data separate from an individual’s application for the exact reason you mention–we don’t want to create any extra opportunity for bias to creep in. And yes, in the future we’d love to track more elements! Those are some really fun ones you mention! :)

  • This is such a neat idea! Thanks for sharing all the details on it, Courtney!

  • Priscilla Wilson

    Buffer never ceases to impress. I really appreciate how open you guys are with everything, as I’m sure the rest of the Buffer community is as well.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Priscilla! It means so much to us to have you on our side!

  • Cal Bachand

    Captivating stuff! Truly curious to see this evolve as time goes on. Great post, Courtney! :)

    • Thanks, Cal; excited to get it out there and see what folks will do with it!

  • Why do you care so much about race in the US? That seems so weird from a European point of view!

    • Hey Stefan! From my point of view, I want to think about diversity from a number of points of view, including race but also other demographic factors. When we as team represent our diverse community, my feeling is that we will be more creative and productive with the addition of a variety of viewpoints and experiences,

    • Ross Parmly

      I’ve personally seen that different races/ethnic groups have unique and helpful perspectives on issues related to everything from marketing to customer service. Having employees from other cultures brings a more diverse perspective to the table which is super helpful. Wonder if anyone else has noticed this in their business?

      • Beautifully said, Ross; I have experienced this as well! :)

      • Definitely Ross. I think bringing more culture and diverse set of upbringings to a team helps a lot.

        There are a lot of things you learn from people who come from a different background to you and always trying to keep an open mind about the world and other ideas is always a good thing.

  • This is great. I love the Idea and thoroughly enjoyed reading this. However, I quickly sobered up once I looked at the actual dashboard. Even without the dashboard you can make some pretty general assumptions from looking at the Buffer Team. Those assumptions, or rather perceptions, can be wrong. But when you provide raw data, you can’t really hide from the truth.

    So here’s a few of my observations about the Buffer Team:
    1. I’m not sure if it is because Development has more people, but there needs to be a serious push to make it more diverse.
    2. There’s a glaring reality that women populate the “soft skills” areas more than the technical areas.
    3. The oldest Buffer teammate is in the 35-44 age range. I can’t say whether Buffer has anyone over 40, but it can be perceived as if Buffer doesn’t hire over 40, which can be considered as age discrimination.
    4. And, as I knew before, there are no Black people on the Buffer Team. Even the Overall Diversity graph from GigaOm show Black people, even in small percentages, in other companies.

    And then I switched over to Applicants … and I realized why there’s a diversity issue. The Applicant pool isn’t that diverse. I think Buffer should ramp up recruiting efforts instead of relying on candidates to come to them.

    Lastly, when I think about diversity, I think about all the things Buffer included. But diversity is also about sexual orientation, disabilities, and veteran status. My hope for the dashboard is to see these things captured in the future. My hope for Buffer is to see older employees, Black employees, and more women in technical roles.

    I really like the effort Buffer is putting into this initiative. I’m just waiting to see the results, and I hope that this pushes Buffer one step closer in the right direction, because like you said, what gets measured does get managed.

    • Awesome, awesome observations and feedback! I totally agree, the main reason we wanted to created the dashboard was to determine where the disconnect was happening – in our hiring process or in our recruitment. And as the data gathers, I agree with you that a great next step would be getting the word about Buffer out to underrepresented communities. Love your thoughts on categories to add! Some amazing folks from the disability community have gotten in touch with us so I’m hopeful we’ll get going there first and add others in soon. We want to be open and accountable here, so anytime you want to talk I’m all ears!

  • eccoyle

    Glad that Buffer is paying attention to this as the lack of diversity was something that I had noticed and you are such a pioneer and leader in many areas of the tech community. Looking forward to more insights and progress as you move forward

    • Thanks so much! Yup, we’re definitely motivated to keep going in this area!

  • Whoa, love this one Courtney! What a great tool by Michael and Julian. I totally agree with the importance of having a distributed and diverse team. It is great because of the variety of opinions from different perspectives. Especially in marketing or UX. Of course Buffer is pretty diverse not only by ethnicity but also by location. I’d love to see also another vertical – age. That would bring some great opinions as well I think.

    • Hey Petr, thanks so much for adding your thoughts here! I didn’t mention it quite as much, but age is one of the categories you can examine over at the dashboard. Does that look like what you had in mind at all?

      • Yes, I’ve noticed the age vertical in the dashboard, but what I meant was that age is a great differentiator in experiences and opinions on various subjects like product, marketing, strategy etc. I like to talk about the same subject with differently aged people, you always learn a lot from these discussions :)

        • Oh, got it! Sorry to have misunderstood there; I definitely agree age brings an awesome element of diversity to a team!

          • Have you seen some diversity within you team? I know you’re all pretty young and don’t have any huge differences but still you might have faced some diverse approaches :) Thanks

          • Age-wise, I think we have quite a ways to go to get to a team that looks more like the population at large (or like our customer base).

          • Can’t wait to see any influence by a age-diversed team :) You should hire Morgan Freeman as a phone support hero :)

          • Haha, that would be amazing! :D

  • Beatriz Arantes Magalhães

    when I thought Buffer couldn’t be any more amazing, you come up with this. Hooray for people that not only say relevant things but actually do things to reach it. Cheers for diversity!

  • Wow, so happy to read this. As always, your transparency is amazing. Yay, Buffer!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! It means so much to have your support here!

  • Up for @T.Nichols remarks. Congrats Buffer for bringing these diversity challenges up to the table. Congrats for having the courage to take such a delicate challenge into the buffer journey! I’m on my end sneak-peeking where all of this will lead to ;) !

    • Hey Mathias, I’m so happy to have you following along with our journey! Very hopeful for the future. :)

  • That’s so amazing. I’m always a big weirded out when I see ethnicity data because that’s not something we do in France but as you quote “what gets measured, gets managed”.

    I love that you track the diversity of your applicants pool. I think a lot of companies are quick to focus on “hiring people from more diverse backgrounds” without looking at the core of the problem: their applicants are not coming from diverse backgrounds.
    I always find it hard to draw the line between being more inclusive and hiring people because they are part of a minority. Your initiative here is one of the best I’ve seen so far, since you focus on attracting more applications from people with diverse backgrounds. Congrats Buffer, really!

    • Hey Aurelie, always appreciate it when you share your insights here! You’ve hit right on the exact reasons we wanted to create this dashboard and I’m so grateful for your support!

      • I honestly can’t wait to see if your efforts in being more inclusive in your job offers will bring more diversity to your pool of applicants.
        I think most people don’t realize how big of a difference little details make when you are a minority. I’ve always seen Buffer as a very open minded company that celebrates diversity but seeing you doing all this work to make sure everyone feels welcome takes it to an other level.

  • Really interesting post. so col to see the diversity in process!

  • Phil

    Great work! When you guys look at diversity, do you include disabled/differently-abled talents, including injured vets? I’d imagine with population aging, there’d be greater and greater consumer need for accessibility and greater need for talents who understand accessibility

    • Yup, great one Phil! I’ve gotten some great advice on how best to get disability/different abilities into our data; excited to add that soon!

  • Debbie Discovers

    Interesting that you have an overweight of hispanics/latinos in your Happiness category.

    I think the way you cut your data overstates the diversity because you’re mixing geographies and race. You have Asia (catch all), Southeast Asian (no such race), Indian, Chinese. What about Japanese and Koreans?

    But Caucasian captures the whole of North America + Europe? I’m sure there will be those who argue that Europe should be split out, within which you have continental Europe and UK.

    The other tricky thing is the rise of “mixed race” There is a fascinating National Geographic study on this that talks about how “mixed race” people don’t know which box to tick. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/17/visualizing-change/

    Diversity is a big part of Bain’s culture. We have 21 nationalities in the Singapore office – which had150 consulting staff? We have BAB (Blacks at Bain), WAB (Women at Bain), BGLAD (Bi gay lesbian and diversity), BGLAD has a dedicated recruiting team with 4 levels of membership, depending on how ‘out’ you are (very sensitive in Singapore). Culture is very important, and Bain is very people focused – 14 years in a row best consulting firm to work for.

    My farewell gift to Bain was a series of videos that I made for their 20th-anniversary gala dinner. You can see the one on our vision and values here (for South East Asia). We take having fun very seriously. :) https://vimeo.com/80775889

    But with 34 + 10 people, can you really say you want 15.4 Caucasians, 7.3 Asians and
    the rest other?

    • Hey Debbie, this is awesome feedback; thank you so much! I think I could have done a much better job at creating categories in the area of Asia, great catch! I’ve got a lot to learn here and have gotten some great feedback on improving here. Bain sounds like an incredible place to work, thanks for the inspiration!

      • Debbie Discovers

        I disagree – for a first attempt, there’s no way you could have done a better job. :) You guys are amazing. Thanks for inspiring ME!

        • Aww you are too kind! The best possible result of launching something like this is getting amazing, kind, useful feedback from awesome people like you!

  • pegasus194

    Shouldn’t you be far more focused on hiring the right people as in the ones with the best skill-set and the most appropriate match for different positions ?

    Diversity for the sake of diversity is pointless, merely a politically correct word that means nothing!

    I’m genuinely concerned that not only do centers of higher learning (universities) but also tech organizations have to maintain certain ratios for the sake of diversity. If you try to artificially lower the barriers to make meet quotas, it will result is a loss in quality and overburden the people who are really doing all the work.

    I’ve seen a great deal of it in India already, if you are born into the general or forward castes the chances that you can make it to a top tier institution like the IITs or IIMs fall off a cliff.

    Now Twitter are making changes to hire more women not because they need more people but because they need to meet certain quotas to appear non discriminatory.

    Someone in the comments pointed out that you haven’t hired anyone beyond the age of 40/45 and it could be considered age discrimination. What load of nonsense, perhaps someone might consider that radical notion that there are characteristics among younger people that make them more likely fall into Buffer’s work culture.

    And the idea that somehow Buffer is discriminatory is ridiculous. A very good reason why Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the like employ so many non-Americans has a great deal to do with the fact that human labor and pretty much everything else is cheaper in India, specifically Hyderabad/Bangalore when compared to offices in the US.

    The only yardstick with which you should measure the quality of your applicants is by their ability and their previous work experience. If race, ethnicity or gender will enable them to do a job better, then and only then should it be factored into your decision making.

    Please stop going down this line of trying to hire based on diversity standards. People look to Buffer for leadership. You should hire the best people for their positions irrespective of race/ethnicity/gender. Diversity for the sake of diversity is pointless.

    Hire the best!

    Cheers :)

  • This looks amazing! My one quibble is about the gender question. Your options on that are “man”, “woman”, “trans”, “prefer not to answer”, or “fill in the blank”. Asking whether someone is transgender or not should, I think, be a separate question from what their gender is, since there are trans men and trans women and cis men and cis women. So the questions should be something like:

    What is your gender identity?
    – Agender
    – Androgyne
    – Bigender
    – Female
    – Genderqueer
    – Male
    – Neutrois
    – Other _____________
    – Prefer Not to Answer

    (that way the options are in alphabetical order)

    Are your transgender?
    – Yes
    – No
    – Prefer Not to Answer

    I hope that makes sense.

    • Very very helpful; thank you so much for sharing this! There aren’t so many examples out there to go by, so this is immeasurably handy!

      • You’re very welcome! I love seeing what demographics get tracked where and your way of doing it is the best I’ve seen so far. I also love to see how you’re taking and implementing the suggestions you get along the way. The more I see of Buffer, the more impressed I am.

        • You are so kind! We’ve been really lucky to be able to connect with tons of smart people through this project. I’ve personally learned a ton so far, and I’m so inspired by how the inclusivity community is making great things happen!

  • Teacups Avenue

    this is maybe too strange…why social media world always have young employees? i would like to see people my age in the team. i am 58 yrs and asian ( indonesian ).

    • Age diversity is definitely a big element for us to work on and the area where we’ve made the least progress so far!

  • Bar Baric

    Is there a single African, or African-European, or African-American working with Buffer? I’d like to understand your meaning of diversity, and if there’s any use for an African to apply for a position in your organization as I did last year.

    • Hey Bar, thanks for asking a great question. Only one of our 80+ teammates is black, and that’s not good. One of my biggest goals is to bring more black voices and perspectives to our organization, and I would definitely encourage all people of color to apply.

  • Arielle Rose

    wow! Looking at the overall diversity graph brings tears to my eyes. Where is the diversity in so many huge companies that we all use? I am excited and hopeful that these efforts will bring about some tangible change for our future…This was posted over a year ago, how have things changed today?

    • Hi there Arielle! If you’re interested in overall numbers, Open Diversity Data (http://opendiversitydata.org/ ) is a great resource. For our own numbers, we’ll be releasing a new version of this dashboard really soon that will make it a lot easier to see changes (or lack of change) over time. Should be in the next few weeks!

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