In the US, diversity and inclusion in workplaces are two of the most discussed and debated topics in human resources (HR) and recruiting space. A more challenging discussion is that of racial and ethnic diversity in workplaces.
Jacinta Mathis knows fairly well what it is like to be an African-American in the corporate world. In the 1990s, her father, Sam Mathis, had a leadership role in diversity and inclusion at Darden Restaurants, a Fortune 500 company.
For Netta Jenkins, like most African-Americans, she experienced first-hand racism in Rhode Island, an affluent neighbourhood where she grew up.
“I recall neighbours telling their children not to play with us and pulling them into the house when we got close. I recall my mom being pulled over in our driveway with an officer saying, ‘Ma’am, are you lost?’ and my mom saying, ‘No, I just parked and I’m on my land,’” Jenkins tells Techpoint.
Experiences like this made Jenkins, then a seven-year-old, vow to use her voice to protect marginalised people.
Mathis would meet Jenkins years later but before the pair started Dipper, they had been friends working together for over five years.
Mathis spent seven years as a global marketing executive for early-stage startups and established companies at InterActiveCorp (IAC), an American holding company that owns media and Internet brands around the world. Jenkins, on the other hand, is currently the vice president at IAC’s Mosaic Group and Ask Applications.
“Having worked in both mature and early-stage environments, a co-founding partnership between us was a no-brainer,” Jenkins says.
Driving diversity and inclusion with Dipper
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re based in New York or Nigeria, we believe every black professional in workplaces around the world deserves to be accurately heard.”
Jenkins believes that many professionals often join companies uninformed about the workplace culture they’re walking into and end up facing systemic gaps. This, she says, is the reason she and Mathis created a data-driven tech platform that empowers black professionals to rate and review their workplace experience, diversity, and company culture.
“Dipper represents that young girl who couldn’t defend her mother and is now the voice for the voiceless,” Mathis says, recalling her experience while growing up.
The overarching objective of Dipper is to hand over the power of workplace accountability and inclusivity back to employees, but at the same time, help companies grade, contextualise, and improve their own internal workplace culture and structure.
To understand why this is so important and how diverse and inclusive workplaces impact businesses, take a look at these statistics.
A 2015 McKinsey & Company report found out that companies with high racial and ethnic diversity among their employees outperformed their counterpart companies by 35%. Another report by ScienceDaily also found companies that reported the highest levels of racial diversity saw 15 times more sales revenue than companies with the lowest racial diversity levels.
But despite the fact that more minorities are expected to make up one-third of the workforce in the US this year, Dipper wants employees of colour to share their experiences regardless in order for companies to know what to do to ensure diversity and inclusion.
Like Glassdoor, Dipper users have a safe, interactive, digital space to share their workplace experiences and guide other professionals. They also have access to verified salary information and job opportunities at the most inclusive companies. The information gathered helps Dipper offer measurable solutions to companies that have a terrible workplace culture environment.
Right now, Dipper is being self-financed by the co-founders while having “outstanding traction” according to Jenkins.
Recently, it received an unsolicited endorsement from Andrew McCaskill, culture and economic contributor at SiriusXM, an American broadcasting company, and is also being noticed by prominent publications.
“We were contacted to be covered by Forbes, Entrepreneur, Nasdaq, and Business Insider, among others. People are being exposed to Dipper on a daily basis and we are excited about this.”
As with many early-stage startups, Dipper is not publicly disclosing certain numbers in terms of revenue and scale but Jenkins says what’s important now is for the startup “to give our community access to a digital safe place and resource while building a necessary product.”
Nine months in, what’s next?
In this line of work, Mathis and Jenkins have realised how important it is to find the right team and companies to work with. Their nine-month experience since founding Dipper in July 2019 has taught them that finding a good team and having a core identity is critical to running successful businesses.
From both being in leadership roles in the technology space to managing multi-million-dollar performance budgets to executing tactics for early-stage startups to understanding how to build a business from past failed experiences, Jenkins says Dipper is fully prepared for the future challenges.
“We have learned from our past mistakes and our level of confidence, strategy, process, and persistence are telling. Everyone experiences challenges and bumps in the road, but we are optimistic and excited about the journey.”
Going forward, Dipper is looking to become the go-to tech platform for professionals of colour around the world experiencing toxic work cultures. Companies in the US can be secretive when it comes to sharing the diversity of their workforce and according to Fortune in 2017, only 3% of Fortune 500 companies openly share race and gender demographics of their employees.
With this level of secrecy, it is Dipper’s goal to hold companies that have unfavourable work cultures for people of colour accountable but at the same time, provide insights for these entities to improve diversity in their workplaces.
However, Jenkins says Dipper isn’t stopping with US companies but has plans to expand to companies outside the country.
“Employee turnover already costs US companies $160 billion a year. Now, if we add non-US companies, that is higher. Dipper’s plan is to revolutionise that cost in the future with our strategic data-driven approach.”