Slack Co-Founder Champions Hiring Diversity at White House’s First South by South Lawn

Put practices in place while you're still small

At the inaugural South by South Lawn: A White House Festival of Ideas, Art and Action on Monday, Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield explained that it's easier to implement diversity in hiring practices when companies are small, and by doing so, companies are more likely to be aware of a broader array of problems that it can try to fix. 

Hiring practices are "much harder to change when you have thousands versus dozens of employees," explained Butterfield during the festival's Fixing Real Change panel.

Moderator Jenna Wortham, staff writer at The New York Times magazine, had asked Butterfield why he champions diversity in hiring and what the messaging app has done to make sure it is hiring women and people of color at a time when "Silicon Valley has been hostile to diversity" and maintained "wealth disparity [that is] still very racially disparate."

"There are arguments that diverse teams will have better business results, and that seems plausible, but that's not why we do it," said Butterfield, arguing that there are more benefits to diverse teams than a company's bottom line. 

He also noted that when companies do hire women and people of color that they need to "double down on ensuring we don't fail them when they get to the company."

Butterfield added that: "Tech lives inside a society with systemic racism. Is it exacerbated? Maybe it is exacerbated by people who only care about money."

If companies and executives only care about making money, they may end up "looking only in certain places" for talent, argued Butterfield. "A Stanford dropout equals Google, a Harvard dropout equals Facebook… That creates a system [for finding talent] that in the absence of deliberate conscious effort is going to perpetuate itself."