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Making Ireland an inclusive home for talent

Facebook, Amazon and Squarespace at forefront for diversity in the workplace

Facebook has an employee hiking group and a plant-lovers group, to name a few. Photograph: iStock

Facebook has an employee hiking group and a plant-lovers group, to name a few. Photograph: iStock

 

Multinational companies in Ireland are leading the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For many it is now embedded in their culture with hundreds of nationalities working for US companies in Ireland, where inclusion and a sense of belonging is at the heart of what they do.

This is the case at Facebook Ireland where they have many internal communities that help foster inclusivity such as Black@Facebook, Pride@, DifferentlyAbled@, Women@ and many more. Employees also join groups based on their interests, for example there is an employee hiking group and a plant-lovers group says Gareth Lambe, head of Facebook Ireland.

“In a normal year we would have many employee events on site. Given everyone is working from home, we redesigned our employee engagement activities, pivoting to virtual company briefings, online fitness and cookery classes, virtual social events and employee fundraising opportunities that people could take part in remotely.

“Facebook Ireland employees are also very civically minded, charitable and engaged with our local communities. In 2019, a number of Facebook Ireland employees created a programme called Friday for Good, a programme designed to support local NGOs and the work that they do by helping them to maximise their fundraising with online campaigns,” he says.

Since launching, employees have assisted more than 210 Irish charities, such as Debra Ireland, Friends of the Elderly, Pieta House and Enable Ireland through monthly workshops, events and campaign support. This year, for the eighth year in a row, Facebook Ireland employees supported Focus Ireland by taking part in the Shine a Light sleep out; 180 employees from 25 teams slept out and raised €150,000 for Focus Ireland.

As well as Facebook, two other US companies in Ireland that have put a culture of diversity and inclusion front and centre are Squarespace and Amazon Web Services (AWS). We spoke to employees from both about what it is like to work for these firms.

Culture of innovation

Kat Howie joined Amazon seven years ago and now leads a team as technical project manager in the AWS data centre network.

“I love that there is a real culture of innovation at AWS. One of my core tasks is to support and promote this culture. A lot of great change comes from within at AWS. I work with a range of technical teams to understand what their challenges are and how we can improve. Some of the best innovations can come from the simplest idea that nobody has ever thought of and any employee at any level of the business can come forward with that suggestion. When it’s a good idea, everything just clicks into place.

“Inclusivity is a core part of our culture at AWS. One of my big ambitions is to help the next generation of girls get into technology through AWS GetIT, a new programme which introduces girls to technology and helps them learn new skills and to make them aware of the huge array of career opportunities available in the industry today. When I did my first IT course at college, I was ‘warned’ that I would be the only girl in the class. That was my first real experience of gender-based preconceptions. I didn’t have any problem with being the only girl.

“We can see a definite improvement in the gender split across the industry, but there’s always more to do. That’s why I want to use my experience to help others and GetIT is a great first step in this. If more young girls see people like me, we can help to break the cycle of those preconceptions.

“I am also active with AWS InCommunities, our initiative to support local communities in the areas where it operates. I have recently had the opportunity to work on projects including refreshing the communal space at a centre for adults with learning difficulties and a new family room on a hospital ward for palliative care. Community outreach is a really rewarding way for us to connect with people outside of work and show our values and principles as an organisation.

“We are lucky to have our software to help bring us all closer together right now, no matter where we are. It also helps that there is a real collaborative atmosphere at AWS where we can recognise each other’s efforts, check in on colleagues and maintain our high standard of work.”

Calibre of people

Sam Edmonds is a senior new release team advisor on Squarespace’s customer support team. He has worked at the company for three years.

“For me, a company is nothing without the calibre of people working for it and my colleagues are some of the nicest, most helpful, fun, inspiring and hardworking people I’ve ever come across. You spend 80 per cent of your day with those you work with. This is more time than you spend with your friends and family, so it speaks volumes of how well Squarespace does in inviting the best to come work here.

“Squarespace’s company culture focuses on diversity and inclusion, no matter your race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, ability, age, citizenship, religion or political ideology. These are supported by our company-wide and local diversity and inclusion efforts.

“I love that you’re not only encouraged but expected to be yourself and bring your real self to work. The people I get to work with every day are one of the main reasons I’m continuing to grow my career here. It’s rare to find a company that puts the employee first and caters to the needs of the employee.

“Inclusivity is more important than ever in our consistently evolving marketplace where old-fashioned mindsets of profiling are getting weaned out. We help foster inclusivity by having ERGs which help bring support and awareness to identities that are historically associated with marginalisation or under-representation in the workplace.

“I’m the current chair for the Minds ERG in our Dublin office. The title Minds is an acronym for mental inclusion and neuro-diversity at Squarespace and our mission is to create a visible and safe community for the discussion and education of mental-health topics in the workplace. We have 10 ERGs, spanning 18 chapters across three offices. Our ERGs cover mental health, LGBTQ+, transgenderism and the black community, to name a few.

“Our Dublin office has a corporate social responsibility champion role that manages and liaises with charities that we feel passion about, like the Dublin Simon Community, Heart Children Ireland and Age Action, which are just some of the organisations that we regularly get involved with.

“Despite the current climate, we’re endeavouring to stay as connected as we can. Given that we’re a software company focused on website building tools, we rely on online communication to facilitate that daily through Slack, Google Meet and any platform that enables us to stay connected.

“We regularly put on fun, creative and light-hearted events to get as many employees involved as we can, like hosting Netflix parties, after-hour get-togethers and inviting Squarespace customers to share their skills with us.

“Whether that’s teaching dance classes, how to make your pasta or discussing a book they’ve recently published, we keep our options open to bring some levity to an otherwise stressful and challenging 2020.”