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What Diversity And Inclusion Means To Us

What diversity and inclusion means to us

GoKart Labs is wrestling with a problem. Specifically, diversity, or a lack thereof. We’ll be the first to admit it. Browse our People page and you’ll see the lack of diversity. And that’s just hiring.

We’re not okay with it.

What may have started as an innocent byproduct of a startup hiring through our networks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis has become more than a staffing problem. We know that diverse companies produce better work cultures, careers, communities and business results. We know we can do better.

What we’re focusing on:

Diversity and Inclusion Wheel

Our Business & Work—Having a diverse staff means we have multiple voices on different issues. We thrive on collaborations and know that a singular perspective can only accomplish so much. When we add more perspectives, we’ll be able to build on existing solutions that help people from a variety of backgrounds.

Cultural Competence—Creating a culture where every employee can bring their authentic self to work each day takes a lot of intention and discipline to get right, and hiring a staff with diverse backgrounds, developing empathy and reaching outside our bubbles are pieces of that. To create an inclusive culture, we need to make sure people entering our space (new GoKarters, clients or other visitors) feel like they can add to and improve our culture, not just assimilate into it.

Staffing—We are pursuing diversity and inclusion to make sure the work we put into the world is representative of the people who will use it. Working in financial services, healthcare and education means we create products meant for huge portions of society, so we can’t just have one specific group creating products for everyone based on just their experience of the world.

Community—We want to make sure we reach out to the community and build strong relationships so we can better contribute to the overall good of society. Our goal is for our staff to be truly reflective and representative of the community we live and work in.

Career/Growth—We want to make sure we are growing the careers of diverse groups that we don’t currently represent. Nothing will change if we continue to just hire and grow the talent of people from our same background.


There’s even a business case for diversity and inclusion:

Setting aside the fact that promoting a workforce reflective of the community it serves is common sense, there’s research and historical precedent that suggests a diverse and inclusive office is just better for business:

  1. It creates more empathetic teams. The Financial Times released a report claiming that when teams had one or more members who represented a target end-user, the entire team was as much as 158 percent more likely to understand that target end-user and innovate accordingly.
  2. It helps raise revenue. The American Sociological Association released a study that found, for every 1 percent rise in the rate of gender diversity and ethnic diversity in a workforce, there is a 3 and 9 percent rise in sales revenue, respectively.

Now here’s what we’re doing about our diversity and inclusion:

Below is paraphrased from a letter by our CEO, Don Smithmier

Started with leadership. We made this a leadership priority, tasking two of our leaders with forming a dedicated diversity and inclusion team. D&I launched with the intent of using our core skills in collaboration, exploration and human-centered design together to help us solve this problem. These leaders are ensuring that we’re ready to make tough decisions along the way and are open to uncomfortable discussions. In addition, we’re refocusing the language we use around our company’s mission and vision statements to be more broadly inclusive. We went to the root to start making impactful change.

Did our research. We looked within by conducting internal surveys and interviews to see where we were at, and audited our hiring process to understand where our bias might sneak in. After, we looked at what the best (and worst) organizations inside and outside of our industry were doing. Plus, we read everything on diversity and inclusion we could get our hands on.

One survey that resonated with our team called out that while there are many diversity and inclusion efforts happening around the Twin Cities, few are translating to impact. Companies are doing well at hiring diverse talent, but are not necessarily retaining them. The survey found that people of color left because they didn’t see themselves represented in leadership, and they didn’t see a career path forward or feel invested-in. They felt they had to assimilate into the culture, not add to it. In other words, they couldn’t bring their authentic selves to work.

Took a holistic approach. Often times diversity and inclusion efforts start with staffing. Inclusion becomes the secondary focus. It’s our belief that, to be successful, you must place equal focus on how diversity is represented in the work you produce, the communities you engage with, and the careers that you grow.

Read the rest of Don’s letter on Medium.

So, to reiterate—we’re focusing on 5 core areas of diversity and inclusion as a model to measure our performance against:

  1. STAFFING: We are increasing all forms of diversity at GoKart Labs to represent the communities we live in.
  2. CULTURE: We are creating an environment where everyone can bring their authentic self to work.
  3. CAREER: We are helping talent grow in their careers and realize their potential.
  4. COMMUNITY: We are building strong partnerships and establishing credibility in the communities we live in.
  5. OUR WORK: We are producing work that matters and creates better outcomes due to our diversity.

How is it going and where are we going next?

To date, we’ve made some modest progress. Diversity has many facets: religious, racial, gender, lifestyle, political, and so on. And making progress against each is going to take years.

But using gender diversity as one example, we’re slowly moving the dial. In the tech industry, women hold 11% of the executive positions and make up 25% of the total workforce population. At GoKart Labs, 42% of our executive team is female, women hold 31% of all leadership positions, and make up 32% of our total company. Our team feels confident that the relatively high percentage of women in leadership ranks bodes well for our future because it helps pave the way for our up-and-coming female talent in the organization.

In order to stay focused and hold ourselves accountable, we’ve connected our longer-term vision and framework with a more detailed roadmap.

We’d love for you to be a part of the conversation.

If you’re interested in digging deeper, or learning from our work so far, let’s chat or comment below. All we ask in return is for you to share your own experiences — good, bad, or still in progress. We’d love to learn from you!

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. When adding diversity, don’t forget about generational. I’ve been on the not-so-fun side of ageism and fortunately with an organization that gets that and values my experience and willingness to learn new things. It’s great you’re actively thinking about all these things and they WILL pay dividends in the the end for GoKart Labs. Give my best to AJ! Cheers, Mike

  2. We couldn’t agree more! Diversity has many, many facets to it and age/generations are certainly part of what we are focused on as well. Thanks Mike!

  3. Definitely agree with your post. I’ve long held the opinion that diversity makes sense not just from a moral/ethical viewpoint, but from a business one. My company is starting to see the kind of growth that is allowing us to hire full time, and I’m trying to make a conscious effort to select people who are from a diverse background from myself. This post made me realize that if we want to see systemic change in our organization, we’ve gotta have defined goals and a strategy. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Very cool to see this level of transparency out there on the web. I don’t think I’ve really ever come across such an honest and straightforward description of a diversity problem before. Def shows you are growing up beyond that startup phase! And shows you have confidence in your problems solving abilities when you call out a problem like this so publicly.

    I love that you’re going beyond the easier to achieve staffing D&I targets, too. The other ones are what really make a place. It’ll be cool to hear how this goes.

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