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Why We Need Diversity

Sydney Russakov

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn

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Problem

One of the last companies I worked at did not really have a diverse group of people, where I was the only woman in the room. It contributed to me leaving the organization as there were not many various ideas or people, which created a culture where people who feel different from their coworkers don’t feel comfortable speaking up. The ideas were constantly coming from the same people, where they ended up building products for the same kind of people. As I matured as a PM, I networked with people outside of my organization and realized that I was not the only female product manager. My eyes were open to the number of different people who work in product management. It was absurd for having the same people coming up with ideas and their colleagues telling them it was a great concept, and that was it. While other groups did not feel included in providing their feedback, they kept the ideas to themselves.

Actions taken

Getting out of the bubble and starting to realize that other workplaces also existed, I started interviewing in other companies. When I landed an interview with my current company, I noticed that they had a diverse interview panel, which clicked me into thinking how concerned they are about such matters. It was a good representation of the company itself, which made me move here.

Moving forward in my career, I also realized that many companies have a heavy emphasis on diversity and inclusion. It was not only for representation but also for building better products. The company itself ends up being more successful when the teams are diverse. Instead of being an echo chamber of the same people giving almost the same kind of ideas, there has to be something that will lead people to argue. In the end, we want to end up building fun things for multiple people.

Another one of the pieces to solve the puzzle would be to make sure that the recruiting team is equipped to understand the bias. My current company has made a great move by removing bias 一 there are no race or gender used in any job descriptions. Since diversity is where I saw the problem in such a small company, it would be better to remove bias. Being clear on how they want to portray themselves externally because even if they genuinely think there is a pipeline issue and not many diverse groups of individuals are applying to their jobs, it becomes a company problem.

Even when diverse groups of people work together, many companies have not nailed the retention game. Having them stay back and climb up the career ladder is one of the biggest improvements in startups or smaller companies. Hence, once they have enough people, publishing the diversity statistics to the public could be an honest move. Being authentic and transparent is one of the giant steps.

Lessons learned

  • If you think that your company can do better, hold them accountable. Ask them questions during company meetings, and suggest your points as to why something is done better can be the way you are putting forward.
  • Take initiatives. Even if you are not in power to change something, leadership will eventually look into it and fix it. The credit would go to you if you can pinpoint it first and make it.

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Sydney Russakov

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn


Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentLeadership TrainingDiversity and Inclusion InitiativesDiversity ImpactOvercoming BiasIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership Roles

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