How to Wield Data and Empathy to Build an Inclusive Team

Jossie HainesAnand Safi

Jossie Haines, VP Of Engineering and Head of DEI at Tile along with Anand Safi, Engineering Leader at Mark43, share the importance of building an inclusive team along with some of the best practices from her experience.

Good managers oversee that goals are met, tasks are completed on time, along with adequate employee productivity. However, great managers make sure that every individual in a team feels valued, engaged, and heard. It's easier said than done.

About fifty-six percent of women reported leaving the tech industry after ten to twelve years, not because they want to start a family. While everyone wants to be accepted at their workplaces, bias, microaggression, and the everyday minor veiled instances of bigotry can get people down.

Fortunately, today, there are DEI managers as the piece of the missing puzzle. They can help companies foster a culture, which is not only diverse but also inclusive.

Top Qualities of An Inclusive Manager

Diversity and inclusion look different to everybody. For some people, it could mean being invited for the after office happy hours, while for the rest, it could be presenting their ideas at the company meetings or recognition. Just as how managers adapt their leadership styles to harmonize with their team members, they should also understand what inclusion means for their team members.

Here's a closer look at some of the skills of an inclusive manager:

Empathy: Actively listening and taking the time to learn about the people's experiences around them is the holy grail of any leadership. In order to keep an inclusive culture afloat, empathy is a skill that can be acquired through discipline and practice. Spend some time reflecting on the meetings and thinking about what could have been done differently. These exercises not only encourage managers to put themselves in other's shoes but also gain more insight into:

  • How others' actions might be affecting someone.
  • How their current situation can be improved.
  • Their overall feelings and experiences.

Team members are more likely to speak up or come up with their concerns when they know their managers are willing to listen to them.

Vulnerability: This is one of the significant steps of becoming a solid manager. If you are unwilling to open up to your team members, keep in mind that they will not be likely to open up to you either. Nobody wants to work for a robot, nor do they want to know your deepest secrets. Being transparent about what's going on in the organization and letting your direct reports know that you have good and bad days is crucial.

Self-Awareness: How can you start working on self-awareness? or to be wary about what is going on around you concerning diversity? It begins with self-awareness, self-training, and industry-related training. When you start identifying some of the blind spots and biases in your organization, no doubt you'll find some loopholes, and that could pave some way for you to take action. A good start would be hiring people, making them feel included, and ingraining the diversity mindset from the onboarding process to the newbies.

Promoting Psychological Safety: Walk the walk instead of talking the talk. Employees can sense white lies. If you just put up a "black square" for #BlackLivesMatter and don’t do anything feasible, your employees may walk out of the door. In 2021, it's essential to do just more than diversity "greenwashing." Plus, DEI should not just fall under HR, but it should be a part of every aspect of the company. Think about bringing diversity to your stakeholders — e.g., your vendor selection.

How Is DEI Tied to the Commercial Success of Companies?

Although companies realize the importance of building an inclusive culture, we still don't see much action. As we know that even the longest journey begins with a single step, the question is: are you willing to take the first step?

  • Research conducted by Deloitte shows some powerful results: diverse companies enjoyed 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.
  • A Gartner study found that inclusive teams improved the overall team's performance up to 30 percent.
  • Another study showed that companies with diverse management teams had a 19 percent increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.

Yet, in 2021, companies are still struggling to focus on diversity and inclusion. Only forty percent of the employees believe that their managers are fostering an inclusive environment.

3 Different Pillars of Implementing DEI

Having Comprehensive DEI Practices: The first step should not be about setting agendas or diversity initiatives but identifying the gaps. Exploring ways to reduce bias in hiring and blind resume reviews are strategic actions that will drive exemplary results.

Creating "The" Inclusive Culture: Every single person in your team should feel that they thrive. Where possible, build resource groups for the under-minorities to be themselves and get all the support they need. Additionally, the minorities in your organization should get the exposure that they need to the upper management. This is how you can fuel your commitment to inclusion.

Effective and Fair Management Practices and Principles: Perhaps this is something many managers think that does not fall under DEI. Often, we forget that the managers are creating the team culture — whether inclusive or non-inclusive. Across all levels, leaders need to be trained in order to bring out the best in others.

While the buzzword — diversity — has taken the industry by storm, when do you think is the right time for you to start implementing the DEI practices in your company?

If you're looking for answers right here, it would be: as soon as possible, and it should already be a part of the culture you are defining. Did you know that starting with an inclusive culture is much easier than focusing on it after hiring, let's say, 40 people?

Are You Ready for a More Inclusive Workplace?

As the new workforce kicks in, people are more likely to choose companies that care more about the nitty-gritty of these aspects. Although it is a tricky needle to move, it's not impossible. Particularly, when you are a manager or a leader, you have a position of privilege that the person who is being biased might not. It's crucial to take that stand as a leader in that space.

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