Harvest has been in business for eleven years. We started as a team of four, and today we have a team of fifty wonderful, smart, kind, and humble people. Our products serve over 50,000 businesses from around the world (that’s not a hyperbole–we really have customers from over a hundred countries!), and we’ve had the good fortune to be profitable and sustainable from the beginning. Best of all, we’ve never taken any investment, so we have no one to answer to but ourselves and can take this business wherever we wish.
By most standards, things are great at Harvest. But we do have one glaring problem.
When we look at our team, we find only men in our top leadership positions. We see twenty-seven people on the product team and just two women. And there isn’t just a disparity in gender–there’s also a racial disparity.
As co-founders of Harvest, this is troubling for Danny and me, especially because we’re usually considered to represent “diversity” in this country (Danny and I are Asian American). We’ve faced racism and exclusion throughout our lives, and we care deeply about social justice, diversity, and equality. Yet, somehow, we forgot about diversity at our own business.
Our excuse was that this wasn’t intentional: we didn’t set out to hire only dudes for our product team, and we didn’t mean for most of our women employees to be on the customer service team.
But that’s an excuse. And excuses are part of the problem.
How can we build the kind of team we want if we’re not intentional with whom we hire, or how we nurture our team and help it thrive? Truth is, we didn’t put enough care into hiring. We could’ve done more, and I wish we had.
And hiring is only part of a much larger problem, and in many ways it’s the easiest. The hard part is how we support diversity during the workday, every day.
When we come to work, we bring ourselves–our identities, personalities, personal worries and conflicts and family problems. Each day we bring all of ourselves into our work lives, and that contributes to both the vibrancy and richness of our team’s relationships, as well as its conflicts.
How do we support all of this in our small business? We don’t know. Identity, race, gender–these are sensitive, messy, complicated topics that are difficult to talk about. I’m having trouble just writing this blog post.
But avoiding these topics is the worst option. Thanks to the wisdom of many Harvesters, I’ve learned that the first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem.
And part of acknowledging we have a problem is figuring out how we can begin to change it. To move toward that change, we want to find someone who can help us get better at this. We’d like to hire an HR Lead who can help us build the kind of team we want and foster a more inclusive culture here at Harvest.
We’re not naive enough to think that simply hiring one person will solve the problem of diversity at Harvest. This is a well-documented problem in our industry and the world at large. It’s a gnarly and difficult problem because there are larger, systemic forces beyond our control. There’s deeply rooted racial and gender discrimination in America, and we are all part of a history and culture of oppression that many of us can’t see or won’t acknowledge.
As a small business, we don’t have the illusion that we can fix this larger culture. But we do have an important goal: to make our small corner of the world a bit better.
There isn’t a perfect ratio of people make-up we’re searching for; we just know that the scale is lopsided and we want to nudge it towards the right balance. We’re not striving for some weird, cultish culture at Harvest where people are constantly smiling and where there’s never any conflict. We just want to get better at listening and understanding each other, empathizing with each other’s struggles, and caring about each other when problems arise.
When we understand each other, we work better. When we understand our world from many perspectives, we are wiser.
If you think you can help and want to join a team of fifty amazing people and make it a better place, please consider applying! If you have any thoughts, ideas, or comments, please feel free to write me directly. My email is my first name @ getharvest.com. Thanks for reading.