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Doing the Work at Okta: Our Commitment to Driving Change

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Madhavi Bhasin
Director, Diversity and Inclusion

We’re all still recovering from the events of the last two weeks, and are taking in and supporting the voices of our POC colleagues throughout the company. Since joining Okta in 2019, my role has been to lead the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) team at Okta. The last few weeks have shown us how important it is to focus on these ideals, but they’ve also demonstrated that change and action are paramount. Today, I'd like to outline for you where we are today and how we plan to put in the time, energy and resources the Okta community has demanded in the wake of the recent attacks against Black and POC lives.  

How we’re lending support to our Black colleagues and community right now

We want to ensure that we are listening to, investing in, and supporting all members of our Okta community—especially our Black colleagues who may feel triggered and are impacted at this moment. Over the last few weeks, we’ve offered mental health support, hosted sessions to provide a safe space for affected communities, and provided resources to educate allies.

In addition, the DIB team and People of Color @ Okta (POC) employee resource group are leading an effort to support causes fighting for racial justice. To date, Okta employees have donated nearly $60,000 to the fund, and many have taken time off work to join the protests happening around the world. POC has directed an additional $10,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement. And, we’re celebrating Juneteenth at Okta as a day to cherish Black achievements and culture, educate ourselves, and take collective action as an organization.

Our long-term diversity strategy: where we are and where we're going

POC @ Okta was founded in 2018, following the launch of Women @ Okta and Pride @ Okta a few years earlier. This ERG was launched by Okta employees to both create a space for the people of color community and to partner with teams across the company to improve diverse representation and a sense of belonging. POC advocates for our Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian, Indian, and Native American employees. Since 2019, the DIB team has been working with these groups as a part of its charge to build a diversity strategy, and establish annual internal reporting on the diversity of our employees, leadership team, and board of directors.

In my mind, there are three areas to cover when it comes to any long-term diversity, inclusion and belonging strategy: our workplace, our workforce and the marketplace. To report our progress in all of these areas, we will be releasing Okta’s first State of Inclusion Report in the fall of 2020.

Workplace

Our workplace goals are to have inclusive and diverse pipelines of applications and employees. We think about this in three areas: bringing the best talent to Okta, retaining and developing our talent, and developing the best talent in our communities. To move the needle on this, we are making the following commitments:

Hiring the best talent

Partnerships: Okta’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) team is sourcing partnerships that can help us create a steady pipeline of diverse talent. We currently have over seven partnerships with organizations like AfroTech, Power to Fly, and Lesbians Who Tech. We will be expanding these partnerships in the coming months.

Diversity recruiting champions: Members of the recruiting team have joined forces with DIB to lead specific sourcing partnerships as Diversity Champions. Diversity Champions ensure that our partnerships are strategic and that candidates from diversity fairs are moving through the pipeline. It also enables us to include these candidates in our Talent communities, where we continue to connect with them while new roles open.  

Dynamic Work framework: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our shift to a more flexible work environment. Leveraging our Dynamic Work framework will enable employees to work from the location that makes the most sense for them, and will give our organization the opportunity to hire in areas outside of where Okta has offices, which will allow us to tap into a more diverse talent pool.

Specific actions we are taking over the next year to improve diversity within our workplace include:

  • Developing + investing in additional sourcing partnerships
  • Tracking top-of-funnel demographics and candidate movement to identify our challenge areas—and fixing them
  • Putting guidelines and processes in place to ensure that interview teams are diverse and leveraging tools to check unconscious biases
  • Investing in manager and interview training that enables and encourages diverse hiring

Retaining the best talent

  • Plan for clear career paths and leadership training for our BIPOC talent
  • On-boarding that's focused on inclusion and belonging:
    • Okta’s on-boarding plan will focus on the value and need of creating an inclusive culture at Okta. Our Talent Management team is going to offer a [email protected] program that will include how leaders can manage and lead diverse teams and nurture a sense of belonging.
  • A mentorship program for BIPOC talent
    • We are launching a pilot mentoring program with our three ERGs in August. We will use this 6-month pilot to offer a wider mentorship program focused on the professional development opportunities for URMs.

Developing the best talent

The “leaky tech pipeline” is a clear problem in our industry, and we need to make progress. From early childhood education to barriers in post-secondary computing environments, tech demographics do not reflect the diversity of the population.

Job training + exposure

Since it was formally founded in 2016, our social impact arm, Okta for Good, has taken a lead in our diversity commitment as well. They’ve established partnerships with local nonprofits who support access to job training and exposure to tech companies. Examples include Year Up, Genesys Works, JVS, and Students Rising Above. From these programs, we’ve hosted over 40 student and youth interns/apprentices over the last four years. Of the eligible interns (those that weren’t still full-time students), more than 50% were hired into full-time roles.

Also, for the last three years, Okta for Good has hosted Tech Pathways Week, where we open our doors and connect underrepresented youth and job seekers to careers in technology. We are pleased to call out these areas of impact from the events:

  • Over 1,000 community members reached
  • Over 750 employee volunteers participated
  • 26% of participants had never spent 1:1 time with a tech professional before
  • 43% of participants had never set foot inside a tech company’s office before
  • 94% reported positive impact on understanding career opportunities in the tech sector
  • 40% of employees said the experience changed how they would think of hiring future candidates

Specific actions we are taking over the next year to develop talent in our communities include the following:

  • Doubling down on our workforce development partnerships and expanding our efforts to develop tech talent from underrepresented communities
  • A $1 million three-year commitment from the Okta for Good Fund to fund racial justice and workforce development organizations

Workforce

We want to ensure that as we bring in diverse candidates, we continue to nurture our culture of inclusion and belonging. We create a culture where everyone can voice their opinions and bring their authentic selves to work. We want to retain our talent and offer clear paths to leadership for our BlOPC and underrepresented groups. This year we have planned the following:

Community building: Our Employee Resource Groups — POC, [email protected], Pride, EMEA Circle — in partnership with DIB lead our community building events. From cultural celebrations events, to guest speakers focused on professional development, from book reading clubs to social hours, community building is key element of ensuring that our people have an opportunity to connect outside their teams.

Education: We host quarterly lunch and learn sessions focussed on a range of topics including inclusive hiring, allyship, and inclusive leadership. These lunches serve to create a space for our team to learn and discuss topics focused on creating a stronger and inclusive culture.

Training and manager support: Our Talent Management team is working on [email protected] for in-depth leadership training focused on competencies, values and managing diverse teams. We are also updating our belonging cues project to accommodate our transition to remote work. Belonging cues are verbal and non-verbal signals that create safe connections and are critical in ensuring active participation and inclusion.

Personalized D&I training: We are launching a personalized diversity and inclusion journey for all Okta employees based on their interest and level of D&I understanding.

Marketplace

The third area is currently the one where we have the furthest to go. And it has to do with the companies we partner with, invest in, and sell to. The Okta Ventures team is committed to increasing deal-sourcing, engagement, and fund allocation to support Black entrepreneurs. But Okta Ventures provides more than just financial support for these startups — we’re also partnering with and providing mentorship to these organizations. We’re implementing processes to ensure that diversity is seen as critical to their business’ success.   

More specifically, moving forward, we’ll be doing the following:

  • Share best practices from Diversity.vc and our DIB team with our portfolio founders
  • Showcase our open application for pitching on our Okta Ventures website and committing to giving all relevant submitted investments — regardless of race/gender — an introductory call
  • Participate in unconscious bias training for investors
  • Develop a plan to increase the number of organizations we partner with and sell to that have diverse workforces

The last few weeks have been difficult ones, but they also serve to spotlight where we’re falling short, and how we can funnel our talents, energy and creativity to turn this moment of tragedy and pain into real progress. Integrity is a core value at Okta, and that requires accountability for our plans and actions. Over the next few months, we look forward to reporting our progress to the Okta community.

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Madhavi Bhasin
Director, Diversity and Inclusion

Madhavi is a change leader with over 10 years of experience in successfully managing global programs focused on social impact, capacity building and sustainable change. She is passionate about designing approaches for collective impact through social change projects. Currently she is leading Okta’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Prior to joining Okta, Madhavi led a global technology entrepreneurship program for young girls (ages 10-18) at Technovation. Outside her fun work life, Madhavi loves to meditate and listen to imaginary tales from her preschooler.

 
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