The State of Inclusion at Okta: Working to Make Today More Inclusive and Tomorrow More Equitable

Earlier today we released our second State of Inclusion report. This annual report is built on the foundations of our core values of transparency and integrity, a truly critical part of Okta's Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) journey. 

At Okta, we know that change starts from within, and we’re committed to doing the work it takes to ensure that every team member, customer, and community member feels included, heard, and represented. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that when it comes to systemic inequity, there’s more than meets the eye. This is why, a year ago, Okta deepened its commitment to hold itself accountable to the work it's doing. And though we have a long way to go, we’re proud to share our progress. 

As we continue to dig deeper into our numbers to look for areas of improvement and opportunities to make lasting and impactful changes, I was excited to chat with two of Okta’s leaders in this space. Both Madhavi Bhasin (she/her), Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, and Kristina Johnson (she/her), Chief People and Places Officer spoke with me about what Okta is doing to move the needle in the DIB space, and about our specific areas of focus in the coming year.

2021 was a year of major reckoning and has also been called the year of the great resignation. How has that impacted Okta and what are some of the greatest challenges you’ve seen in 2021?

Madhavi: Given the continued uncertainty around the pandemic and the increased awareness of our social inequities, 2021 has been another challenging year for many of us. More than ever before, people are thinking about critical issues like the purpose of work, re-prioritizing their personal lives, and exploring growth and success outside their jobs. A recent LinkedIn report referred to this trend as the Great Reshuffle—a time when everyone is rethinking everything. We have definitely heard about these trends from our teams at Okta—and we’re actively listening and learning about what’s most important to them. We want to make sure that we are responding to their needs in a meaningful and sustainable way so that every Oktanaut finds the opportunity to grow, professionally and personally. 

The State of Inclusion Report introduces a new initiative called “People First.” Can you tell us more about what that is and how it fits in with the overall Okta and DIB strategy?

KJ: People First is a multi-year, cross-functional initiative with the goal of continuing to shape Okta as a people-first company; where growth, culture, and purpose come together to create a shared sense of ownership in achieving our company’s vision. With the launch of People First, we introduced a holistic set of programs for our people to build the absolute best place to work and drive high levels of engagement and retention. Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) is a key part of this initiative. DIB drives how we support and empower our employees to be their most authentic selves and grow within the company. Our employees are our most valuable asset and when they feel a sense of belonging and purpose, we are all set up for success. Engaging with, and retaining our current diverse workforce is critical for us as we scale across the globe. 

What current initiatives do you offer to employees to encourage belonging, and how does this impact the overall culture of the company?

Madhavi: One of our core values is transparency, and we are committed to creating a workplace where every employee has a voice. We want employees to feel like they can contribute as builders and owners. We are continuously working on nurturing inclusiveness at Okta so that our teams across the globe have a stronger sense of belonging and feel supported in their professional and personal endeavors. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a critical role in contributing to this sense of community. As people leaders and ambassadors of our culture, we want to support our ERGs. Earlier this year we introduced a reward structure and professional development tracks for ERG leadership to ensure that we recognize and reward their invaluable efforts. 

What areas do you want to focus on next year? 

Madhavi: Next year, our focus will be on 3 critical areas:

  • Continued improvement of systems and processes through an equity lens. To quote James Clear, “We don't rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” We want to ensure that we are iterating on our equitable process to build a truly inclusive workplace. 
  • Adoption of leadership accountability mechanisms. We want to support our people managers with the tools to build and grow balanced teams at Okta along with mechanisms to track adoption and progress. 
  • Social justice and equity. It’s important for all of us at Okta to better understand and educate ourselves on the issues of social injustice and inequity that impact our communities and employees. We are committed to making time and space to better understand these challenges. We’re also exploring ways in which Okta can work with partners, across the tech space and community organizations, to address these.

KJ: Next year we’ll continue the integration of Auth0 + Okta. We look forward to building an inclusive culture together and ensuring all employees and prospective employees believe Okta is the best place to work for them. As we work to enable everyone to safely use any technology, we truly believe we are better together. 

We noticed a decline in representation across leadership. What is Okta doing to address this in the future? 

KJ: We recognize the decline in representation and greatly acknowledge the importance of having diversity across the company, including in leadership positions. We are continually evaluating our initiatives and efforts to attract and retain diverse candidates and will use a combination of data, recruiting efforts, and key partnerships to improve upon this. We are committed to cultivating a diverse workforce at every level.

Madhavi: There is a lot of work for us to do in the coming year. I personally consider leadership representation as a critical factor when attracting and retaining balanced teams. We want our candidates to see pathways for growth at Okta and we’re exploring initiatives to move the numbers on leadership representation. Okta is a founding member of Coqual’s Black Equity Index and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we will be incorporating benchmarking and recommendations from Coqual’s study in our Black Talent Pathways program in FY23. 

What are our major opportunities for improvement, specifically when it comes to Okta’s demographics, and how do you think we can do better? 

Madhavi: Nurturing an inclusive culture and retaining balanced teams through growth opportunities is a great way to attract talent more widely—especially from historically marginalized communities. So first we want to ensure that we are creating an inclusive workplace and equitable processes. 

We recognize that hiring talent widely is very crucial for improving Okta’s demographic representation. DIB and Talent Acquisition teams have developed a close partnership in building an ecosystem of talent communities to hire and nurture talent from. We will continue to drive efforts to build balanced teams across our business units and partner closely with our hiring managers and teams. 

KJ: Okta’s framework for hybrid work, Dynamic Work, provides us with the opportunity to tap into a broader and more diverse talent pool. We’re putting tools in place to ensure all employees play their part in recruiting diverse talent and creating balanced teams. We are only a few years into our DIB work and have a long way to go within our own organization and industry. We’re committed to putting better processes in place to ensure we’re hiring for culture-add, and ultimately building a more diverse organization.

The end of the year is a time for reflection on the year past, as well as a time to make plans for meaningful impacts in the year ahead. At Okta, we are committed to educating, raising awareness, and taking concrete steps to improve diversity amongst our employees; doing the work to create inclusive spaces, both for our workforce and in our communities; and changing the systems that perpetuate oppression.

To learn more about our overall commitment to equality and racial justice, visit our Okta Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging page. To join us on our journey at Okta, explore open roles on our career page for a chance to join our talent community.