The Next Step Towards Racial Equity in Tech: Coqual’s Black Equity Index

In 2020, we shared a list of public commitments to drive tangible change for racial justice and equity. These efforts included:

  • assembling a Racial Justice and Equity Employee Advisory Board to guide Okta’s $3M, three-year grant commitment specifically to support racial justice 
  • creating workforce development programs designed for and with BIPOC talent (such as the Equity Accelerator
  • initiating sourcing partnerships with organizations like the Black Professionals in Tech Network
  • instituting an inclusive language project that informs how we describe our products and technologies 

As we reflect on the last few years and the progress we’ve made, we have identified one area that still needs our attention: racial equity in our workplace. Intrinsic systemic challenges and barriers still impact the way Black employees are hired, promoted, and treated in the workplace. While we are proud of the programs we’ve put in place to center the equitable design of processes and systems, one thing has been missing—a way to accurately track and benchmark progress. 

That’s where the Black Equity Index comes in. 

What is the Black Equity Index?

The Coqual website describes the Black Equity Index better than anyone can: “Created in partnership with a consortium of launch supporters and tech sector leaders, Coqual works in collaboration with an independent founding committee of companies to drive the initiative to improve hiring, representation, promotion, inclusion, and retention of Black professionals across the corporate sector.”

In essence, it’s an initiative for organizations like ours to measure Black talent and racial equity in the workplace, informed by Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) practitioners.

How did Okta get involved?

In 2020, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, a collective of DEI leaders across multiple companies were discussing how to support their Black colleagues. One common theme was the lack of independent data and benchmarks available to drive progress. These leaders were looking for a tool to measure policies and practices that make the shift towards a more equitable and inclusive workplace for Black employees, similar to the Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ+ employees. 

In the absence of such a tool, they came together to create one that would measure and provide benchmarking. They tapped Coqual, a global, non-profit think tank and research organization, to lead the process. Okta and Auth0, along with many other companies, pledged money to support the launch. Coqual began gathering data from several companies around representation, programs, policies, and practices that impact black employees. (Learn more about the process here.) On February 23, 2022, Coqual will publish aggregated data, trends, and insight-based recommendations to serve as a mechanism of accountability towards Black equity.

How will Okta use the Black Equity Index?

Paired with the data from Okta’s State of Inclusion Report, the insights that come out of the Black Equity Index will help to shape the policies and practices at Okta. Madhavi Bhasin, VP of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Okta, says, “In the spirit of continuous improvement, we will be incorporating benchmarking and recommendations from Coqual’s study into our programs in FY23 as part of our approach to ensure Black success, excellence, and equity in tech. This approach will be inspired by our own learnings and what we’ve found from this data.” 

Interested in getting involved or learning more?

There is no fee to participate in the Black Equity Index, nor is there a fee to access the aggregate data. We are committed to improving Black equity at Okta, and in the tech industry as a whole. We implore companies to join the BEI or email [email protected] to learn how to get involved. 

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” —James Baldwin