Office Hours: I designed and executed Atlassian’s first diversity & inclusion strategy and am currently the founder and CEO of Mathpath. I’m Aubrey Blanche. AMA!Featured

I’m Aubrey Blanche, founder and CEO of The Mathpath (Math Nerd + Empath) where we provide services to build equitable organizations and products.

From fair talent processes and bias-resistant product design to equitable algorithmic design and communications strategy, we help organizations think holistically about evolving to meet the needs of a rapidly-diversifying and globalizing world.

I’m also the Senior Director of Equitable Design at Culture Amp where I lead the teams focused on Culture Amp's employee engagement in philanthropy and climate equity (sustainability).

Before Mathpath and Culture Amp, I designed and executed Atlassian’s first diversity & inclusion strategy, accounting for a globally distributed workforce and hyperscaling challenges. I was also a Diversity Engineer at Palantir Technologies where I designed, piloted, and implemented multiple studies on unconscious bias in hiring and presented results and recommendations for remediation to directors and key decision makers.

In all honesty, I got into this work a little by accident. I was a queer, disabled, Latina woman in tech and just felt like there wasn’t a path for me. I was given the opportunity to have an impact on that, and I feel really lucky that my work allows me to help others.

I’m an advisor to a variety of groups seeking to build a more just world, including Joonko, Seed & Spark, On Ramp, and Pivot Diversity. I form part of the Board of Directors of PAUSE and Circle of Blue and my work has been featured in Wired, the Wall Street Journal, the Australian Financial Review, USA Today, Re/Code, First Round Review, and more.

In my downtime, not that there’s much of it right now, I’m mostly focused on pulling off an international move to Sydney, Australia. I also spend a good amount of time meditating, as it helps with both my anxiety and management of my bipolar disorder.

Ask me anything about designing and delivering effective DEI strategies in globally distributed workforces, dealing with bias in the workplace, creating a culture of belonging, my journey, or anything else!

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @aubreyblanche!Elphas – please ask @aubreyblanche your questions before Friday, August 5th. @aubreyblanche may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Josefina's profile thumbnail
^ Hello Elphas - Just a quick update: @aubreyblanche will be answering your questions on Monday, August 8th - so you have a few extra days to get your questions in! 🌻
shenae's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much @aubreyblanche for taking the time for office hours, as I know how hard it is to relocate, especially when it is to a foreign country! I am the lead for my company's ERG for poc as well as on the DEIB committee. We usually have the same group of people who plan and organize our initiatives, fireside chats, meetings and workshops. How do you recruit other members to contribute their time bringing our activities into fruition?Also, I know this is a broad question, and it is not just up to me to correct the rampant bias in tech, but there is an attrition problem as well as a problem recruiting diverse candidates here. Any tips or suggestions for me, as a leader, to help with this? I am meeting with our benefits team to give feedback from colleagues about the current packages we offer but I am at a loss as what else to do. For some background, I researched the DEIB numbers as well as had chats via email or Zoom with poc who work for my company when I was interviewing. Not everyone has the diligence to do this and perhaps making these numbers public as well as whatever else you can suggest would be of help.Thanking you in advance for all of your wisdom 🙏🏾,Shenae
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Congrats on getting the group going! I think the most important thing when recruiting volunteers is to be very specific about what you're asking someone to do. "Do you want to support DEI?" is a lot harder to say yes to than "Can you please support us with communications for _____________?" I've found that when people understand the specific scope of the ask, they're a lot more likely to say yes. As a note, I encourage folks not to refer to "diverse candidates", but rather to underrepresented or marginalized ones. When we refer to marginalized people as diverse, we are implicitly saying that straight White men (and those of other majority groups) are normal while the rest of us aren't. It also helps us avoid calling anyone a "diverse candidate" or "diversity hire"!When there is an attrition problem, I generally look at how people are progressing in their roles, and whether performance reviews and pay are fair and equitable. So I would advocate for audits of those systems, and to cut engagement data by demographics, in order to understand what factors might be driving out underrepresented groups. You could also consider focus groups to identify challenges for remediation if you don't have access to quantitative data!
PatriciaGestoso's profile thumbnail
Your career is amazing @aubreyblanche !I'm a global director of scientific support for an engineering software company and an award-winning inclusion strategist based in the UK. I've spearheaded several initiatives in tech and I consistently found that tech companies are resistant to experimenting with different patterns of work. It's very binary: full-time or part-time. And part-time basically means no promotions ever.What's your experience introducing work alternatives such as "job sharing"? If you have been successful, what kind of business case and support have you used to get the buy-in from CXOs and mitigate the fear of people managers?Keep up the good work!Patricia
adblanche's profile thumbnail
I'll be honest, I've never worked at a company with a job share program, although I think that they're really brilliant solutions to create more opportunities for a broader range of people. In my head, I also think of job sharing as hiring 2 people PT, but I know that there are different schools of thought on that. As a manager who has team members that work both part (3 days a week) and full time (5 days a week), the thing that I've seen that's most crucial is to ensure there are boundaries around when someone who is part time is working. It's really easy, especially in a majority WFH environment, that those part-time days end up being fulltime hours without the pay.
PatriciaGestoso's profile thumbnail
Many thanks, @adblancheI agree about setting boundaries for those working part-time. I work full-time and often hear those working PT that they are expected to check emails during the days they don't work.The major advantage I think job sharing has compared to PT is that the progression path is clearer - in principle, no different than FT. In my experience, part-time employees are seen as "commodities" with little opportunity to get promotions.Thanks again for the work you do!
purnimamavinkurve's profile thumbnail
You are such an inspiration @aubreyblanche ! In your experience - what is the biggest barrier for employers to offer full-time opportunities with part-time hours (get all the benefits with comp proportional to number of hours per week). I work 50% hours for 50% comp and get all the benefits. My employer doesn't support going fewer than 50% hours. It appears in the US - if any employer supports this arrangement - minimum number of hours is 30 per week. And no employer I know of, supports this from day 1. This especially makes it harder for moms/caregivers to return to work harder. I hear that in Medical professions it is common to have part-time hours and get all the benefits. Do you think that in IT / Tech industry, it would ever change, especially in the US? Which countries are better than the US in terms of work/life balance/part-time opportunities?Thank you!
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Hm, I would say that in my experience there are companies that will offer part time (Culture Amp is one! I just hired a team member who is permanently part time, at 3 days per week). I do think that it's comparatively rare, but something that should definitely be encouraged. I'll be honest that I highly doubt it will change in the US, just given the legal environment (companies aren't legally obligated to provide full benefits for people working less than 30 hours per week), and the high-competition nature for tech jobs. I hope I'm wrong though!
lorenagonzalez's profile thumbnail
Hi Aubrey! :)I work in recruitment and big part of my job is to ensure we bring a diverse candidate pool into the recruitment funnel. There's a few things that would love to get your thoughts on given you impressive experience. - if candidates from under represented groups end up not being successful in the recruitment process, how would you approach this? What's the best way of assessing an interview process for bias / inclusivity? if the candidate pool in general is not super gender diverse (i.e engineering or tech sales) how realistic is to set up goals that might not match the overall demographies? - how do you think teams should support recruiters to bring in diverse candidates? - more general question: do you think businesses should flex the criteria of a role so they can bring more diversity into the business? (i.e bring in a person lacking XYZ experience) Lorena
adblanche's profile thumbnail
In general, if there are consistent gaps in hiring for underrepresented groups, I would look at data in the hiring funnel and find where in the process they're falling out. Based on that, I would be able to identify where bias is likely manifesting, and correct for it. For example, if the sourcing pool is homogenous, new sourcing strategies should be explored. If candidates are turning down offers, perhaps some interviews with candidates who said "no" to understand why the offer wasn't attractive. In general, I assume that bias is somewhere, and take a curious approach to discovering where, and an experimental one to identifying how to fix it. I'd say that for severely underrepresented specialities (like engineering), you should at minimum seek to have representation at the level of the specialty. But I'd also encourage you to think bigger and more long term: most often when a company invests in culture before hiring, they can create a space where people WANT to be, allowing them to over-hire from the target group and build representation that way. I in general do think that companies should flex, but in a very specific way. In almost all the cases I've seen, companies write requirements list in an incredibly...overambitious way. They list every requirement possible. I think that if you can't sum up a job's requirements in 5 items or less, you probably haven't scoped that role very well. So I do think the requirements should flex, but I think that writing in a more intentional and inclusive way also raises the standards for the job ad, because you'll get a more diverse (and therefore higher quality) candidate pool!
lorenagonzalez's profile thumbnail
thank you SO much for this wonderful input :)
tiffanyyhchang's profile thumbnail
Hi Aubrey, thanks for offering your time and wisdom! 🔥💜1. How might you approach making DEI a priority for leadership in a startup environment, where time and people's time is tight? 2. How do you bring allies into the fold as early as possible, with making anyone feel uncomfortable or alienated?
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Great questions! I think first is to separate the D, E, and I. They're separate constructs and require different actions and interventions. I'd also encourage leaders to think about the fact that equity and inclusion are really *how* you get things done, not what you get done, and so there's often a false tradeoff between time and those ideas. It's fundamentally about "Do we want to treat people fairly and well?" Framing it that way can make it easier for leaders to understand what's being asked, and more likely to get on board with making it a reality. I think that allies are critical, but don't think that someone can be an ally if they're unwilling to be uncomfortable. Learning and growing is inherently pretty uncomfortable! When doing DEI work, you will inherently alienate people, because there simply *are* people who do not want others to be treated well or equitably. I'd encourage you to think about *which* people you are comfortable making uncomfortable and/or alienating. For me, that's people who are unwilling to examine their privilege and/or biases, and who are unwilling to learn how to be more inclusive over time. I don't seek to include folks who don't meet those criteria, and in fact consider it a DEI *win* when those people find other employment.
madien's profile thumbnail
@adblanche: Great clarity!! How will you identify folks who are opposed to D, E, I? As the thought becomes more mainstream, I am sure there are several passive-aggressive actors who just pretend to agree but don't. How will you identify whom to alienate and whom to make uncomfortable towards a noble goal?
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Look at people's behaviors. Either they actively engage in learning and demonstrating that learning or they undermine. Then, you know what to do!
audreygalo's profile thumbnail
Hi @aubreyblanche! Thanks for your transparency and leadership in the DEI space and beyond! Inspiring as I'm a queer Latina in tech as well!Looking back on your career and DEI work -- I'd love to hear about what were your biggest "failures"? And how did they shape your approach today?DEI requires a dynamic skillset -- what skills do you value most in your work?For many companies 2020, in particular George Floyd's murder, was the start of DEI efforts, two years later from your viewpoint what progress has been made? And what are you hopeful to see companies do to take the next step?
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Biggest failure is UNDOUBTEDLY that I spent year teaching unconscious bias training. While I still think that teaching people about common manifestations of bias--and especially the behaviors to interrupt them--can be valuable, a separate training on this topic is highly unlikely to lead to behavioral change and is almost always a waste of money. The fact that I have done this training as a *first* initiative, without a full redesign of the hiring and performance systems that create the bias in the first place, is almost embarrassing at this point. But we do better when we know better. :) My communication skills generally probably the most valuable thing that I have. It helps me communicate with people from a bunch of different backgrounds, but also it allows me to switch contexts a lot, which is definitely a requirement to be successful in this role. In all honesty, I don't think that progress has been made at most companies. DEI budgets are getting cut in this macroclimate, and most CEOs have forgotten about those #BLM tweets they made. That said, I do see some companies making progress (Culture Amp went from ~1.5% Black to 12.5% Black in the US) over the last two years. The next steps are pretty easy: collect data (and analyze it well!) and allocate money. Those are the "secrets" to making progress in this work!
destinywoodside's profile thumbnail
Hi @aubreyblanche! It's great meeting you :) I'm Destiny and I'm currently working on building out the DEIB committee at my current job which is the first ERG at the company! What are some courses or resources that you recommend that goes in depth on building out actionable initiatives and presenting those to the Executive Sponsor? Looking forward to hearing your response and learning from you!!
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Congrats on starting the new group! In general, I'd encourage folks to separate the work of an ERG from a DEI committee. The ERG should create community and belonging for its members, while the committee is responsible for building out strategies that change the organization. That's not to say that someone can't belong to both groups (they definitely can!), but getting clear on the mandate for each will help you be successful at each of your objectives. For the DEI committee, I would definitely suggest starting with data. Collect demographic data and run an Inclusion survey (Culture Amp's questions are free and public, definitely crib those!) to understand where your companies gaps are. Then, I'd choose a few strategies that speak to your companies specific priorities. DON'T try to do everything at once...you won't get much traction with everything, and will probably stand in the way of your own change efforts. For ideas and inspiration, especially for smaller companies, I strong recommend projectinclude.org. Their resources are super actionable and well tested! Good luck!
julietrell's profile thumbnail
As you know, I'm such a fan girl of you and your work and so grateful (blessed and thankful) that we now have you Down Under!. My question - and we can follow this up IRL: Your work is so important and can be a complex topic for many. The complexity often lends itself to putting DEI strategies and conversations in the 'serious' bucket. Have you found ways to infuse playfulness, fun, and curiosity into designing/delivering workshops or strategies that don't take away or 'lessen' the importance of mind-shift change and understanding? (hopefully resulting in concepts that stick and see behaviour change).
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Aw, love and appreciate you! I think that humor is *essential* to this work. It can be so heavy to talk about exclusion and oppression all day. What I think is important is that humor should be used to normalize learning ("Isn't it funny that I, the expert, didn't know _________ and did _________?!") and doesn't punch down. The other way I use humor is to teach against a blindspot, in a way that doesn't call people out. I most often use this when reframing something ("Can you believe that someone might believe, when White men make up XX% of CEOs and corporate Boards, that White men face widespread discrimination?!"), so that people can get an "Oh yeah!" moment without admitting that they didn't know something, or held a believe that's not based in fact. To me, the use of humor is a part of finding some measure of joy in this work, which is so crucial to the long-term sustainability of it.
julietrell's profile thumbnail
Awesome. More to unpack and dialogue. (Channeling and sending east bay Oakland vibes from my Uber on the way to Rockridge Bart!!)
jocelyndegance's profile thumbnail
Hi Aubrey, I've been following your work for years. I was always curious how you've monetized a career around DEI. Did you come from an HR background and why do you think that now, it seems that only people with HR backgrounds are considered for DEI roles? What other paths into DEI do you see?--Thanks!
adblanche's profile thumbnail
My background was originally in political science (I dropped out of a PhD), and then in business development. I got interested in DEI in my first tech job, and eventually moved into the HR team to work on it fulltime. While I don't think an HR background is *necessary* for a DEI career, I do think that it's very helpful. While people say that DEI is everyone's job (and it partially is!) the majority of teh work concerns HR processes and programs. I also see how the industry has changed in the last few years, with more and more roles opening up. In so many ways, this is awesome. More companies are investing and it's giving more people an opportunity to move into the field. But I'm also of the opinion that the majority of people interested in DEI shouldn't have a career in it. I wrote a bit about that here: https://aubreyblanche.com/blog/how-do-i-get-an-in-house-dei-job
Thanks for sharing your story and knowledge with us @aubreyblanche! DEI is so vital to all organisations but my observation is that we're really only now starting to see DEU strategies being talked about more and taking priority with company leaders, especially here in Australia. As companies look to develop these strategies what advise do you have for teams implementing initiatives so that they do not come across as tokenistic.
adblanche's profile thumbnail
The best advice I have here is that companies should focus on equity, not diversity. By focusing on making the underlying processes of your company (performance, promotions, selection for development, hiring -- in that order) produce fair outcomes, you are better able to authentically create opportunities for people who deserve them, rather than looking at someone as filling a quota to hit a target.
Palazzo331's profile thumbnail
Hi! Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us! Related to setting up a DEI strategy within a company, I have a couple questions about pure logistics. - How do you define success in a DEI strategy? - When thinking about relevant stakeholders to this discussion - who do you involve? How do you decide on these groups? - When laying out a DEI roadmap, how do you decide on challenging but obtainable metrics to achieve? - How do you align diversity goals with company goals?Thanks again!
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Success for me is when marginalized groups (I often focus explicitly on women of color and disabled people) have equal outcomes to their majority group counterparts. Everyone is a stakeholder in order to change culture, but you engage them differently. The executive team needs to both be aware of the way their behaviors and decisions impact equitable potential of the organization, and need to work those priorities into their strategy in the form of both goals and concrete resourcing. Managers need guidance and support on how their actions impact the ability of especially marginalized people to feel safe and be included. Employees from majority groups need guidance and support on how to understand their privilege and use it on behalf of those who lack it. Underrepresented employees are critical not only because they provide the valuable feedback you need to build an effective strategy but are also the stakeholders the work is accountable to. I almost always focus on the experience of women of color--and Black women if there is enough data--and how it differs from White men. Generally, a 3-5% increase per year in a small company on subjective metrics is ambitious. For representation stats, I generally look at the total number of roles open and calculate what the overall change would be if our hiring rates improved by 5-10% points. On goals, I think that DEI goals should simply BE company goals. If a company says that they "care", they will implement specific goals and metrics that speak to where they still need to make progress (and ALL companies will still need to make progress in some way).
Palazzo331's profile thumbnail
Thanks for taking the time to address each of my questions! It's particularly helpful to hear your insights about success metrics as relates to open positions and growth, and on the breakdown of the various types of support to consider with the differently represented groups within an institution. Again, thanks very much!
Hi @aubreyblanche thank you so much for being here! I am curious about how you measure inclusion in the organizations you advise. What types of tools/methods have been most useful?
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Culture Amp's DEI survey has been extensively valid, and I strongly recommend it: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/11R809W_Ws24bWA2Y0y3bdqrLQt7QLYlbQQxDdzAhbZ0/edit?ts=6088d84e#gid=1234973878
georgette's profile thumbnail
Hi @aubreyblanche! It's great to hear from you and read more about your journey. I'd love to hear advice on how you keep DEI top of mind for a distributed team.
adblanche's profile thumbnail
While I do think there are some differences between colocated and distributed teams, I don't think the tactics and methods are that different (good news!). I also think it matters which "letter" you're referring to. Diversity generally impacts hiring and promotions, so I try to include material in trainings and inductions to processes that speak to this as a desired outcome. Inclusion is more about collaboration and interactions, and try to provide a variety of learning opportunities and nudges to get people to act more inclusively (e.g., anti-racist management, inclusion reports from engagement surveys, reminders to add pronouns to Zoom display names, etc.). And for equity, this largely comes down to process, so I make sure that when people begin to encounter one (e.g., when they're opening a role to hire for, etc.) they are given guidance about what behaviors and structures help to better ensure equitable outcomes. So...it's a big combination of things, but what's most important, in my experience, is to make sure that the guidance is contextualized to what a person's job actually is and what they're doing. One-off trainings that don't provide specific actions to take are often interesting but not motivating to people. Small nudges throughout their day or employee journey are much more likely to result in behavior change.
nancymaher's profile thumbnail
@aubreyblanche Thanks for being here on Elpha. It's amazing to hear your story and all the activities you are involved with. Gosh, I have so many questions but will keep it simple. 1) What are the key ingredients to an impactful DEI strategy in a large global company? 2) Looking back at what you have experienced to date, what words of wisdom would you give to your younger self?All the best for your move to Sydney.Thanks, Nancy
adblanche's profile thumbnail
Such good questions! The most important thing, in my opinion, to build a successful DEI strategy is data. You need to collect it early and often, and use it when making decisions about where to invest. Companies should be collecting demographic (diversity) and sentiment (inclusion) data, and use that to look for equal outcomes of processes (equity) in order to ensure that they are building a company that treats people equitably and fairly. The data also ensures that companies aren't just implementing a check box list of things that a company "should" have, but rather is responding to their unique strengths and opportunities from a DEI perspective. If I could tell myself one thing, it would be "Don't believe people when they say they 'care' about DEI." People who say they care very often don't, or at least they don't care enough to do anything about it. Now, I look for the time and material resources they dedicate to it. That tells you everything you need to know!
gleiceaguilar's profile thumbnail
Hi! Thank you so much for donating your time and talent to us. I would like to know how it is possible to develop a culture of belonging in the short term when leaders and employees are not aligned?
adblanche's profile thumbnail
This is a great question, and I think that there's a bit of a nuanced answer here. When you say "aren't aligned", I'm going to assume you mean that companies leaders don't care or don't make belonging a priority. In that case, I'll be honest that I've *never* seen company-wide change or consistent feelings of inclusion and belonging especially for marginalized people. To achieve that at the company level, leaders not only need to care but they need to prioritize it in their daily decisions. That said, I do think that individuals can make a huge difference on their teams. They can build inclusive meeting norms, build connection among their teams and peers, and that can create "pockets" of belonging even when leadership isn't aware, supportive, or engaged. It's just important to note that when that leader (Which can be anyone!) leaves, that impact isn't likely to stay.
SamanthaChai's profile thumbnail
Hi Audrey,Thanks so much for being on Elpha.Here are my questions:- How do you ensure a racially diverse company when you hire internationally?- What metrics do you use to ensure that your hiring process is diverse? Thanks so much! :)
adblanche's profile thumbnail
In general, when thinking about what "diversity" looks like at a particular company, I tell folks to make sure that their offices (or representation at the company level) reflects the communities that they are in. So at Culture Amp, while we have a presence in the US, we're primarily based outside of it. That means that while we want our US offices to reflect the racial makeup of the US, we don't goal our Australian offices on the same metrics. When I think about hiring, I'm looking to ensure that the process is equitable, which means that it will produce a diverse set of teams and a diverse set of team members. From a data point of view, I would look to see that the representation at the top of the funnel matches my goals of representation, and that there is proportional representation at each hiring stage.