ParsonsTKO understands that equity is an ongoing growth process, requiring continued work and conversation. We strive to create a safe and open environment to have those conversations with our staff, clients, and partners.
Recognizing where we are
Bias and oppression are embedded in the fabric of our society and its systems—and within ourselves. At ParsonsTKO we strive to create an inclusive organization that makes our world a fairer, more equitable place.
Our approach is gradual, messy, and imperfect – and we are not afraid to talk about it. Whether you’re a client, job applicant, or community member, we hope you’ll join us in the productive discomfort that comes with meaningful work on inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA).
We’d like to share with you some of our strengths and successes. Equally important, we want to be candid about areas where we still see gaps, and discuss how we’re addressing them.
How we advance equity and justice through our collaborations
As a small business that supports mission-driven organizations, we’re motivated by the social change that our clients create. Many of our partners directly address social inequities, including those related to economic, environmental, and racial justice. We’re proud to have supported:
- The Washington Center for Equitable Growth
- Center for American Progress
- American Forests
- The Trust for Public Land
- World Wildlife Fund
- Movement for Black Lives
- No Kid Hungry
- …and many others
While our client portfolio is diverse, the balance has tended to tip toward larger, white-dominant nonprofits and membership associations, with less representation among civil rights organizations and grassroots groups. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, we started to redress this imbalance by providing pro-bono services to the Advancement Project—helping them improve their systems to take advantage of the influx of supporters they saw in response to the nationwide racial reckoning. We recognize that more can be done in this area, and continue to seek out pro-bono engagements with organizations that have deep experience in racial and social justice.
In addition, we’ve taken the following steps:
- Hosting a Data Strategy Mentorship program with TechSoup in 2020, to ensure that STEM fields like data science are accessible to a diverse pool of rising professionals
- Increasing the diversity of the speakers and authors that join PTKO events, and facilitating frank dialogue about IDEA in the nonprofit sector via a series of Community Gatherings
Our approach to recruiting and hiring
In our work with nonprofits, we see each day how decisions are dramatically improved when there’s a diversity of perspectives and experiences at the table. That’s why it’s vital for us to have a team that embraces the contributions of each person, with diverse backgrounds including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, class, physical ability, life experience, and other identities and characteristics.
Building a diverse team takes patience and sustained commitment. It is a leadership priority at ParsonsTKO. In our first years as a start-up, we built our team primarily through personal networking. This made sense at the outset, but it created some cultural and racial homogeneity that we’ve addressed by changing how we seek out and hire talent. Through the following steps, we’ve made strides in increasing the diversity of our workforce, leadership team, and partner network:
- We invest in targeted recruiting through channels that reach under-represented communities, ensuring a diverse candidate pool for every open position, so that as we grow, so does the diversity of our team.
- We ensure that our job descriptions reflect our eagerness to hear from candidates with a wide variety of professional experiences, eliminating unnecessary requirements from job posting – for example, educational requirements that are easily substituted by demonstrated experience.
- We are transparent about salaries, don’t ask for salary history, and don’t negotiate outside our posted salary ranges, to ensure historical pay inequities aren’t carried over onto our team.
- We use skill rubrics to evaluate candidates against the posted job descriptions at every stage of the interview process, to mitigate unconscious bias associated with interpretations of “fit.”
As we grow and have additional resources to do so, we hope to explore even more tools to help reduce bias in recruiting practices. For example, tools like Textio can be used to reduce bias in how job postings are written, and services that provide blind resume reviews can remove identifying information and signals like names, college names, years of job history, location and address data, etc.
Creating an inclusive and supportive work culture
Our culture at ParsonsTKO is strongly collaborative and team-centric—we want this to be a place where everyone loves to work! For 9+ years, we have operated a fully remote organization, with a culture that stems from trust—both of our staff in their individual roles, and of our team to support one another as we all manage the day to day priorities of both work and personal obligations.
We regularly evaluate our policies for equity to ensure our team’s experience at ParsonsTKO allows them to bring their whole selves to work. Most recently, this resulted in updates such as:
- Gender-neutral parental leave for birth, adoption and foster care placements
- Extended personal leave that can be taken for any reason
- Flexible holiday policies so employees can celebrate the holidays that are culturally important to them
- Documented job expectations by role to facilitate more equitable performance evaluations
- Benchmarking and rebalancing of salaries across our remote team, to eliminate regional inequities for fully remote roles
- Updating our onboarding documents to include preferred name and personal pronouns, in addition to required legal name
Our goal is to be fully inclusive and supportive in our operating policies, while acknowledging what’s financially feasible as a small business. At the same time, we know that implicit bias is real; not all issues are solved by having the “right” policies. We continue to engage in dialogue and invite feedback on ways our company operations can evolve to meet the needs of our current and future team members. We host an (optional) internal slack channel for employees to discuss IDEA practices that we see at other organizations, and how we can evolve PTKO’s own approach, and we also have an anonymous form for submission of ideas and requests related to IDEA on our team.
Our DEI efforts are a work in progress
Authentic inclusion of diverse perspectives is not a goal that ever gets “done.” Rather, it’s an imperfect process that demands our constant attention. As people who live in this world with a significant amount of privilege, we know this work is especially demanding, and that there are no quick fixes.
We are humbly committed to learning and evolving over time. And we are committed to engaging in the tough conversations—within our own organization, and with our partners and community members—that are necessary to create the individual and systemic change that our society desperately needs.
We welcome you to reach out to us at [email protected] with any ideas or suggestions you have for us as we embark on this journey!