In Pixar's new animated short, Purl enters the office on her first day of work and quickly realizes she doesn't look or behave like the other employees. For starters, they're all white men clad in identical suits and acting just like their company's name, B.R.O. Capital, might suggest. Meanwhile, Purl is a fuzzy pink ball of yarn.
The eight-minute film, titled Purl, premiered online on February 7 and is the first in Pixar's SparkShorts series, which aims to highlight different storytellers and techniques. The short emphasizes the importance of workplace inclusivity and diversity as Purl is ignored, shut down at meetings, and excluded from out-of-office bonding events simply because she's different. The film's writer and director, Kristen Lester, drew on her own experiences in the animation industry for Purl's story.
"My first job, I was the only woman in the room," Lester said in a behind-the-scenes clip. "So in order to do the thing I loved, I sort of became one of the guys."
That's exactly what Purl does. She refashions herself into a knitted business suit, ditches her desk decorations, and embraces a personality that mirrors what she sees around her. She's instantly accepted by her male colleagues but at the sacrifice of her identity.
As with any Pixar production, the film is cute, but it also tackles two long-running complaints about male-dominated industries like tech and venture capital: They're still way behind in terms of hiring diverse teams and publicly reporting those figures, two things HR managers say are key to preventing toxic or alienating work cultures.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that tech firms like Oracle and Palantir Technologies argue that government-mandated reports on the number of women or people of color should remain private so competitors don't poach their talent. More than three-quarters of Palantir's employees are men, according to a report compiled by the nonprofit Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Just 1.4 percent of its workforce is black, and Palantir doesn't employ any female executives, senior officials, or managers, the report reads. Meanwhile, at the cloud database company Oracle, about a third of its entire staff is women, with only 23 percent holding leadership roles, according to Oracle's website. The company doesn't publish additional diversity statistics.
Purl manages to highlight another challenge that plagues companies in every industry: the failure to properly onboard a new employee--especially one who doesn't resemble the rest of the team. The person assigned to greet Purl on her first day at B.R.O. Capital spends most of his time checking sports stats, gawking at her, and eventually texting his pals about the new recruit instead of introducing her.
This is the kind of HR failure that can do a lot of damage in the first few days when a new employee wants and needs to integrate into a team. And yet it's easily avoided with a sound onboarding process, says Bruce Eckfeldt, a business coach for high-growth tech firms and a columnist for Inc.com. Little things make a big difference: Tell your team when to expect their new colleague and make sure to have her desk ready on day one (read: a computer with internet access and personal touches like a mug or a box of tissues), Eckfeldt writes. Give her an org chart, a map, and a new employee FAQ to anticipate her needs. Lastly, assign her an appropriate buddy to provide additional support and insight.
I don't want to unravel the whole story of Purl and her "unbe-weavable" arrival at B.R.O. Capital. Watch the rest of her tale on YouTube.