Be proactive.

That's the advice from diversity leads at four big tech companies, who shared their thoughts Thursday about how to create an inclusive culture in the workplace at the Tech Inclusion conference in San Francisco. Inc. reporter Salvador Rodriguez moderated the panel.

Airbnb's David King, Google's Nancy Lee, Clef's Darrell Jones III, and Snapchat's Jarvis Sam all agreed that forming a more diverse workforce in the technology sector doesn't end with hiring. You have to work to maintain an environment hospitable to employees coming from a variety of backgrounds.

A key component is making employees feel they belong. "If they don't feel they belong, they're not going to stay," said King, director of diversity and belonging at Airbnb. One way he said Airbnb protects this sense of belonging is by having an anti-discrimination team devoted to preventing and addressing issues of bias and discrimination.

Beyond having policies and structures in place, you want to give your employees a sense of ownership over the company's workings and culture, said Jones, head of business development and social impact at Clef, the cybersecurity startup. Clef's diversity policy--which it offers online for other companies to adopt as a model--is a "living" document that employees have the power to change.

"At that living inclusive policy level... we're able to permit everyone to feel they can change some component of their culture," he said.

Lee described an approach in that same spirit at Google, where she is vice president of people operations. The tech giant holds TGIF all-hands meetings on Fridays where any employee can ask questions of senior management. The tech giant's black employee network organized an all-hands meeting dedicated to Black History Month, and there was an all-hands meeting dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month as well.

Buy-in from senior management is a must if diversity efforts are going to make headway, said Lee and King.

"The board needs to talk about diversity," said King, adding that conversation "needs to be authentic." People can tell when it's not.

Lee said it's a goal at Google to "push the envelope and turn up the heat and have a very honest conversation about race relations," but that without senior-level support, "I don't think you can really push the envelope the way you need to."

Published on: Oct 28, 2016