Equity Audit Update

There’s been a lot of change bubbling below the surface of Big Cartel in 2021, and I’m excited to give you an update about the important work we’ve been doing. In July, our team received the findings of an Equity and Inclusion Audit performed by MMG. Let’s go over some of the findings:

Proud to be BC

When asked if they agree with the statement “I am proud to work for my organization,” more than 90% of the team agreed or strongly agreed. And more than 90% of our team said they’d recommend Big Cartel as a great place to work. Our strong pride in working for Big Cartel gives us the courage and drive to address the areas of concern.

Opportunity: Diversify Our Workforce

Like so many companies in the tech industry, we know that Big Cartel is overwhelmingly white. Founded by two white men, the company stayed pretty homogenous for many years. Big Cartel’s employees are mostly white, cisgender, heterosexual, under 40, and using English as their primary language. During the audit, multiple staff members at Big Cartel spoke about a few ways that this lack of diversity has surfaced, and a desire for our team to more closely reflect our world.

There’s a desire from some staff for an evaluation of the hiring process that leads to this “monocultural” presence at Big Cartel. And it’s a fair point. If we’re hiring within our own spheres of friends or relatives, the resulting pool of employees are going to be people who are similar to the folks who came before.

Opportunity: Match Reality to Aspirations

After conducting many employee interviews, MMG concluded that while our team had great intentions, we desire a deeper connection to our community impact. We make monthly donations and speak up more and more about our beliefs, but it can be hard to know if we’re making the best use of our funds and audience, if our donations are timely enough, or if we’re making a big enough impact.

This work has to take place both inside and outside of Big Cartel, to ensure we are affirming the marginalized people within our communities. Multiple interviews cited the fact that they weren’t a member of the communities in question, making it difficult to know what about Big Cartel could be listed as affirming. Given that the staff and the leadership are both majority white, we likely need outside help to understand how we can best affirm marginalized people and their experiences at Big Cartel.

Opportunity: Make Speaking Up Safe

While Big Cartel is generally a company full of people who care about each other, there’s something missing in the spaces we provide for people to speak up. Psychological safety is difficult to create but easy to destroy, and these findings encourage us to re-evaluate everything from team communication to structure.

MMG acknowledged Big Cartel’s work to put processes of communication into writing, specifically with one-on-one meetings (between a member of leadership and an individual employee) and a grievance form, but we have room to grow when it comes to management supporting staff, through a consent-centered approach, and healthy workplace dynamics.

Opportunity: Involve More Voices in Decisions

There’s disagreement among employees about how decisions are made at Big Cartel. Whether regarding promotions, how administrative tasks are distributed, or if multiple voices are heard during decision-making, some employees would say that things were going great, and roughly the same number of employees would say that they needed serious improvement.

MMG’s assessment is that the decision making process likely needs its own audit in order to make sure that all perspectives are included in the choices that affect their workflow, and equitable chances for growth in the organization. What has the culture been regarding how people are promoted, and how tasks are delegated? In what ways will that culture need to shift?

These are the kinds of questions and more we’ll be digging into in the coming weeks.

What’s Next?

When the audit findings were shared with the Big Cartel team, the plan was to begin training and educating the staff about whiteness, privilege, and the ways in which white dominant culture is perpetuated within tech. There was a goal to teach trauma-informed approaches to naming harm, seeking repair, and facing conflict. This training is still crucial to our growth as a group, and is set to take place in early 2022, but for now we’ve had to shift our immediate priorities a bit and adapt to the challenges we currently face.

Putting together this audit was a huge amount of work. Providing and receiving this feedback involved a great deal of emotional labor; our team has bravely engaged in difficult conversations, naming harms experienced in the workplace and facing times when we individually or collectively haven’t lived up to our stated core values. During this same period, we’ve gone through a number of transitions that have led us toward larger conversations about foundational company principles.

We’ve learned first-hand that the effort to root out white supremacy, even in an open and caring group, will reveal the insidious ways systemic racism winds its way into our lives. We’ve also learned that to proceed in good faith with our anti-racist work, we must prioritize collective repair.

Big Cartel continues to work with MMG to create a process for Healing and Repair at Big Cartel. A part of this process includes integrating a brave space into the culture of Big Cartel’s work: a space that encourages shared involvement, building together, and holding space for self-accountability and self-compassion. Big Cartel is seeking to focus this process on restoration, which will involve challenging current existing models, growing trust, and receiving feedback and input from the entire Big Cartel community.

It’s only the beginning, but our goal is to arrive at a place of trust with each other so that we are better poised to tackle the wider race and privilege issues within our company and our industry, while all working from the same page. We’ll keep you updated as we make progress.

Header illustration by Yuko Okabe.

Big Cartel

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