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Week 2 Newsletter

February 8, 2019

This week, Pixar debuted a new short featuring a bright pink ball of can-do yarn named Purl...and entered the discussion around workplace diversity, inclusion and belonging. In the eight-minute animated film, Purl joins a bro-tastic, all-male investment firm and tries to be one of the guys. But ultimately, being authentic and helping others who also don’t seem to fit is more important. “Purl is a movie about belonging,” says Gillian Libbert, the short’s producer.

Purl’s tale is told through animation, but the stress of being the only woman or other underrepresented group member in the room is real. Research shows that a “one and done” approach to diversity doesn’t work—it puts more pressure for the underrepresented employee and doesn’t create the cultural change necessary for diversity to thrive.

Purl’s messaging is a bit heavy-handed but hey, Pixar!

For more, check out:

“What it’s like to be the only one in the room,” a podcast from LeanIn with experts from Stanford, McKinsey and the Wall Street Journal.

2018 Women in the Workplace report from and McKinsey, which discusses the “only one in the room” phenomenon.

Interview with the Pixar film-makers behind Purl


Here is our twice-weekly roundup of recent news, research and commentary. Please send thoughts, comments, questions and requests to We want to hear from you!

1. D&I technology is booming...but tech won’t solve all your problems just yet. (RedThread Research and Mercer)

The market for enterprise software companies specializing in improving D&I outcomes is fragmented and small ($100 million per year), yet growing like a weed. This report by RedThread Research and Mercer is the most comprehensive overview of the D&I tech market that we have seen, including links to 105 vendors in four categories of solution. Some key takeaways:

  • Some companies in this market focus exclusively on D&I, but the majority are focused on a business process—like talent acquisition or employee engagement—and incorporate D&I-related features.

  • Many of these technologies use predictive algorithms and AI, which are at risk of inadvertently incorporating bias. Going forward, vendors will need to show that any AI in their product is being audited to ensure bias is not creeping in through biased data sets.

  • Not surprisingly, talent acquisition software has received the most VC funding to date; however, the demand for more specialized solutions across the employee life cycle will continue to grow, as more potential purchasers learn about these solutions.

  • The legal risk of these new technologies is unknown, as is how they work in complex and ambiguous real-life situations. Since most vendors in this market have been around for four years or less, there is not yet much data on outcomes or unintended consequences.

2. Does disability inclusion have a branding problem? (LinkedIn)

The Valuable 500 campaign, which asks for 500 companies to commit to putting disability inclusion on their board agenda, kicked off in January of this year, with high-profile spokespeople, including Sir Richard Branson. Yet a Davos panel on disability inclusion fell flat. Diane Brady asks why we can’t seem to get excited about disability, which affects 1.3 billion people on the planet.

3. Starbucks releases a report on diversity, equity and inclusion. (Starbucks Stories)

Last April’s racial profiling incident, in which two black patrons were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for sitting down without ordering, sparked worldwide outrage and led to the company shutting down 8,000 North American stores for anti-bias training. Starbucks also commissioned an external evaluation of its diversity and equity practices, which has now been released to the public

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, a partner at multinational law firm Covington and Burling LLP, which conducted the investigation, introduces the report. The findings are an interesting glimpse into how Starbucks is operationalizing diversity; the number and scale of programs they offer are staggering. And the challenges Starbucks faces, as a “third place” under an obligation to welcome all kinds of people, are significant. But in contrast to Covington’s hard-hitting report on Uber two years ago, the Starbucks report reads less like an investigation and more like an upbeat catalogue of corporate initiatives. It’s not hard to believe that Starbucks culture is more inclusive than Uber’s, but it does raise questions about whether the report was intended to identify challenges or signal virtue to the public, especially given former CEO Howard Schultz’s rumored presidential ambitions.

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