Cheryl Ingram looks forward to the day when she’s put out of business.
As the founder of the consulting firm Diverse City, Ingram is in the business of teaching companies how to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive. From the overall culture on the inside to the recruiting practices directed at the outside, Ingram has a lofty goal of eliminating discrimination and oppression in the workplace.
For now, there’s plenty of work to be done and that involves growing beyond the company’s Seattle base.
Ingram is currently crowd funding to support an expansion to Los Angeles, where she will set up a new headquarters and hire additional personnel. Ingram is bootstrapping the majority of the $50,000 she said she needs to get established, but she’s sought help on iFundWomen with the rest. With just a week left to reach a campaign goal of $10,000, Diverse City needs a final push.
And it’s a push that the CEO with a PhD admits will see her leaving Seattle mostly behind. In a recent Seattle Met magazine profile, Ingram said she has “never felt discrimination as prevalently” as she has in her five years in Seattle.
Ingram told GeekWire it’s been “really, really hard” socially in Seattle and professionally it’s been “really f—ing hard here, too.”
“As a black executive in a company that’s fundraising and not getting a lot of support in that area and really struggling and having to deal with people’s biases and racist and sexist statements … it’s just been hard.”
While the high-profile troubles of tech and its well-established biases have certainly made news in recent years, Diverse City provides its services to a range of businesses. They consult with a company when people there are already being mistreated or the company has a reputation where people won’t even give it second look. On average, seven or eight different systems or processes need to be reworked.
“We don’t specifically target tech,” Ingram said. “We’d love to be more involved in tech but we’ve had a little bit of a challenge getting our foot in the door in tech companies. We just really started to break ground doing that in the last 18 months. Right now most of our profits come from small businesses and non-profits.”
When she does get a look inside and hears what tech companies think they need help with, Ingram winces a bit. “Just help us with recruiting; help us get these populations in the door,” they tell her.
“If your culture is not designed to make it inclusive for them when they get there then you’re not going to keep them,” Ingram said. “If you really think you’re in a company where no discrimination exists, that probably means that you aren’t facing it and so therefore you have a lot of privilege. You’re doing a few things wrong, you just haven’t thought about them with an equitable lense.”
So culture is often the first thing Diverse City goes to work on. That’s done by running sizable assessments where a wealth of data is collected — which is where Ingram’s second company — Inclusology — comes into play.
Inclusology is an enterprise online service which helps companies assess and collect data, and it will also make recommendations that companies can use to develop their own strategic plans for how to approach diversity.
The small company was born out of Diverse City’s initial processes, which was to figure out, “Who’s currently here? How are they being excluded, if they are? And who’s not here and how are they being excluded?” What a company is doing well when it comes to being inclusive and recruiting diverse populations is also examined.
“It has the potential to put Diverse City out of business when it comes to the assessment piece,” Ingram said. “People will always need training … but I don’t ever want to be that consultant that says, ‘All you need is training.’ There’s so much more.”
There are 11 employees across Ingram’s two companies. She has a developer at Inclusology right now who is a “bad ass,” and a COO who helps her with a lot of the financial strategy. Ingram writes most of the content and the processes for the assessment — but she doesn’t code, so she hired someone to translate her thoughts and her processes to code.
She envisions four or five new employees in the first year in Los Angeles and 30-50 employees with specialty areas across different topics as it grows into a full-fledged headquarters.
Three years down the road Ingram has her eye on expanding to the East Coast and opening an office somewhere in the Boston or Washington, D.C., area.
“The goal is to go global,” Ingram said. “We’re domestic right now, we want to help fix discrimination in the states and be part of that movement, and I definitely see us doing work across the world to make sure that people are treated equitably wherever they are.”