In August of last year, technology company Intuit appointed its first racial equity director, La Toya Haynes. The move was part of a larger effort to more closely examine equity within the company’s own walls, following last summer’s protests against police brutality and racism.
WATCH: How Intuit is reinventing HR to make tech and finance more equitable for all
Haynes and Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi recently sat down with Fast Company to discuss the company’s latest developments in diversity, equity, and inclusion. “We have a set of goals that hold [me] and the whole company accountable. And they’re around employees, customers, communities, and shareholders,” says Goordarzi, who oversees the tech giant’s range of financial services products, including Quickbooks, TurboTax, and Mint. “The description of [one of our goals] ‘stronger together’ is that we must have a diverse and inclusive environment to be able to hear all voices. If we want to know what’s important to [our customers], we actually have to be diverse like our customers.”
These goals include reaching specific demographic numbers. “By our fiscal year 2023, we want a goal of 35% of women in technology, and 16% underrepresented. Today, we are 28% women in technology, and we’re about 11% underrepresented,” says Goodarzi.
Intuit also conducted internal surveys and held question-and-answer sessions between executives and employees, conducted with an outside facilitator. “One of the biggest learnings that I had in the chats with our Black employees [is how] they said, ‘Hey, don’t hurry up and say what we’re going to do, just let’s make sure we take our time and learn,'” says Goodarzi. “That was wonderful input, because folks weren’t just looking for action—they were first looking for understanding.”
In her role, Haynes leads the company’s Racial Equity Advancement Leadership team, or “REAL” team. The team has been together for about 10 months and is composed entirely of Black Intuit employees. “We have each other’s backs, and we provide support for one another,” says Haynes.
Another component Haynes shares from her equity strategy is a directed focus on language. The company has developed an anti-racism language guide, which identifies and calls for the elimination of nearly 800 phrases and words (including terms such as “blacklist” and “white glove service”) and encourages employees to self-identify. “Do not assume that someone is gay or straight, and do not assume their race or ethnicity,” says Haynes. “Ask the question, and then begin the discussion based on how they identify themselves.”
Though a large part of Haynes’s role involves forming a racial equity strategy, another part involves acting as a steward for new projects. “The final part of [my] role, I call it the ‘lagniappe bucket’—it’s got a bit of everything, but it’s really about accountability and amplifying those programs and initiatives so [we] have this multi-year journey.”