Game-changing startups: Kanarys
Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.
Tech-powered collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion
How would you describe your business to your grandmother?
Simply put, Kanarys helps people work where they belong by fostering collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. The Kanarys technology platform collects both anonymous employee feedback and objective company data to help diagnose, prioritize, and optimize DEI efforts in the workplace.
Kanarys works alongside company partners to give them a deep look at the diversity, equity, and inclusion at their own company—equipping them the information and tools they need to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Through transparency and accountability, the Kanarys platform provides a feedback mechanism for companies to continuously improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion, ultimately creating a better workplace for all.
Kanarys provides benchmarks for companies based on their industry, making it very clear where they fall behind in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion and also provides actionable insights for companies on where they can improve.
What problem does your business solve for society?
My co-founders and I started the company in 2018 because we knew that current DEI initiatives were failing employees, and data, accountability, and transparency can help ensure that employees’ voices are heard. Given our personal and professional experiences as Black women and men in the workplace, we observed a breakdown in communication, even at well meaning companies, and we knew we could build a technology platform that could solve this problem for employees and companies everywhere.
Based on our research, DEI initiatives were lacking the key aspects of data, accountability, and transparency. Kanarys is working to change how DEI is measured and how efforts are being implemented so the kind of hardships we faced in the workplace are stopped, leading our society in creating a better workplace for all. Our platform is built knowing that change starts from within and if business leaders across the U.S. commit to doing the work, we will finally see an inclusive workplace and a more equitable society, where everyone can work where they belong.
Where did you source inspiration?
We created the platform based on our own lived experiences in the workplace. I had many of the same experiences and accolades as my colleagues in the legal industry, but I continued to experience many inequities in the workplace that Black women often encounter.
I knew that although my experiences were traumatic, they were not unique, and employees everywhere face similar situations. For example, I have been called the company’s “diverse” partner by a colleague —immediately minimizing me and my experiences to being a token at the company. Additionally, I have been asked if I had gotten into Harvard legitimately.
It was from these experiences throughout my career, along with the experiences of others, that I drew the inspiration for Kanarys. We are really building a bridge between employees and employers where concerns are addressed without the fear of retaliation, which is something that would have greatly benefitted me during my previous career.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?
I have been a leader many times in my life and during my career, but the demands of being a leader in a startup environment are in a league of their own. Add to that the challenges of leading a business during a pandemic and it’s even more challenging.
I have a greater appreciation now than ever before about how important it is to be responsive to my team’s mental health and how, as a leader, it’s up to me to make sure this is prioritized. We are a mission-driven company and I’m so fortunate to have a team full of people so personally devoted to that mission.
But, at the end of the day, it is my job to check in with folks, which ultimately gives the team permission to share concerns and feel comfortable taking full advantage of all the resources we have available. For my team to be at their best, I have had to make sure they are taken care of holistically. I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to go slow to go fast.
What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?
I encourage everyone to log on to our website and anonymously rate and review your workplace today. Additionally, we offer a robust Resource Center at Resources.Kanarys.com with free webinars, toolkits, and guides for both employees and companies on how to create a more diverse and equitable workplace.