2017 was a record-breaker for SendGrid, an anchor of the Denver technology region. Revenues passed the $100 million mark, growing 40 percent in a year. It added new customers at the same growth rate. And the company capped off the year with a successful public offering and has since seen its stock price jump nearly 40 percent.
The company also ended the year with a workforce made up of 35 percent women — the largest percentage of female employees its nine-year history. The number of women in technical jobs and leadership positions also improved, according to new data SendGrid shared this week with The Denver Post.
Coincidence? The stats play right into research compiled by Boulder-based National Center for Women & Information Technology that finds diverse companies have better returns and outperform those less diverse. A newer study of 6,000 companies nationwide, conducted by Denver-based Pipeline Equity, found that for every 7 percent increase in gender equity, there was a 3 percent increase in revenue.
But sharing its data isn’t about hitting a number, said Pattie Money, SendGrid’s chief people officer.
“We don’t set goals for our hiring,” said Money, adding that SendGrid hired 128 people last year and now employs about 420. “We focus more on sourcing than the number.”
Sharing diversity statistics continues to be a sensitive topic that many prefer to ignore. Even four years after major tech companies such as Google and Twitter began sharing their figures annually, most Denver-area companies remain mum. But according to NCWIT, which helps companies through the process of revealing their diversity statistics, more companies are privately talking about it.
“There is more knowledge about the topic in general. And there’s less having to convince someone that there’s a problem,” said Terry Morreale, NCWIT’s the president and chief technology officer. Companies now seem to understand that there is financial benefit to a diverse workforce and that diverse teams solve problems faster, she said. “People understand it now and they want to make it happen.”
Still, Morreale encourages companies to share their diversity statistics.
“Yes, companies should be doing this because one of the things you notice even if it focuses on the negative, is the fact that there’s a conversation, which is a step in right direction,” she said. “We want to shift the conversation to a more holistic conversation because it’s about working across the entire pipeline.”
A recent tally by tech-news website Recode found that women made up anywhere from 26 percent to 46 percent of the workforce at top tech firms, with Pinterest at the top and Microsoft at the bottom.
NCWIT focuses on changing the business processes to make sure women and minorities aren’t inadvertently excluded during recruitment and promotion. Services such as Pipeline Equity use technology to help companies see where changes can be made in, for example, pay gaps, and how that could ultimately impact business performance.
“As the equity gap is narrowed it improves productivity, retention and loyalty which results in greater economic gain for any organization,” said Katica Roy, Pipeline’s CEO and gender economist.
Sendgrid was already a fast-growing startup before it began publicly sharing its numbers, publishing its first diversity report in 2014. Its business began by homing in on the niche of transaction emails, such as an Uber email receipt. SendGrid has since expanded into marketing and other email services. While the company has always strived for inclusiveness, its initial diversity numbers showed that just 9 percent of its tech workers were women.
And in its latest report, not every number was up. Women in management roles dropped a few percentage points, which Money says was due to heavy hiring of men and women overall. But regardless of where numbers move, SendGrid is committed to sharing them.
“Whatever gets measured gets acted on,” she said.
Money preferred to talk about actual changes Sendgrid implemented last year to attract and keep talent. It partnered with Pipeline Equity and PowerToFly, which helps companies partner and connect with women in tech. It also continues to reach out to groups such as Women Who Code and the National Society of Black Engineers to encourage tech workers to apply for a job.
“Many people think that when you’re doing diversity hiring, you’re just out to hire a woman. We’re not,” Money said. “We’re out to hire the very best person for the role, but we need to start with the best diverse mix. Building the pipeline ensures that you’re getting people through the door who come in all different shapes and sizes.”
This year, SendGrid added new domestic-partner benefits, infertility coverage and financial benefits for families with autistic children.
“We’re competing for talent across the United States,” Money said. “We’re not just looking at the competition here in the Denver market but relocating people from offices all over the country.”