Slack Makes a Statement on Diversity at the Crunchies

When Slack won an award for fastest rising startup at TechCrunch’s annual tech awards show on Monday, it wasn’t founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield who took the stage, but rather four black women: Megan Anctil, Erica Baker, Kiné Camara, and Duretti Hirpa, who are all engineers at Slack. Quartz’s Alice Truong explains how that came to be:

A Slack spokeswoman tells Quartz that Butterfield wasn’t able to make the event and asked the women to accept the award on behalf of the company if it won. “It seemed appropriate that the award for ‘Fastest Rising Start-up’ should be accepted by the very employees who made it possible,” she said. “With respect to diversity, we can focus on numbers, which are important, but equally important is changing the archetype of what people believe an engineer looks like. The women on that stage are what engineers at Slack look like. Representation matters.”

Camara’s acceptance speech focused on the role Slack’s commitment to diversity and inclusion plays in its success:

There are many things that are major keys to the success of Slack, not least of which are diversity and inclusion. The idea that diversity of companies improve the culture and the bottom line may be somewhat controversial, but all we know is we’ve got 9 percent of women of color in engineering at Slack, four of whom are up here tonight in formation, and we’re the fastest-growing enterprise software startup of all time, so…

This is a great example of how CEOs and senior leaders can send a message even if they aren’t making the statement themselves. It wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful if Butterfield had been up there and said the same thing himself—or as I’m sure has happened somewhere, if he had gone up on stage, pointed to the four black women standing behind him, and said “but really, they made it happen!” Instead, this seems like a great example of “actions speak louder than words.”