How tech companies are addressing diversity

Upwork Chief Product and Experience Officer Sam Bright joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down hopw tech companies are addressing diversity.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: I want to talk to you about the gig economy, especially in a time when a lot of companies-- a lot of us-- are very concerned about being more diverse and inclusive to everyone who is part of the United States. Let's bring in to discuss this Sam Bright. He is Upwork's chief product and experience officer. Before that role, you spent many years at eBay-- big fan of eBay, sold stuff there.

I want to welcome you to this. And let me ask you this, because when we talk about the gig economy, some of the protections that were in place for people who worked at companies years ago are now gone. Then when you add on top of that an attempt to become more diverse and inclusive in our employment choices, how does the future of work intersect with diversity and inclusivity when we are all heading towards a freelance world?

SAM BRIGHT: Yeah. Well, thank you, excellent question. I think many of our assumptions about work have been fundamentally changed as we've all been sheltering in place. Work has been decoupled from proximity. Interviews have been decoupled from even meeting the candidate. Internships have been decoupled from going to schools and universities. So why not stop-- why stop there? Why not go even further?

As we did a-- we did a survey recently. We found that 56% of hiring managers were saying that remote work has been working even better than they thought. And what that tells us is that our perceptions about work are changing in ways that can advance, potentially, diversity and inclusion. Because as we question some of the fundamental assumptions about work, we start to realize that work isn't about who you know or being within the driving radius of the company location or where you're from. But it's really about being able to connect with businesses and get work done on behalf of customers, and platforms like Upwork are here to enable that going forward.

SEANA SMITH: And Sam, talking about Upwork enabling it, but I'm just curious just to get your perspective on this, as someone who has now risen-- you are an executive. You're an executive of color. Can you just share what your personal experience has been like and how you're hoping to kind of use your past in order to hopefully move the needle on this?

SAM BRIGHT: Yeah, I've been very blessed. I'm the product of a dad from Ghana, a mom from Indiana, who raised me as a double pastor's kid, only child in Peoria, Illinois. And so I know I have a unique perspective that I try to bring in, from a professional perspective, in thinking about customer centricity as broadly as possible. It informs bringing more voices into the room, as we think about building products and developing experiences. And from a personal perspective, it propels and compels me to ensure that the rarity of being a Black millennial tech exec is just a little less rare, as I invest in paying it forward, and-- both on a personal level and also in what we build as an organization.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But Sam, doesn't it still take the intention on the part of people who want to engage in a business transaction to bring about the kind of world that all of us are aiming for? There's that-- I don't know the exact study, but it goes to the fact that certain names-- that businesses, when they hired in the old days, certain names would almost disqualify, unintentionally, people, and it was actually a racist decision that was being made.

SAM BRIGHT: Yeah, 100%. I think that we are in a moment of awakening in many regards, whether you think about the Black Lives Matter movement or you think about even the outpouring of support as-- in the face of anti-Asian violence that has occurred in recent days. And people are increasingly awakened to social justice being an imperative for corporations who want to build diverse and inclusive cultures. And we, as leaders, have an opportunity to drive that.

In order to actually make that come to life, it requires taking a stand. It requires being intentional, and it requires starting somewhere. Taking a stand and moments of societal awakening is really being clear and realizing that silence or speaking out for your values is a choice, and it's an important choice that impacts the workforce going forward.

Starting somewhere is really thinking about and articulating your values for building a diverse and inclusive society, and that impacts hiring and how we think about who we hire and how inclusive we are when we think about hiring. And then being really intentional, like you called out, is so important because it doesn't just happen organically. It requires that really careful watering by empathetic leaders who want to build a culture that reflects the communities that they serve.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I was thinking about your mom from Indiana. I spent many years in South Bend and in Indianapolis. That makes you a Hoosier by choice, though, if you weren't actually from there. Sam Bright is Upwork's chief product and experience officer. Thank you very much for joining us here at Yahoo Finance.