Building a Company for Everyone

I wholeheartedly believe that diversity is a strength. Entrepreneurs can’t build a global product without understanding and embracing the spectrum of identity, gender, ethnicity and language found all around the world. Building a diverse team that reflects the people you serve is crucial to long-term success. It’s easy to say diversity is important, but how do you measure it?

Today’s post is from Wattpad’s Head of Product and Head of Wattpad Labs Seema Lakhani. Like me, Seema is a huge champion of inclusion and diversity. Her post outlines the results of Wattpad’s 2018 Diversity and Inclusion survey that aims to understand how employees self-identify and tracks how empowered they feel within the company.

I strongly encourage all companies – startups, scaleups and corporate giants – to track and share results of their diversity and inclusion efforts. The first step in creating a diverse and inclusive tech industry for the future is to understand where you are right now.

Here’s the full post:

2018 has been a year of challenge and (some) change for the diversity movement in tech. The struggles of minority groups in the industry are finally a mainstream conversation, even as real change lags for many.

At Wattpad, we’ve long recognized that diversity is our strength. Our company culture, our teams, our ability to innovate, and ultimately our product, are all made stronger by the variety of perspectives, experiences, and voices that make up Wattpad.

Wattpad’s commitment to diversity has been established since Day 1. The fact that we were founded by two people of colour (one of whom is an immigrant), in Canada (one of the most diverse countries in the world), has helped us maintain a more diverse perspective than most technology companies. Early in Wattpad’s existence, we made the decision to make Wattpad community safety a top priority. This ethos deeply informs how we approach our platform and how we build our teams. As a result, Wattpad has always been a safe and diverse place for both users and employees.


It’s been a year since we released the results of our 2017 Diversity & Inclusion Survey. Our goal is to be a leader in transparency around these issues, showing exactly what we’ve done to create an inclusive workplace.

We’ve now completed our 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Survey.* This year, we’ve expanded the survey for a better understanding both the representation and sentiment for different groups across Wattpad. We know that building a diverse workplace isn’t just a matter of numbers; it’s equally important to understand that people will have different experiences of a workplace. This year’s Diversity & Inclusion Survey attempts to understand how people feel about diversity at Wattpad and if our efforts towards inclusivity account for how marginalized people experience life here.


Today, we’re proud to say that a majority–56%–of Wattpad employees are women. That strong representation is reflected across most teams: women make up 50% of our Leadership Team, 50% of our User Experience and Design Team, and 100% of our Product Team.

We’re incredibly proud of those numbers, but know there is still work to do. For example, less than a quarter of our Engineering team are women, so that will be a continued area of focus for us in the coming year.  

For a more intersectional look at our team composition, we’re proud to say that People of Colour make up close to half (45%) of all Wattpad employees and 41% of our Leadership Team. Company-wide, 21% of Wattpad employees are Women of Colour, 15% are non-native English speakers, 8% identify as having a disability, 13% identify as LGBTQ+, and 3% are transgender.

Diversity at Wattpad – Highlights



Sentiment questions help us better understand how marginalized people feel about working at Wattpad. We know the experiences of a workplace–its communication styles, and organizational structures and processes–can be different for men, women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ folks. So, it’s important that we create a space in our survey for people to express those experiences, helping us understand if we’re headed in the right direction.

We were happy to hear that, in most instances, there were no large gaps in sentiment among the diverse groups and identities that make up the team at Wattpad. While there is room for improvement, there were no major disparities between how different groups experience life at Wattpad. All areas saw an increase in sentiment from 2017.

When asked if they agree that “People from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed at my company,” 75% of women and 77% of People of Colour agreed. At Wattpad as a whole, 80% agreed.

Similarly, when asked if they agree that “My Company Values Diversity,” 92% of women and 91% of People of Colour agreed. Company-wide, 94% agreed with this statement in 2018, up from 85% in 2017 and a true testament to our Diversity & Inclusions Committee’s hard work throughout the year. When asked if they agree that “I can be my authentic self at work,” 82% of women and 77% of People of Colour agreed. Eighty-one per cent of Wattpad employees overall agreed. When we dug even deeper into the intersectional data for this question, we found that while 88% of white men and 85% of white women agreed they can be their authentic self at work, only 80% of men of colour and 75% of women of colour agreed.

When it comes to voice, 79% of employees and 75% of women agreed that “When I speak up my opinion is valued.” This number was lower for People of Colour (68%) and Non-Native English speakers (58%). While both of these were improvements from last year, they still highlight the work we need to do to ensure all employees feel safe and valued when contributing at Wattpad.

Inclusion at Wattpad – Highlights


charts_straight_authenticWHAT’S NEXT?

2018 has been a year of growth and expansion at Wattpad. We’ve grown our team, expanded our work in entertainment around the world, continued to lead the future of interactive storytelling, and deepened the learnings and applications from Machine Learning to the more than 500 million story uploads on Wattpad. Our community is growing every day. This means new voices coming to Wattpad from all over the world. A diverse and inclusive company culture means more voices and experiences to challenge assumptions. It means broader perspective and fewer blind spots. It means better products for users everywhere, built by happy, safe employees, who can truly be themselves and thrive.  

Our Diversity & Inclusion Survey is the result of a team of people who have worked hard to better understand and improve our workplace. These results show what is possible when a company empowers employees with the financial and people resources to research, listen, and take action on diversity and inclusion initiatives. But they also demonstrate areas for improvement.

Diversity at Wattpad is about creating more diversity in tech overall. We’ve taken a leadership position in transparency, holding ourselves accountable to continually do better and making sure our stakeholders are aware of our efforts to create a more diverse company. Our team should match our community, which is why we’ll keep listening, learning, and pushing ourselves to do better, until we get there.

*Results for our 2018 Diversity & Inclusion Survey are based on participation from 84% of employees.  

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