Building the Snap Inc. brand through the 3 I's of inclusivity

July 22, 2021 - 7 min read


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Allyship is the new mentorship

Inclusivity is internal, interpersonal, and institutional

Oona's three I's

Coaching leaders to implement DEI

Building inclusive brands today requires leaders to embed the principles of diversity, equity, and belonging in their business models at the onset. For Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Snap Inc. (and former British Parliament member of the House of Lords), that meant challenging managers to put DEI at the forefront of every strategic operation. Successful DEI-integrative strategies require executives and employees alike to recognize their role in reshaping their mental models, relationships, and organizations at large. 

Read on for three powerful takeaways from our conversation with Oona.


Allyship is the new mentorship

As the second black woman ever elected to British Parliament, Oona reflected on public perceptions of her as the House of Lords member to represent the interests and resolve the concerns of all black women across Britain. The former politician experienced a transformative mental shift under the mentorship of one of the busiest women in Parliament, someone who took time to support Oona despite a hectic schedule and constant pressure to perform under the public’s watch.

Oona no longer views mentorship as an opportunity for influential figures to provide assistance and encouragement. Instead, she views it as a responsibility for leaders of teams, networks, and organizations to empower their constituents to experience continual professional and personal growth.  

“If the most powerful, and the people under the most pressure, can do it [mentorship] well, so can we all.” 

 Oona King, VP and Global Director at Snap Inc.

In her framing, mentorship is a form of allyship: an opportunity for all of us to instill a sense of agency, resilience, and belonging in our work environment. Oona’s transition to her current role as a tech executive at Snap Inc. has allowed her to cultivate a three-pronged approach to fostering inclusivity at work. 

Inclusivity is internal, interpersonal, and institutional

When Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel asked Oona what steps every Snap employee could take to enhance the company’s inclusivity, Oona pitched the three I’s.

This three-tier framework encourages us to recognize the opportunities for growth at the internal and interpersonal levels, and the layered impact that they have on creating institutional transformations. As Oona has come to recognize, internal change for the individual is the driver of institutional change. This framing places every member of the collective majority at the forefront of creating an inclusive culture and relieves the pressure on marginalized groups to carry the burden of solving inequality.

“One of the reasons I think I failed quite a lot is because I was really focused on that third ‘I’ — institutional. I was all about change — the systemic changes… But what we've found is that if you do not change the way the people within those systems think, [it’s] not going to work.”

Oona King, VP and Global Director at Snap Inc.

Oona's three I’s

  • Internal: Change your thinking  
    • How we understand DEI and actively evolve our own understanding from an “other” approach to an “all” approach and take personal responsibility for tackling discrimination and exclusivity 
  • Interpersonal: Change your interactions 
    • How we act directly influences the implementation and maintenance of our company’s DEI policies 
  • Institutional: Change the system
    • The communication networks and political, social, and economic systems our organizations operate in 

Creating the most inclusive work environment requires us to transition from a state of complacency to a state of agency. Too often, the burden to create change is placed on marginalized groups and corporate departments directly involved in DEI. As highlighted in Snap Inc.’s Diversity Annual Report 2021, it shouldn’t be up to women to solve sexism or to people of color to solve racism.

Through their own behavior, each person in the organization can create micro-moments of inclusion and belonging that ladder up to systemic changes. To create these micro-moments, every person must recognize their capacity and responsibility to make the workplace a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. It is through the personal reflection and accountability of the collective majority that we can make institutional changes.

Coaching leaders to implement DEI

An effective way for leaders to tap into personal reflection, adopt a sense of accountability, and create a culture of empathy is through DEI coaching. DEI coaching provides an opportunity for internal development and workforce inclusivity.

As Oona has seen at Snap Inc, coaching enables leaders to seek out their own solutions to enhance DEI initiatives. They are able to recognize their involvement as members of the majority and take a DEI lens on their personal reflections, daily actions, and team environments. 

To effectively coach DEI, leaders must first be coached to address internal work (their own biases), followed by their behavior (their interpersonal dynamics), and then their level of connectedness with underrepresented minorities. In this way, organizational cultures and the macrosystems in which they exist can become braver, bolder, and more intentional about DEI. 

Most importantly, coaching leaders to embrace DEI includes helping them really see the interdependence of DEI initiatives and business strategy. DEI can’t be an afterthought to business strategy. It is the prerequisite enabling leaders to spark positive change in their mental states, interpersonal relationships, and broader organizational norms, visions, and values.

“The first thing [is to] be able to spot inequity and use your majority group status where you have it to reduce the inequity for under-represented groups. It is internal. And then the second 'I' is interpersonal — with that internal knowledge, how are you going to change your actual behavior?”

Oona King, VP and Global Director at Snap Inc.



Published July 22, 2021

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