An inside look at how Canva incorporates diversity in its daily operations

Canva diversity

Source: supplied.

One of the most important initiatives I’ve worked on is making Canva a true ‘Celebration of Diversity’. Before Canva, I was at a company of 40ish people and wanted to build a workplace where everyone felt that they belonged. I attended seminars, talked to diversity experts, and read a lot.

Still, many of the ideas seemed too far ahead of the stage we were at. The mountain of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) was too daunting, and for a time I was stuck, fearing I could unintentionally offend someone if I launched initiatives incorrectly.

Out of apprehension, I didn’t take action as much as I wanted to. But I kept learning. When I was asked to work on Canva’s DE&I strategy — I jumped at the chance. At Canva, we have a company-wide approach to diversity; we believe that we’re all responsible for creating a diverse environment. While our DE&I working group is a team of 16 from all corners of our team, true diversity takes the work and continuous learning by every one of us.

As a global team, we have focused on a cycle of listening, learning, setting goals, doing, reviewing to ensure our growing team is as inclusive as possible (alongside the teams working on our Product Diversity Initiatives).

While it’s still early days for us, we have made a commitment, as a company, to continuously learn and put in the work. I​n this blog I’ll take you through some of the actions we have taken at Canva to build a more inclusive team.

Our intention is to share for two reasons:

  1. Share what’s working for us, so that anyone in the position I was in can take ideas that might work for their teams; and
  2. Share with those thinking of joining the Canva team so they can openly see what we’re working on and how much more we still want to do.

That’s not to say we have it all figured out — we don’t. While we have made progress, we know there is so much left to learn and a long way to go.

And while this list is not exhaustive of what we’re doing, in this blog we’ll focus on inclusive hiring, awareness and education, health and wellbeing, learning; and then more tailored information on supporting parents and caregivers and the LGBTQIA+ community. First up…

Diverse and inclusive hiring

To create a team rich with dynamic perspectives who work together with shared values towards a shared vision, it’s crucial everyone involved in hiring is supported by the right processes and makes an intentional effort. Some steps we’ve taken to create a more inclusive hiring process:

  • We added a note to job postings to ease imposter syndrome: We value all types of experiences here at Canva, so if you don’t meet all the qualifications, we’d still love to hear from you;
  • Removed unnecessary degree requirements and exclusive language, such as “guru” and “rockstar”, from job descriptions. We found diversity decoders helpful to check this; and
  • Our job descriptions and benefits don’t refer to social gatherings that may exclude people. For example, beers at the office at 7pm aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time, so we excluded this language from our job postings.

Sharing a welcoming work environment can show candidates who you are and offer a peek into your culture; we recently did this by sharing a video of our team’s own stories.

Canva employee

Source: supplied.

  • Being transparent about policies through partnerships with organisations like Work180 can help applicants make informed decisions on benefits and policies before applying;
  • We host workshops for everyone involved in hiring to ensure we all understand how to fairly assess candidates, recognise and mitigate biases, and help to improve our standardised interviews and feedback; and
  • Hiring for “Culture-Fit” can be detrimental to inclusive hiring, so we assess candidates “culture-add” using our values in interviews instead. For example, for our Empower Others value, we look for candidates who have developed themselves and others and who openly share information.

Inclusive hiring requires continued focus, and will never be “done”

As well as making our hiring experience as inclusive as possible, we have also set representation goals across all our specialties (our term for areas like Engineering, Product, Design, Marketing, Operations etc) and, critically, at all levels of the organisation, so that we’re not just creating diversity at one level.

While views on quotas can vary, we do believe in the importance of setting goals to measure and hold ourselves accountable to progress. For example, in terms of gender representation in our hiring, we’re starting to see these seeds previously planted coming to fruition:

  • 50% of roles hired in the US in 2021 are women;
  • 21% of our Engineering hires in 2021 are women (Australia average is 19%* women), and
  • 41% of our Product hires in 2021 are women (Australia average is 37%* women).

There’s a lot more we want to do, but each of these new team members bring critical differences and richness of perspective, thought, background, life experience and decision making to Canva teams.

*Based on LinkedIn Talent Insights Data: Sept 2021.

Inclusive awareness and education

Inclusive awareness and education help us all form empathy and an understanding of why diversity is so important. With that comes action. Some things we have been doing in this space:

  • Bringing a global working group together to localise DE&I initiatives. Diversity has different meanings globally, so involving local perspectives and partnerships is crucial;
  • Each week a different person in our team shares an Acknowledgement of Country in our global All-Hands and tells a story of the history or culture of the land they live or work on to continue a weekly tradition of indigenous cultural learning;

  • To make sure that our internal events feature a variety of artists and entertainers and use guardrails to ensure at least 50% come from underrepresented groups;
  • We believe in our responsibility to champion diversity externally too. We encourage everyone at Canva to only only participate in external events or panels if there is a diverse range of speakers;
  • At Canva, we love to celebrate. It’s important that celebrations factor in cultural sensitivity and individual circumstances such as being mindful of an event time being parent and caregiver friendly, events being organised with decent notice, alcoholic drinks as optional, and remote-friendly events; and

Canva celebrations

  • Accessibility is core to our product and workplace. We have a fantastic team working on this at Canva that recently hosted an Accessibility Day where we all came together to work on our accessibility goals. If you’re interested in increasing accessibility, the Canva team wrote a blog on inclusive design here.
Canva message

Source: supplied.

Inclusion in our health and wellbeing

The health and wellbeing of everyone at Canva will always be our top priority, and it is crucial every decision in this space is as inclusive as possible. Different people around the world will find different things most helpful for their wellbeing. Some initiatives we see working well at Canva:

  • Surveys help us to hear directly from our team. Especially if they are succinct, not too frequent, and actions are taken quickly. Some of the steps below are from survey suggestions;
  • We introduced Vibe & Thrive, a dedicated allowance that each person can claim for whatever best supports their wellbeing; from health memberships, to celebrations, to wellbeing and education;
  • Based in fostering both flexibility and team connection, we recently updated our Future of Work policy; this approach is helping to support and hire more people from diverse backgrounds who have different needs and personal priorities;
  • We offer a confidential Employee Assistance Program that allows our team (and/or their immediate family members) to seek up to 13 paid sessions per year with a fully qualified practitioner;
  • Meet-Free Wednesday and ‘Sacred Lunch Hour’ have been added to everyone’s calendar to give space for deep work and give introverts or those not comfortable on Zoom a break; 
  • During the global lockdowns, we made a week of paid Flex-Leave available to anyone needing an extended break. The team also isn’t required to formally log periods under 1 day off when caring for themselves or others.
Canva recharge day

Source: supplied.

  • A recent survey showed that adding a Canva-wide Recharge Day for a collective team break has been one of the most impactful initiatives for wellbeing, especially for those in our team caring for others; and
  • A way of supporting our team has been inviting our Wellbeing Partners, Select Wellness, to share tips, eg: Habits to Ease Anxiety, Creating Boundaries, and The Juggle is Real.

Continuous learning

Research shows diverse teams are great for teams; they are a driver of innovation and help improve the decision making playing-field. Our goal is for everyone at Canva to know why DE&I matters to them and adopt inclusive daily habits by embedding D&I as a core part of our learning and development programs.

  • A good place to start is by identifying areas your team wants to excel in, possibly through a survey. Then develop programs or partnerships in those areas that the team can choose to take part in. Some programs we developed are Leadership Development, Coach Essentials for first-time coaches/managers, and Unstoppable Me;
  • We formed a partnership with Project F to help us audit and improve our processes to achieve more equal and gender-diverse teams across all levels;
  • As part of the Canva team onboarding, we have an Introduction to DE&I session to ensure everyone who joins the team has the same access to information on the importance of DE&I from week 1;
  • We have recently shifted to a big focus on process documentation, avoiding reliance on casual knowledge to accommodate different learning styles for everyone to do their best work; and
  • We have Fix-It and Diversity-Ideas forms for our team to voice ideas for improvements across Canva:

Canva fix it form

Our Celebration of Diversity working group has 15 sub-groups of DE&I focuses, but we thought it could be helpful to share some specific ideas in a few of these areas. These lists are not exhaustive but give an idea of some of the work we’re doing in 2 of the 15 areas. More to come on the other focus areas in another blog!

Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community

Belonging is a commitment we take seriously. If you’d like to learn about how we support the LGBTQIA+ community, Canva’s Hugo Welke wrote a piece, Out at Work and #proudtobe. A few we hear are impactful:

  • To ensure we use correct pronouns, we give space to identify these in applications, on Slack and our internal intranet, aiming to normalise sharing and the importance of using the correct pronouns;
  • We use Zoom backgrounds with pronoun visibility options, and share backgrounds for our team to show support of LGBTQIA+ events like Wear It Purple or IDAHOBIT;
  • Our #diversity-inclusion and #lgbtqia-pride-club Slack channels have been really helpful for everyone to discover resources, support, events and posts, and get involved;
Canva diversity

Source: supplied.

  • Celebrating Pride is an important time to authentically support our team by raising awareness, organising educational sessions, and listening to how we can all best support professionally and interpersonally. A sneak peek of Pride Week at Canva;
Canva pride

Source: supplied.

  • We encourage our team to bring their full selves to work; respecting and valuing everyone for who they are, not by their gender identity. In our Sydney offices, bathrooms are all gender-neutral and fully stocked with free menstruation products to make everyone feel comfortable; and
  • We believe in empowering others through education, providing a safe environment for discussion. Canva’s previous topics have included:
  1. Key definitions and concepts of sex, gender and sexuality
  2. Out at Work: Q&A panellist with Canva’s LGBTQIA+ community
  3. Common barriers LGBTQIA+ people face at work and how we can all listen and help
  4. Tips on supporting LGBTQIA+ people interpersonally and professionally

Supporting parents and carers

Providing parents and caregivers with a supportive workplace that can adapt to their individual family needs is important to creating a truly diverse workplace. We recently refreshed our parental leave policy to be more inclusive of all family constructs. Some of the things parents and caregivers told us that they valued:

  • Equal leave is a great accelerator for gender equality. We want to normalise parents taking leave and equal roles in caregiving. We removed carer labels (eg Primary, Secondary) and offer parents 18 weeks paid parental leave for AU, NZ & US, with no tenure threshold and fully flexible across 2 years, with superannuation paid throughout;
  • We offer a flexible Return To Work policy, including keeping in touch days throughout leave periods, and working 3 days for the first 4 weeks following leave and receiving full-time pay; and
  • We offer sessions with our external EAP/wellbeing providers as well as our internal coaching team throughout pregnancies or in the lead up to adoption, and return to work, to help with the transition.

For lots of helpful tips on supporting parents at work, this blog by Canvanaut and parent Hannah Heffernan has a wealth of great ideas.

Canva parents

Company-wide policies aside, an impactful initiative is to create a delightful, seamless experience for the diverse needs of families is Canva’s Parents and Carers Hub. The Hub includes:

  1. Handover templates for communicating news and handing over projects.
  2. Tips from our global parents and carers community.
  3. Tips for coaches coaching new parents or caregivers.
  4. Links to the #parents-and-carers Slack channel.

5. Office information including fully stocked parents room and breastfeeding facilities.

  • During school holidays we host a kids program on-site. During the pandemic, this hasn’t been possible so we do pop up events for kids and parents, like Zoom magicians, an online Superheroes Party and Kids Trivia, and a Virtual scavenger hunt at our Season Opener;
  • [Trigger Warning] In the case that someone at Canva, or their partner, experiences a miscarriage, we offer 2 weeks paid leave as well as paid Flex Leave for any additional time needed;
  • [Trigger Warning] For stillbirth or infant death, parents are eligible for the whole 18 weeks paid leave, and the option to take 12 months unpaid leave.

That’s it for this update of Diversity and Inclusion at Canva; I hope you found some helpful ideas here for your workplace or community.

This blog was just a slice of what we are doing towards becoming a celebration of diversity. We are only 1% towards where we want to be, and the work represented is the result of efforts across our whole team.

We have committed to reporting back our progress towards our company-wide goals once a Season at our global company-wide All-Hands, but it is ultimately the actions and behaviours of us all that will determine how diverse and inclusive workplace culture is.

At Canva, DE&I is, and will always be, owned by everyone — not just a few working in a formalised team.

If you have any thoughts, feedback, ideas or would just like to talk about all things DE&I, feel free to reach out.

This article was first published on Medium. 

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