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Shopify's Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh Talks Diversity and Belonging

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated May 25, 2021 at 11:49AM

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Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh is the Senior Lead of Diversity and Belonging and she discusses building a globally relevant product that is relevant to all folks from all communities.

The Motley Fool's Lead Advisor for Cloud Disruptors, Tim Beyers talks with Shopify's (SHOP -7.22%) Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, Senior Lead of Diverity and Belonging, about the importance of creating diverse teams in order to truly support all stakeholders. Hasfal-McIntosh explains what Shopify is doing to make their ecosystem matter to all their customers, merchants and partners.

Tim Beyers: Hey, Fools. I'm Tim Beyers, Lead Advisor for Cloud Disruptors 2020, and I'm here with Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, who is the Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Shopify. Do I have that right, Shavonne?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: You've got it right and I'm going to say, Hey Fools, because the way that you said that just made me chuckle giggle to myself, thank you.

Tim Beyers: That's what we call ourselves. It's awesome. What is the Shopify nickname, like what do Shopify employees call themselves?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: We're Shopper Folk.

Tim Beyers: Shopper Folk.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: We're Shopper Folk. Yeah.

Tim Beyers: I mean, Shoppers doesn't seem right.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: No. [laughs]

Tim Beyers: Shopper [laughs] Folk seems better. Okay. That's good. I like that. You've done a lot of work in this area and I don't want to give your resume, but I do want to just remind folks that you have a lot of expertise in this area. You've been at Shopify for about six years now and you've climbed up through the ranks, going all the way from specializing in culture to now being the senior lead for diversity and belonging. I want to talk a little bit about your journey, but one of the key insights I've heard you say, and I want to start with this question, so maybe give us a little background and say, this is what I heard you say, that you can't create a product for all people unless you have a strategy to include all people on how you run your business. Is that how you think about your role at Shopify and maybe you could expand on that a little bit?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. I think it's pretty self-evident if you want to build a product that's going to be accessible for everyone. We have a really big mission, it's to make commerce better for everyone. In order to make a product that can actually make commerce better for everyone, we need to have all of those perspectives at the table, in terms of informing how we build that product. So yeah, we think of it, not limited to that, but that's like a really big piece of the pie. When I think of diversity and belonging in the work that we do, there is, of course, the internal initiatives that everybody thinks about like, "Yes, we want to make sure that we have a diverse workforce who want to make sure that all folks feel like they are included, valued, and heard, and empowered to be able to come to work to do their best work." We want to retain our top talent. Those are the obvious things, those are like a bit of the table stakes, but we need to take it up a level further, which is just what is the benefit of that? The benefit of that is, of course, innovation, but the benefit of that is being able to build a product that is globally relevant and relevant to all folks from all communities. So yeah, we definitely frame it up that way.

Tim Beyers: Got it. You think about, in a way, you're taking a very expansive look at the market for Shopify. That seems like something I want, I'm a Shopify investor, so that makes a lot of sense to me. It doesn't always work out that way. This is the hard question. I want to pivot to this because it doesn't always work out this way. We're still going through some of the stuff right now, but I've heard you say that 2020 put in the wider spotlight these things that some sections of our world have experienced more acutely, black and brown people, be obvious about what that is. Some of the racial disparities in underrepresented communities here, and 2020 brought this to light, where do you think we are with this? How did it affect your work?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Yeah. I think for me personally, from a Shopify perspective, this team has been around for four years, so we've been having these conversations for a little bit of time. 2020 wasn't the first time that this was brought into our consciousness and we're having conversations. I think that that was something that I see as like a leg up, and I always tell folks who I'm talking to, just like have a diversity and belonging team, start thinking about these things; let's not make it reactive, let's make it proactive. What I think really did happen though, is that everybody was talking about it and we had the attention. I always describe it like that. Diversity and inclusion practitioners, diversity and belonging practitioners, we've always been at the party, but not everybody wants to talk to us, and now we're just like, "Who gets at the party where people are just like, 'Let's stop, let's build something here.'"

Tim Beyers: Let's talk about this. Yeah.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Let's talk about this. I think what is really interesting is that we are moving past talking into what can we do? What are the actions we're going to take to actually change this? How are we going to disrupt this? How are we going to make sure that what we're building is long-term? There's a lot of skepticism because we're seeing a lot of companies put up the black squares.

Tim Beyers: Sure.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: A lot of those statements like let's stand in solidarity with the Asian community, the indigenous community, etc. But what I really appreciated, again, was that it was moving past that. Society was really digging into, "We love your black square, thank you for standing for us, but what are you actually doing? We want to hear you articulate that." Again, we were really lucky enough at Shopify to have had that plan in place already. To not just build a diverse workforce and make sure that people, again, can come and show as themselves at work and just do their best work, but we're taking it a step further to be like, this strategy needs to encompass our merchants who are on our platform, how are we going to support them? What are we going to do there? It was really beautiful because we had a lot of really organic ideas come up from the folks at Shopify because we do have a diverse team, and we came up with some staff initiatives. One of those things is our black business directory, and this was an idea of our Black Employees Resource Group saying like, "Hey, 2020 has been challenging, we've seen a disproportionate amount of businesses that are black-owned close because of COVID, how can we help our merchants? How can we amplify their voices? How can we make sure that they make it through this?" It was great and it was beautiful because now we were thinking about, again, just past our people internally, but our merchants, our entrepreneurs, our customers, how can we support them? That's what I saw a little bit of a change internally. We were just talking about how can we make Shopify better? How can we make everything we touch in our ecosystem matter, our partners, our merchants, our customers? It was really cool to see that expansive thinking as we were talking about diversity, belonging, equity, inclusion, all the things, all the acronyms.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. What's striking about that to me is that if I heard you right, and tell me if I didn't, but this is something that came from the Black Employees Resource Group, it came from the bottom up, and it was an idea that bubbled to the top, and then the company got behind it.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Exactly. It's just how can you support the ideas from folks on communities, not putting all the work on them, but be like, "You have an idea? Okay. Let's go ahead and build this thing, let's get that idea some space and some time, and let's do it." I think that that was amazing, and I think more companies need to do that, which is don't put the task on people from underrepresented communities to also do the thing, but how can you support them and their ideas and bringing them into fruition. So yeah, you are hearing completely right in that thing.

Tim Beyers: Okay. Let me follow-up on that because that sounds like something that we, as a company, as the Motley Fool, that we can learn. But I wonder in that spirit, what's something you could teach us? But also, that sounds like an amazing when, right, what you just described. How do you keep the momentum for that? Because it feel, and tell me if I'm wrong about this. But in a moment of acute pain where we're trying to deal with that pain. It's the ideas are flowing because it's pain, and we react to it. How do you keep it going when the headlines start to die down?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Absolutely. This is like a real thing that we talk about, which is like diversity and inclusion fatigue, where people are hearing about all these things. We're also going through our individual experiences of moving through a global pandemic. There's no shortage of things competing for attention. It seems that the thing that's really important is, again, this is not a short-term thing. This has to be something that is long-term. If you were going to make commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, if 2020 was a jump off year for you. It was the catalyst phenomenon like, yes, let's keep on going. Let's build off of that momentum. But when we think about our diversity and belonging strategy, it is short, medium and long-term, and it has clearly articulated goals and metrics, what do success look like and how are you going to hold everybody accountable. Keep the conversation going. Again, 2020 just brought this stuff into people's purview, but it has always existed there, and it will continue to exist. These injustices, these inequities. Again, this was a moment where we were all talking about it, and using our attention, but it's not going to stop here. We need to continue to do this, you really need to serve for the root other problem, which is, how are you getting a dismantle systems of oppression and inequities and you're not going to do that overnight. You're not going to do that by just building a black business directory. You're not going to do that by just throwing up a black squares. You have to think about what is our long-term commitment here. You have to create those moments of rest for yourself. You got to keep on going, but you have to create those moments of rest, because it's really easy to get burnt out. When I say rest, rest doesn't mean inactivity, it's knowing, OK, I'm doing some stuff here. Maybe I'm going to scale back and just take some time to learn, learn and relearn, and then maybe you go back into action. But that action piece is so important, that taking the things that you are varying about, taking the conversations you're having, and doing something is like a key point that I think a lot of folks miss out on because of the fear of doing the wrong thing or the fear of doing something that's misinformed. But you have to move past that and do something about it.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. I mean, this is really interesting and there's multiple things we could key on there, but I'm going to limit it because we don't have an hour. [laughs] We're going to keep it to a little shorter. But something you said there that I think was very interesting is you have the short and the medium and the long, and so you have this multi-layered plan. Then I think what you were referencing there is, we're going to hold people accountable, which sounds like something you could teach us, is you're going to have metrics. Metrics about how we're going to measure success on diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Can you give us one or two metrics that are useful for you leading this effort at Shopify?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. When we talk about metrics and we talk about data, we break down into three areas. The way that we build our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, diversity and belonging strategy. There's so many names for it. Include data informed lens. When I say data informed, I mean not data-driven. We take that data, we look at it, and then we question and go a little bit deeper getting into like qualitative data and anecdotal data. But we look at representation data. What is [inaudible] like across all areas of the business? Not the business, not just entry-level, but leadership level and everything in between. That we also take a look at engagement data. We actually take our engagement data and we're able to provide a diversity and belonging report, which is just like, how are people doing from underrepresented communities at Shopify? Are there any disproportionate answers from groups of majority versus groups of the minority or underrepresented, underserved groups. Then we'll take a look at who's leaving Shopify and why. When you're thinking about data, people tend to over-index representation data, which is just like, let's hire as diversely as we can. Then they forget about what culture you're bringing people into, and are you sure that those folks are going to be able to thrive? Are you also looking at your policies and the way you've built your culture to make sure that that's inclusive. Because if you don't take care of that piece, then you are going to be hiring in vain. People aren't going to stay at your company. They are not going to stay in your organization because they're missing that sense and that feeling of belonging. When I say data, is like looking at those three pieces of data, and also just like talking to people who are your organizations, I'd like to never want to oversimplify this work, but empathy is such a huge part of this work. You get empathy through having conversations with people, and getting to know them, and understanding how they're doing. We make sure that we're data informed or we're taking it from like a human-centric angle, and we talk to folks, and how are you doing? Where can we improve? We strive to get better year-over-year. I think, when I say with data, it's important to look at those three. Of course, pay attention to representation and what your workforce looks like, but also make sure that just as close attention to how people are doing.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. You referenced something really key there. We know that it costs a lot more to hire an employee than it does to retain an employee. I think what you're heading at, there is something really important to have you created a culture that supports those underrepresented communities, they want to stay. I guess I want a reaction from you on this because it made me think, something I've seen in the news recently about the abuse of this idea that somebody we don't hire or we choose to let them go because they're not a "culture fit." This seems like something that is where we we give, I don't know how to react to it, Shavonne, and I wondered if you have some thoughts about this because, I'll admit it, it's a little frustrating for me because it almost feels like vague bookings, we're saying something very vague and as an excuse to do something that we probably shouldn't do. Maybe can you take that pull on this thread a little bit and help me out.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. I think it's really important to reframe the concept of culture fit as like a culture add. Again, maybe something that seems a little freely big. But every person who joins your organization is going to add something to your culture. Culture shouldn't be this binary thing, that you have defined probably very early on in your company's growth, probably by a very homogeneous group of individuals. If you're trying to fit people into this idea of the culture that you've build, that's again, not been built from many different perspectives, you're probably going to have a challenge retaining folks or people seeing themselves in your culture. I think that there is a more dynamic way to talk about culture, which is like, what people are going to add? What do you want people to add? Do we want people to add their passion? Do we want more entrepreneurial spirits? That can be defined in such a broad spectrum of definition. I think it's important, I won't say it's not important to have ideas of the culture in the environment that you are creating and you're cultivating within your organization. That's fine, that's cool. But how you define those things should be really dynamic. You shouldn't try and confine people to this like very narrow view of like a "culture" per se.

Tim Beyers: I have like a growth mindset about the culture that you're building. Not just how you got to build the company, but how you're going to build the culture, expecting that it will grow and change.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It will grow and change, and that's OK, that's necessary. If it's not growing and changing, then you're doing something wrong. I love that idea of growth mindset versus fixed mindset all the time, every time. [laughs] It's what we're looking for.

Tim Beyers: I mean, it is something we look for. Let me ask you then, as investors, and if I'm going to need you to correct me if I have this wrong, I believe that you are involved in, it's an investing, but it's like supporting entrepreneurs in Canada. Is that right? Am I thinking about this right?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Yeah

Tim Beyers: Okay.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: One firm for entrepreneurs. Yes, absolutely.

Tim Beyers: Okay, great. So you have some experience in this. We're investors, you're at The Motley Fool. So how should we think about companies that we invest in and from the outside in looking at the way they treat diversity, inclusion, and belonging. How should we look at it as part of our investing process?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I think I'm assuming as an investors that you're curious and you ask questions.

Tim Beyers: Absolutely.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It's just like, how can you ask some of the questions to un-earth, whether or not a company or organization or a start-up is thinking about these sorts of things in maybe the right way. So one thing I think that it's important and it might be harder with a smaller company that may just have one to two founders but you can also look like representation within those organizations and those companies. I would say, when you're looking at representation, look past gender. I feel like a lot of times when we think about or we talk about diversity, it's from this narrow vantage point of thinking of it from a gender identity perspective. I think that there's an inter-sectional approach that should be taking. If they do have five women who are involved in the organization, are they racialized women, like they belong to a different under-represented community? I would just say, look at the makeup of the company and the organization. If that company organization is it really lean, then talk to them about how they're planning to grow the organization. Are they considering diversity as something that they're going to prioritize as they continue to grow in scale? Do they have a diversity and inclusion strategy or goals, right? Do you see that anywhere when you look at their culture values, when you look at their mission and their vision. That's another thing you can do. Are they talking or thinking about product inclusion? That might be something that's not as obviously tied to DEI, but it's extraordinarily important. Are they talking about accessibility of their product or they're technically that they're building? This is another thing that you can look out for as well. I think, again, when you're a young company, sometimes you're not thinking about DEI at that phase, but it's so important to think about it at that point. As an investor, you're just like, I want to make sure that I'm investing in companies that care about things. They care about social impact. They care about diversity and inclusion. They care about the impact they're going to have on, again, the broader ecosystem, on the community, and on the world. Some of those questions are really good ones or just asking them, what do you care about? How do you want to change the world? What's the impact you want your product to have?

Tim Beyers: I love it and that sort of speaks to this idea, what we just talked about, this idea of a growth mindset. So are they thinking expansively about how they can have an impact? How their products going to have an impact? Yeah, I mean that theoretically at least that should lead to some bigger opportunities to grow that business over time. Okay, that's really interesting here.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Can I say one point real quick?

Tim Beyers: Yeah, please.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: As an investor, invest in businesses that are led by folks from under-represented and under-served communities as well. Can you diversify the businesses that you invest in? That's something that I always say which is just like, for sure, you probably want to invest in companies who are thinking of these things because those companies are going to innovate better or going to perform better. We don't often want to lead with the business case for diversity, but it's something that's important to acknowledge. But also diversifying the founders that you're investing in, as well is a great opportunity to do that.

Tim Beyers: We should highlight something there that you just said because there is something you do and I thank you for for keying on this. Tell me a little bit more about this effort you have. I hope I get this right. I believe it's the One Million Black Businesses effort with John Hope Bryant and Operation Hope. Is that right?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: That's it, you got it.

Tim Beyers: Okay, tell us a little bit more about that. How you're participating in that.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Sure, so One Million New Black Businesses, it launched in October of 2020. The mission or the goal for that is to create one million black businesses over 10 years. That is meant to disrupt the economic disparity that exists. We're focusing on the black community. How can we inspire folks to start more businesses as a way to empower and uplift their communities. The way that Shopify is involved here is we're like a founding partner. We are investing $130 million over 10 years to bring this into fruition and we're also offering folks who are in the program for a month free trial, as well as a 40-hour e-commerce certificate. It's just like how can we actually set you up for success once you get to Shopify and not just like here's a free trial, figure it out. Here's a free trial, we want you to be as successful as possible. So here's all this really rich curriculum so that you can be as powerful as possibly, you can be as impactful as possible. You cannot just start your business, but you can scale your business and you can also grow your business on Shopify and also have access to the amazing tools that they offer on the Hope Foundation side. They have some income businesses in the box which is managed for you to walk away with a sound business plan, financial literacy, education, access to one-on-one business coaches and mentors. So really, again, trying to set people up for success. We saw through the pandemic again, folks who were online really struggling and floundering. So [inaudible] of future proof needs black businesses. Something else that we know about black businesses is that the majority of black businesses, at least in the States, are sole proprietorship. So they don't have staff, they're not necessarily scaling like they can. We really want to make sure that folks are being able to scale their businesses as well, not just start them. Also aspiring entrepreneurs and black entrepreneurs to start all sorts of businesses, not just product companies, but tech companies to build apps and environmentally sustainable businesses. How can we inspire and encourage that in the community? So we're really excited. We're like Year 1 of 10 but we are seeing some really promising things happening and it's a joy. Also some other things that we're offering to folks who are in the program is a community. One thing we know about entrepreneurship, it's hard as hell. I'm an entrepreneur, come from a family of entrepreneurs. I've seen many of my parent's businesses fail and a couple of them succeed. Something that we know is that, it's really easy to quit because it's hard plus all the other stuff life is dealing you. One thing that we learned from talking to black entrepreneurs is that community is so helpful. Having a place to turn to, to get that encouragement, to have people answer your questions if you come up against a barrier. We have something called the Build Black Community, which is a Slack-based community for black entrepreneurs. Again, this was started by a Black and Play Resource Group. We've plugged that into One Million Black Businesses. People could feel a little less alone as they go through this entrepreneurial journey. People feel like they can be supported. People can feel again seen, included, valued, and heard. Those are some of the ways that we're supporting that initiative. It's a beautiful initiative. I have no doubt that we're going to be able to accomplish our goal. I think that, again, entrepreneurship as a tool for economic impairment is extraordinarily powerful.

Tim Beyers: That's awesome. I love the optimism. You're optimistic here. I love it. All right. We don't have very much time left. I'm going to rapid-fire these three last questions here. This one's a hard one but I expect you have a good answer here. We'll see if you have a sentence on it, and then you can expand as you want. If you look out five years from now, what do you expect? Where we're going to be? You're going to look back from 2026 back to 2021 and say, wow, diversity inclusion did what? What are we going to look back on and see?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: There is one thing that comes to mind, and we see it at Shopify, but I think it's important, and it's going to be a change we see. Diversity and belonging, those are organizational imperatives. Those are not nice-to-haves any more. If you do not, we know that people who are looking for jobs care about what the companies they're going to work for, care about as well. Companies needs to care about something, and they need to be cared about DEI. I really see that. This being an organizational imperative, being something that we see happening and becoming more prevalent and more prominent. I also think that action is going to be an essential part of this. I said a little bit earlier, but I feel like so many companies are talking the talk and not walking the walk. I know it's like a whole thing to say. I feel like my mom won't say something like that, but I just think that this isn't going to be no space for performative DEI years from now. I really think that the public, the general population, are holding companies and organizations to task, and they are saying, and what? What are you going to be doing? What snacks? How is this going to actually be built into your strategy? I am seeing those trends starting to happen but like you said, it's a bit of a lag. The energy shifts. Like we're talking DEI, and then we're talking about the pandemic, and then we're about politics, and then we're talking about something else. But I think that DEI is going to be a consistent priority that companies are going to have to participate in. It's going to have to be an imperative. It's not going to be something that you can choose to tap in or tap out of.

Tim Beyers: I like that. I mean, let's work toward that. What's been the biggest shift like so six years working on this at Shopify, what's been the biggest shift in your thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion in that time?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It is a marathon. [laughs]

Tim Beyers: It's a marathon, OK. [laughs]

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It is a marathon. I think coming into this work initially I was just like, OK, cool. Yeah, of course. We're going to make sure that people are treated equitably, and we're going to meet this whole diversity and inclusion thing. But we're dismantling systems that have existed for centuries and that does not happen overnight. That is something that is going to take time. I think that has been one of the biggest learnings for me. Also, it's so important to meet people where they are along their diversity, equity, and inclusion journeys.

Tim Beyers: Sure.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Everybody has their own lived experiences. Everybody has their own perspectives. I need to be able to hold space for people based on where they are and have them come along with the journey for me. I think that's something that's really important that I want as many companies to take away, this one thing, if there's anything, which is the power of building with community versus building for community. I see a lot of organizations put in all these programs and these products and these learnings to help support diversity and belonging and their organizations, and they don't hit the mark because they are built from one perspective. I think what's so important, what I love at Shopify is through the work we do with our employee resource groups. Through the work we do with our belonging, connectors is like we're in community, and we understand what their challenges are. We understand what's working. We take all of that context and all of that data, and we apply it to help build for the future. That is the most powerful thing. If you're thinking of it from a product inclusion perspective, it's so important as well. Talk to folks from communities that you want to build for so that what you're building is as informed as possible. Building with, not-for, that is.

Tim Beyers: I love that. It's a good reminder for especially me, I'm bad at this. But listening, empathy is crucial.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It's crucial.

Tim Beyers: Let's end here. This is more of a silly question here, we just talked about something exhausting and yet it turns out, Shavonne, that you worked at an energy drink company.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I did it.

Tim Beyers: A while back. Here is the question. To overcome the exhaustion, [laughs] how many Red Bulls, Shavonne, is too many Red Bulls? [laughs] Is there such a thing? Assume many Red Bulls when Red Bulls give you wings.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Let me tell you. [laughs] This is what I always say. This is like post Red Bull [inaudible] . If I need to drink Red Bull or coffee or any sort of stimulant, I really ask myself, do I just need to get more rest? [laughs] Is that what will be happening here? But I would say I love Red Bull as a product. When I'm going for long drives, there is nothing better to me than cracking a Red Bull and drinking it. I'm going to say one to two Red Bull is good. I'm not going to be like unlimited Red Bull because I actually don't believe that. I'd say one or two.

Tim Beyers: One or two is good while I'm on my second cup of coffee somewhere right there. I'm right there with you. Well, this is great. Thank you, Shavonne. We really appreciate you coming on and talking with us about this really important topic. It was really fun too to have a chance to chat with you. I hope that what we'll do is as you're making progress and gaining insights, we would love to learn. We would love to listen to you. So if you're willing to come back and talk to us more, I guarantee that we will be able to learn more from you.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I would love that. That would be wonderful and thank you to you for having me on this show. Thank you for all the Fools for tuning in and listening. I would be happy to come back and share as I learn.

Tim Beyers: That's awesome. All right, great. Well, thanks, Fools. Stay tuned for more programming here, and we'll see you soon. Fool on.

Tim Beyers: Hey, Fools. I'm Tim Beyers, Lead Advisor for Cloud Disruptors 2020, and I'm here with Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, who is the Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Shopify. Do I have that right, Shavonne?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: You've got it right and I'm going to say, Hey Fools, because the way that you said that just made me chuckle giggle to myself, thank you.

Tim Beyers: That's what we call ourselves. It's awesome. What is the Shopify nickname, like what do Shopify employees call themselves?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: We're Shopper Folk.

Tim Beyers: Shopper Folk.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: We're Shopper Folk. Yeah.

Tim Beyers: I mean, Shoppers doesn't seem right.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: No. [laughs]

Tim Beyers: Shopper [laughs] Folk seems better. Okay. That's good. I like that. You've done a lot of work in this area and I don't want to give your resume, but I do want to just remind folks that you have a lot of expertise in this area. You've been at Shopify for about six years now and you've climbed up through the ranks, going all the way from specializing in culture to now being the senior lead for diversity and belonging. I want to talk a little bit about your journey, but one of the key insights I've heard you say, and I want to start with this question, so maybe give us a little background and say, this is what I heard you say, that you can't create a product for all people unless you have a strategy to include all people on how you run your business. Is that how you think about your role at Shopify and maybe you could expand on that a little bit?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. I think it's pretty self-evident if you want to build a product that's going to be accessible for everyone. We have a really big mission, it's to make commerce better for everyone. In order to make a product that can actually make commerce better for everyone, we need to have all of those perspectives at the table, in terms of informing how we build that product. So yeah, we think of it, not limited to that, but that's like a really big piece of the pie. When I think of diversity and belonging in the work that we do, there is, of course, the internal initiatives that everybody thinks about like, "Yes, we want to make sure that we have a diverse workforce who want to make sure that all folks feel like they are included, valued, and heard, and empowered to be able to come to work to do their best work." We want to retain our top talent. Those are the obvious things, those are like a bit of the table stakes, but we need to take it up a level further, which is just what is the benefit of that? The benefit of that is, of course, innovation, but the benefit of that is being able to build a product that is globally relevant and relevant to all folks from all communities. So yeah, we definitely frame it up that way.

Tim Beyers: Got it. You think about, in a way, you're taking a very expansive look at the market for Shopify. That seems like something I want, I'm a Shopify investor, so that makes a lot of sense to me. It doesn't always work out that way. This is the hard question. I want to pivot to this because it doesn't always work out this way. We're still going through some of the stuff right now, but I've heard you say that 2020 put in the wider spotlight these things that some sections of our world have experienced more acutely, black and brown people, be obvious about what that is. Some of the racial disparities in underrepresented communities here, and 2020 brought this to light, where do you think we are with this? How did it affect your work?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Yeah. I think for me personally, from a Shopify perspective, this team has been around for four years, so we've been having these conversations for a little bit of time. 2020 wasn't the first time that this was brought into our consciousness and we're having conversations. I think that that was something that I see as like a leg up, and I always tell folks who I'm talking to, just like have a diversity and belonging team, start thinking about these things; let's not make it reactive, let's make it proactive. What I think really did happen though, is that everybody was talking about it and we had the attention. I always describe it like that. Diversity and inclusion practitioners, diversity and belonging practitioners, we've always been at the party, but not everybody wants to talk to us, and now we're just like, "Who gets at the party where people are just like, 'Let's stop, let's build something here.'"

Tim Beyers: Let's talk about this. Yeah.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Let's talk about this. I think what is really interesting is that we are moving past talking into what can we do? What are the actions we're going to take to actually change this? How are we going to disrupt this? How are we going to make sure that what we're building is long-term? There's a lot of skepticism because we're seeing a lot of companies put up the black squares.

Tim Beyers: Sure.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: A lot of those statements like let's stand in solidarity with the Asian community, the indigenous community, etc. But what I really appreciated, again, was that it was moving past that. Society was really digging into, "We love your black square, thank you for standing for us, but what are you actually doing? We want to hear you articulate that." Again, we were really lucky enough at Shopify to have had that plan in place already. To not just build a diverse workforce and make sure that people, again, can come and show as themselves at work and just do their best work, but we're taking it a step further to be like, this strategy needs to encompass our merchants who are on our platform, how are we going to support them? What are we going to do there? It was really beautiful because we had a lot of really organic ideas come up from the folks at Shopify because we do have a diverse team, and we came up with some staff initiatives. One of those things is our black business directory, and this was an idea of our Black Employees Resource Group saying like, "Hey, 2020 has been challenging, we've seen a disproportionate amount of businesses that are black-owned close because of COVID, how can we help our merchants? How can we amplify their voices? How can we make sure that they make it through this?" It was great and it was beautiful because now we were thinking about, again, just past our people internally, but our merchants, our entrepreneurs, our customers, how can we support them? That's what I saw a little bit of a change internally. We were just talking about how can we make Shopify better? How can we make everything we touch in our ecosystem matter, our partners, our merchants, our customers? It was really cool to see that expansive thinking as we were talking about diversity, belonging, equity, inclusion, all the things, all the acronyms.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. What's striking about that to me is that if I heard you right, and tell me if I didn't, but this is something that came from the Black Employees Resource Group, it came from the bottom up, and it was an idea that bubbled to the top, and then the company got behind it.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Exactly. It's just how can you support the ideas from folks on communities, not putting all the work on them, but be like, "You have an idea? Okay. Let's go ahead and build this thing, let's get that idea some space and some time, and let's do it." I think that that was amazing, and I think more companies need to do that, which is don't put the task on people from underrepresented communities to also do the thing, but how can you support them and their ideas and bringing them into fruition. So yeah, you are hearing completely right in that thing.

Tim Beyers: Okay. Let me follow-up on that because that sounds like something that we, as a company, as the Motley Fool, that we can learn. But I wonder in that spirit, what's something you could teach us? But also, that sounds like an amazing when, right, what you just described. How do you keep the momentum for that? Because it feel, and tell me if I'm wrong about this. But in a moment of acute pain where we're trying to deal with that pain. It's the ideas are flowing because it's pain, and we react to it. How do you keep it going when the headlines start to die down?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Absolutely. This is like a real thing that we talk about, which is like diversity and inclusion fatigue, where people are hearing about all these things. We're also going through our individual experiences of moving through a global pandemic. There's no shortage of things competing for attention. It seems that the thing that's really important is, again, this is not a short-term thing. This has to be something that is long-term. If you were going to make commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, if 2020 was a jump off year for you. It was the catalyst phenomenon like, yes, let's keep on going. Let's build off of that momentum. But when we think about our diversity and belonging strategy, it is short, medium and long-term, and it has clearly articulated goals and metrics, what do success look like and how are you going to hold everybody accountable. Keep the conversation going. Again, 2020 just brought this stuff into people's purview, but it has always existed there, and it will continue to exist. These injustices, these inequities. Again, this was a moment where we were all talking about it, and using our attention, but it's not going to stop here. We need to continue to do this, you really need to serve for the root other problem, which is, how are you getting a dismantle systems of oppression and inequities and you're not going to do that overnight. You're not going to do that by just building a black business directory. You're not going to do that by just throwing up a black squares. You have to think about what is our long-term commitment here. You have to create those moments of rest for yourself. You got to keep on going, but you have to create those moments of rest, because it's really easy to get burnt out. When I say rest, rest doesn't mean inactivity, it's knowing, OK, I'm doing some stuff here. Maybe I'm going to scale back and just take some time to learn, learn and relearn, and then maybe you go back into action. But that action piece is so important, that taking the things that you are varying about, taking the conversations you're having, and doing something is like a key point that I think a lot of folks miss out on because of the fear of doing the wrong thing or the fear of doing something that's misinformed. But you have to move past that and do something about it.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. I mean, this is really interesting and there's multiple things we could key on there, but I'm going to limit it because we don't have an hour. [laughs] We're going to keep it to a little shorter. But something you said there that I think was very interesting is you have the short and the medium and the long, and so you have this multi-layered plan. Then I think what you were referencing there is, we're going to hold people accountable, which sounds like something you could teach us, is you're going to have metrics. Metrics about how we're going to measure success on diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Can you give us one or two metrics that are useful for you leading this effort at Shopify?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. When we talk about metrics and we talk about data, we break down into three areas. The way that we build our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, diversity and belonging strategy. There's so many names for it. Include data informed lens. When I say data informed, I mean not data-driven. We take that data, we look at it, and then we question and go a little bit deeper getting into like qualitative data and anecdotal data. But we look at representation data. What is [inaudible] like across all areas of the business? Not the business, not just entry-level, but leadership level and everything in between. That we also take a look at engagement data. We actually take our engagement data and we're able to provide a diversity and belonging report, which is just like, how are people doing from underrepresented communities at Shopify? Are there any disproportionate answers from groups of majority versus groups of the minority or underrepresented, underserved groups. Then we'll take a look at who's leaving Shopify and why. When you're thinking about data, people tend to over-index representation data, which is just like, let's hire as diversely as we can. Then they forget about what culture you're bringing people into, and are you sure that those folks are going to be able to thrive? Are you also looking at your policies and the way you've built your culture to make sure that that's inclusive. Because if you don't take care of that piece, then you are going to be hiring in vain. People aren't going to stay at your company. They are not going to stay in your organization because they're missing that sense and that feeling of belonging. When I say data, is like looking at those three pieces of data, and also just like talking to people who are your organizations, I'd like to never want to oversimplify this work, but empathy is such a huge part of this work. You get empathy through having conversations with people, and getting to know them, and understanding how they're doing. We make sure that we're data informed or we're taking it from like a human-centric angle, and we talk to folks, and how are you doing? Where can we improve? We strive to get better year-over-year. I think, when I say with data, it's important to look at those three. Of course, pay attention to representation and what your workforce looks like, but also make sure that just as close attention to how people are doing.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. You referenced something really key there. We know that it costs a lot more to hire an employee than it does to retain an employee. I think what you're heading at, there is something really important to have you created a culture that supports those underrepresented communities, they want to stay. I guess I want a reaction from you on this because it made me think, something I've seen in the news recently about the abuse of this idea that somebody we don't hire or we choose to let them go because they're not a "culture fit." This seems like something that is where we we give, I don't know how to react to it, Shavonne, and I wondered if you have some thoughts about this because, I'll admit it, it's a little frustrating for me because it almost feels like vague bookings, we're saying something very vague and as an excuse to do something that we probably shouldn't do. Maybe can you take that pull on this thread a little bit and help me out.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: For sure. I think it's really important to reframe the concept of culture fit as like a culture add. Again, maybe something that seems a little freely big. But every person who joins your organization is going to add something to your culture. Culture shouldn't be this binary thing, that you have defined probably very early on in your company's growth, probably by a very homogeneous group of individuals. If you're trying to fit people into this idea of the culture that you've build, that's again, not been built from many different perspectives, you're probably going to have a challenge retaining folks or people seeing themselves in your culture. I think that there is a more dynamic way to talk about culture, which is like, what people are going to add? What do you want people to add? Do we want people to add their passion? Do we want more entrepreneurial spirits? That can be defined in such a broad spectrum of definition. I think it's important, I won't say it's not important to have ideas of the culture in the environment that you are creating and you're cultivating within your organization. That's fine, that's cool. But how you define those things should be really dynamic. You shouldn't try and confine people to this like very narrow view of like a "culture" per se.

Tim Beyers: I have like a growth mindset about the culture that you're building. Not just how you got to build the company, but how you're going to build the culture, expecting that it will grow and change.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It will grow and change, and that's OK, that's necessary. If it's not growing and changing, then you're doing something wrong. I love that idea of growth mindset versus fixed mindset all the time, every time. [laughs] It's what we're looking for.

Tim Beyers: I mean, it is something we look for. Let me ask you then, as investors, and if I'm going to need you to correct me if I have this wrong, I believe that you are involved in, it's an investing, but it's like supporting entrepreneurs in Canada. Is that right? Am I thinking about this right?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Yeah

Tim Beyers: Okay.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: One firm for entrepreneurs. Yes, absolutely.

Tim Beyers: Okay, great. So you have some experience in this. We're investors, you're at The Motley Fool. So how should we think about companies that we invest in and from the outside in looking at the way they treat diversity, inclusion, and belonging. How should we look at it as part of our investing process?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I think I'm assuming as an investors that you're curious and you ask questions.

Tim Beyers: Absolutely.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It's just like, how can you ask some of the questions to un-earth, whether or not a company or organization or a start-up is thinking about these sorts of things in maybe the right way. So one thing I think that it's important and it might be harder with a smaller company that may just have one to two founders but you can also look like representation within those organizations and those companies. I would say, when you're looking at representation, look past gender. I feel like a lot of times when we think about or we talk about diversity, it's from this narrow vantage point of thinking of it from a gender identity perspective. I think that there's an inter-sectional approach that should be taking. If they do have five women who are involved in the organization, are they racialized women, like they belong to a different under-represented community? I would just say, look at the makeup of the company and the organization. If that company organization is it really lean, then talk to them about how they're planning to grow the organization. Are they considering diversity as something that they're going to prioritize as they continue to grow in scale? Do they have a diversity and inclusion strategy or goals, right? Do you see that anywhere when you look at their culture values, when you look at their mission and their vision. That's another thing you can do. Are they talking or thinking about product inclusion? That might be something that's not as obviously tied to DEI, but it's extraordinarily important. Are they talking about accessibility of their product or they're technically that they're building? This is another thing that you can look out for as well. I think, again, when you're a young company, sometimes you're not thinking about DEI at that phase, but it's so important to think about it at that point. As an investor, you're just like, I want to make sure that I'm investing in companies that care about things. They care about social impact. They care about diversity and inclusion. They care about the impact they're going to have on, again, the broader ecosystem, on the community, and on the world. Some of those questions are really good ones or just asking them, what do you care about? How do you want to change the world? What's the impact you want your product to have?

Tim Beyers: I love it and that sort of speaks to this idea, what we just talked about, this idea of a growth mindset. So are they thinking expansively about how they can have an impact? How their products going to have an impact? Yeah, I mean that theoretically at least that should lead to some bigger opportunities to grow that business over time. Okay, that's really interesting here.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Can I say one point real quick?

Tim Beyers: Yeah, please.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: As an investor, invest in businesses that are led by folks from under-represented and under-served communities as well. Can you diversify the businesses that you invest in? That's something that I always say which is just like, for sure, you probably want to invest in companies who are thinking of these things because those companies are going to innovate better or going to perform better. We don't often want to lead with the business case for diversity, but it's something that's important to acknowledge. But also diversifying the founders that you're investing in, as well is a great opportunity to do that.

Tim Beyers: We should highlight something there that you just said because there is something you do and I thank you for for keying on this. Tell me a little bit more about this effort you have. I hope I get this right. I believe it's the One Million Black Businesses effort with John Hope Bryant and Operation Hope. Is that right?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: That's it, you got it.

Tim Beyers: Okay, tell us a little bit more about that. How you're participating in that.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Sure, so One Million New Black Businesses, it launched in October of 2020. The mission or the goal for that is to create one million black businesses over 10 years. That is meant to disrupt the economic disparity that exists. We're focusing on the black community. How can we inspire folks to start more businesses as a way to empower and uplift their communities. The way that Shopify is involved here is we're like a founding partner. We are investing $130 million over 10 years to bring this into fruition and we're also offering folks who are in the program for a month free trial, as well as a 40-hour e-commerce certificate. It's just like how can we actually set you up for success once you get to Shopify and not just like here's a free trial, figure it out. Here's a free trial, we want you to be as successful as possible. So here's all this really rich curriculum so that you can be as powerful as possibly, you can be as impactful as possible. You cannot just start your business, but you can scale your business and you can also grow your business on Shopify and also have access to the amazing tools that they offer on the Hope Foundation side. They have some income businesses in the box which is managed for you to walk away with a sound business plan, financial literacy, education, access to one-on-one business coaches and mentors. So really, again, trying to set people up for success. We saw through the pandemic again, folks who were online really struggling and floundering. So [inaudible] of future proof needs black businesses. Something else that we know about black businesses is that the majority of black businesses, at least in the States, are sole proprietorship. So they don't have staff, they're not necessarily scaling like they can. We really want to make sure that folks are being able to scale their businesses as well, not just start them. Also aspiring entrepreneurs and black entrepreneurs to start all sorts of businesses, not just product companies, but tech companies to build apps and environmentally sustainable businesses. How can we inspire and encourage that in the community? So we're really excited. We're like Year 1 of 10 but we are seeing some really promising things happening and it's a joy. Also some other things that we're offering to folks who are in the program is a community. One thing we know about entrepreneurship, it's hard as hell. I'm an entrepreneur, come from a family of entrepreneurs. I've seen many of my parent's businesses fail and a couple of them succeed. Something that we know is that, it's really easy to quit because it's hard plus all the other stuff life is dealing you. One thing that we learned from talking to black entrepreneurs is that community is so helpful. Having a place to turn to, to get that encouragement, to have people answer your questions if you come up against a barrier. We have something called the Build Black Community, which is a Slack-based community for black entrepreneurs. Again, this was started by a Black and Play Resource Group. We've plugged that into One Million Black Businesses. People could feel a little less alone as they go through this entrepreneurial journey. People feel like they can be supported. People can feel again seen, included, valued, and heard. Those are some of the ways that we're supporting that initiative. It's a beautiful initiative. I have no doubt that we're going to be able to accomplish our goal. I think that, again, entrepreneurship as a tool for economic impairment is extraordinarily powerful.

Tim Beyers: That's awesome. I love the optimism. You're optimistic here. I love it. All right. We don't have very much time left. I'm going to rapid-fire these three last questions here. This one's a hard one but I expect you have a good answer here. We'll see if you have a sentence on it, and then you can expand as you want. If you look out five years from now, what do you expect? Where we're going to be? You're going to look back from 2026 back to 2021 and say, wow, diversity inclusion did what? What are we going to look back on and see?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: There is one thing that comes to mind, and we see it at Shopify, but I think it's important, and it's going to be a change we see. Diversity and belonging, those are organizational imperatives. Those are not nice-to-haves any more. If you do not, we know that people who are looking for jobs care about what the companies they're going to work for, care about as well. Companies needs to care about something, and they need to be cared about DEI. I really see that. This being an organizational imperative, being something that we see happening and becoming more prevalent and more prominent. I also think that action is going to be an essential part of this. I said a little bit earlier, but I feel like so many companies are talking the talk and not walking the walk. I know it's like a whole thing to say. I feel like my mom won't say something like that, but I just think that this isn't going to be no space for performative DEI years from now. I really think that the public, the general population, are holding companies and organizations to task, and they are saying, and what? What are you going to be doing? What snacks? How is this going to actually be built into your strategy? I am seeing those trends starting to happen but like you said, it's a bit of a lag. The energy shifts. Like we're talking DEI, and then we're talking about the pandemic, and then we're about politics, and then we're talking about something else. But I think that DEI is going to be a consistent priority that companies are going to have to participate in. It's going to have to be an imperative. It's not going to be something that you can choose to tap in or tap out of.

Tim Beyers: I like that. I mean, let's work toward that. What's been the biggest shift like so six years working on this at Shopify, what's been the biggest shift in your thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion in that time?

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It is a marathon. [laughs]

Tim Beyers: It's a marathon, OK. [laughs]

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It is a marathon. I think coming into this work initially I was just like, OK, cool. Yeah, of course. We're going to make sure that people are treated equitably, and we're going to meet this whole diversity and inclusion thing. But we're dismantling systems that have existed for centuries and that does not happen overnight. That is something that is going to take time. I think that has been one of the biggest learnings for me. Also, it's so important to meet people where they are along their diversity, equity, and inclusion journeys.

Tim Beyers: Sure.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Everybody has their own lived experiences. Everybody has their own perspectives. I need to be able to hold space for people based on where they are and have them come along with the journey for me. I think that's something that's really important that I want as many companies to take away, this one thing, if there's anything, which is the power of building with community versus building for community. I see a lot of organizations put in all these programs and these products and these learnings to help support diversity and belonging and their organizations, and they don't hit the mark because they are built from one perspective. I think what's so important, what I love at Shopify is through the work we do with our employee resource groups. Through the work we do with our belonging, connectors is like we're in community, and we understand what their challenges are. We understand what's working. We take all of that context and all of that data, and we apply it to help build for the future. That is the most powerful thing. If you're thinking of it from a product inclusion perspective, it's so important as well. Talk to folks from communities that you want to build for so that what you're building is as informed as possible. Building with, not-for, that is.

Tim Beyers: I love that. It's a good reminder for especially me, I'm bad at this. But listening, empathy is crucial.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: It's crucial.

Tim Beyers: Let's end here. This is more of a silly question here, we just talked about something exhausting and yet it turns out, Shavonne, that you worked at an energy drink company.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I did it.

Tim Beyers: A while back. Here is the question. To overcome the exhaustion, [laughs] how many Red Bulls, Shavonne, is too many Red Bulls? [laughs] Is there such a thing? Assume many Red Bulls when Red Bulls give you wings.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: Let me tell you. [laughs] This is what I always say. This is like post Red Bull [inaudible] . If I need to drink Red Bull or coffee or any sort of stimulant, I really ask myself, do I just need to get more rest? [laughs] Is that what will be happening here? But I would say I love Red Bull as a product. When I'm going for long drives, there is nothing better to me than cracking a Red Bull and drinking it. I'm going to say one to two Red Bull is good. I'm not going to be like unlimited Red Bull because I actually don't believe that. I'd say one or two.

Tim Beyers: One or two is good while I'm on my second cup of coffee somewhere right there. I'm right there with you. Well, this is great. Thank you, Shavonne. We really appreciate you coming on and talking with us about this really important topic. It was really fun too to have a chance to chat with you. I hope that what we'll do is as you're making progress and gaining insights, we would love to learn. We would love to listen to you. So if you're willing to come back and talk to us more, I guarantee that we will be able to learn more from you.

Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh: I would love that. That would be wonderful and thank you to you for having me on this show. Thank you for all the Fools for tuning in and listening. I would be happy to come back and share as I learn.

Tim Beyers: That's awesome. All right, great. Well, thanks, Fools. Stay tuned for more programming here, and we'll see you soon. Fool on.

Tim Beyers owns shares of Shopify. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Shopify. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $1,140 calls on Shopify and short January 2023 $1,160 calls on Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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