Diversity & Inclusion

Poised to Make Her Mark in the DEI Space

For so many of the diversity and inclusion leaders we speak with, a formative time in their careers was during higher education. This is due at least in part to the fact that DEI efforts are still relatively novel in the corporate world, and many of the new ideas, strategies and practices used by DEI professionals are formulated in academic settings before they’re rolled out to the business world. This is just how Randi Bryant, Chief Diversity Officer of Freshworks Inc., got her start.

“While I was studying for my PhD at the University of Virginia I was developing DEI curriculums for technology companies that struggled with explaining and supporting their product and/or applications to a diverse set of users,” explains Bryant. “I fell in love with the work and I decided not to pursue my PhD and instead to focus on my passion full time. I then worked as the Director of Training for CAIS Internet full-time. Over the last two decades I’ve run Bryant Consulting Group, where I worked with many companies, both large and small.” 

Randi Bryant diversity
Randi Bryant

A Life-Long Focus on DEI

Even before she began her formal training in DEI, Bryant says her upbringing and the importance her family placed on DEI efforts had an important impact on her outlook toward diversity, equity and inclusion. “My entire life has groomed me for this work,” she says. “My family is very diverse—we always have conversations about different issues during holiday gatherings and your value in the family is dependent upon having an opinion. When I grew up, I realized that not everyone had these tough conversations and the world wasn’t like my dining room table.”

Bryant’s commitment to DEI is evident in her career path. Each job she’s held is somehow related to DEI efforts. “In my professional life, every job I have ever had has been based on my commitment to D&I, even when the field didn’t exist,” she says. “I wrote my master’s thesis on multiculturalism and how to reach diverse populations. I may have held various titles throughout my career, but all of my previous jobs have been about how to create environments where all people feel valued and how to give people practical skills to work with others, even when they are different.”

From External Consultant to FTE

Like several of the DEI professionals we’ve talked to as part of this series, Bryant began her role with her current organization not as a full-time employee, but as an external consultant. Her decision to take a full-time position with Freshworks is based on what felt like a great fit for both Bryant and Freshworks.

“This is a new position at Freshworks,” Bryant says. “I had been consulting for the company for two months with no intentions of being hired as a permanent employee but I was honestly so impressed with the work that had already been done—it was like a business Cinderella story.”

Bryant says that she always considers a client’s readiness for focusing, or refocusing, their efforts on DEI and their ability to do the work to create a culturally safe environment for all. Freshworks, she says, “was already there and even past many other companies I had previously worked with.” Bryant says that she knew she could come in to the newly created position “and make a major impact because they were truly ready.”

Employee Resource Groups

Freshworks, like many companies that excel in their DEI efforts, makes heavy use of employee resource groups, or ERGs. The company recently formalized and enhanced its ERGs. These are now all global to amplify voices and advance these interests across all locations. Prior to this Bryant says the company was working in silos. 

“We also recently announced the official launch of our LGBTQIA ERG and we have two existing ERGs, PRIDEworks and Women 360,” says Bryant. “Freshworks Women 360 is focused on advancing professional development and boosting leadership visibility for women within the company.”

Objective Results Tell the Story of Freshworks’ Diversity Efforts

Many companies invest a great deal of time and effort into diversity efforts but still find themselves coming up short in terms of meeting desired goals. Freshworks doesn’t fall into this category, however. Their diversity numbers are truly impressive, at all levels of the organization. “Freshworks has increased diversity across all levels—from the boardroom to the management team to entry-level applicants,” says Bryant. In fact, she says, “93% of the Freshworks executive team is composed of people of color. In the last four months, over 68% of our leadership hires were women and/or people of color.” In addition, 80% of Freshworks’ executive team are people of color and 20% are women. At the executive level, Freshworks is approaching 30% female representation on its leadership team; 25% of the board of directors are women; 37% are Asia

Bryant says that in 2020, Freshworks led an industry-wide effort to increase representation of women, issuing a #PledgeForEquality commitment to have women make up at least 33% of its workforce. “Despite everything that happened last year, we came extremely close to our goal, with women making up 32% of our team today globally,” she says. “The company has more than 1300 women employees globally and we issued a pledge to increase representation of women in its workforce to at least 40% by 2023.”

Much of Freshworks’ success in its DEI efforts boils down to recruitment. “We have moved the needle across all levels—from the boardroom and leadership levels to our college graduate hiring,” says Bryant. “We are recruiting at historically black colleges and universities in North America and expanding at colleges from which we recruit in India. We are working with The National Society of Black Engineers and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and we will be looking to work with other organizations in the future. We also have diverse hiring panels and training programs for hiring managers.”

A Robust DEI Program

Bryant and Freshworks walk the walk when it comes to DEI efforts. The sheer number of initiatives they promote is evidence of their ambitious approach. In addition to the programs mentioned above, some of the additional ways Freshworks prioritizes a diverse culture include:

  • Weekly global conversations where employees have a safe space to share their cultures.
  • A global holiday calendar.
  • A diversity task force.
  • Company-wide ERGs.
  • Partnerships with diverse organizations.
  • Flexible days off so people can observe holidays of their choice and attend to family obligations or other matters as they choose.
  • Gender-neutral policies.
  • Continuous education on topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Bryant’s entire career—indeed her upbringing—paved the way for her success in the DEI field. The ambitious initiatives she’s promoted with Freshworks as well as the success evident in the company’s diversity numbers are a testament to a successful partnership.