Jackie Cureton got her feet wet in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts not at work but as part of her role as a mother. Today, however, she is actively and diligently pursuing DEI in her professional life, as well, as VP of DEI at Bitly.
A Powerful Personal Motivation to Enter DEI
Cureton says her first experience with DEI efforts began in relation to her daughter’s education. “My career in diversity started on a personal level—at my daughter’s school,” she says. “She attended a private school and I recognized that she wasn’t showing up authentically at school. I partnered with another parent and the school’s diversity director to build out a more robust program focused on getting to the core and including the entire school family—administration, staff, faculty and students, as well as the parents.”
Taking her experience from working with her daughter’s school, Cureton next considered how DEI efforts might be leveraged within her employer’s organization in her professional capacity. “I then pivoted this focus to where I work and brought together leaders and formed a committee,” Cureton says. “This initial focus in the workplace was grassroots and we figured it out as we went. That was the start of my involvement with DEI in the workplace.”
Gaining Experience, Making a Difference
Cureton then moved into a role in HR reporting to the chief people officer at a major global organization, where diversity became part of her core mandate and where she was able to push forward major diversity initiatives in collaboration with others. More recently, Cureton worked for one of the world’s top consulting firms, where she co-led its financial services industries DEI enablement team.
Before joining the Bitly team, Cureton led diversity initiatives on varying levels for over 15 years, from co-chairing a global Black Employee Network to working on initiatives that touch the organization holistically—workforce, marketplace, and society. “I like to say we need to ‘go beyond events’ a mantra my Business Resource Group (BRG) co-chair and I adopted as a majority of the work tends to be surface level,” Cureton says. “And so, my one non-negotiable doing this work has been that I will only do this if I can do it right.”
Key DEI Initiatives at Bitly
Cureton is the first person at Bitly to hold her position. However, she notes that the company had some formal and informal initiatives in progress at the time she joined, giving her the opportunity to build off of previous efforts after stepping into her role. Cureton says that some of Bitly’s DEI efforts are still in their early stages, but she highlights a couple of key initiatives.
“We have a DEI Council that helps us establish and focus on our DEI initiatives,” she says. “We’ve established a committee focused on racism and discrimination (BARD: Bitizens against Racism and Discrimination),” which is an employee-driven committee. Externally, she says, “We recently launched Spotlight on Inclusion, a program that provides Bitly’s platform free of charge to non-profit organizations working toward equity and inclusion.”
Cureton says Bitly is also looking to launch more employee resource groups (ERGs) to help cultivate a workplace and culture where employees feel seen, heard, and respected. “We are also keen to look at this from a systems and programming standpoint,” she says.
Cureton describes Bitly’s overall DEI strategy as broad-based. “We’ve taken a holistic approach to this,” she says. “As we build out our internal infrastructure, we are ensuring that DEI is represented in all key conversations, from product development to workforce transformation efforts.” She adds that Bitly knows building a successful DEI-focused organization is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We are focused on building a sustainable infrastructure and embedding this into the DNA of all that we do at Bitly,” she says. “A lot of work to be done and a lot more to come on this.”
A Dynamic, Ongoing Effort
One of the benefits of starting relatively fresh with DEI initiatives is the ability to be agile and avoid getting bogged down by monolithic policies and procedures inherited from previous programs. Agility is extremely important in DEI efforts because the focus and the rules change so rapidly. Keeping one’s finger on the pulse of one’s workforce is essential to staying ahead of the curve and meeting workers where they are.
“We are constantly analyzing and exploring ways we can support diverse workers better,” says Cureton. “We conduct surveys to get a pulse and understanding of what we are doing well and where there is an opportunity to improve. With my recent appointment, this is a key area of focus and priority of mine and of Bitly leadership.”
DEI Policy as a Recruitment Tool
Like many organizations that have invested heavily in DEI initiatives, Bitly’s commitment to DEI is an advantage in recruitment efforts generally, as talent, younger workers in particular, prefers working for diverse companies, with many saying a lack of diversity and inclusion is a deal breaker.
Cureton’s own path to Bitly is a great example of how DEI policies can positively impact recruitment, something particularly critical for employers in today’s tight job market. “My journey to Bitly was a traditional one,” explains Cureton. “I was recruited. However, my decision to take on this role was influenced by some key factors. The commitment and passion from leadership and all across the organization in this area as well as our CEO’s commitment to make sure inclusion is a cornerstone of what we were building was important to me.”
Other Recruitment Tools
Bitly doesn’t simply count on its DEI efforts to passively attract candidates who somehow learn about them. Enhancing the recruitment process is still a key priority for Cureton and her team.
“This is an evolving space,” she says. “We are continuously looking to expand how and where we source, and to provide training for our hiring managers as well as the Talent Acquisition team.” In addition, Bitly conducts panel interviews and has deep discussions around each candidate to ensure it has multiple perspectives to draw from, minimizing the potential for bias in the hiring process.
At Bitly, Cureton and others recognize that DEI matters. They’re taking steps to ensure an inclusive and supportive environment for all and continue to explore new ways of doing so.