"An inclusive workplace culture is about realizing where different groups of people are coming from. Race, gender, age, orientation, parental status, if you have a disability; these backgrounds all color your experience at work," she says. "More often than not, you don't consciously exclude people, so you really have to be mindful of creating a space where everyone can thrive."
Gray is doing just that at Hired, a career matching platform for technology workers. Here, she and her team are taking a grassroots, bottom-up approach to inclusivity in the workplace. Gray's professional background, which is anything but linear, has been a huge advantage for her at Hired. She hails from Southern California's Do It Yourself (DIY) music scene, where she helped put on events and managed communications and contracts. Creating a nurturing, safe space where everyone felt comfortable and supported was always a driving force.
From there, Gray took a seemingly unexpected detour into museum collections management. "In college, I was a double major in Anthropology and American Studies and also minored in business entrepreneurship," she says. "I spent several months working in museums and archeological collections to set up processes to store artifacts and create documentation so that people 50 years in the future can look at what we were doing and understand it."
Many of these skills have been useful in her office management life, which she came to in 2013 after wrapping up back-to-back museum projects. "I was ready for a full-time role, but there was a big government furlough then, so most museums simply weren't hiring," she recalls. "I decided to pivot into the office management space, figuring that a lot of my skills could carry over." She figured right.
Gray came to Hired as a team coordinator, when the then-startup had only one office and 20 employees. The position had her rapidly shifting from internal recruiting to general office management; from ordering snacks to helping launch new offices. It didn't take long for her to move up to Lead Team Coordinator where she helped onboard and mentor operations coordinators at new sites. Today, she manages 12 global offices, from London to France to Singapore and beyond.
"Boosting an inclusive workplace culture has been a natural part of the journey from day one," says Gray. "My American Studies background taught me how different groups of people can come to feel marginalized. Meanwhile, my time working at the DIY music space really put compassionate thinking to work—we prided ourselves on being a social hub in the community where people from all walks of life were welcome."
On a more practical note, her time cataloging artifacts primed Gray's organizational skills. "My background has really helped me focus that eye, especially since I'm tasked now with creating managerial processes that can scale as we grow." In other words, her varied past experiences have paved the way to her current role; professional synchronicity at its best. These days, she's directing her energy toward Hired's inclusive workplace culture.
"Everyone is genuinely excited about our mission and what we're doing to get everyone a job they love, as well as making that process easier and more transparent," says Gray. "It's an environment where everyone's really open to ideas and feedback; the receptionist's ideas are as equally represented as the CEO's."
Gray encourages her team to do personal growth projects every quarter, whether it's reading a transformative book or attending an extra training. "We have a really cool Hired library. Whenever someone reads a book that's helped them, we order it so that others can benefit too," adds Gray. "We're only able to succeed because we invest in people."
Employee resource groups are another key to an inclusive workplace culture, For example, Hired has a PRIDE group that teaches LGBTQ+ youth job interviewing skills. Meanwhile, its People of Color group comes together for regular book club meetings.
"There's also a Slack channel just for parents," says Gray. "We have a lot of really awesome groups designed to help everyone feel supported."
Making the office a friendlier, more welcoming space for all doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take conscious effort. Gray suggests beginning by asking your team how you can make them more comfortable. The answers, which can be anonymous, are a great starting point. Then it's all about looking for trends to identify possibly underrepresented groups. Cultivating inclusivity isn't an overnight process, but you can begin by planting the seeds.
Gray is also a big believer in the power of quarterly ops surveys. This serves as an anonymous space where team members can share their thoughts on everything from office cleanliness to snack quality to professional feedback and beyond. Gray gets tons of valuable feedback this way, which she then uses to course correct as needed.
"To me, a successful office is one you want to spend time in," she shares. "It's a place where people feel supported and safe so that they can be their best selves and do their best work."
Photography by William Perls