I'm a minority tech founder. Making diverse hires isn't enough - here's how companies should also take action to support the wider Black community.

I'm a minority tech founder. Making diverse hires isn't enough - here's how companies should also take action to support the wider Black community.
Ashish Toshniwal is the founder and CEO of Y Media Labs.Ashish Toshniwal
  • Ashish Toshniwal is the founder and CEO of Y Media Labs, a global digital product and design agency.
  • He says the onus is on tech leaders to use their resources to more actively support Black Lives Matter and other social initiatives.
  • Diverse hiring is a great first step, but tech companies should also be active in underserved communities.

In 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement grew, employees of all levels at Y Media Labs agreed: We need to make a real, positive change - an impact beyond putting a black square on our Instagram account.

As an immigrant and minority CEO, I felt a powerful responsibility to do more. Leaders like myself at tech companies have powerful platforms and resources; the onus is on us to use them to drive social change.

How technology companies can serve the underserved

It can be a challenge to pick which specific causes to aid. Almost no company has the resources to combat every social issue, and while making firm stances on social issues is great, creating real change requires diving deeply into a single issue, becoming educated, and taking concrete steps to combat the problem.

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In listening to my Black teammates and colleagues and after having many conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and the inequality that exists in America, it was clear to me that YML employees felt that this cause was the one we wanted to support the most actively.

I believe every company who wants to create social change has to do it in two ways: internally and externally

Let's start with the internal. At YML, we began by having a series of conversations and creating more space in the company for employees of color to be seen and heard. We had company-wide open conversations and invited Black employees to sit in on executive meetings to share their suggestions for what we could do better.


We listened. We had to unlearn what we thought we knew, to then learn about the actual experiences of our Black employees in a way we hadn't before in the 12 years since starting YML.

Like many agencies and companies in the US, we hadn't invested enough into seeking and elevating Black professionals. Since June 2020, we've grown our representation of Black team members five-fold. While this is still an ongoing effort, in just one year we've been able to create a more diverse culture where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions.

Next, the external. Improving hiring practices is a great first step, but it's just as important to positively impact communities outside of your own. At YML, we decided to team up with Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, a nonprofit that provides free legal advice for low-income communities in Minnesota, to improve their ability to get legal advice to the people who need it. Doing work like this is critical - putting your words into action is what will actually improve people's lives.

Doing this work is imperative for any modern company - and the time to start is now

The first step is to create tangible, actionable goals. At YML, I set specific hiring goals for my HR department, and in my board meetings, I tracked diversity hires alongside KPIs and client satisfaction.

In working with the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, we set the goal of increasing the number of Minnesotans with access to legal resources in times of crisis by 20%. If you don't set up goals, strategize, and try to learn and improve from failure, you're setting yourself up to do nothing.


Executives should also increase diversity in leadership roles. Company culture stems from the top down, so if you really want to create culture change, hire more BIPOC leadership. Diverse company leaders can be instrumental in creating a space where everyone feels safe and represented. A team with multiple perspectives will make it easier to create products and experiences for people across all walks of life. In doing this, we're building for the future and empowering the next generation of leaders.

When it comes to working with nonprofits, lean into your firm's strengths and then find an organization that aligns with your values. Even if the work is hard, even if your ego is checked, it's crucial to dive in and stay committed, because ultimately, to make our society more equal, we all have to put in the work.