During February’s Cope & Hope virtual event, PIOW President John Basile had the opportunity to interview Cogo Labs’ Braden Marstaller. Although Braden is still early in his career, he is already leading his ERG, pushing innovative DEI solutions, and championing LGBTQ+ inclusion at work. We are delighted to be able to share our conversation with Braden in its entirety and hope that you find it valuable. Keep scrolling for exclusive tips on how you can implement these strategies in your company.
A Data-Driven Approach to DEI
While fostering an inclusive work environment has always been a central driving point at Cogo Labs, the company lacked the formalized policies to back up their passion. Following the appointment of a new company CEO, the Cogo team launched a grassroots, employee-led effort to audit the company internally and assess how to best support, recruit, and retain diverse talent.
To accomplish this, a full-time analyst transitioned her role and dedicated a quarter of her time to review company recruiting, retention, and promotion data to identify potential blindspots and areas for improvement. Existing and incoming employees were given the opportunity to voluntarily self-report demographic information to ensure that programs were being created to support all employees across the company. This quantitative data was combined with qualitative data from interviews and focus groups asking existing employees about areas of support they felt needed improvement.
Tip: While there is an altruistic case for DEI initiatives, company leadership often responds to evidence supporting the business case for these programs. After conducting an internal audit, you can leverage quantitative and qualitative data to map the connections between employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Council Development
In 2019, Braden built out a Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Council to help bridge the gap between Cogo’s actions and intentions as an organization. This DE&B Council meets twice a month and consists of the company CEO, employee resource group chairs, and two rotating members from different departments within the company. These last two members rotate every six months, ensuring the integration of fresh perspectives on the council.
Tip: If you’re looking to create a similar council in your company, consider adding rotating committee members. By rotating members regularly, you provide the opportunity for employees with varying levels of seniority, DEI exposure, and departmental responsibilities to add their voices and unique perspectives to the conversation. Serving for a shorter term also lessens the commitment for folks who may be hesitant to join a committee, which can boost employees’ willingness to get involved.
Employee Resource Groups & Support Strategies
Braden leads Cogo Spectra, an LGBTQ+ ERG with the mission to foster an inclusive environment of affirmation through acts of service, community events, recruiting outreach, and active dialogue about the unique challenges facing LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.
Spectra supports roughly 70 LGBTQ+ and allied employees across Cogo and its incubated companies. While working remotely, Spectra members have hosted dialogues, movie nights, and Pride events to continue building an inclusive community while striving to increase the recruitment and retention of LGBTQ+ folks.
Amidst the uncertainties of 2020, Braden launched weekly company-wide safe space lunches to help employees cope with workplace and personal stressors in a supportive environment. This group set guidelines, offered trigger warnings, and shifted the frequency and length of sessions based on employee need.
Tip: If you’re looking to support your ERG, find a way to apply your skillset to help further the mission of the group. For example, Braden writes for Cogo Labs’ company blog. He uses his marketing background to write blog posts that highlight LGBTQ+ voices and boost the profile of Cogo Spectra.
Now more than ever, employees are looking for support and understanding from their employers. Whether it be through an employee resource group or other means, creating opportunities for community at work can help combat feelings of isolation and promote a culture of belonging.
We would like to thank Braden Marstaller for taking the time to share his story with our team and event attendees. We look forward to keeping up with his career and seeing what he accomplishes next! Our work wouldn’t be possible without passionate professionals like Braden and the support of our incredible sponsors. The commitment of Cogo Labs to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workspaces will continue to drive our work and inspire us to deliver on our mission. Learn more about Braden and Cogo Labs below.
About Cogo Labs
Cogo Labs is more than a startup incubator. Located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, they are building companies, accelerating careers, and pioneering innovative, data-driven ways to transform the Boston tech community and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Learn more by visiting Cogo Labs online.