Data-Driven DEI Strategies with Cogo Labs’ Braden Marstaller

March 16, 2021

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.

About Braden Marstaller

Braden Marstaller (he/him) is a Brand Marketing Associate at Cogo Labs. View more of Braden’s work and DEI efforts on the Cogo Labs blog.

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Pride in Our Workplace (PIOW)
c/o Locke Lord LLP
111 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02199

membership@piow.org

Coping & Hoping as a Community

March 9, 2021

We would also like to thank featured speaker Braden Marstaller for sharing the ways in which he has been working to support employee wellbeing and DEI initiatives throughout this period of uncertainty at Cogo Labs. If you missed our fireside chat with Braden, you can watch the full conversation and learn more about the amazing work Cogo Labs is doing in our latest post, Data-Driven DEI Strategies with Cogo Labs’ Braden Marstaller.

March 2021 marks one year since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States. We have all witnessed the ways in which this global pandemic has devastated communities, separated employees from physical workspaces, and isolated individuals from traditional support systems. 

On February 23, 2021, Pride in Our Workplace invited LGBTQ+ and allied professionals to share their strategies for coping, staying hopeful, and continuing to advocate for more equitable spaces.

We are incredibly grateful for our guests’ candor in speaking to their own experiences and helping inform this post and our Cope & Hope Best Practices.

Following an introduction from PIOW board members, session attendees were split into networking breakout rooms to tackle our first discussion topics. Keep scrolling to read what we learned.


Top Coping Strategies

Pandemic Pets – Whether recently adopted or long-time family members, pandemic pets brought joy to many during quarantine. Dogs, cats, and furry friends of all sizes came in at the top of our list for helping attendees cope this past year.

Extra Family Time – Although many were separated from friends and social circles this year, quarantine and a new work-from-home culture allowed many to spend more quality time with their family unit.

Consuming Content – If not consuming food, attendees had been consuming content. Between news updates, a packed Netflix queue, and family movie nights, streaming media provided a much-needed distraction from COVID stress.

Walking and Exercise – From short walks in the sun to chasing more ambitious step goals, participants shared that getting moving and spending time outside was the second most effective coping tactic.

Cooking and Baking – Quarantine inspired a breadth of at-home cooking, pun intended. Be it banana bread trial and error or whipping up comfort meals, mealtime helped mark the end of our workdays and pushed us to think creatively to keep meals fresh.


Opportunities for Hope

Traveling – Attendees have been planning future trips to keep hopes high. We learned that folks are hoping to return to their favorite beaches and are making lists of new destinations to visit for the first time when the world opens back up.

Hugging – Even non-huggers in the group admitted that they are looking forward to holding loved ones a little tighter once we are given the all-clear to see our friends, families, and support networks once again. 

Fewer Zoom Calls – As much as video conferencing has brought us together over the last year, attendees are hopeful that we’ll all get a chance to step away from our screens and relieve the burnout from packed Zoom schedules.

Socializing in Person – Every day, we get closer to a time when we all can socialize safely together. The ability to meet up with colleagues for coffee and reconnect face-to-face with friends from outside of our limited quarantine bubbles is keeping many hopeful. 

Dancing – There are few pleasures simpler than getting a group together to unwind and dance the night away. To paraphrase the late, great Whitney Houston, we all want to dance in our post-pandemic lives. 


Centering Racial Equity

In our second breakout session, we asked attendees how they are keeping racial justice at the forefront of their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Two main themes emerged: collaborating across ERGs and opening dialogues with leadership.

Employee Resource Group Collaboration – Form a united front with diverse groups across your organization to strengthen your collective voices and advocate for company-wide policies that will better support all employees. Create co-hosted event series that feature POC speakers to address workplace and societal issues through an intersectional lens. Partner to exchange best practices in sourcing diverse candidates to meet shared DEI goals.

Open Dialogues with Leadership – Make time to educate yourself about patterns of institutional racism and share this information with others. Open a dialogue with leadership about race, hold space for difficult conversations, and request statements of support from allies when needed. Present organization leadership with a list of agreed-upon next steps to help transition conversations to action.


Get in Touch

Pride in Our Workplace (PIOW)
c/o Locke Lord LLP
111 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02199

membership@piow.org

Newsletter: 2020 Year in Review

January 7, 2021

The PIOW team is excited to share our first official newsletter. Last year, we gathered DEI executives, HR professionals, and ERG representatives to share best practices in leadership, center LGBTQ+ perspectives on timely issues, and build a capacity for growth and understanding within the organizations we serve.

From our last in-person event before lockdown to our adapted panel webinar series, we’re so proud of what our community has been able to accomplish during this challenging year. Topics in this month’s newsletter include:

  • Advancing LGBTQ+ inclusive leadership
  • A shift to online programming
  • Sharing best practices and resources
  • Board of Directors and volunteers
  • Sponsor acknowledgement
  • Organizational updates

Never miss a newsletter.

Get in Touch

Pride in Our Workplace (PIOW)
c/o Locke Lord LLP
111 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02199

membership@piow.org