With the state of the political climate we are currently living in, diversity and inclusion have been a major topic, and to some a passing trend.
Race, diversity, and inclusion have been the subject of many conversations with major brands, tech companies, universities, and individuals. With corporate brands missing the mark with their campaigns or tech companies and their lack of recruitment of all races, Netta Jenkins and Jacinta Mathis have created a solution to that problem with the Dipper platform. The Dipper platform guides professionals of color to a better workplace, one review at a time.
Recently we were able to catch up with Netta and Jacinta and we learned more about their new startup, the steps that they took to create it, and why creating Dipper to improve diversity and inclusion matters more than ever.
*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about yourselves.
Jacinta: I am newly a Co-Founder of Dipper, and I am also the Senior Director of Services and Partnerships at KeyMe. All things Growth is my domain. Whether I am in an established company or evolving start-up, I live for opportunities to launch new products and services, and generate more users and revenue via organic or paid strategies.
Most importantly, I am a life partner, a mom, and a bold care-free black woman. I spend a lot of my time working. I love what I do. I love telling people about excellent products. I love creating innovative products that help make people’s lives easier and better. I am excited that we now have a product of our own. Dipper is something we believe is going to make a big difference in the world.
My late father, Sam Mathis, was a diversity and inclusion executive before it was ‘a thing.’ In the late 80s, early 90s he was opening the door fighting for equity in the workplace at a Fortune 500 company. I want to continue his legacy and pick up where we left off with the power of technology and the people.
Netta: Like Jacinta, I’m a Co-Founder of Dipper and I’m also Vice President of Global Inclusion for Mosaic Group and Ask Applications which is part of an IAC family that includes many of the most successful media and internet brands in the world, including Match.com, HomeAdvisor, Vimeo and more. I’m a wife, mother of a 4-month-old baby boy and a 6-year-old bonus son. I pride myself on being a passionate Liberian woman, an author, activist, and living room afro-beats dancer.
I’m heavily invested in breaking down systemic gaps in the workplace, allowing people from under-represented groups a fair chance to grow. Equity is extremely important, and I want to ensure that we are creating inclusive workplaces.
I have been fighting for equality from a very young age. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood and being the only black family in the neighborhood, we experienced racism. At the age of 7, I watched a woman spit in my mom’s face and say, “blacks don’t belong in my neighborhood.” At age 8, we were pulled over in our driveway and asked if we were lost. I also experienced racial slurs in school, and I was tired, sick, and disgusted.
My mom gave me the advice to create change while I was in middle school, and it changed my life forever. I became president of the freshmen class and started putting strategies together to create change in my school. I started working on diversity and inclusion before it became a buzzword.
What was the motivation for creating Dipper?
Jacinta: We are incredibly motivated to build Dipper and to build Dipper together. We both worked together for over five years. At work, people knew we were friends, but it was not as apparent that we were also holding each other down and up in the workplace every day. We would lean on each other a lot, whether sharing advice about management, salaries, or breastfeeding.
We need to be able to pinpoint what are the issues impacting people of color in the workplace. Then determine what are the solutions to create more inclusive workplaces, and how do we execute them. Companies need concrete data and information to be able to put action to power, and that something is missing, until now with Dipper.
Netta: Dipper was a no brainer and truly destined to be. As a thought-leader in the DEI space and global speaker, I receive messages from people daily sharing their work experience and seeking advice. I have 10k+ followers on LinkedIn. My InMail inbox is flooded with folks asking for advice.
A large percentage of people of color are feeling oppressed, dealing with microaggressions, implicit bias, and lack of upward mobility. Jacinta and I sat in an NYC cafe exchanging stories, and it became very clear that people need a safe digital space to share their work experiences (whether good, bad, or indifferent), learn about the most inclusive companies, gain advice, and help guide them in the right path. But most importantly, professionals of color want these companies improved and held accountable.
Jacinta and I agreed it was time for companies to be held accountable and offered real solutions to solve these systemic issues. We also want to shed light on companies getting it right so people can apply there.
The true inclusive companies won’t need to look hard for talent. Dipper will lead folks to those organizations. The reviews and our extensive data will tell the story for companies and help them.
What preparation took place to start creating Dipper?
Jacinta: We love post-its, so preparation took a lot of post-its and a lot of brainstorming. We also found the right advisors and collaborators to make Dipper real. We also collaborated with a developer and designer, Louis Bryd. Louis is extremely talented and one of the Co-Founders of SandByrd, in addition to also being a Mizzou alumni and First Family.
The more Netta and I talked and planned, we knew Dipper was something we needed to make real. We listened to each other. We challenged each other and put pen to paper and got to building something innovative and strategic to get to the data-driven solutions.
Netta: Wow! Time flies! In our first brainstorming meeting, I was very pregnant. We added every single idea on post-its and organized in order of importance. We thought deeply about what needs to be built now and added features later.
There was a lot of strategy behind our brainstorming. A part of our preparation was also challenging each other’s ideas, asking why and how a lot. After our first kick-off meeting, we had open communication and would text each other ideas and work on dipper while the rest of the world was sleeping.
Jacinta: I would also like to add before we built anything, we polled and surveyed hundreds of people. Dipper represents a community of underrepresented professionals, so we asked them questions and polled a lot of people, and we got a lot of data.
Over 85% of people said they would be willing to share on a platform created and developed by people like them. People of color are typically not sharing on existing review platforms. This reluctance to share comes from a desire to stay employed and not be outed for being the only one speaking out. Dipper is revolutionizing the review space and every workplace.
What have been the response from some of your users?
Netta: They are really excited about Dipper. I spoke with a friend that was an executive at HBO in a strategy capacity, and she said, “Dipper is going to be one of the biggest platforms of our time. Our society needs this.”
I literally got chills when she said that.
A couple of quotes from users are “this is a game-changer, much needed, will shift our culture, PoC will finally have the trusting scoop on which companies are best for professionals of color, companies that only want us for PR purposes will finally be revealed, we get insight on the real deal.”
We will release reviews on our platform for members and corporations to view. We will advise members and offer companies data-driven measurable solutions because we want companies to do better, and we want them improved.
What kind of impact do you want Dipper to have?
Jacinta: Dipper’s mission is always to be a solutions platform that connects all people of color, helps employers and employees navigate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. Our core is the people. We provide a digital safe place for a community of people that we feel need it and who have told us they need it.
After we gather and learn more about the needs and desires of our community, we are empowered to hold companies accountable and challenge them to be better. A lot of times, diversity and inclusion efforts put the sole responsibility on the people of color who work within an organization and who already have a full-time job. We want companies to go beyond that.
Netta: We want these companies to stop what I like to call the “aesthetic diversity movement” or theatrical diversity, and start tackling systemic issues. Companies need to retool performance evaluations, retool promotion disparity, retool compensation, retool leaders. I can go on and on.
Dipper is about accountability and solutions. We want companies to fire bad apples, have zero tolerance for discrimination, racism, and implicit bias, and hire effective leaders that value equity, diversity, and inclusion. We want companies to hire professionals of color for executive level, board of director roles, and allow them to have a voice and trust them to lead.
There should be no tolerance for folks that are demeaning, condescending, and gives off, I’m better than you superior approach.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had while building Dipper?
Jacinta: As an entrepreneur, which I am sure Netta has experienced, I’ve realized how important it is to find the right team and to find the right companies to work with. Finding a good team is critical. It takes a village. Finding your core identity is big. Knowing who and what your brand is and what your brand is not. You have to do the same as a founder – really reflect and identify who you are? What are you good at? What are you not good at? Calling a spade a spade.
Netta: Jacinta is spot on. Being in leadership roles in the technology space, to managing multi-million-dollar performance budgets, to executing tactics for early-stage startups, to understanding how to build a business from past failed experience has fully prepared us for any challenge that comes our way. We have learned from our past mistakes and our level of confidence, strategy, process, and persistence are telling. Everyone experiences challenges and bumps in the road, but we are optimistic and excited about the journey.
What advice do you have for individuals wanting to make an impact in the diversity and inclusion space?
Netta: 1. You need to understand your why and intent. What drives you to create change? I lead with this as most important because creating change is not easy. When you have invested all your time creating effective programs and there are still major issues, it will take a toll on you. Understand you’re why so in those moments, you can re-energize.
2. Partner directly with the CEO. If your company doesn’t allow you to partner or report to the CEO, then don’t accept the role. The main leader should be fully invested in actively working with you. The CEO should attend conferences, meetup, and be in spaces where they become the only person of their race, height, hair color in that room.
3. Create a D&I team. It’s impossible to do it alone without feeling burnt out.
4. Make sure you conduct focus groups and surveys before you form any initiatives or programs. Being an active listener is crucial in the infancy stage.
Jacinta: Be committed. This goes for individuals and companies as a whole.
Individuals should know their core job responsibilities then meet and exceed them. Be a rising start; be bold. Also, understand, appreciate, and use the power of your voice and the power of your presence.
For companies, Netta is spot on employees should have that access to your senior leadership. This is so important in being able to build trust. The organization needs to trust its leader’s perspectives, ideas, and contributions, and the leaders need to also do the same for their employees.
CEOs and the leadership of companies need to make sure the people around you do not all look like you. Also, consider your leadership team being a reflection of your customers. If you’re creating products and 80% of the people who use your products are people of color, but 99% of your executive team and board of directors are not of color, you have a problem and recognize that.
There are so many talented people of color out there. Companies reach out to Netta and me all the time. We are always able to refer PoC folks, and there are not hard to find. Look beyond your standard reach, look beyond where you typically recruit, engage with organizations that focus on professional development for people of color or non-profits, engage with those with organizations so that you always have this pool of great people.
What advice do you have for those who want to break into the tech space?
Netta: You don’t need a computer science degree. At Ask Apps and Mosaic Group, I launched free coding classes at our NY office, giving folks the opportunity to learn from our engineers, build meaningful relationships, and be considered for software engineer roles.
Attend company events, connect on their company external initiatives, and connect with folks that have non-traditional career paths. Don’t forget to find a tech mentor and sponsor to support you as you break into tech.
Jacinta: There are so many programs out there, so you do not have to take on debt to learn something new and make a career transition. Grants, scholarships, awards are all there for the taking. They are waiting for the right person to take advantage of them.
What motto do you live by?
Jacinta: Walk-in faith, be responsible, be diligent, be good to yourself, be good to others, and work and play hard.
Netta: Know your worth, add value, and build lasting, meaningful relationships.