DEI in every decision

Patti Mancini
May 29, 2024

Why DEI belongs at the core of all business operations

With a country-wide deprioritization and removal of DEI efforts from government agencies and college campuses, it’s more important than ever to understand how diversity, equity, and inclusion can positively impact a business — and how it goes beyond HR and hiring efforts.

At Zest AI, diversity, equity, and inclusion are values that go mission-deep. Our goal of broadening access to equitable lending is founded on the fact that everyone — no matter where they grew up, the color of their skin, their preferred pronouns, what they believe, and everything else that makes a person unique — deserves fair access to the building blocks of the American Dream. Access to capital is more than just a building block for a dream. Sometimes access to capital is the one thing keeping someone from losing their home after an unexpected emergency.

Our success as a company hinges upon our success in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Externally, we accomplish this through our work with our clients and helping them make more accurate lending decisions, and through our advocacy for more accurate lending outcomes with those in government and regulatory agencies — and the DEI work doesn’t stop there.

Internal DEI measures go beyond the world of People Operations at Zest AI — though our POPs team is highly invested in seeing DEI measures succeed throughout the company. DEI underlines the way we speak and how we celebrate, it matters to the core development of our products, and informs our strategies for growing our business.

DEI’s cultural impact at a company 

Using diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies alongside hiring efforts is always a step in the right direction, and having DEI as a core element to all company culture initiatives creates a vibrant and fun workspace for everyone at the company. It gives us the ability to move together as a unit and understand the individual needs of our people. Some of those needs have included creating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to support the unique lives of our employees and create spaces where we can focus on their journeys. This includes Women@Zest, BIPOC@Zest, Zest Pride, and CaretakerZ — focusing on women, people of the LGBTQIA+ community, our racially & ethnically diverse employees, as well as those who are parents and caretakers at the company.

With DEI at the center of a company's culture, we can radiate kindness, lead with integrity, and actively commit to being better humans.

DEI’s product development impact at a company

An article from The Conversation easily sums up how a lack of diversity in solving problems means that we’re not pushing innovation forward. “How can an industry innovate through sameness? If people build and develop products based on their own frustrations and day-to-day living, innovation can only truly be driven by diverse people with different backgrounds and experiences.

We’ve proven it internally over and over again that having DEI work at the core of product development not only adds to innovation opportunities, but helps solve real problems in the world. And diversity, equity, and inclusion don’t stop with gender and race — because people’s experiences, beliefs, and abilities change their relationship with the world, making their input not only necessary, but incredibly valuable.

DEI’s business development impact at a company

Possibly the most confusing element among these three categories is the idea of DEI’s interaction with business development. But maybe the better way to explain is through an example, which is how Zest AI has grown since 2019, when we all but started over as a company. With no customers, a strategy needed to be put into place to build up a resilient workplace that could push past the impediments in front of us. We found excellent leadership who helped us rally around the idea that there was a customer base we could really speak to — credit unions — and help with our technology. The work began from the ground up, leading us to today, where we've built a business that thrives because we hired diversely, celebrated people for who they are, helped them build up their careers, and trusted that in time, investing in DEI would show itself as the best bet we could have made.

To learn more about DEI at Zest AI, visit our 2024 DEI commitment page.

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