What Black History Month Means to Spotify

Black History Month has never felt more timely or more significant and 2020 has provided us all with a stark and often ugly reminder that there is much work to be done when it comes to justice and racial equity.

Almost all companies want to do “the right thing” and in the vast majority of cases their intentions are good. But what is “the right thing”? For us at Spotify, doing the right thing is about reaffirming our commitment to representing diverse voices. So, when we saw the opportunity to sponsor last week’s Black Tech Fest (BTF), we grabbed it with both hands.

As a main sponsor, we had a virtual stand at the event which was a very important platform for us – we want to attract more diverse talent to Spotify. But our commitment to this ambition goes way beyond just this event. It’s an ongoing commitment and one that’s embedded within our DNA. It makes us who we are.

Our culture is founded on diversity and inclusion – or diversity and belonging as we call it at Spotify, as it’s not enough to feel included, everyone should feel comfortable and like they truly belong at Spotify. We want everyone to feel equally empowered to take risks, innovate and create. We’re a business that is powered by passion and underpinned by shared values – collaboration, authenticity, sincerity.

Clearly, we’re a little bit biased but we believe that music and podcasts reflect and represent different communities better than any other art forms. Black creators are a driving force behind our business, bringing traffic and listeners to our platform and helping drive our success. So, as a business with this at our heart we need to reflect and represent those communities too. We want Spotify to be a place where we can all embrace our identities, look after ourselves and each other, thrive, and be our best.

We’re proud to celebrate diversity with a series of groups we call ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). ERGs are grassroot groups which elevate voices that are either underrepresented in our industry, or historically marginalised. We support each other, develop leadership, provide insight to the company and to the industry, and connect with communities around us – whether it’s BLK, representing our BAME employees, Spectrum who represent our LGBTQ+ community or Able for staff with disabilities.

Changing the make-up of a team starts with recruitment, and we constantly evolve and scrutinise our approach to hiring. Pipelines have to be diverse and they have to represent the communities we serve, and the hiring processes need to be fair and focus on building in equality.

Against the backdrop of the current pandemic, mental health also remains a major area of focus for us and our Heart & Soul programme provides the best possible support for our employees with the ambition of promoting deep knowledge about emotional well-being among all of our staff. We want to foster a culture of awareness, acceptance, sensitivity, and support around issues such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Whilst we may not be in the office right now, we’re really proud of the space we’ve created in London and many of us can’t wait to get back soon. We moved into our new state of-the-art HQ in February, which is the first major tech centre outside of the U.S and Sweden housing a new R&D hub as we continue to grow and invest in music and podcasts in the UK. Complete with listening rooms dedicated to artists, podcasters and creators, along with a stage area, artists lounges and green rooms and so much more, it’s a space dedicated to fuelling creativity of all forms.

But, in the meantime, as we all navigate Zoom calls from our sofas, spare bedrooms and everything in between, we’ve been finding new and interesting ways to support and connect employees. This Black History Month we built a whole programme of events to educate and inspire, including screenings of films and documentaries, live cook-alongs, black music history sessions and so much more.

Black Tech Fest is a brilliant celebration of the best and boldest innovations created by the Black community. But it’s also a powerful platform to ask some difficult questions. Difficult questions we need to ask ourselves every day, not just this week. There’s always more work to do.