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Why You Should Update Picklist Values to Promote Diversity & Inclusion

By Guest Author August 20, 2020

By: Melissa Hill Dees, Founding Partner, HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions

Following some new additions to our team and the extraordinary events happening around the United States right now, my team at HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions implemented a brown bag luncheon we call the Culture Club.

The goal of this group is to discuss opportunities to enhance our company’s culture and come up with ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organization. What started as a lunchtime conversation quickly morphed into our volunteer product and the picklist values–menus that expand to give users a dropdown of choices to select–that are currently available in HandsOn Connect for race, ethnicity, and gender.

Melissa with PepUp Tech, one of HandsOn Connect’s customers, at Dreamforce 2019.

Melissa with PepUp Tech, one of HandsOn Connect’s customers, at Dreamforce 2019.

Some questions our team always asks are: How do we update our picklist values to promote inclusion–one of our core values? What are the results of those updates? Is there a best practice in place?

Luckily, there are so many resources available in the Salesforce community to learn and collaborate. I immediately went to the Power of Us Hub and offered this question to the many customers in this online community. There were a number of people who jumped right into the conversation to offer their advice, tips, and encouragement. Discussions in community group meetings and in the #SFDOSprint Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team were also incredibly helpful. I want to share what I learned and how we implemented this change at our organization.

First, the most respectful thing you can do is collect only the information that you need. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: Why are you collecting the data? If it is for federal reporting requirements, your options may not be as inclusive as you hope.

Second, oversimplified and exhaustive picklists each carry their own challenges. If your gender picklist is only binary, like federal forms are, that is obviously not an inclusive list. However, including all 64 terms that describe gender identity and expression is not helpful either. The consensus around the best practice for picklist values for gender and gender identity is:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Non-Binary
  • Prefer to Self-Describe (with a text box to do just that)

When I spoke with Dar Veverka, the Director of Information Technology at Urban Teachers in Maryland, she concurred that these are the picklist values they use and that the question itself is not a required field. Anyone can opt out of answering it entirely, which is equivalent to saying “I prefer not to answer.” Some teachers also ask for preferred pronouns and names in addition to a legal name, but we won’t go into the details here–names are another blog post entirely.

Dar went on to say that the race and ethnicity picklist values are not as simple to update and incorporate, while still adhering to the federal reporting requirements. According to the Department of Interior:

“The standards have five categories for data on race: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White. There are two categories for data on ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.”

This list clearly lacks diversity–there is not even a biracial choice. However, this is the reporting that is expected. So creating your inclusive picklist values for race and/or ethnicity can be especially tricky depending on why you are collecting the data. A best practice here would be to consider open text fields for self-identification. If nothing else, it will provide data around who does not fit into the federal categories.

Have these conversations with your team. Make your questions, and the answers to those questions, inclusive. Humans are more likely to answer questions when they know the answer. If their answer doesn’t exist, the integrity of your data may suffer. The right answer is always the best answer.

Learn more about the Power of Us Hub, an incredible online community of customers, partners, and staff.

About the Author

Melissa Hill Dees, Founding Partner, HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions

Melissa Hill Dees

Founding Partner @handsonconnect | Champion of #domoregood #WiT #EqualityForAll | 4X @salesforce certified | #DF Speaker | #LightningChampion | #SFDOSprinter | Decatur Nonprofit Community Group Leader | AmplifyNGO Board Member