A year ago, we published Zencare’s Commitment to Anti-Racism and Inclusive Therapy. When we published this statement, our intent was to communicate our company values; to clarify what it means for us to work towards diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism; and to hold ourselves accountable to building a more equitable product, service, and team.
Now, a year later, we’re reviewing our initiatives and setting new goals. As a company, we’ve been fortunate to grow significantly throughout a challenging year: we’ve expanded from five to twelve full-time team members; from a network of 1000 providers in 7 states to 2000 across 12; and from serving 25,000 clients to being on track to serve over 50,000 therapy seekers in 2021. We feel honored to have been able to support so many therapy seekers and therapists — and with that greater impact, also acknowledge the weight of responsibility towards our therapist members, client users, and internal team.
Over the past month, we analyzed how we’re doing against metrics of diversity among our provider community and clientele; reflected on initiatives we’ve taken across our services, product, and team; gathered feedback and ideas from our team; scheduled diversity and inclusion trainings and workshops; and are meeting as a team to discuss and develop a list of goals and new initiatives to prioritize.
To hold ourselves accountable, we’ve decided to publicly share some of these statistics and initiatives. We hope that some of these ideas from our team will be helpful for other companies as well, and are eager to continue learning and improving ourselves, too!
I felt I was heard and understood. I felt taken care of and valued. I already feel the support system that will be provided for me and I’m looking forward to the experience with someone who looks like me and can better understand me.
1. Definitions: What does Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism mean at Zencare?
To begin the discussion around diversity, inclusion, and antiracism, we first had to define the range of topics, identities, and backgrounds we are referring to when discussing these points.
At Zencare, discussions around diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism encompass the following:
- Gender identity & expression
- Sexual orientation
- Physical & mental ability
- Veteran status
- Country of origin
- Immigration status
We evaluate how we are being inclusive of and equitable to individuals of these diverse identities across our therapist network, clients, team members, and community at large.
Here are the areas of our business we consider when discussing these topics, and the goals we have for each:
- Services: Tailor our services to providers and clientele, for the goal of increasing access to care for historically underserved communities
- Product: Build and improve features to make our product accessible and relatable to historically underserved communities
- Company: Take proactive initiative to create an inclusive environment for all team members and promote team diversity
2. Snapshot: Analysis of our provider and therapy seeker network
Diversity of the Zencare Provider Network
When we analyzed the data, we found that the racial/ethnic diversity of the Zencare provider network diversity is comparable to the psychology workforce, but much less diverse than the US population:
- 12% of our provider network identifies as a person of color (POC). This is comparable to the psychology workforce, where 14% of psychologists identify as POC; however, it is much less than the overall US population, in which 38% of individuals belong to racial or ethnic minorities (Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Multiple Races).
- 6% of our provider network identifies as Latinx / Hispanic, compared to 5% of the psychology workforce and 19% of the US population.
- 6% of our provider network identifies as Black / African-American, compared to 5% of the psychology workforce and 13% of the US population.
- 5% of our provider network identifies as Asian / Asian-American, compared to 4% of the psychology workforce and 6% of the US population.
Our network of providers of color has grown at a faster pace than overall provider network growth.
As for gender diversity, the Zencare provider network is majority female at nearly 80%; another 20% identify as male, and 1% identify as trans or non-binary (note the total exceeds 100% as providers may select more than one gender identity).
10% of our provider network identifies as LGBTQ, compared to 5% of the US population (though we believe this data to be underrepresented).
Note: Unfortunately, the data we had for comparison purposes were outdated, but we used them to have a benchmark for our analysis. Sources we used include the 2015 APA survey for demographic data about the psychology workforce, the 2019 Census Bureau for the US population demographic data (and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s data visualization), and a 2017 Gallup poll for the LGBTQ national data.
Diversity of the Zencare Clientele
Equally important to the provider demographics are client demographics. Are we serving a diverse clientele base in terms of identity?
It’s difficult to determine a precise response to this question, since we don’t track racial or ethnic data in order to protect client confidentiality. Additionally, third-party data analytics platforms like Google Analytics are limited to demographic data like age and gender (the latter currently in binary terms).
Instead, as a proxy, we turned to the number of referrals through Zencare to therapists of color, since many individuals seek therapists who share similar identities and cultural experiences. In a typical month, though providers of color account for about 12% of all Zencare providers, providers of color receive about 20% of client requests, which speaks to the success of marketing efforts to reach communities of color, as well as the overwhelming need for the services of providers of color. Moreover, we found that in April 2021, we’d referred triple the number of clients to providers of color as we did in May 2020. This increase is likely due to both the greater number of clinicians of color as well as our search engine optimization efforts at elevating content and search pages related to POC mental health and searches for providers of color.
I cannot express how grateful I am to have found my therapist. I was connected with a woman of color who, I feel, completely understands my needs on a cultural level. It is amazing to heal under a therapist that is sensitive to my experiences as a woman of color. I have only met with her a handful of times, but I feel seen and heard in ways I never have with other therapists. I feel like I’m finally the path (pun intended) to being the best version of myself.
3. Review: What we’ve done
We hold ourselves to continual reflection of areas of growth, and strive to improve accordingly. Here are some highlights across our services, product, and team:
- Offered lowered pricing to 24% of providers of color who joined in the past year with the goal of increasing our network of providers of color
- Turned a social media spotlight on exclusively Black providers across our networks during Black History Month
- Published articles on Zencare’s commitment to anti-racism, as well as mental health in the Black & African- American community
- Published resource posts on how to find affordable care in cities across the country
- Published content that speaks to topics that encourage mental wellness in communities of color, the LGBTQIA community, and other marginalized communities
- Added a feature for providers to indicate their pronouns on their profile via the Zencare Members Portal
- Made content about finding providers of color more easily accessible through search engines by building out dedicated search pages (example, example)
- Improved filters and tagging to ensure that if a therapy seeker searches for a certain identity, only clinicians who match that identity appear
- Positively feature images of people of color on our blog, screenshots of our websites, ads, social media, and other marketing materials
- Indicate ADA-accessible offices on provider profiles so that clients can find accessible offices
Team - Hiring
- Dedicated 60 hours total to outbound outreach to potential candidates of color (otherwise almost all of our hiring is inbound; we conduct outbound hiring almost exclusively for the purpose of increasing the pipeline of candidates of color)
- Significantly updated our job posts:
- Added Equal Opportunity Statement
- Removed team photo, replaced with screenshot of diverse therapists
- Eliminated words that may alienate candidates (e.g. “women-led”)
- Outlined the interview process on the job post to make it more approachable
- Published our mission & core values
- Increased the universities we post jobs on via Handshake, including Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as state and community colleges.
- Always conduct the first interview via phone so that it is a “blind” interview to the extent possible
- Take an affirmative action approach whenever possible to candidates of color by offering interview opportunities, while maintaining the same high bar for job offers
- Keep our core values at the center of the interview and candidate assessment process, including care and respect of other team members
Team - Internal
- Had a team-wide discussion on Zencare Diversity & Inclusion efforts in Aug 2020
- Started offering health insurance reimbursements as of Jan 2021
- Made Juneteenth a company-wide halfday
- Began small group lunches to encourage intimate settings for conversations
- Organized monthly events including those around resilience and mental health in communities of color and the LGBTQIA community
- Introduced quiet hours to promote team wellbeing and sustainability, prevent burnout
- Use Google Meet (instead of Zoom) so that closed captions are available for hard of hearing team members
- Reiterate our company values whenever possible, including on our job posts and at internal events
4. Goals & Initiatives
As a company, our goals and initiative are not static; we absorb input from our colleagues and community to help shape our vision and actions. To start, we sent the above data to our internal team and asked each individual to dedicate time to come up with feedback, ideas, and thoughts on what they’d want to see from the company.
At the time of writing this piece, we’re actively working to synthesize the ideas our team submitted, and develop a shortlist of ideas and initiatives that are possible for us as an organization. Doing so entails considering the level of impact, prioritization, and feasibility of each in terms of team time, capacity, ease of execution, and budget. We’re also planning an all-hands in honor of Juneteenth to share, digest, and discuss next steps.
Down the line, to continue fostering opportunities for organization-wide growth and reflection, we have the following workshops and trainings scheduled:
- A training with New York-based psychologist Melba Nicholson Sullivan, whose practice specialties include race, culture, and identity issues, on “Reducing stress while promoting resilience,”
- A workshop scheduled for September with Therapy for QPOC.
- A fireside chat on Asian Mental Health scheduled in October with Snehal Kumar, an NYC-based psychologist with expertise on how cultural expectations, race-related experiences, and other identity issues interplay with stress and mental health.
Below, we’ve compiled the ideas our team has submitted so far; we can’t do all of these at once, but wanted to list them as inspiration for what other companies can do, and what you’ll see from us moving forward!
We are determined to continue moving forward, and to both hold ourselves accountable and keep a pulse on the mental health industry so that we may identify areas where we can fulfill unmet needs. We hope the steps we take now have a positive effect on our team, provider members, and therapy seekers we have the honor to serve each day.
5. Ideas from our team
- Actionable vs performative: “As we continue moving forward in both internal and external initiatives, it’s helpful to reflect on whether each item is actionable or performative; performative gets a bad rap, but the best option is usually a combination of both.”
- DEIJ/Anti Racism Committee (Internal/External): “It would be great if we could look to appoint interested team members, and/or therapists of color within our network to be part of a committee that provides feedback/suggestions on how we can improve or create more DEIJ/Anti racism initiatives.”
- DEIJ/Anti Racism mandatory meetings/training: “These types of trainings should be quarterly opportunities to ensure we're accomplishing our goals and staying on top of relevant issues, e.g., violence against Asians in the US or police brutality on Black communities.”
- Compensation for work: “It’s important that we work towards compensating BIPOC and queer providers and for submitting content centered on DEI, antiracism, and other topics in this realm.”
- Add pronouns to all team member signatures + team page: “Including our pronouns on both email signatures and the website is essential.”
- Work with a D&I consultant: “It would be beneficial to partner with or host a D&I committee/group/consultant to review our product and policies we currently have in place.”
- Learn as a team: “Continue to share resources across the team, and possibly add a Slack channel specifically for articles/resources/events related to diversity and inclusion; by extension, encourage team members to take time to volunteer or attend events/talks around this.”
- Recruit from a wide range of universities: “Keep recruiting across diverse universities; in addition to reaching more applicants of color through HBCUs, let’s reach other applicants who may be lower SES or not have had the same opportunities in the past.”
- Mental health days: “It would be great to create a policy and system for and encouraging mental health days.”
- Include DEI questions in hiring & onboarding: “Ask about how candidates view Diversity/Equity/Inclusion as a component of the hiring process; add policies / company values around DEI to new hire welcome docs.”
- Parental leave: “Develop a parental leave policy that is fair to parents of all genders & paths to parenthood.”
- Provider of Color ERGs: “Let’s establish groups and host virtual events wherein providers of color within the Zencare network can connect with each other, and even foster mentorship opportunities.”
- Clarify around promotions: “We could provide more clarity to our therapist outreach team about when and how to offer special promotions or flexible payment plans to providers of color we're reaching out to.”
- More gender & sexuality dropdown options: “On the site, let’s think about adding more options for LGBTQ identity (i.e. more gender & sexuality options); so that not everyone is under one broad banner if they want to be more specific.”
- More race, religion & ethnicity options: “We can look into adding Bi-Racial as an option for provider identity.” “List all major world religions and more race and ethnicity options in identity dropdown”
- Polyamory/non monogamous relationships as specialty: “We can look towards adding Polyamory/non monogamous relationships as a specialty option, since I know folks in that community are often seeking affirmative care.”
- Lower tier memberships for areas with greater need and fewer providers: “One way to incentivize providers is lower tier membership fees for those who offer sessions for lower fees in areas where there are less providers or greater need (e.g. more rural areas).”
- Weekly spotlights in newsletter: “Doing regular ‘therapist spotlights’ via the newsletter for POC would be a simple way to increase year-round efforts and keep the conversation going.”
- Incentivize providers of diverse backgrounds to contribute: “We could offer comped months of membership in exchange for certain services, like submitting a thoughtful blog article or hosting an educational/inclusive event with us.”
- Create special interest community groups for providers: “Creating an easy-to-use and easy-to-access message board (or similar) for providers to find and talk to other POC would be an enticing offer.”
- Articles on immigration trauma: “It would be great to write blog articles about the trauma of immigration, and the many immigrants in the US (often children) living with PTSD after that process.”
- Donation system: “Perhaps there could be a promotion or ongoing feature in which folks can contribute $$ to subsidize therapy for very vulnerable populations, like those children with PTSD.”
- Partner organizations: “Utilize our network to support the work of local and national nonprofits that provide affordable care and access to underserved communities.”
- POC providers at the top of search: “So that it’s immediately evident our network is inclusive, we can strive to ensure that provider pages for each city always reflect at least one provider of color at the top.”
- POC provider input on blog content: “We can actively seek out providers of color within our network to write blog content.”
- Encouraging providers to add pronouns: “If we don’t require it, we could strongly encourage providers to add their pronoun; this is especially important for cis folks to do in order to foster comfortability and a sense of safety for folks who don’t use pronouns that they might be assumed to use.”
- Accessibility across the site: “We can work towards adding captions to the introductory videos to make those more accessible, make sure we have alt text and are screen-reader optimized, and possibly invite an ADA consultant to review the interface of the site.” [Note: All Zencare videos are hosted on both Vimeo and YouTube, the latter of which includes automatic CC.]
- Explain company name origin: “We can work to add more context on our site behind the name Zencare, as some providers have given feedback on possible appropriation of Buddhist culture.”
- Spotlight providers during special months: “Just as we did for Black History Month and Women’s History Month, let’s plan to spotlight LGBTQIA+ providers for October, as it’s LGBT History Month.”
- Language accessibility: “It would be great to eventually offer a Spanish version of our website. I recognize this is a BIG lift, but especially as we expand through the southwest, and any area where Spanish is prevalent, I think it would be so helpful!” “Add on-page translation option for therapists that offer services in multiple languages.”
- ADA accessibility: “Add ADA to search filters so therapy seekers can search for ADA accessible therapists.”