Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Global Operations

Oct. 4, 2021
Simply Secure

Written by Simply Secure

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This section focuses on the Foundation’s approach to DEI, global participants’ experiences with F&A global programming, and the operational aspects that influenced that experience. Data here is largely pulled from interviews with program participants and alumni as well as with F&A staff.

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Although DEI is important to Mozilla and the F&A team, the program has lacked consistent vision and implementation around DEI practices.

  • F&A staff are very aware that DEI is an important priority for the ecosystem, and as a result have made it a clear priority for the programs. Funders, staff and others highlighted that some programs reflected a clear prioritization and specific implementation strategies around DEI.
  • There does not appear, however, to have been a cohesive DEI vision or strategy across Mozilla, which means there was a lack of a rubric or framework to apply consistently across all programs. The result has been that some programs were better than others at developing and implementing a DEI strategy.

“Diversity has been historically ad-hoc, up to the program officer."

Staff


  • What “diversity” itself has meant to Mozilla is unclear internally and externally.
  • For example, interviewees noted that it was unclear if some global programs take regional understandings of diversity into consideration versus prioritizing US-centered notions of DEI. Also unclear whether things like class, age, language, and religion were considered.
  • Staff also noted that diversity of background/skillset or career level has also been a key consideration.
  • One funder wondered about the framework used to decide on Senior Fellows – there was a perception that they have been predominantly white and male.
  • Staff identified operational barriers to developing a consistent DEI framework: There were historical difficulties with legal parameters globally (what is legal demographic information to ask on an application) and with comfort and implementation (what is appropriate to ask and how many programs are asking similar things). The team has been working to balance these challenges with goals around diverse applicant pools.

Opportunity

Mozilla can work proactively to tap into the right networks for recruitment for more diverse applicant pools.

Opportunity

Mozilla can develop an organization-wide DEI strategy. The goals of that strategy should clearly map onto the goals and operations of the F&A program.

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Some funding recipients, especially those from the Global South, found the F&A program to be too US-centric, in both operations and attitude.

  • Mozilla’s messaging, language, and communications appeared to some participants to be North American/US-centric, and in tension with its global programming, e.g. language in communications to funding recipients, in public newsletters/strategy docs, in convening events and other public outputs.

“Communication and attitude was too American — "everything is fine" — Everybody on the team was from the US. Everybody who spoke with us was from the US. That just reproduces the same system. For us, the US and Europe is always the best case scenario, because you have so many resources. It felt like it wasn't built for a project like mine. The fellows who didn't have problems were from the Global North.”

Fellow, 2018

“That was something that really got me... there was this dude from Nigeria, and he couldn't get a visa to go [to a conference]. And we didn't meet him – he was from our cohort, and we didn't get the chance to meet him… [because of] visa issues. And so we said, okay, let's do the meeting in an African country. Why not? But no, everything is in the US or Europe… So every time we from the South had to have longer flights and everything. And that was something that also like, Okay, why can't we have one event, like one in Africa or, or in Asia or in South America, everything has to be like, oh what is the most comfortable for the US and Europe?”

Fellow, 2018


  • This issue bled into the larger strategic framing as well. Some staff noted that when they first introduced focus on AI in 2019, they received feedback from organizations in the MENA region and in Latin America that it felt like what Mozilla was doing was too North America/Europe centric. They weren't framing the issues in ways that resonated with countries that were facing different issues of governance and security.
  • Lack of staff diversity was cited by some stakeholders (especially non-North American/Europe-based staff) as a drawback to the program. A couple of participants particularly noted that the lack of Black and Black African funding recipients and staff members was a pain point.

Opportunity

Through funding and uplifting local knowledge and expertise and expanding the network of Mozilla fellows, awardees, staff people, and network allies that are committed to its mission, Mozilla has the opportunity to work toward context-dependent, regionally grounded global programming and DEI priorities that avoids US/Eurocentricity.

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Through funding and uplifting local knowledge and expertise and expanding the network of Mozilla fellows, awardees, staff people, and network allies that are committed to its mission, Mozilla has the opportunity to work toward context-dependent, regionally grounded global programming and DEI priorities that avoids US/Eurocentricity.

  • Recipients varied widely on their views about the logistical aspects of the program; some felt that they were run seamlessly, and others ran into many problems.
  • Internal operational logistics (particularly, navigating legal support), especially in relation to international programs or participants, were a pain point historically. Visa, employment, and tax status was unclearly defined and/or communicated, and participants felt unprepared and unsupported in sorting it out without fear of legal issues.
  • There were challenges with program-specific travel booking and scheduling for recipients. Some recipients who faced these challenges reported receiving little support from the F&A team, but also noted that it wasn’t clear who within Mozilla was responsible for these kinds of issues.
  • Funding recipients noted historical US-centricity with respect to healthcare, filing taxes, travel budgets from different parts of the world.

    • Reliance on personal credit cards posed a challenge to some fellows without socioeconomic privilege, and fellows from outside of the US.
    • Childcare is culturally/regionally specific, and some found it was not clear how to make use of the child care stipend in some contexts, which feels like a loss if not used.
    • Mozilla has since addressed many of these inequities and has worked to ensure the program doesn’t cost more (in time or money) for those who aren’t based in the U.S.
  • On the whole, Tech + Society fellows reported more positive experiences with the logistical side of their funding experience, likely because Mozilla has worked consciously to solve problems that the Open Web and Science Fellows prior to 2019 had highlighted. This is critical progress as the Tech + Society fellows are all based in the Global South and the program is one of the most recently designed and implemented Foundation programs.
  • Some funding recipients recounted that they only encountered the call for applications by chance, raising questions about how broad and/or targeted outreach is around the program.

Opportunity

The success that the Foundation has had in solving identified operational challenges, especially for global participants, represents an excellent blueprint for internalizing and adapting feedback that comes in more quickly. Since the Foundation has made demonstrable progress, there’s an opportunity to metabolize similar issues more seamlessly in the future.