We believe in a world in which people are equal and we all benefit from being part of a rich and diverse workplace community.
We use data to radically improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Through unique technology, we support employers and employees as they leverage the enormous benefits of diversity to build a fairer world.
Our founder, Nancy Roberts, has worked in large companies, small companies and academia. In all these environments, she was frustrated by the biases and prejudice she saw towards both herself and others around her. She wanted to see change, and believes passionately that meaningful change is possible. Yet achieving true inclusion, representation and liberation in the workplace requires something more audacious than disjointed individual interventions. As a self-confessed data nerd, Nancy wanted to see organisations using data and evidence to understand themselves and their teams, and to commit to doing better. So, in 2018, she founded Umbrella as an organisation devoted to building a world of justice and equality using hard data and empirical evidence.
In 2019, John Pettigrew joined the team as co-founder and Chief Product Officer, with the aim of building software that could help all businesses to use the skills and experience Nancy had built up, and so to help more and more businesses to build that better world. Our unique software platform supports employers in addressing bias and creating fairer, more equitable workplaces for employees, ensuring everyone’s place in a fairer future.
Umbrella exists to make workplace change possible - to help organisations to use data and evidence-based policies to bring about real reductions in the minoritisation and disadvantage imposed on some groups of people. But, to do this, we've chosen to make Umbrella Analytics a business, indeed a limited company. This is because being a business gives us a structure and way of working that people understand and that lets us develop and deliver our vision.
However, the social and legal structures around businesses and limited companies don't consider anything except profit as a valid motivation or purpose. And this clashes with our primary intention to bring about a social good. As a result, we've spent a lot of time reflecting and experimenting with better ways to do things, and have ended up remaining a limited company, but codifying in our Articles of Association that our primary purpose is to produce social good, and only secondarily to benefit ourselves. The relevant part is Section 2 (straight after the definitions):
(1) The company’s primary social object is to carry out such business operations and related activities as will, in the opinion of the directors, create equity and a fairer working environment in client companies by providing software to analyse customer data and make actionable recommendations that will improve the inclusion of people from marginalised and disadvantaged groups in the workplace, and do these things in an environmentally sustainable way, and so result in a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole.
(2) The company’s secondary and subsidiary object is, as a result of the advancement by the company of its primary social object, to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole.
This means that our Board of Directors are legally obliged to make sure that Umbrella is run so as to "create equity and a fairer working environment", and is only allowed to consider profit as a "secondary and subsidiary object". This ensures that our values and principles always take centre stage, while money takes its rightful place as a tool rather than a goal.
We have also developed a clear ethical basis for our business that lays out how we will treat our employees, customers and everyone else who comes into contact with us. This includes a code of conduct for Umbrella spaces that attempts to prioritise the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people, rather than protecting those who have power (including our own leadership).
All of this also works itself out in the values that we have identified for ourselves as the basis on which we do business.
Issues of identity and representation can be highly emotive, so it's vital to face challenges with a level head. Others may rely on unproven methodology and subjective approaches, but we use hard data and empirical evidence to inform the strategies that we propose, delivering actionable insights and measurable change in diversity, representation, equality and, ultimately, liberation.
Our working lives are affected by hidden biases and prejudices – our own, those of others and those built into the environments we occupy. Using data to discover these biases and their effects means we can help organisations to identify injustice. This knowledge unlocks the door to positive systemic change, so that organisations can build fairer, more productive and more powerful teams.
Progress is stifled when power and privilege are exercised behind closed doors. We believe employers must find the courage to champion greater transparency, and so create the conditions for their people to thrive. Employees need to feel protected and valued before they can openly challenge discrimination. At Umbrella, we practice what we preach, leading by example in everything we do.