Debugging D&I: Polystream talks about how to take the first steps to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

How do you take the first steps when it comes to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)? Liz Prince speaks to Michelle Rendall, director of business operations at Polystream about the company’s newly launched pledge…


Tell us about the motivation behind this pledge at Polystream.

We wanted our pledge to reflect our company culture and support every step of our employees’ careers, and show our commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels safe and has a voice.

What were your first steps? It must feel like a huge task when starting out – where do you start?

Michelle Rendall,
director of business operations at Polystream

It was a little daunting at first! We started by taking a step back and looking at how to compartmentalise it which we did by creating a Polystream inclusion group called ‘Life at Polysteam’.

This is an internal group that makes sure EDI is the thread running through everything we are doing. We meet regularly and collectively surface things that are on the teams’ minds, whether it’s work or life, then we discuss things in a constructive, positive way and try to take steps or actions to make things better. We also make sure we celebrate the wins and personal things that the team is doing. It’s amazing how much of a difference we can make by spending that time together, and to keep focusing on our goals; the pledge was grown out of this.

What is your key focus right now?

We’ve done a lot around mental health and access to support, and are now actively involved in Women in Tech mentorships. Going forward, we’ll continue to evolve the pledge and make sure we remain accountable for it, committing to openly discussing different, sometimes difficult topics as they arise; for example, ‘invisible disabilities’ is a focus right now.

Were people happy you were doing this?

We were very conscious of not ‘forcing’ people to be part of it. Once we’d set up the inclusion group, we were really pleased to find that we have good representation from across the company. It is supported by the very top senior leadership teams, whilst some people are just happy to know there are other team members they can talk to and raise issues with if they ever need it.

Have you changed any of your processes or policies when it comes to things like recruitment?

We’ve done a lot of work around how our job descriptions are written (such as using inclusive language, etc) and as part of our pledge, we will only make a hire when we’re satisfied that we’ve sourced and interviewed a diverse range of candidates.

What advice would you give to other studios looking to do something similar?

I think that there’s a lot of pressure to think “We need policies! We need this all formalised!” and EDI programmes pop up without consideration of who is involved and how they will be upheld in the long term.

I think that you need to start by taking measure of where you are currently, where you want to be – and then break it down into actionable steps and priorities.

Creating a working inclusion group of individuals who are all focused on championing those goals and priorities is also really important. The Life at Polystream group has allowed us to reach the point we are today – and will help drive our objectives going forward.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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