Samantha Estoesta shares how to bring an “equity lens” to research and product development.
After building a process over two years to design products and services that help meet the diverse needs of TD customers—and piloting the framework externally with the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR)—TD Lab recently made its Equity Resource Hub available to the public in an open-source platform.
Speaking with BetaKit, Samantha Estoesta, Manager of Equity in Innovation and Programs at TD Lab, explained the origins of the Hub and its core five-step process any company can use to help build more inclusive products and services.
Estoesta describes her role as bringing an “equity lens” into research and product development. She provides TD colleagues with a checklist to help them apply that lens to the development of new products, services, and procedures, across all lines of business for customers.
Gaps will be unique to each company, so don’t get distracted by comparing yours to other organizations.
Estoesta joined TD in 2017 and, as a member of the TD Inclusion and Diversity Leadership Committee (IDLC), raised her hand to help TD Lab with inclusive innovation.
She started first by documenting existing TD Lab processes, then created a five-step process to help the Lab better understand users of all backgrounds to help move towards more inclusive products.
That five-step checklist eventually became the basis for the Equity Resource Hub. The process generated positive impact internally, allowing TD to identify seven net new user personas to better represent the diversity of students attending Canadian post-secondary institutions for a student-facing solution. Following successful internal use of the platform, the team made the decision to publicly launch what would become the Equity Resource Hub so other companies could use the same framework.
Before fully open sourcing the Hub, Estoesta leveraged the bank’s relationship with CILAR to pilot the tool across CILAR’s different member organizations, which include large technology, financial services, and consulting firms, to ensure the framework could work outside of the TD context. Estoesta said that the pilots were a success, and that’s when the team knew the process was ready to launch publicly.
“By increasing access to tools that help support equity, leaders and organizations can elevate inclusion across the work that they do and work towards a future that includes and equitably supports our diverse society,” CILAR Executive Director Serena Nguyen said when the Hub launched.
A foundation with five steps
Companies can access the Equity Resource Hub at any time to learn about the frameworks and download free resources. But Estoesta recognizes that equity work can feel overwhelming. With that in mind, she recommended all people approach the Hub with four principles in mind: recognizing and tackling unconscious biases, being purposefully inclusive, realizing inclusivity always means there’s more work to do, and knowing that you can begin an inclusion journey at any time.
Here is the five-step process offered in the Equity Resource Hub:
1. Develop a baseline: The Hub features a list of questions to help probe into current solutions or products (e.g., whether the company has implemented web accessibility standards). Estoesta also recommended company leaders add in whatever specifics might be necessary for their industry or customers. There’s also an equity glossary for anyone new to the ED&I (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) world to better understand the terms used.
“I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and I am constantly learning too,” said Estoesta. “As we grow the Equity Resource Hub, our list of inclusive vocabulary continues to expand to address unconscious bias.”
2. Compile gap analysis: Following the equity considerations and any specific research for your industry, it’s important to identify if anything is missing in your company’s process or outputs (e.g., the company is not meeting web accessibility guideline standards). Estoesta cautioned that gaps will be unique to each company, so don’t get distracted by comparing yours to other organizations.
3. Develop inclusive personas: Expanding the concept of persona-based development, the Hub contains inclusive persona templates that companies can fill out with accessibility and inclusion needs. These personas become the foundation of building your product or service, as they cover key equity considerations and industry-specific needs.
4. Document psychographic implications: Within the Hub, psychographic implications are defined as “including impacts of possible past or present discrimination facing these personas, and ensure they are considered in the designs and development planning.”
For example, a 2SLGBTQ+ person may not want to share personally identifiable information in a new app out of fear it could be used against them. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for information during onboarding, but an equity and privacy law lens would mean asking only for what’s necessary and including plain-language educational copy about why that information is necessary and how it will be used.
5. Implementation: This is when companies take all the prior work and embed it into their actual building process. Specific steps are unique to each company, but Estoesta recommended focusing on either fixing an inclusion problem or filling a gap. Examples include adding a keyboard navigation test to quality assurance testing, changing in-app or marketing copy to be gender neutral, or giving people more options to self-identify by their gender or sexual orientation (or not asking for this information at all).
The Equity Resource Hub also provides support contact information on each page within the guide and resources. TD maintains staff, including Estoesta, who are available to answer questions and offer additional support to any company implementing the steps in the Hub.
Estoesta said that when the Hub first launched, for example, TD received a lot of support questions simply asking how to get started. As a result of this feedback, the team added a quick start guide to make it even easier.
Now nine months after the internal launch and through many iterations, Estoesta’s hope is that the Equity Resource Hub becomes part of a “natural conversation” whenever people who value inclusion are talking about how to better embed it in design discussions.
“We are here to help you because we’ve gone through this for two years,” said Estoesta. “We’re eager to see others be able to access these valuable resources.”
Photo courtesy of TD Lab.