James Governor's Monkchips

On meeting Ashley, Kris, and Jessie: thoughts on Sanctuary Companies

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One of the many privileges of working at RedMonk is is we get to meet all the cool kids. As regular readers will know I am quite the fanboi when it comes to recent hires on Microsoft’s developer relations team, so it’s been really cool to finally meet Jessie Frazelle, Ashley McNamara and Kris Nova in the past month or so. All three are warm, funny, super smart and great story tellers. The interpersonal dynamics in that group at Microsoft are clearly great for the women on the team, who are all feeling supported and safe, which is super important in the current fractious socioeconomic and political environment. The personal is political. It is also socio-economic.

At our Monktoberfest conference recently Stephen, my founding partner, asked us all to think about how we can do better, make a positive change in the world, and take concrete steps to encourage safer, healthier relationships with one another. One way, it seems to me, is to try and become Sanctuary Companies, inspired by Sanctuary Cities.

We need to be companies that do the right thing, even when it’s hard, we need to be companies that live our values, that better understand our place in the world. Sanctuary Companies understand the real costs we incur as businesses that we may be passing off to others. Sanctuary Companies understand privilege and act accordingly. They have strong employment policies and enforce them. They understand that safe spaces are real and necessary. Sanctuary Companies push back if the government make unreasonable demands to access information about the employees and customers. Sanctuary Companies protect their employees, encourage and foster diversity. Sanctuary Companies create and sustain cultures of acceptance and radical inclusion. Sanctuary Companies understand that “diversity of thought” is bullshit when white men are making all the decisions. Sanctuary Companies promote women and ethnic minorities more quickly, by properly recognising their contributions to the firm. Sanctuary Companies are tolerant of unions and employee activism. Sanctuary Companies have really good maternity policies (this is particularly germane to RedMonk right now).

The thing about being a Sanctuary Company is that not only is it the Right Thing To Do but there are obvious economic benefits to having sanctuary as a guiding principle. Like Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary Companies will perform better economically over time. Employees are healthier and happier and do better work. Sanctuary Companies can hire better people, and hire from a wider pool of talent.

Slack looks like a Sanctuary Company. Microsoft currently looks like a Sanctuary Company as far as developer advocacy is concerned. But Microsoft, and all the rest of us, have a ton of work to do, to be better places to live and work and play.

Sanctuary Companies don’t have rictus grin meetings with demagogues in order to try and win government contracts and favourable legislation. Sanctuary Companies don’t make excuses to reduce employee benefits at a time when corporate profits are already super high and safety nets are not in place. Sanctuary Companies pay their taxes fairly and equitably in every geography where they do business. Sanctuary Companies understand that tax avoidance really is not a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders (in an age of high frequency trading what does that idea even mean?). Sanctuary Companies don’t lobby to remove regulations that protect citizens, employees and customers.

Some of the above are open to discussion, others are obviously correct as first principles. Sanctuary Companies, like Sanctuary Cities, are far from perfect. Zoning laws in California for example mean that San Francisco isn’t properly housing its citizens. No Sanctuary City, especially one so rich, should have so many homeless people. Denser, low cost housing is called for.

I hope this post is not offensive. Obviously Sanctuary Cities has a particular meaning and resonance with respect to the rights of immigrants and refugees. But when I met Kris Nova for lunch at Dishoom it was just clear that she had found an environment which felt good and safe. I thought “Sanctuary Company.”


disclosure: Microsoft is a client but that has no bearing on this post.

One comment

  1. I think it’s important to credit those managers who help us feel safe at work.✨ (Thanks, @listonb @littleidea @0x74696d @ry4an & @thingles!)

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