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Last updated August 01, 2020
At the time of writing of this, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and many more Black lives have again shown how racism and prejudice persist in America. Meanwhile, our economy continues to trend towards greater inequality. Pandemic profiteering has resulted in the hardening of the top 1%, and a growing population that have trouble meeting basic needs.
As a company - especially one at an early stage with limited resources, it can be tough to know what our role can be in addressing, or even helping solve incredibly complex societal problems. However, the responsibility falls on all of us, including small startups, to positively influence change with our actions. So, even at our early stage, Ampled can openly take thoughtful and concrete steps forward towards building an equitable company.
Much of the impetus behind Ampled is rooted in an effort to make our online economy systemically more fair, inclusive, and equitable. At the core of Ampled’s mission and charter is a desire to democratize ownership, control, and economic participation- while keeping wealth within communities, rather than it being extracted from them. Many of our organization’s goals are built on a foundation of economic justice for artists - a vision of dignified gig work, financial security, and delivering constructive alternatives to exploitative shareholder-driven capitalism.
Cooperatives, as an organizational business model, do hold a unique promise for bringing about equity and inclusion. Cooperative economics keep wealth circulating within communities, help us lift eachother up, and have a rich history of being utilized by marginalized communities to distribute prosperity. Often out of necessity, Black communities have historically embraced local reinvestment, cooperative economics, and mutual aid efforts. Ampled is inspired by these cooperative traditions that have provided a roadmap for building regenerative community wealth and equity.
Yet being a cooperative with open membership, and democratic member control is a good start, but not enough. We know that in order to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization, it requires more than simply broadcasting good will or good intent.
So, what will Ampled do to meaningfully address racial and economic equity within our organization? Here are some of our thoughts and commitments.
The benefits of diverse organizations are clear. They benefit from a broader base of perspectives, perform better, and help mitigate the pitfalls of conscious and unconscious bias. Diverse teams build better products. We want to make sure that the Ampled organization and product is a result of a broad-base of perspectives, opinions, and experience.
So, in order to build a diverse organization, and in order to identify and improve upon our shortcomings, we need to measure and report the demographics -- and particularly the race -- of our team. We’ve built a data pipeline that will continually publish snapshots of the diversity of the Ampled organization. This is an ongoing process - with each snapshot providing metrics to assess and improve the diversity of our team.
When we measure ourselves relative to benchmarks of publicly available diversity metrics of companies like Google, Facebook, Spotify, or Pandora, we can see that Ampled has a team that reflects a broader diversity of participants than tech giants - but that is a low bar to use as a standard. By looking at our data, we can see that we need to improve on bringing in more Black, women, and nonbinary contributors - as well as a wider range of younger and older contributors.
Beyond asking the question “Who is in the room?”, we are committed to asking the questions of “Who has a seat at the table? Who has power in the organization?”. This is why we will continually also report diversity of our elected board of directors and will take continued efforts at codifying an egalitarian and democratic power and decision-making structure at Ampled.
Right now, we are a boot-strapped start-up without the benefit of significant institutional funding and support. Currently, most of the Ampled team has other full time jobs to pay bills, but we invest our time on nights and weekends to build Ampled for several reasons. We are motivated by building tech for a social good. We are musicians who believe that Ampled can help other musicians. And, if it goes well, it can possibly become a full-time salaried job for many of us.
This presents a dilemma. Because being an unpaid contributor is a likely precursor towards a salaried position at Ampled, this results in an employment pipeline that inherently excludes people that do not have the financial privilege to take on unpaid work, especially during a pandemic. Therefore, our current structure limits our pipeline and only serves to reinforce the inequities built into our society and our economy.
Therefore, we plan to create opportunities for paid contributor positions. This effort will allow us to include a broader base of people who would like to be involved, but may not be able to work without immediate short term financial compensation. This initiative will be further defined and baked into our projections and fundraising targets.
A problem with opacity around corporate salaries is that it can help create and hide dynamics that result in gender and racial wage gaps. Women are still paid less than men in nearly every occupation. According to the AAUW, women make only 82% of what men make. The statistics specifically for women of color is bleaker with black women earning only 62% and Hispanic women earning a mere 54%. Making salaries transparent helps reduce potential bias in compensation and build a culture of trust and fairness within the organization. Transparent wages, and above-board ways of determining compensation in the open help hold the organization accountable for keeping compensation equitable. We hope to set and exceed new standards for making our salary and financial data visible to the general public.
For instance, Payscale conducted a survey on pay transparency on how it helps close the gender wage gap. What it showed was that pay transparency makes significant measurable differences towards pay equity.
At Ampled, we are making salaries transparent as a means of increasing accountability and to act as a safeguard against inequitable wage gaps.
At the average S&P 500 company, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio is 287:1, and every dollar the median employee earns, the CEO makes $287. Creating a cap on executive pay helps reduce income inequality between worker and executive. In our bylaws, we have outlined a maximum wage to safeguard against runaway compensation for leadership. This capped compensation is tied to a 3.5x multiple of the median income in NYC, where Ampled is based. Furthermore, compensation for leadership at Ampled is determined by the board of directors, which consists of elected representatives of artists and workers.
When measuring the value of the input from our contributors that help build and grow the platform, we’ve taken a conscious turn away from the logic models of how the market values people based on their backgrounds and credentials. Instead, we take a more egalitarian approach with our contributors. Labor invested in Ampled is measured in hours in our Time Bank, which are all valued equally - irrespective of role or seniority. This means that the contributions of an entry-student are recognized on equal standing as a senior software developer.
To recap, these efforts are a starting point for continual efforts. This is not a one-time effort, but a set of early commitments to be continually further articulated and improved upon. We’d appreciate any feedback