HomeSocial Impact HeroesCelebrating Diversity: Donna Dror Of Usercentrics On How To Build Inclusive Communities

Celebrating Diversity: Donna Dror Of Usercentrics On How To Build Inclusive Communities

An Interview With Vanessa Ogle

…Feedback can be tough, but it’s still a gift. I take the critical part seriously, but never personally. It also helps me to embrace and accept failure. Failures and disappointments are going to happen, no matter who you are and what role you are in. Sometimes these will be your fault, and sometimes they won’t. The one thing that all failures have in common is that you can move on from them. Being comfortable with making mistakes and receiving feedback means you’ll learn much faster. An example for this is the work I’ve done with career coaches, which include pretty brutal 360 reviews. I’m a better professional (and person) as a result…

In a world where diversity is often acknowledged but not always celebrated, we are taking a step forward to highlight the importance of inclusivity in building strong, vibrant communities. This series aims to explore the various facets of diversity — be it racial, cultural, gender-based, or within the differently-abled community — and understand how embracing these differences strengthens our social fabric. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Donna Dror.

Donna Dror is the CEO at Usercentrics, the global market leader in the Consent and Preference Management space. She has been with the company for over 2 years.

Donna is Israeli, and has also lived in South Africa and England. She has been in NYC for nearly a decade, but now spends 6 months of the year in Europe, alternating bimonthly among Usercentrics’ offices.

Donna has also been an Advisor at Full In Partners, a software-focused early growth investment fund, for nearly 5 years. There she’s been working with a variety of businesses, helping them form functional orgs, scalable processes, GTM strategies, and develop operational excellence. Fun fact: one of the businesses she advised through Full In was actually Usercentrics!

Before joining UC, Donna was the GM/SVP at Similarweb (NYSE:SMWB). During her 8 years with the company, Donna helped Similarweb grow from $10M ARR to $150M ARR and was also part of the team that took the company public in 2021.

Donna is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion; people management; efficient operational scale and how technology can drive positive impact in the world we live in.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about celebrating diversity, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I “stumbled” into Tech after trying my hand at Real Estate and Event Production. Someone I had worked with told me my talents would best be utilised in Tech, and subsequently introduced me to my first role in the industry in 2011. It was the first time that I felt “at home” professionally and that feeling was further amplified when I expanded into a broader role and entered management. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you share an interesting or hopeful story where spending time with someone who did not look like you or who was different from you taught you something that has been useful to you?

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to collaborate closely with a colleague who came from a completely different cultural background. We were tasked with developing a marketing campaign for a new product. My approach was rooted exclusively in data and analytics (e.g. what we have seen work in previous campaigns), while my colleague emphasised the importance of storytelling and emotional connection (e.g. how do we pull on our target audience’s heartstrings). Initially, I was sceptical, but as we combined our strategies, the campaign became a tremendous success. We reached a broader audience, resonated with customers on a more profound level, and significantly exceeded targets.

This experience taught me the invaluable lesson that diversity is not just ticking boxes; it’s about leveraging the richness of different perspectives to drive innovation. Since then, I’ve actively sought out a variety of viewpoints within my teams and encouraged an inclusive environment, where everyone feels empowered to contribute their unique insights.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. I play to my strengths and create my own definition of success. It’s important to realise that what you are good at is often invisible to you, since it comes so easily. A good way to test what you are good at is to find work that energises you, and that you like. An example for this is my ability to focus on my current job, even when other seemingly amazing opportunities came knocking. I’ve known that if I enjoyed my job, and was paid well, there was no need to constantly have a “wandering eye”. I believe it’s enabled me to build the career that I’ve had, which has been quite stable overall.
  2. I cultivate confidence and make my accomplishments visible. Don’t be your own best kept secret — share it and take pride in it. Also in line with that thinking, believe the positive input you get! It’s natural to focus on what you should improve, but know that equal focus is required on what you are already doing well. In addition, a big part of building your confidence and others’ confidence in you is clear communication. Communicate powerfully, and say what you mean always. An example of this is from early on in my career when a male colleague tried to take credit for work I did. I realised then that I had a responsibility to myself to be my own best advocate.
  3. Feedback can be tough, but it’s still a gift. I take the critical part seriously, but never personally. It also helps me to embrace and accept failure. Failures and disappointments are going to happen, no matter who you are and what role you are in. Sometimes these will be your fault, and sometimes they won’t. The one thing that all failures have in common is that you can move on from them. Being comfortable with making mistakes and receiving feedback means you’ll learn much faster. An example for this is the work I’ve done with career coaches, which include pretty brutal 360 reviews. I’m a better professional (and person) as a result.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Can you share a personal story that highlights the impact of diversity and inclusivity in your life or career?

As the GM of a growing startup, we were navigating a critical expansion phase, and the need for a diverse team became increasingly apparent. I realised that to truly innovate and connect with a global customer base, we needed a workforce that truly reflected our target audience.

We initiated a deliberate effort to evolve our hiring processes, actively seeking candidates from various cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds. The decision to prioritise this wasn’t just driven by a desire to meet quotas, but by a genuine recognition that diversity fosters creativity, problem-solving, and adaptability.

One particular hire stands out — a talented individual who brought not only a unique skill set but a different global perspective that was invaluable to our international market strategy. Their approach to problem-solving and understanding of cultural nuances opened new doors for our company, helping us tailor our offering to a different prospective customer base.

This experience not only positively impacted our business outcomes but also reshaped the internal dynamics of our team. As we embraced inclusivity, collaborative efforts became more dynamic, and a culture of learning from one another thrived.

On a personal level, witnessing the positive transformation within our company reinforced my commitment to continuously championing DEI initiatives.

How do you approach and manage the challenges that arise when working towards creating more inclusive communities?

It’s tough, and there is no perfect playbook to follow. I think a lot of it hinges on day-to-day work, like how clearly we communicate the organisation’s commitment to the topic, and then follow up with concrete actions. This is through DEI initiatives, hiring practices, company values, and policies — all of which evolve and improve over time. This enables us to foster a culture where inclusivity is viewed as a core pillar, and discrimination is not tolerated.

Another way to approach potential challenges in the present and in the future is through representation. The more diverse we are at all levels, the more likely we are to develop the skills to create a welcoming workplace and navigate the ways it will need to evolve.

What innovative strategies or initiatives have you implemented or observed that effectively promote the importance of diversity and inclusivity?

We rolled out a DEI calendar so that every month we have relevant activities. Each month has two hosts from our DEI committee and includes content in the form of short educational videos, personal stories from employees sharing their experiences about the topic/community at hand, a challenge or activity, like volunteering, and sometimes external speakers and even food/drink segments.

Some examples:

  1. Earth month included outdoor cleanup work coordinated at our offices.
  2. Cancer Awareness month included steps challenge — “Making Strides Towards Cancer Awareness” — to raise money, which was donated by the company.
  3. Asian Heritage month included Asian colleagues teaching us how to make Matcha Tea / Matcha Latte, Vietnamese Coffee, and Chai (Indian spiced tea).

All of these months also included deeply inspiring and often incredibly vulnerable personal stories and experiences from wonderful and brave colleagues!

Since we launched our calendar in April of last year, which at that point centred on wellbeing and mental/physical health, we have gotten so much feedback from all across the org that these initiatives create a better work environment that promotes true belonging.

In your opinion, what are the key elements that make a community truly inclusive, and how can these be fostered on a larger scale?

As mentioned, I think it all begins with diverse representation at all levels of the company (or community), including leadership roles. This can be scaled through hiring practices, mentorship programs and regular DEI initiatives, like the calendar I referenced and the work we do within it. All of this needs to go hand-in-hand with a clear stance against discrimination, harassment, or bias and policies to address that.

There is also a need for equitable policies that ensure fair treatment for all individuals, regardless of background. This scales with a strong HR team and a lot of bottom-up feedback. Inclusivity thrives when there is open and transparent communication, providing a platform for all voices to be heard, along with integration of what is learned from that feedback.

Finally, you can’t overlook the need for a commitment to continuous learning and growth. This ensures that the community evolves with changing demographics and perspectives and responds to developing needs. This is the foundation that enables a focus on educational programs, workshops, and initiatives that promote lifelong learning on topics related to DEI.

Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways We Can Build Inclusive Communities”?

  1. Clearly communicate the organisation’s commitment to the topic.

This is exhibited in many ways, including in the topics below. Here a company can and should make sure all employees know that there is zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, in any way, and that policy is backed up with decisive action.

2. Evolve hiring practices and make diversity a key goal within them.

It’s often helpful, for example, to implement blind hiring practices, initially removing identifying information such as name, gender, and educational background from resumes to focus solely on skills and qualifications. This helps mitigate unconscious bias and ensures that candidates from diverse backgrounds are given equal consideration for opportunities within the organisation. This can be extra valuable when hiring internationally.

3. Constantly improve equitable company policies.

A good example is offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or adaptable hours, to accommodate the diverse needs of employees. This enables individuals with various responsibilities or disabilities to participate fully in the company and its initiatives.

4. Ensure company values align with the commitment to DEI.

We have three aligned values here:

#comeasyouare, which speaks to people being able to be their authentic selves at work

#bebrave, which speaks to people being able to be vulnerable and feel safe taking risks at work that have positive potential

#giveback, which speaks to the importance of giving back to different communities, in our offices and communities and also globally

5. Build a DEI committee and roll out regular DEI activities.

I referenced the work we have been doing here above. This has probably made the biggest impact overall.

How do you measure the impact and success of diversity and inclusion efforts, and what changes have you seen as a result of these initiatives?

Diversity Metrics: track demographic data to assess our diversity, with the goal of having as many different voices as possible and seeing an increase in the representation of underrepresented groups.

Employee Surveys: assess employees’ perceptions of the workplace culture, inclusivity, and opportunities for growth. The goal is to see the relevant scores increase.

Training Participation and Impact: evaluate the participation rates and impact of DEI activities. Run surveys here, too. Again, there is a goal of increasing numbers.

Leadership Feedback: gather feedback from leaders on the effectiveness of DEI initiatives and measure how this feedback evolves. This is a little qualitative, but still very important.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Living in the United States has helped me think about education differently, so probably a movement surrounding education equity, equality and access in the US.

It would be aimed at ensuring equal access to quality education for all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or geographic location. It would focus on improving educational infrastructure, increasing access to educational resources, and promoting education as a fundamental human right, instead of a for-profit industry that leaves 60% of graduates with heavy student debt for many, many years to follow.

How can our readers further follow you online?

On my LinkedIn!

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About The Interviewer: Vanessa Ogle is an entrepreneur, inventor, writer, and singer/songwriter. She is best known as the founder of Enseo which she and her team grew into one of the largest out-of-home media and connected networks in the world, serving more than 100,000,000 people annually. Vanessa’s talent in building world-class leadership teams focused on diversity, a culture of service, and innovation through inclusion resulted in amazing partnerships and customer relationships. She collaborated with the world’s leading technology and content companies such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Dish Networks to bring innovative solutions to the hospitality industry. Enseo has also held an exclusive contract to provide movies to the entire U.S. armed forces for almost 15 years. Vanessa and her team’s relentless innovation resulted in120+ U.S. Patents. Her favorite product is the MadeSafe solution for hotel workers as well as students and children in their K-12 classrooms. Accolades include: #15 on FAST 100, 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned 2018–2020, Entrepreneur 360 Best Companies 2018–2020, not to mention the Inc. 500 and then another six times on the Inc. 5000. Vanessa was personally honored with Inc. 100 Female Founder’s Award, Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and Enterprising Women of the Year. Vanessa now spends her time enjoying her children, sharing stories to inspire and give hope through articles and speaking engagements. entrepreneurs-to-be with her articles including her LinkedIN newsletter Unplugged. In her spare time she writes music with her husband Paul as the band HigherHill, teaches surfing clinics, and trains dogs.

Please connect with Vanessa here on linkedin and subscribe to her newsletter Unplugged as well as follow her on Substack.

Celebrating Diversity: Donna Dror Of Usercentrics On How To Build Inclusive Communities was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.