365 Days of 4.5%: What We’ve Learned so Far

A year ago, we launched the 4.5% Promise, Artemis Connection’s commitment to giving back via our time and our resources. Our intentional philanthropic approach devotes 4.5% of Artemis staff time to changing lives, communities, and organizations, leverage learnings from our learning lab, people, and resources to make it all happen. We launched this initiative because we believe it is the responsibility of every one of us to make the world a better place, and that that responsibility extends to companies and corporations of all sizes, ours included.

Each year our 4.5% Promise centers around theme, and the theme for our first year came directly from one of our founding principles: We believe that diverse teams in the right conditions will yield the most innovative solutions. You can read more about the data points we started with— disparities between women, working mothers, and minorities in terms of pay, leadership opportunities, barriers to getting hired and promoted—and the toll this was taking on individuals and companies alike.


What an adventure this has been! And how much we’ve learned! Just to give you a little context, here’s a review of our inaugural year of the 4.5% Promise by the numbers:

  • 900: Number of volunteer hours logged by Project Artemis staff
  • 11: Organizations helped
  • 2: Pro bono strategy projects
  • 3: Subsidized projects

Organizations/initiatives we’ve helped this year through the 4.5% Promise:

Some of our initiatives have taken on a life of their own, and continue to build and grow on their own. For example, our Diversity & Inclusion in the Pacific Northwest Meetup, which we founded in January of 2017 and includes more than 250 members, meets monthly to connect, inform, and inspire others on the importance of diversity and inclusion in business.

Project Ascendance, another of our 4.5% Promise initiatives, is our study of the racial and gender divide, beginning with birth and early childhood and continuing through career choice and advancement. We conducted hundreds of individual interviews with women and minorities over the past year, and carefully studied the most recent literature on these topics. Seeking to build a body of research and create actionable plans for women and minorities to advance their careers, we’ve published our preliminary findings from Project Ascendance through our blog. See the latest Project Ascendance post, which considers the role of gender and minority status on one’s interest and persistence in pursuing a STEM degree.

A third ongoing initiative, which will be launching soon, is a tool we’re developing for a company to assess its talent risk. We heard from many well-intentioned leaders that they wanted to know how they were doing and ideally in a way that would be helpful to them, not used to shame them.  Multiple executives said they wish they had a FICO-esque score to determine their talent worthiness.


In developing or conducting these programs, studies, Meetups, interviews, and tools, we’ve learned more than we dreamed possible. But let me break it down into some key takeaways.

  1. We learned that helping helps life have meaning. This is especially true—and most needed—in times when political uncertainty, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and social instability seem to be wreaking havoc on our world and our society. Helping helps center our purpose and humanize one another when little else seems within in our control.
  2. We learned what men think about gender diversity in the workplace. In conjunction with Fairygodboss, an online career community for women, we surveyed more than 300 full-time working men in the U.S., to get their perceptions about gender diversity in the workplace, how they perceived gender barriers, and how managers and non-managers perceived these barriers differently. We published our findings and discovered that while 1/3 of men think women are treated unfairly in the workplace, only very few of these men feel like women are treated unfairly at their workplace. Most of the men we studied also felt like the biggest problem women felt at work was feeling included—but very felt the problem was a gender wage gap. (You’ll find our recommendations for how to improve the gender diversity problem in the workplace in this same report.)
  3. We learned that startups in the Pacific Northwest have a way to go when it comes to inclusion. Our in-depth exploration of gender and racial diversity in Seattle startups, which we published in conjunction with Martha Burwell and Ruchika Tulshyan, found that while Seattle startups are growing and very data-driven in their decision making, these companies have a hard time talking about race, and reinforce the status quo of “boys’ club” and “brogrammer” culture. Women, however, are perceived to be more high-risk employees, likely to be busier with families and therefore less able to devote themselves fully to their careers. (Yes, we offered recommendations for improving diversity in this report, too.)
  4. We learned that women entrepreneurs are more likely to “lean out” if they’ve been rejected. In a recent study of company founders conducted with Techstars Seattle Managing Director Chris DeVore, we learned that there were significant differences in how men and women responded to the decision not to select them into the Techstars Seattle accelerator program, with women being much less likely to reapply than men. We also found that women were less likely to be entrepreneurial founders at all if they had young children at home.
  5. We learned that nonprofits need all of us. Nonprofits are truly on the front lines when it comes to fighting the battle of inclusion and diversity. There are wonderful servant leaders in the nonprofit space doing the best they can with what they have. While money is always appreciated, strategic help is also useful. We all have ways to contribute to these organizations. (I’ll soon be joining a nonprofit board again for the first time since my twins were born.)
  6. We learned that giving improves one’s physical and emotional health. At first I thought it was just me. I was amazed by how energized I felt after I volunteered my time through the 4.5% Promise, even when I wasn’t sure how I would fit it in going into a session or space. But science shows that giving back is good for you—and that it can even help you live longer.
  7. We learned that acts of kindness have a ripple effect. We saw the benefit that paying a good deed forward can have on an individual and on his or her work environment. As the results of this study show, acts of kindness (prosocial behaviors) in the workplace not only benefit the giver and receiver, but they also inspire receivers to pay altruistic acts forward. And who wouldn’t want to work in a place like that?
  8. We learned that everyday kindness boosts autonomy and competence. This study found that students who performed kind acts while receiving autonomy support experienced greater improvements in well-being. Imagine the implications simple acts of kindness could have diversity and inclusion, not only in the workplace, but in our society?


To take a page from Lewis & Clark, we proceed on. The 4.5% Promise is integral to Artemis Connection and the work we do as strategists. We believe that work and life should be integrated, and that it is important to interact with people different from ourselves.

So, we’re going to focus in a bit more. Given that we’re a strategy firm, we want to make sure all our efforts add up to something bigger. In the year ahead, we intend to focus on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity within education. As FDR once noted, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  If you know of any education groups who could use some strategic support, please have them email me!

No doubt there will be more announcements, research, and learnings to follow—and we can’t wait to share them with you. In the meantime, we encourage all of you clients and friends of Artemis to ask yourselves, “Who have I helped today?”


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Christy Johnson

About the Author

Christy Johnson is an entrepreneur and educator, and Founder & CEO of Artemis Connection. She believes that people are an organization's most important asset and by having a diverse workforce, organizations will have the most innovative solutions.