Diversity is More than Hiring Women!

By: Shane Shown, Talent Acquisition Leader

A really popular trend in the technology industry lately has been working on Diversity and Inclusion. First, I’d like to say that this is great! Diversity is vital for long term success for any company in any industry. Diversity will help inspire innovation, promote inclusion, and allow for all current and future employees to feel unencumbered by prejudice.

Now, that word, “prejudice” I believe is really good for us to understand. What is prejudice? It is defined as, “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Lately, there has been a massive misunderstanding of the concept of “Diversity and Inclusion.” For a lot of companies, it has been defined as hiring women. Now, that is most definitely part of the conversation, but not all of it. If your organization is 89% male, then no matter what you think, the organization needs to get in control of their gender balance. However, what if you ran the numbers and realized that the company was not only 89% men, but it was also 95% Caucasian? What’s more important, exclusively trying to balance gender or also trying to be inclusive of other under-represented minorities?

This is a tough conversion to say the least and there really isn’t an “absolute” answer, and honestly there should not be, and that’s the point.

The overall number of women in top business roles is still unacceptable. Approximately, 5% of CEOs are female, but with consistent effort to push for equality future generations will be inspired by women like Jessica Alba (CEO of The Honest Company), Katrina Lake (CEO of Stitch Fix) , and Indra Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo and Board of Directors at Amazon).

What if I played devil’s advocate and said your company was 50% men and 50% women across the board? What is your next step on your D&I plan?

The goal of this conversation is to look at D&I as more than a gender conversation, but instead, an overall plan to inspire growth, innovation, and inclusion so you don’t “overcompensate.” Lately, there have been organizations that brag that they are 80% women, but isn’t that just a response to an already existing problem?

If you’re in charge of Diversity and Inclusion you really need to investigate more than just overall organization health, but also break the organization into pieces. So, let’s talk about what some of those pieces are right now;

  1. Organizational Hierarchy; C-Level, VPs, Directors, Managers, and Individual Contributors
  2. Silos within the organization; Sales Teams, Engineering Teams, Product Teams, Customer Services Teams, Human Resources, Marketing Teams, Supply Chain, and whatever else you have in your organization.
  3. Levels within teams are also important; entry, mid, senior, principal, etc.

Understanding your company’s overall health will start to shine light on potential unconscious bias your organization might already have when they think of promotions, incentive levels, pay, new hires, and other organizational decisions on your employment life-cycle. But, that’s just the beginning. There is so much more that needs to be done.

In 2016, I ran an experiment with a large group within a Machine Learning organization with about 276 employees. Within this team, 48% of the employees were Asian, 27% of employees were Indian, 19% of the employees were Caucasian, 7% of the employees were Russian, and the remainder were from other demographics.

Now, the surprising data… zero percent of leadership was Asian and over 50% was Caucasian. That is crazy. I’m not saying that this is “impossible,” but it does seem improbable. How and why has the organization not been able to get the largest demographic of their machine learning team, that happens to be 48% Asian, the opportunity to hire or grow into a leadership position? The C-Suite needs to actively understand why or how this group has not been represented in a leadership position. This is vital. Is there a variable that has a viable reason or is there an unconscious bias preventing the organization from allowing this demographic to be in a leadership role?

As Janice Gassam wrote in her article in Forbes Magazine, “It is not enough to have an invitation to the party — you must also have a seat at the table. Diversity without efforts to foster an equitable and inclusive environment is like allowing individuals to attend a party but refusing to let them have a seat at the table. You want to think of your organization in the same way. It is not enough to hire diverse talent. To ensure that everyone is treated in a fair and equitable manner, regular maintenance and check-ups are required.”

Without having some sort of representation in a leadership level, they will unconsciously or consciously feel as though they will “never” have the opportunity to be promoted. This is true for any under-represented minority (URM) within the organization. Everyone in an organization should and needs to have a different understanding of what “diversity” means in every class within the company.

Throughout the years, I have noticed unconscious bias happen with promotions, bonuses, and job offers based on “feelings” more than using data to evaluate benchmarks. Now, data doesn’t always provide the most accurate insight, but it can uncover pain points we might all experience if a negative trend begins to happen. That is the key point here. We all need to actively notice trends in our corporate culture and ask ourselves, “does it foster diversity and inclusion?”

My biggest fear today is companies adopting this trend of implementing a diversity strategy without truly understanding what it means. Diversity programs can actually do more harm than good, if they are implemented incorrectly. Diversity programs often treat underrepresented groups such as women and minorities in a similar fashion. However, misunderstanding your public approach to diversity can turn things sour. Sometimes, public posts, blogs, and recruitment messaging that motivates one group may actually demotivate another. This will ultimately lead to a failed program if used incorrectly.

Here are a few articles that stirred up some controversy:

Ideas are not created equal. This motivates me to evangelize the battle against prejudice that exists because of unconscious biases in the workplace. I dream of a world where people do not look at diversity as a “gender” conversation, but instead as an opportunity to appreciate and value new perspectives from all walks of life. This is a shared and conscious decision that bias exists and it is our job to recognize patterns that will prevent us from reaching our fullest potential. We all have a different perspective in life because we are all unique.

Despite the color of our skin, the sex we were assigned at birth, or the language that we speak, we all grow up in a different environment that influences our vantage point in life. This unique perspective gives each of us an opportunity to use our own collection of experiences to inspire, innovate, and influence how we view new projects or assignments in the workplace. Ideas and innovation are at the heart of Diversity and Inclusion.

Here are some links of companies and tools to start your D&I Journey:

GlobeSmart — There is a free option to explore. Also a Premium ($65/Month) & Premium Option. Their product is a platform for organization starting their D&I Journey. They have solutions for Diversity Offers to build a diversity team, Human Resources to support global talent, Learning & Leadership development to develop strong team, Coaches & Consultants to help jump start your initiatives, and goal tracking to improve team performance and promote collaboration across company culture.

SHRM — They are an organization helping companies move their HR to the future. This site promotes a community of HR leaders to communicate and grow together.

Blendoor — is a blind recruiting application created by an MIT student, that hides a candidate’s name and photo to fight unconscious bias in hiring. The app also shows candidates a company’s profile, including information on employee resource groups, inclusion programs, and diversity in executive leadership. It also uses machine learning to analyze candidate behavior and provide recommendations for skills and career development.

Textio — Textio Talent software has been dubbed “spellcheck for job postings.” It uses machine learning to analyze job postings and hiring outcomes from more than 10,000 companies. Those patterns can predict the performance of an individual company’s job posting, and claim to be able to tell if the role will be popular among qualified job seekers, if it will fill quickly, and if the language is gender-biased. As you type in your job posting, it will analyze the language in real-time and offer tips for improving the post.

Entelo Diversity — Entelo Diversity is a recruiting platform that uses an algorithm to help companies search candidates from underrepresented groups based on gender, ethnicity, and veteran status. These identifiers are layered on top of a candidate’s skills and qualifications for a more objective look at what each person might bring to your company. The platform also helps hiring managers craft targeted emails using information from a candidate’s profile.

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Founder @ NxtLevel.io | Blogger | Sourcing Ninja | Recruiter | Ex-@Facebook, Ex-@Zillow | Consultant | Entrepreneur | Startup Junky