Silicon Valley is shockingly homogenous. While the representation of white women in the workforce has improved dramatically in the past decade, we are not seeing similar results for minorities. In a recent study based on statistics from the San Francisco Bay Area workforce database, race remained a more significant factor than gender in impacting the glass ceiling. The same diversity study revealed that between the years of 2007 and 2015, the number of African American professional women declined 13% and there was an 18% decline of African American managers, which could lead to a decline in African American executives.
One massive problem in Silicon Valley stems from the idea of hiring for “culture fit.” This idea is defended as one that ranks applicants based on how their personal values align with those of the company. However, this process tends to quickly morph into, “who do I want to share a desk with?” The answer to that question will probably be someone who shares certain personal commonalities, which will ultimately increase homogeneity in the office.
This has been a problem in the workforce for too long. Furthermore, diversity in the workplace is not only ethical, but it’s also financially beneficial. Diverse teams are 35% more likely to have financial returns as diversity can help spur innovation. According to a 2015 McKinsey study, there is a positive linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team and a better financial performance.
However, correlation does not imply causation, and simply hiring more racial minorities to hit quotas will not automatically bring financial returns. The same McKinsey study speculates that companies that prioritize diverse leadership are more frequently able to attract and retain top talent, increase employee morale, foster collaboration, and improve customer relationships. Those results will bring an increase in financial returns.
So, how do you promote diversity beyond surface-level statistics? First, we need to get into the basics. We’ll start by defining the terminology:
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): According to the US Department of Labor, these laws “prohibit specific types of job discrimination in certain workplaces.” While it’s an enormously important law, its emphasis is on minimizing overt discrimination instead of maximizing diversity.
Affirmative Action Policy: These policies focus on hiring with the intent of increasing amounts of racial minorities, women, those with disabilities, and other groups, which have historically been excluded from the workforce.
Diversity: The range of minorities, women, and those with disabilities in the office. In other words, it’s mainly the statistics. Though raising rates of diversity won’t automatically fix the problem, it’s the first step towards inclusion.
Inclusion: Being intentional about developing a culture that makes each employee feel not only accepted but also valued and comfortable. Diversity makes a smaller impact without efforts towards inclusion.
If you’re looking to diversify, here are a couple options:
Blind Hiring: Blind hiring entails removing all defining characteristics from resumes. While reviewing an application, there will be no name, gender, pronouns, and in some cases, no Universities listed. The reasoning behind this is simple: in a study conducted by Bertrand and Mullainathan, white names received 50% more callbacks than African American sounding names.
There are now even artificial intelligence platforms to help keep the hiring process “blind.” Some are designed to disguise applicant voices over the phone; this way, companies can enforce the idea of blind hiring throughout almost every step of the hiring process. Think of this as the EEO of hiring strategies– it levels the playing field to make objective judgments based on achievements.
Affirmative Action Hiring Plan: However, some argue that blind hiring is oversimplifying the problem. Names, backgrounds, and genders can be unique additives to candidates. After all, hiring people with different backgrounds and experiences can allow for innovation as they will approach problems differently. We also know that diversity and inclusion are beneficial for culture and morale; while blind hiring may stop discrimination, it doesn’t promote diversity.
Team-Hiring: If you’re unsure which of these plans to pursue, perhaps you can try team-based hiring. This strategy necessitates a panel of employees sitting in on each interview. Then when discussing candidates, employees will have to present preferred applicants, explaining in objective terms, why he or she is right for the job. This will give others the opportunity to check (un)conscious biases of hiring managers.
This strategy will work best if you already have a diverse hiring team to begin with. While interviewing with a new company, seeing someone who looks like you can increase interest and reinforce the feeling of belonging.
Diversity is the way of the future. Improve employee morale, increase financial returns, and take an ethical stand by having conversations about racial and ethnic diversity in your office.
Originally published on February 5th, 2018.