New companies are seeking to remedy the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley’s tech industry with some cutting-edge hiring solutions.
Since 2014, when big name companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter began to release internal diversity data, Silicon Valley and the tech industry at large have been pondering the question of how to cultivate talent of more widely varying backgrounds. These big-name, supposedly cutting edge companies remain surprisingly unprogressive when it comes to diversity, however. According to a 2015 survey by the Verge of the largest American tech companies, 71% of tech employees were male, and only 7% and 8% were black or hispanic, respectively. Considering that black people represent 12% of the overall U.S. population and hispanic people represent 16%, there remains significant room for improvement for diversity in tech.
While Google and Facebook have both outlined diversity growth programmes, there’s little evidence in favor of their effectiveness. For example, Google’s tech team is still male-dominated at 69%, and only 2% and 3% of the team are black and hispanic. Facebook’s mid-2016 diversity survey showed that only 17% of Facebook's tech team is composed of women, and across the entirety of Facebook, black people still only make up 2% of the employee population. Diversity growth efforts observed thus far have centered around better training and recognition of bias – but a more comprehensive and effective approach may be required to tackle this problem.
The Diversity & Inclusion Market
Diversity and inclusion, or D&I tech startups began to emerge around the same time these discouraging reports were released, as innovators recognized and embraced the role they could play in addressing this systemic problem. This development made perfect sense, according to LaunchPad’s own Tobias Hardy: “The nature of unconscious bias means that homogeneity is a self-fulfilling prophecy; a homogenous HR team will likely hire similar candidates simply because deviating from the status quo feels unnatural (even if we aren’t consciously aware that it does).” So hiring an outside team to address an organisation-wide lack of diversity may help to eliminate the risk of inherent, internal bias.
Another selling point for this industry is that decreasing hiring bias offers incentives beyond simply promoting workplace equality. More diversity is actually better for business – according to McKinsey, gender-diverse companies tend to outperform their less diverse competition by 15%, and ethnically-diverse companies outperform more homogenous ones by 35% while also enjoying lower employee turnover rates.
New Solutions to Fight Bias
These new companies have gone about tackling D&I with a variety of tech and data-based solutions. Some startups have focused on leveling the playing field by prioritizing merit above other superficial factors. By rating new hires on specific, quantifiable skills, or comparing candidate and current employee qualifications, employers can evaluate skills first, and background second.
Blind matching and anonymous interviews are another way to achieve recruitment parity, taking names and faces – and any stereotypes that interviewers might associate with them — out of the initial evaluation process. Studies have shown that changing the name on identical resumes (female to male, for example) results in a different outcome for the candidate. While there are some details on the resume itself, such as a leadership position in a sorority denoting gender, that may inadvertently trigger bias, blind hiring is the first step towards eliminating these predispositions.
Similarly, the appeal of anonymous interviews is that candidates can discuss their qualifications without interviewer pressure or bias. Pre-recorded video interviewing in particular standardises the role of the interviewer, as all candidates receive the exact same questions delivered in the exact same way. What’s more, companies can share a recorded video interview with multiple reviewers, reducing the chances that a single individual’s perceptions will dictate the eventual hiring decision for a potential hire.
All in all, it's clear that companies must adopt innovative tech solutions to address D&I deficiencies within their organisations. Taking that next step to broaden the talent pool will ensure that a commitment to diversity becomes not just a trend, but a basic practice for businesses everywhere.