Everybody knows tech companies struggle with diversity. But don’t we all? Even companies with the best intentions seem to become colorless as they grow.
In particular, I’m talking to white people, the ones, by the math of it all, who are doing most of the hiring. It’s hard when intention doesn’t lead to the outcomes we seek. It’s hard to be called a racist when your heart is in the right place.
If you truly want a spectrum of America in your company, you have to be very pragmatic about it, you have to do some things that may go against your grain, that just don’t feel right, at least at first.
Take Yourself Out of the Equation.
You may be a great at hiring. You may have great ideas, but it’s likely you don’t know
where People of Color are. And your face, your profile pic, your words, are not going to attract them. Too much to get into now. It’s really not your fault. You’re not a bad person, but you will repel the very people you seek, no matter how kind your words or broad your smile. Like I said, it’s hard.
The best thing you can do is find someone that looks like the people you want to hire and empower them to hire. Share you intention, share your dilemma, and step out of it. Let them lead.
Cut the Names & Contact Info Off of Resumes
Bias is rampant in hiring. First names. Last names. You’ve already made a decision before we get to the third line of the resume. Again, it’s not because you’re evil or have evil intentions. It’s just bias, built up over years of internalized experiences and stories, direct and vicarious. You’re just going off of what you know, what your brain knows without you trying to tell it anything.
You will be shocked what happens when you don’t know the name or zip code of someone. It’s uncomfortable at first, playing in the dark, but you get used to it.
Stop Looking for a Fit
People of Color learn to loathe the word “fit.” They hear it a lot. They hear it with a smile and a perplexed look on the interviewer’s face, as if, they don’t really know what they’re doing as they usher the person out of the room.
Acting on instinct is exclusionary because your instincts are pointing you toward comfort and familiarity. You’re waiting to hear stories you can relate to, references you resonate with, fidgeting that’s familiar, experiences you’ve been through yourself.
Hiring with your gut is the easy way out. It’s better to be analytical, to use checklists, to not trust your first decision. How weird is that?!
Instead of looking for a fit, look for a qualified candidate, someone who matches the qualifications and he lines up with the company values (which, hopefully, have been co-created by a broad range of people).
Recruit Out of Places Other Than Nearby Universities
There are great people at the schools around you, but unless they are HBCUs or some other POC-leaning institution, you’re going to be recruiting from a sea of whiteness. Again, not a bad thing. This has nothing to do with qualifications.
Instead of going to schools (which beckon you too them, I know), try some other channels. Seek out professional associations geared toward a specific population of people. (They won’t be hard to find; it’s usually in the name.) Consider flyering near (not in) churches, mosques, and other places of worship. Stage job fairs and recruiting events within Communities of Color. Network with other companies who have succeeded in building diverse workforces and have them forward candidates they pass on, lay off, or lose. Find a contingency recruiter that specializes in sourcing People of Color.
And if you must go to the schools, find the International Student Union, the Black Student Union, the Ethnic Studies Department, La Raza, and other groups centered on bringing together students according to culture. And boldly and proudly ask for People of Color.
Remind Yourself Why You Care About Diversity
Don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do. Be courageous enough to go deeper than that. Why are you really doing all this work?
Here are some reasons I’ve heard from hiring managers and employees who are committed to placing diversity high above other priorities when it comes to hiring.:
- We want to increase our ability to serve our customers. We need our organization to reflect what our customers look like.
- We believe in diversity of thought. The more diverse our thinking, the more innovative we can be.
- We want to disrupt our industry and that requires absorbing new ideas coming from largely underepresented experiences.
- We want to practice what we preach. Posting our values on the wall isn’t good enough.
- We want to empower all of the people in our community with paying jobs. Consistent money and work are a key ingredients to a fulfilling, self-actualized life.
- We realize that this city/country won’t heal unless we make changes in our decisions about who we engage with on a day-to-day basis. We are the change we wish to see in the world.
Unless you and your company connect with one or more of these statements, you’re not going to follow through on the difficult path to diversity, because it IS difficult. It’s not simple. And it’s not intuitive.
It takes work, continuous work well past the act of hiring, but hiring right will get you started down the right road and open up all of the other opportunities you seek.