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Diversify: How to Thrive in a Tight Tech Market

Recruiting Innovation CEO Alison Daley kicked off her talk on how to diversify the tech market by taking her guests through a series of visualizations.

She asked attendants in her discussion during the 2019 TechServe Alliance Conference and Tradeshow to picture themselves getting on a plane and seeing the pilot before takeoff, then arriving to their hotel for dinner where a couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary and finally attending a conference where they see the CEO of a large tech company.  

Daley then inquired everyone to think about what the people in these three visualizations looked like to them.

She asked:

“Was the pilot black?”

“Was the couple two men?”

“Did the CEO look like me?”

Unconscious bias is real, Daley explained. It’s a level of “autopilot” that people operate on, which she believes recruiters and hiring managers in tech are capable of changing in order to help their companies thrive.

“You’re not truly innovative if you have the same person 20 times on your team,” Daley said, adding that the constant hiring of people with the same background and experience can create gaps in a company’s understanding of the market, whether certain products work and where the industry is going.

To combat this, there are a number of obstacles to dismantle.

According to the statistics Daley cited during her talk, the hiring rate of Black Americans has not improved in 25 years and there are currently less women in tech compared to 30 years ago. In addition to that, when a candidate pool contains only one woman or one minority, there is a zero percent chance that applicant will be hired.  

But Daley assured guests that there are different ways to spark the change needed to diversify the tech market.

These include examining one’s current team composition to see how reflective it is of the outside world and writing job descriptions that will attract a more diverse pool of candidates.

When writing job descriptions, employers could say that are looking for a candidate who knows “enough JavaScript to write client-side validations” instead of asking for a specific number of years of experience with JavaScript, which can discourage potential applicants.

Even using gendered terms to describe an ideal candidate – such as a “Rockstar” or someone with a “Work hard, play hard” mentality – can turn off certain candidates.

Daley also encouraged conference attendants to consider applicants who have attained skills outside a traditional education, like candidates who have learned to code through a rigorous boot camp as opposed to being a CSS major in college.   

“When we are doing this, we can start affecting change,” Daley said. “This is something that benefits not only our organizations but it benefits ourselves because we’re bringing the industry up to place that is more inclusive, more healthy and, in the end, develops products that serve everybody and not just a segment of our space.”