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Driving Diversity in Tech Through Recruiting

As the country faces a pivotal crossroads in its history, all industries are being faced with an opportunity to prioritize diversity and inclusion.

Alison Daley, CEO and Founder of the online training platform Recruiting Innovation, led the conversation on how to seize this moment during TechServe Alliance’s Driving Diversity in Tech Through Recruiting webinar last week.

Daley’s platform focuses on tech recruitment training.

“We must, as recruiters, recognize that we have a responsibility as the drivers and builders of teams,” Daley said. “When you look at the composition of the tech industry, the large tech firms… they are predominantly white, they are predominantly male and the average age is 29-years-old.”

Part of making this change, she added, involves recognizing the biases that many of us have been conditioned and wired to operate on.

She shared from her own experience how this manifested in her career while she was first building her team for Recruiting Innovation. After urgently searching through her network and hiring five people, she noticed something.

“All five hires were women. Four out of five were white, four out of five were straight and all of them were brunette,” Daley said. “I realized I had pretty much hired five of myself and that wasn’t intentional. I had to swallow [a pill] of self-realization that despite the best intentions… when we get into a sort of automatic pilot, we end up hiring ourselves.”

While there are institutional systems and deep-rooted societal effects that influence our thinking, the simple act of paying attention to what we do unconsciously is an important step to making more conscious decisions, she assured.

Moreover, the companies that embrace this have proven themselves to be ahead of the industry curve.

The data Daley cited during the webinar pointed to companies that performed above the industry median. Those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity outperformed their peers by 35 percent while those in the top quartile for gender diversity outperformed their peers by 15 percent.

In contrast, the ways in which homogenous thinking drives a company’s performance has the potential to be disastrous.

For example, Daley pointed out how the launch of Apple’s first health app did not include tracking for menstruation, which 50 percent of the world’s population lives with.

“They spent millions of dollars to go back and build in menstrual tracking,” Daley said. “In general, diverse teams are better at seeing the full horizon of opportunities and consequences. Homogenous thinking can be dangerous in complex environments.”

More intentional recruiting practices to develop diverse teams include broadening the representation within the candidate and interview pool.

This means recognizing that representation includes gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, education, neuro-diversity, socio-economic background and more. Recruiters can accomplish this with tasks such as considering applicants who attended boot camps versus attaining a traditional degree and sourcing from professional groups for women and different cultural backgrounds.

Companies can also reevaluate less obvious aspects, like who the predominant people photographed in their website are, making sure that job descriptions specify what they want candidates to do with certain skills rather than listing years of experience, and having at least two minority candidates in the initial pool for hiring.

“Because we’re conscious and creating more images that are new to us, there’s a lot of power in what we’re doing as recruiters,” Daley concluded. The simple act of bringing awareness to our recruiting process takes us off of autopilot. This helps us to make the unconscious conscious so that we regain control. We can then move forward with more intentional sourcing and recruiting practices that help to deliver more diverse candidates into our pipelines. As recruiters it is imperative that we bring more intentionality to our work.