Recruiting for Diversity Will Boost Profits and Prevent Harassment in the Workplace

We’ve been working on a blog post for a while about recruiting for diversity, but with the high profile scandal around rampant sexual harassment problems at Uber, it seems important and timely to address now. This problem isn’t unique to just one company. In fact, this survey reports 60% of women in Silicon Valley have experienced sexual harassment.

Other than clear company policies and a no tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment, a very simple way for your company to prevent a culture of sexual harassment is to make sure there are more women in positions of power. A Harvard Business Review study found that “In very masculine work cultures, some men use the subjugation of women as a way to relate to other men and prove their masculinity, while reinforcing women’s lower status.”

Besides acting as a buffer against sexual harassment, a more diverse workforce means a broader talent pool. Warren Buffet has said that one of the reasons for his great success was that he was only competing with half of the population. If you’re not attracting diverse talent, you’re limiting your talent pool.

Having diversity in your company also means better profits. Companies who are more diverse are more profitable, have a lower turnover rate, are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and patents were cited an average of 30 to 40% more often with mix-gender teams.

So we know that having more women and minorities is not only the right thing, it’s good for business. Some people wrongly assume that if they don’t have diverse applicants, it must be a pipeline problem. Stop believing that, and change your tactics.

One place to look for inspiration is Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Bee recruited and hired tv writers differently than most shows typically recruit — hiring simply for writing chops versus experience, which resulted in her staff being 50% female and 30% non-white. And I’d say they’re doing pretty well, proving diversity not only means funnier writing, but also good for the bottom line.

Here are a few starter ideas for attracting more diverse talent:

1. Make resumes and portfolios blind

“People do tend to hire and promote people who feel familiar to them,” says Kat Gordon, founder of The 3% Conference. “No one thinks they’re prejudiced, but we all are.”

One simple way to do away with this implicit bias is to strip gender and names from applications and portfolios during the initial application process. One study found that managers of both sexes are twice as likely to hire a man as a woman, even if the male applicant performs more poorly. Another study found that “job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.”

It’s not easy, and not a fix-all solution, but it’s a start. One tech company found that the use of anonymous application forms are particularly effective at encouraging a more diverse set of applicants and that anonymous hiring generally led to more minorities and women getting called in for interviews.

2. Go beyond the unsolicited resume

Ashley Shack, creative recruiter at Wieden+Kennedy says they receive unsolicited portfolios at “a split of about 60% male to 40% female for junior and mid-weight roles, and somewhere in the range of 90% male, 10% female for senior roles.” If you’re only relying on applicants to come to you, and aren’t doing the hard work of looking and reaching out to the right candidates, diversity will continue to be a problem for your company.

3. Reconsider your application process

Samantha Bee’s advice on recruiting for writers is a great lesson I think we can apply to the tech industry. She says “When you’re looking for writers, you create a submission packet for them and you tell them an outline of what you want to receive back as their application … And sometimes they’re just like, ‘Write two headlines and a sketch, thanks so much.’ But Jo … really outlined what the format was — just the way that it looks is really particular to this comedy world. It’s a script style. And if it doesn’t look that way … it tells you a person is inexperienced. And you don’t look at the words the same way … It’s such a basic leveler to know how your script is supposed to look.”

Are there ways, instead of only judging on a particular way a resume is presented, to have the applicants come in and concept, code or brainstorm with the team? Or sketch up an solution? How can we level the application playing field in the tech industry the way Bee has done with her writer’s room?

One way Slack attempted to fix their application process after realizing their lack of diversity, was changing how they tested engineers. “All job candidates must complete a coding exercise to demonstrate the logic behind their problem-solving. The way the exercise was conducted — on a whiteboard in front of a group of people — put women and minorities at a disadvantage because research showed they didn’t perform as well doing the exercise in public,” said Anne Toth, VP People and Policy at Slack. Now Slack has all of its engineering candidates complete the test in private.

4. Hire for potential, not experience

This one is blatantly stolen from the admirable Cindy Gallop. She says,

“Men are hired and promoted on potential, women are hired and promoted on proof.”

When you’re recruiting and interviewing, ask yourself if this person has the potential to do the job you’re asking, instead of proof that she or he has already done it?

It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to how we understand a candidate’s ability to do the work we’re recruiting for and what barriers might be impeding potentially qualified minorities or women from being found and hired.

5. Do away with the referral bonuses

I know this is going to be controversial, but hear me out. The referral bonus’ purpose is to find qualified candidates within your company’s network. Refer your buddy or old coworker, you get a nice little reward when they get hired. The problem is, it doesn’t help get new people into the system.

This system rewards cronyism, something that is going to happen referral bonus or not. Because we’re trying to increase diversity, not hire people that look and sound like they already work at your company, the referral bonus does nothing. Kill it.

6. Put women and people of color in charge of recruiting

You can, however, use the “buddy culture” to your advantage if you already have some diverse staff willing to help out with recruiting.

Jane Chwick, former Goldman Sachs Partner and Girls Who Code Board member, says “You need to make sure your recruiting team includes diversity. People won’t want to come to a place where they are, say, the only person of color or the only female on the team. They want to feel part of a team where there are people like them, and they want to see that reflected in their early discussions with the company.”

As Kate Stanners, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, said she put a female team in charge of junior recruitment and “the change of young women making themselves available to us was amazing. It changed our department overnight.”

If you’ve already been lucky to recruit and retain some diverse talent, get them to help get some more diversity into your agency.

7. Promote those stuck under the glass ceiling

If you’re not hiring for a junior role, have you looked at who on your staff already has the potential to fulfill the role? According to Campaign Live, “In the past year 14% of men in management roles were promoted into higher positions compared with 10% of women.”

Reiterating Gallop, promote for potential. It’s likely your junior staff is more diverse than your senior staff. Fix it.

8. Offer telecommuting, flexible schedules, and reasonable work hours

If you want to attract more women and parents, know that most mothers don’t have a stay at home partner to be solely in charge of the sick days, daycare pickup and soccer practice. Studies show even in households with two working (hetero) parents, the mother does more childcare. Because of this, most mothers have to take jobs they can be home in time to do household and childcare duties. Consider allowing parents to work as early as 7 or 8 am, leaving in time to pick the kids up after school or daycare, while employees or people with early daycare or preschool drop-off duties can benefit from rolling in at 10am and working a little later. Is there a way to get the bulk of the important meetings done mid-day, while the desk work falls early or late, depending on the employee’s needs?

Ashley Shack says, “We’ve requested that internal meetings are held between 10am and 4pm, that no emails are sent between 7pm and 8am, and we’re encouraging a 4:30 pm stop on Fridays. These were designed to benefit everyone at W+K London, but it’s encouraging to see mothers responding well.”

If you make your work schedules more flexible, you’ll open up opportunities to a much more diverse talent pool.

9. Start an incubator or mentorship program

Though I don’t believe the diversity issue is a pipeline problem, your company can still benefit from creating your own talent pipeline through an incubator or mentorship program. If you helped get the talent into the industry, you’ll be able to hire and retain them as well. I also found that many of our best ideas came from the incubator program I oversaw, and students tended to be more diverse than our larger department. It also allows mid-level employees to gain management experience and practice giving feedback.

Jane Chwick identified all of the high-potential female technologists in her division, and created leadership training programs for them. “I took all of the senior-most people in the division — who all happened to be men, besides me — and I assigned each one of those men a group of five women. I had them work on a real-life technology project together. They had a real deliverable that mattered to the bottom line. Those men got to know those five high-potential senior women and became their sponsors as they grew in their careers. And within five years, 70 percent of those women became managing directors at Goldman,” said Chwick.

10. Pay your interns

If you only offer unpaid internships, you will only recruit interns that have the privilege to not take pay. Stop that.

Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, explains how not paying interns further contributes to inequality: “Unpaid internships create a pay-to-play system since only some people can afford to work for zero dollars for longer than a week or two. This ultimately exacerbates social inequality because key professions get filled up with people from privileged backgrounds; it not only affects who gets ahead and does well, it also plays a big role in terms of the voices we hear in the media.”

If we want diverse voices, we need to be willing to pay them.

11. Pay fairly

Just pay fairly. Qualified candidates will find out quickly that you’re not offering a competitive salary.

Cindy Gallop suggests that “Every CEO and CFO of every single brand, agency and holding company should review the spreadsheets of the salaries of the entire company, and immediately raise the salary of every single high-performing woman to be at parity with that of the men on her level.” Do that and the publicity alone with have qualified, diverse candidates running to apply to your company.

12. Be aware of exclusionary language in your job postings

Finally, double check your job postings. Carlo Callegari, recruitment director at BBH says “We need to be mindful to use gender neutral language and imagery in a way women respond to. Take out the gender bias. So no ‘right-hand man for the job’ or ‘rock stars only,’ please.”

Women are also less likely to apply for a job unless they meet every single criteria perfectly, while men will apply if they just mostly fit the criteria. Be aware of this too, and write some flexibility in your posting to get a broader base of candidates. If you have a man apply for a job that isn’t qualified for the post but you’re still interested in hiring, go back and revise and repost that job posting to see if you get more diversity based on your new lowered criteria.

Check out to get ideas on how to improve your job postings to appeal to more candidates.

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