Why is diversity important?
You tend to get a wider range of ideas from people of different experiences and backgrounds. The more voices, the more ideas. A company with people from different backgrounds, ages, genders, and perspectives can spark innovation. Innovation can lead to success. How do we know that a diverse workforce is stronger than a homogenous one? Let’s review the facts:
A group of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers according to Lu Hong and Scott Page, two University of Michigan professors.
Workforce diversity and inclusion is a key driver of internal innovation and business growth.
An inclusive workforce is essential for companies that want to attract and retain top talent in a competitive environment.
Diversity and inclusion policies are leveraged as recruiting and retention tools.
Companies with inclusive boards have higher return on equity than companies who lack diversity and inclusion on boards.
Why is this important to think about early on?
When your company is small, you have the ability to set the tone for who you want to be as a company. You need to be intentional about this from the get go. Seed stage companies have the opportunity to build diversity and inclusion into their companies from the beginning. Not being intentional about diversity from an early stage can lead to habits that impair your ability to recruit the best talent over time. It can also be a challenge to do so when the founders and early team aren’t necessarily demographically diverse.
The guidelines in this doc will help put you on the right path from the very beginning. If you’re a company of four people interviewing for your next hire, the fifth hire will have tremendous impact on the culture of the company. If you don’t make a decision to think about diversity early on, then you may end up hiring people who look, think and act only as you do.
What’s unconscious bias?
It’s an automatic tendency or inclination to have a favorable or unfavorable attitude or belief about a particular category of people. We’re unaware that it exists and it happens out of our control. When we don’t have all the data we need and decisions are moving at a fast pace, we tend to make decisions by filling in gaps in our data by using unconscious biases. Acknowledge that everyone has biases. Biases are not limited to blatant racism. Facebook has put together some
to help understand unconscious bias. Google Ventures explores unconscious bias in this video with a simple
Still don’t think you have any biases? Take the
What are some basic things you can do to prevent unconscious bias in the hiring process:
Have a consistent target criteria (or “rubric”) for evaluating different job functions. This criteria can be used for evaluating candidates as well as for promotion decisions. Here is a link to a rubric for evaluating software engineers that Rent the Runway uses:
Advertise and recruit through channels that target a more diverse audience (see Sourcing section below).
Label necessary criteria as “required” and desired criteria as “preferred” in job descriptions. Required qualifications are the education level, skills and credentials that an applicant must have to be considered for the position. If an applicant lacks a minimum qualification he or she is considered unqualified for the position. Preferred qualifications are additional skills and qualifications that would enhance an applicant’s ability to successfully perform in the position. These qualifications are typically used to establish the interview pool. Candidates who meet the minimum qualifications normally must satisfy all or most of the preferred qualifications to be considered for an interview.
Construct the wording in a job description so it avoids bias. There are tools you can use (
) to help spot gender biases.
During the interview process, the interviewer should not rely on a “vibe” or the lack of “culture fit” to determine whether a candidate is not a “good fit.”
Follow these Basic Interview Guidelines:
Decide what issues are important and relevant to the job; focus on and design questions to explore those areas
Ask the same questions of all candidates
Take notes during the interview.
In looking for the best candidate, a task that can be subjective, identify indicators of what “best” is. Your target criteria/rubric can be very helpful here.
Avoid pressure and distractions. As a hiring manager, you should not schedule interviews if you have deadlines to meet that same day. That’s a surefire way for unconscious bias to sneak into a time-pressured process.
a diversity consulting firm, has put together a great white paper on managing unconscious bias: