It’s an issue we’ve known about — and skirted around — for decades: the tech world has a diversity problem.
In recent years, equity has been an increasingly hot topic discussion across the tech industry. But most often, companies tend to scapegoat responsibility for their own practices by blaming under-representation on the voracious and unrelenting spaghetti monster known as “the industry.”
But passing the blame only adds to the problem — it’s time to look to the source: what can be done on the ground level of recruitment?
Disparity By the Numbers
When it comes to recruiting engineers, the numbers of under-represented groups —such as women, LGBTQ+ folks, and people of colour — are staggering. Last year, Facebook released its diversity report, wherein women represented only 17% of employees in technical jobs.
In Google’s most recent 2016 report, only 19% of women were holding tech jobs, with an overall 56% of the jobs being held by Caucasian employees.
What stands out from the data is the similar disparity in gender equity across the board in today’s leading tech firms. According to LinkedIn’s data (2016), they report only 17% of jobs are held by women, and Yahoo’s data (2014) reports a similar 15%.
Diversity Betters Business
What doesn’t translate in all this data is the viability and efficacy of a diverse workforce — its added value to businesses both big and small, public and private.
Too often, workforce diversity is relegated as an HR issue and not considered a cornerstone performance metric. Everyone knows diversity is good in and of itself, but that isn’t going to help the industry reach its targets.
According to a recent Forbes study, it was determined that companies who have racial, ethnic, and gender diversity out-perform their more uniform counterparts on the bottom line. Aside from the obvious benefits of improved decision-making, employee engagement, and customer service, diverse companies are 35% more likely to have greater financial returns.
Put simply, businesses that do not put a focus on diversity in their hiring practices will not survive — let alone thrive — in our increasingly globalized world. The business case for diversity, especially in the private sector, needs to be the centre of boardroom focus.
Be the Change: Empowering Recruitment and its Reach
Recruiters hold a lot of influence in terms of screening and determining who gets on shortlists — yet the procurement industry comes up notoriously short on taking action to increase diversity in the tech workforce.
For many recruitment firms, diversity has become an empty buzzword used by executives without accompanied action or success. To tackle the problem involves a strategy that goes beyond simply colouring bums in seats: it requires a rethinking at the level of the shortlist.
Instead of the industry standard of shortlisting candidates from a vetted pool of talent, leaders in the procurement industry need to take responsibility for who is in their pipeline. The solutions really aren’t complicated — with a little awareness put into best practices, your business can build its bottom line against the monochromatic grain.
Broaden your search efforts
While a trusted pool of networked managers and hiring experts works well in the short-term, it does little to replenish talent pool stocks and keeps diverse candidates from accessing opportunity. Job positions should be displayed widely — look to publish beyond the standard job boards by including community organizations and immigration and settlement agencies in your reach.
Build a more diverse network of partners
Partnering with organizations that are devoted to diversity is a clear strategy for success. Aside from the resources listed below, research community equity and employment organizations in your local area to get access to qualified talent.
The Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM)’s mandate is to coordinate, monitor, and advocate action to increase the participation of women in science, engineering, and medicine.
Engage equal opportunity publications, such as Minority Engineer Magazine, which is a recruitment-geared publication that helps recruiters — and promising engineers — reach a broader pool of potential candidates.
The Canadian Abilities Foundation job search website, jobs.abilities.ca, links employers with job seekers with disabilities across Canada.
The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), offers job search and procurement resources such as LGBT CareerLink, a website devoted to linking employers with top LGBTQ+ talent.
New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering offers a full list of diverse recruitment resources.
Look beyond the resume
At Ian Martin, we’ve recognized that part of the problem underlying lack of diversity is recruiter bias and hiring practices that look to the resume as the sole determining factor of job fit.
Sometimes, as recruiters, our biases can be subconscious — we might not even realize that we are eliminating under-represented groups from our talent pool. While proper qualifications and experience are crucial hiring factors, the standard resume is simply not an objective tool for measuring the fit and performance of candidates for specific roles.
So, in 2014, Ian Martin transformed this industry ailment into a recruitment solution. We acquired the hiring platform known as Fitzii, which aims to level the playing field of workplace diversity in small and medium-sized businesses.
Fitzii targets under-representation by using technology that generates shortlists based on a candidate’s personality, experience, and overall fit for a company’s particular culture. By enabling features that allow recruiters to hide information such as locations, names, and pictures of the applicant, employers get access to candidates that they might not have considered outright. Moreover, Fitzii makes use of psychometric measurement in the initial screening phase, which allows recruiters to predict not only how a candidate will perform on the job, but if he or she will thrive in a particular role. It’s not hippy-dippy holistic madness — it’s a fool-proof way of getting the right person for the job.
By using objective tools to assess applicants, platforms such as Fitzii are working to narrow the gap of opportunity and access — leading to a workforce powered by more engaged, diverse, and happier employees, and a stronger bottom line for all.