Glassdoor reports that diversity and inclusion gap in the workforce is growing

Racial and ethnic groups, as well as industry sectors, define the workplace’s current D&I perception, a challenge because white voices dominate 60% of the U.S. workforce.

Employees of different racial and ethnic groups disagree about the current state of workplace diversity and inclusion, according to a just-released report from Glassdoor Economic Research, “America’s Workplace Diversity Crisis: Measuring Gaps in Diversity & Inclusion Satisfaction by Employee Race and Ethnicity.” The new data was gathered through a large sample of anonymous Glassdoor ratings that include employee sentiment about D&I at work and the self-identified race and ethnicity of those employees.

The latest GER report stated it found “strong evidence that workers from different racial and ethnic groups disagree about the current state of workplace D&I at their companies.”

Overall, it continued, “Black workers report an average D&I rating of 3.49 out of five stars, well below the average of 3.73 stars across all workers. By contrast, Asian workers report above-average D&I ratings of 3.98 stars, while Hispanic/Latinx workers report ratings of 3.80 stars.” 

GER used a statistical model to determine whether D&I sentiment differs among racial and ethic groups, taking into account the differences in employees’ occupations, industries, company sizes, genders, lengths of time on the job and more. Glassdoor reported that the sample it used is “remarkably close” to actual population race and ethnic makeup determined by the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. 

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Critical to closing the D&I gap in the workplace: “avoid allowing white voices to dominate opinions of diversity,” the report stressed. This presents a challenge, because white voices dominate 60% of the U.S. workforce and 56% of Glassdoor D&I ratings, creating an overrepresentation. There is also a risk, the report said, of creating blind spots for employers who do not directly solicit feedback from and target investment in underrepresented groups.

The divergence in D&I satisfaction in the enterprise “is problematic for two main reasons: 

  • First, it highlights a systematic shortfall in the workplace experience for Black employees. 
  • Second, our data points to the dangers of evaluating employee satisfaction using simple averages alone.”

SEE: Diversity: Why open source needs to work on it (TechRepublic)

Tech industry rankings

The GER compared the average D&I ratings on a scale of 1 to 5.

By race/ethnicity and sector and for “information technology,” it reported the following ratings

  • White: 3.74
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 3.77
  • Black: 3.53
  • Asian: 4.02
  • Multiracial: 3.81

By race/ethnicity and occupation group, also for “information technology,” it found the following ratings

  • White: 3.79
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 4.05
  • Black: 3.69
  • Asian: 3.95
  • Multiracial: 3.92

Largest D&I gaps

D&I gaps vary based on industries, reported the GER.

Largest D&I perception gaps between Black sentiment and all other employees in these sectors:

  • Accounting and legal
  • Consumer services
  • Travel and tourism
  • Government
  • Biotech
  • Pharmaceuticals

Smallest or indistinguishable D&I perception gaps between Black sentiment and all other employees in these sectors: 

  • Media
  • Business services
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Telecommunications

In one industry—media—Black employees rated workplace D&I above other employees.

No one-size-fits-all solution

GER concluded that “There is no one-size-fits-all approach for employers who are serious about cultivating diverse and inclusive workplaces.” 

Their findings suggest that to remedy the gap “employers must look beyond ‘average’ employee opinion on workplace diversity, as doing so can conceal important gaps in D&I sentiment among employees of different backgrounds and racial and ethnic groups. Looking deeper in this manner may reveal gaps in employee perceptions or experiences, or highlight areas of the workforce where D&I programs are not reaching.” Glassdoor has a guide for employers on how to build a diversity, equity and inclusion program.

People Of Color Are Not Your Free Diversity And Inclusion Resources At Work

“From casual inquiries about how to pronounce specific names to more pointed questions about how to make the workplace more accommodating to people of color, I was the go-to person.”

In 1997, I was one of the early entrants into South Africa’s new democratic workplace. South Africa was a fledgling democracy, and for the first time in our history, we all had equal opportunity to participate in corporate South Africa. I was a young, fresh-faced commerce graduate, eager to contribute and develop my skill set. 

As a woman of color, I am often the “only” in the room, and in those early days in South Africa, seeing people who looked like me was even more uncommon. Straight into the door, I started to notice that I was quickly becoming the de facto person to ask about all things diversity-related. From casual inquiries about how to pronounce specific names to more pointed questions about how to make the workplace more accommodating to people of color, I was the go-to person.

A few weeks into the job, my boss excitedly approached me with an enthusiastic grin. 

“We have a great opportunity for you! We are forming a Diversity Committee, and we need someone like you.” 

I was immediately filled with trepidation. I was a commerce graduate looking to build my skills in a particular area of expertise. I was not a diversity and inclusion practitioner. It was a massive ask of me. But the fear of saying no loomed over me. 

He was, after all, positioning this as a great opportunity. Would I be seen as unhelpful if I said no? As a woman of color, I was already becoming aware of how vulnerable I was and of the bias in systems that worked against me. So, the genuine fear of saying no, and being indirectly penalized for doing so, loomed over me. 

I reluctantly joined a group of seven “volunteers” who were all either Black or people of color. The burden of being on the committee was huge. In addition to carrying out our day jobs, we were now expected to carry an additional responsibility with no upside other than vague hope that our efforts would somehow result in a better workplace for us.

As a marginalized group member, I was aware that in the ordinary course, our performance would be judged more harshly than dominant groups and that we would have to work harder to prove that we belonged. So, the system was already stacked up against us, and now we were being asked to take on more responsibility in addition to the weight of what we already had to achieve. 

I was the only South African Indian person on the committee, and the stress of having to speak on behalf of my entire community constantly weighed on me. Even though I was of Indian descent, this fact hardly qualified me as the authority on everything related to my community. What if I said the wrong thing or offered advice that was not representative of my community? Would my entire community be judged on what I would say?

As we worked through some of the issues in our organization, often late at night or over weekends, it was apparent that the problems were systemic and structural and required a more serious look into policies, leadership, and culture across the organization. 

But we were very aware of our vulnerable positions and of our limited authority. We were being asked to speak up on issues we ourselves were subjected to and speak out to senior members of the dominant groups without a sense of psychological safety in place. If we pointed out these systemic issues, the genuine fear of backlash loomed over us. We were placed in an impossible double bind. Every month we would all meet over a weekend and cautiously craft out a presentation that attempted to get our views across in the most diplomatic manner without risking being penalized in some way. Our management would decide what they wanted to take on board or not. They would seek our counsel on matters that were of interest to them and ultimately held all the power to decide what, if anything, they chose to do with our advice.  

Not only did we feel that we could not enact meaningful changes, but our careers were also none the better for it. Personally, the burden of the added long hours that distracted me from my day job set me back comparatively to my peers. It was a lose-lose situation.

Unfortunately, this was not the last time that I found myself in a similar situation, nor was it limited to workplaces. Over the years, I have found myself in similar positions at schools and in social circles. 

As I became more actively involved in diversity and inclusion work, eventually starting my own diversity and inclusion practice, this behavior intensified. When the Black Lives Matter movement garnered global attention to the ongoing injustices perpetrated against Black people, I began receiving calls from my networks around the world asking me to speak at company webinars, join a committee, or provide quick advice on various D&I matters with no offer of compensation for my labor.

Black, Indigenous and other people of color are not your free diversity resources. There appears to be an unspoken consensus that we need to help educate others on tolerance, diversity, cultural practices, and much more simply because the spread of this knowledge will somehow help us and our quality of life in relation to others. We are, in effect, being asked to perform the labor to help ourselves, thereby absolving dominant groups from doing the work to unravel bias and prejudice, which, in many cases, they are responsible for perpetuating. 

We are not your parents, teachers or Google. It is not fair to expect us to carry the responsibility for solving problems that are more significant systemic issues. 

Because someone is a BIPOC employee does not automatically mean they have the authority to speak on behalf of their entire community, nor can it be assumed that they are interested in doing so. 

If workplaces are committed to equality, they must invest and reward appropriately. 

Professional services firms and established D&I practitioners in the market can offer proven tools and methodologies to interrogate your culture, systems and leadership. If you are hiring diversity and inclusion employees into your organization, give them the authority and latitude to make decisions, support them and compensate them appropriately. 

Diversity and inclusion are strategic business priorities. It is not a charitable effort; diverse, inclusive environments benefit everyone and drive business performance. If companies are committed to rewarding and investing in measures that aid their business growth, then diversity and inclusion should be no exception. 

The voices and lived experiences of BIPOC employees are essential and should be valued in D&I work. If employees choose to be a part of your D&I efforts, then show that you value them by rewarding them appropriately. This does not have to be limited to financial rewards. Companies can offer mentorship, career advancement opportunities, coaching, access to networks, and formal performance evaluation acknowledgment. These measures send a signal that you value the added labor they are taking on for helping you solve for issues that are important to your business

Employers, if you are truly committed to equality, then do the work and let us get on with ours. 

Diversity in Hollywood is ‘better in some ways but worse in others,’ actor Alfonso Ribeiro says

After getting called out for years for its lack of diversity, Hollywood has implemented measures in an effort to become more inclusive, pledging its commitment to a more equitable landscape.

Yet despite those initiatives, there is still room for significant growth, as people of color remain underrepresented.

Diversity in Hollywood is “better in some ways and worse in others,” actor Alfonso Ribeiro, star of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” told Yahoo Finance when discussing how the industry has evolved over the years.

“If you could go back to the ’80s and ’90s, there were actually more African American TV shows on network television,” said Ribeiro. “Now, there are fewer full African-American casts working today and most of them are on cable networks, not on network television, so we’ve gone backwards in that way. But you also have people like The Rock, Kevin Hart, Will Smith that are at the top of the chain when it comes to making movies and being big blockbuster stars.”

But it’s not just about diversifying leading roles in front of the camera. Hollywood’s path towards a more inclusive community includes diverse representation behind the scenes as well.

“We need more directors, we need more writers, we need showrunners, producers,” added Riberio. “And it’s not just about whether it’s African Americans, we are talking about Asian Americans and Latino Americans. Getting more women in the business. It’s about making sure that everyone has an opportunity to share their talents in many different ways.”

According to UCLA’s most recent Hollywood Diversity report, women and people of color remain underrepresented in nearly every category. In its film portion, the study found that 91% of studio chairman and CEOs are white and 82% are male, while 86% of executives in charge of casting are white. For those in front of the camera, people of color accounted for just 27.6% of the lead roles in top films.

The TV-focused portion of the study also shows a significant need for improvement. Ninety-two percent of C-suite TV executives and 89% of show creators are white.

Lack of diversity costs Hollywood $10 billion a year

A more diverse Hollywood benefits the bottom line.

report from McKinsey earlier this year found that the industry is losing $10 billion a year by ignoring racial inequality, and that it will continue to leave money on the table if it fails to address the issue.

The report highlighted the racial complexities and challenges of the industry’s ecosystem. For example, the study found that Black actors have significantly fewer chances to land leading roles early in their careers, and production budgets for films with either a Black lead or co-lead are on average 24% lower than other films.

“In the same way that collective action is needed to advance racial equity in corporate America, real and lasting change in film and TV will require concerted action and the joint commitment of stakeholders across the industry ecosystem,” wrote the study’s authors.

“We got a long way to go, but as long as we keep moving forward, we’re making progress,” added Ribeiro.

Advancing Diversity And Inclusion From End To End

Diversity is not a single point of effort. It’s not as simple as requiring training classes or building an internal committee. To support diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in the long run, these initiatives must be integrated into processes throughout an organization. That means incorporating DEIB into every strategy and solution in place, including the HR tech stack.

If the existing process includes anything like someone picking out names or resumes that “sound diverse,” chances are the organization isn’t addressing diversity beyond face value. To start making improvements, we need to take a long, hard look at every level of current efforts to attract, recruit and retain diverse employees — along with existing employee engagement activities — to fully understand how to make the organization a supportive space for all. Because in truth, “challenging the status quo requires determination, bold decisions and structural transformation. It requires extraordinary effort, including cultural and behavioral changes, to make a difference… A diverse, equitable and inclusive environment feeds the success and advancement of all employees.”

Responding To Trends By Prioritizing Diversity

The pandemic exacerbated specific recruiting problems. With a higher volume of applicants than ever before, companies struggled to keep up. Many wanted to promote DEIB and distinguish their organization as a great place to work, but only 12% of HR leaders feel they have effectively increased representation. Where do HR and talent acquisition teams go from here? How do we prioritize diversity while managing higher applicant volumes?

The technology we use to do this has never been more critical. The switch to predominantly online recruiting has highlighted the need for more innovation to facilitate hiring. Though most expect a return to in-person at some point, there remains increased interest in building talent acquisition strategies that accommodate the hybrid, virtual and physical worlds while prioritizing DEIB. Technology will help get us there.

The first key is to make sure you genuinely understand your talent pipeline, with benchmarks in place to ensure DEIB becomes hardwired into your talent acquisition processes and insights become embedded into your dashboards to provide visualization about how your organization is doing at meeting the expectations of your organization leaders.

Every stage of the recruiting funnel offers an opportunity for DEIB. Here’s how:

1. Attract: How we initiate contact with candidates has never been so critical. From the language that we use to the brand we convey, expectations should be set and managed. We need to communicate who we are as an organization and what we offer candidates in terms of experience and engagement. Today’s candidates are eager to join organizations that align with what they value. The attraction stage allows employers to demonstrate across social media, events, job advertising and the like. Technology makes it possible to personalize this outreach. Thus, engaging a diverse group of candidates while applying embedded analytics and proactive recommendation ensures postings get written inclusively, elevating DEIB efforts.

2. Assess: When assessments are a necessary part of your shortlisting process, think about how you can make sure that these are not adding bias into the process and allowing for undue favoritism or nepotism in the hiring process. Consider how you can automate the assessment scoring so that panelists can submit scores without any prejudice from fellow assessors. Also, consider if data science techniques could be virtually scoring assessments to compare with that of a physical assessor. That could help identify any unconscious biases that impact DEIB.

3. Select: After the initial engagement, recruiters need to keep candidates engaged as they move forward through screening and selection. We can do that by reducing the usual back-and-forth by scoring candidates on their skills and competencies rather than names and contact information and deploying analytics and artificial intelligence to monitor and remove biases in our decision-making. The ability to automate scheduling lightens the administrative load as candidates progress onto interviews, assessments and reference checks. Candidate experience can be as important as revenue generation.

4. Hire: While the decision to hire one candidate over another is crucial, so is what happens next, and all too often, the commitment to DEIB ends at the offer. We need to move away from that thinking, making it part of the offer, preboarding, onboarding and, ultimately, employee experience. That’s why some believe onboarding should be an “acculturation” process that lasts months, if not longer. Employers risk losing top candidates and ultimately hires when they don’t make this a priority.

End-To-End Diversity

Organizations that succeed in DEIB employ an end-to-end approach that starts with data-driven recruiting with an end-to-end diversity tech stack. For these organizations, DEIB is a core competency, with cultural intelligence ingrained in the bones of the business and reinforced at every stage of the candidate and employee life cycle.

Advanced recruiting technologies do more than automate the tech stack. They deliver a world-class experience to everyone involved. To be world-class in terms of DEIB, we need to think beyond the foundational. It’s not enough to check all of the boxes. We need to create an infrastructure that supports diversity initiatives at every level, walking the talk inside and outside the organization.

Advancing Diversity And Inclusion In The Recruiting Funnel

While it has been proven repeatedly that diverse teams generate more revenue, make better decisions and drive increased innovation, many organizations have made little progress with D&I initiatives. That’s because few employers are taking a long view to build sustainable change. How do we tackle diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) more holistically? How do we create that sustainable change in our organizations without knowing what tomorrow looks like? I believe the answer lies in data and using technology to our advantage.

Organizations spend upwards of $8 billion a year on diversity training, despite no evidence that this approach is effective. The answer isn’t necessarily to stop training but to understand why it isn’t working. Training without infrastructural support is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. Likewise, we can’t permanently move the needle on DEIB without a technology infrastructure that provides a continuous understanding of what we’re doing and how it’s working, starting with the ways we recruit and hire candidates.

Data For DEIB  

While some companies are using data, they may not be using it correctly. What’s worse is organizations don’t necessarily understand or trust their data sources when it comes to hiring decisions. There are a few reasons why, and they range from data not being actionable or available at the point of decision-making to simply not knowing where to start.

Here’s the thing, as D&I expert Torin Ellis has said: D&I has no finish line. Don’t set arbitrary limits on the power of data for D&I without recognizing what the data can do. That includes: uncovering bias within the recruiting process, measuring real-time impact, enabling agile adjustments and developing more inclusive behaviors. So, how do we shift the narrative?

Efficient use of data-driven tech from the top of the recruiting funnel can be the difference between initiatives that don’t stick and a more diverse, more inclusive workforce. It’s not just about using technology to find different types of candidates. It’s about utilizing technology to collect and manage data and put actionable insights in the hands of everyone involved in recruiting as they recruit to ensure the process actively attracts, engages and supports diverse candidates. With this in mind, let’s consider how and where employers and recruiters can use data’s help:

• Analyze current activity: DEIB requires strategy and consideration. Before making changes, we have to know what we’re doing and determine whether it works. If existing recruiting efforts don’t proactively account for DEIB from the very top of the recruiting funnel, it can be tough to make improvements. Consider all of the elements that support diversity while handling a volume of applicants.

• Examine existing data: Uncover and consider the data in the organization at the moment. Talent acquisition professionals can benefit from knowing what about the organization helps attract diverse talent — and what helps keep them post-hire. Be clear about the types of diversity the organization wants to champion and compare these goals with the current decision-making process to see how it affects outcomes.

• Words, words, words: Look at what is being communicated through content and messaging, branding and marketing efforts, recruiting advertisements and job descriptions. Review screening and interview questions. Every interaction with potential candidates and actual candidates is an opportunity to encourage diverse and inclusive practices. Walk-through messaging to make sure it represents the organization’s values, brand and goals.

• Apply technology: Tech isn’t just about automation to save time. Yes, that’s a benefit, but it’s also about mitigating bias by layering in quality-controlled artificial intelligence and machine learning to make proactive and data-driven movements toward unbiased decisions. Facilitate high-quality human decisions, avoid cognitive biases such as the halo effect and use response-focused screening, blind resume reviews, collaborative or panel evaluations and more to increase efficiency while mitigating bias, benchmarking and monitoring the inclusiveness of efforts, and providing analysis.

If you genuinely want to be a diverse organization, stop putting your efforts and resources into initiatives where you have no evidence they impact your diversity. Adopt technology that measures and presents the impact of any initiative, make unbiased recommendations and facilitate unbiased decisions. Make D&I part of your tech infrastructure to nudge rapid behavioral change and agile data-driven adjustment. Prioritizing D&I requires a data-driven approach for efficiency and effectiveness — one that understands the organization’s goals and supports the candidates it seeks to engage. From there, we can build inclusive processes that leverage data, tools and tech to recruit and support a more diverse workforce.

Diversity Is An Outcome

In my profession, I hear diversity and inclusion coupled together, and frequently interchanged with each other. They are not the same. Perhaps more egregious is leaving out equity, which is necessary to change systemic and institutionalized disparities within organizations.

Simply put, diversity is the presence and representation of difference related to identity in an organization or group. We usually think about diversity as a visual distinction, but many identities that are not visible add uniqueness to our perspectives and world experiences, including but not limited to: gender, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic class, age or generation, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness or accessibility, caregiver and/or family status, veteran status, national origin and/or citizenship status, neurodiversity, languages spoken, education level, religion, marital status, cultural affiliations, learning style, and any combination thereof.

Diversity is about representation and identity factors. Some of those identities may be inherent, and we can’t change them about ourselves or others. Other identities, like being a veteran, result from choices we make, and others, such as an adult-onset disability, are imposed upon us.

Equity is ensuring fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of historically underrepresented groups in the public sphere. Equity is about removing barriers to ensure underrepresented groups experience fair treatment.

A very common example of this comes in wheelchair ramps for people who don’t have full mobility so that they have equal access to public spaces, but perhaps less obvious is how names on resumes that are multicultural don’t receive as many callbacks for interviews as European-sounding names do. That’s a barrier which must be removed to ensure that people with multicultural names are being judged by their skills and not their ancestry.

Inclusion is the act of creating environments and cultures of belonging in which any individual or group with different identities can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. Inclusion is about interpersonal relationships.

You may have heard this saying before:

Employees don’t leave organizations so much as they leave managers.

That is a direct result of the quality of interpersonal relationships that people experience in the workplace.

[Related: Companies Are Losing Top Talent Because of Exclusive Behaviors]

The important point to remember is that equity and inclusion are processes. When those processes are executed with intention, diversity is the outcome.

If a company has not been intentional with its culture, then it tends to be a culture of assimilation. When the culture is one of assimilation, people coming to that workplace are expected to adjust themselves to fit the dominant culture — whatever that dominant culture is. And if you don’t fit in, that’s where exclusion occurs. An organization with an assimilationist culture upholds the lowest bar, legal compliance. Many organizations are content to stay here.

To shift that culture, however, the next stage an organization enters is tolerance. This is when a degree of symbolic diversity has emerged. These organizations tend to have diversity champions that push for more diversity; there are pockets of inclusion and pockets of exclusion. This is where the focus needs to be on team-building and building that inclusion muscle.

This stage is very chaotic and is where most organizations give up. It’s hard to bring about a shift in culture, especially because people fear what they will lose in the change and may not have the vision to anticipate what they will gain with an inclusive and equitable culture.

Once the shift toward inclusion starts happening, people begin to question whether policies, programs, even benefits, are equitable. Equity may be difficult to parse since our biases are ingrained and, despite unconscious bias training, people don’t change their behaviors or don’t recognize how their biases have shaped their behaviors. Employees are more engaged when they see the processes around evaluation, compensation, and promotion as fair and transparent because they’ve been made equitable for everyone.

Once the organization is moving toward a more inclusive environment that welcomes all perspectives and values difference and has dismantled the barriers to equity, these qualities ripple outward. At this stage, when an organization earns a reputation through its employees as being a great place to work because it is inclusive and equitable, it attracts diversity.

Diversity is a fact in our society. It is time for diversity to become a fact in our organizations, as well. Inclusion and equity, practiced with intention, lead to diversity.

[Related: Eight Ways You Can Support Racially Diverse Colleagues at Your Workplace]

Will Remote Work Lead to More Diversity in Tech?

ill the pandemic-induced shift to remote work help organizations increase diversity?

Yes, some companies say—at least for technology jobs.

Technical fields have long lacked diversity; some 80 percent of software engineers in the U.S. are white men, according to McKinsey. Despite pledges to diversify, technology companies have yet to make much progress.

Yet, while many organizations laid off staff and scaled back hiring because of COVID-19, demand for technology professionals held steady and even increased. According to recently released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of tech jobs in May 2020 was 1.2 percent higher than in May 2019. The biggest increases were in data science and information security. Salaries were higher, too. 

Increasing their tech talent during the lockdown showed companies how productive and cost-effective remote hiring and working can be. Employers now have the opportunity to recruit from anywhere, opening up more chances for a diverse pool of applicants.

“The pandemic and the changes it has brought about in how work gets done provide an unprecedented opportunity for a turning point,” wrote Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., in a December 2020 article in the Harvard Business Review. The concentration of tech companies in specific geographies limits their ability to recruit and retain different kinds of people, he pointed out. “Seventy-five percent of venture capital funding is concentrated in just three states—New York, California, and Massachusetts—and more than 90 percent of technology-intensive innovation-sector growth between 2005 and 2017 occurred in just five metro areas,” he wrote.

Recent research at Tufts identified regions of “tech talent diversity” in the United States, ranked them by “digital readiness,” then factored in information like cost of living to identify six states—Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and Virginia—that represent “an untapped opportunity for the big tech companies to establish recruitment strategies to diversify their workforce,” Chakravorti said.

In March, The New York Times reported that tech companies were adding offices in particular geographies, notably Atlanta, as a way to recruit a more ethnically diverse talent pool. Among them are Microsoft, Google and Airbnb. The city has several historically Black colleges and universities that produce a wealth of tech talent.

“This is absolutely a winning strategy,” said Will McNeil, co-founder and CEO of Black Tech Jobs, a Chicago-based tech recruiting firm, which has been able to recruit Black Atlantans to join Silicon Valley-based tech companies remotely. “As soon as you decide employees can work from anywhere, you can win the diversity battle, you can go where the Black talent is.”

TrustRadius, a 70-person company that publishes reviews of business technology products, last year came out with its own report, “People of Color in Tech,” based on a survey of 1,200 technology professionals. Of all the major cities, respondents from Atlanta were most likely to report an increase in people of color in technology over the last decade. Respondents in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Denver; and Los Angeles were less likely to report an increase in people of color in tech. Austin—where TrustRadius is based—is the only growing city in the U.S. where the Black population is actually shrinking, according to the report.

Like most companies, TrustRadius embraced remote hiring during the pandemic. About half of the 15 new employees it hired over the last year are remote, said Vinay Bhagat, the company’s founder and CEO. They include people located in Atlanta, Virginia and other parts of Texas.

Increased diversity is just a fortunate byproduct of remote hiring, Bhagat said. He thinks the industry’s outreach is driven more by the need to find high-quality talent quickly as well as—at least for Silicon Valley-based companies—by lower costs in other regions.

Steve Cadigan, a recruiting consultant who served as LinkedIn’s first HR director, hopes that the acceptance of remote work becomes an opportunity to change certain practices that discourage diversity. Some believe that unconscious bias may be less likely during a video interview than an in-person interview, for example.

Although remote work can separate people from their existing networks, it may also encourage the formation of new, more inclusive networks within a company. During the pandemic, for example, some of Cadigan’s clients launched “coffee roulette” programs that deliberately matched up co-workers who did not know each other well, he noted. “That kind of thing disintermediates the way we normally hang out. We can’t hang out at the water cooler with our regular friends,” Cadigan said. “Such new norms of interaction can develop and foster more diversity.”

It’s too early to determine to what extent companies will diversify by hiring more people from different geographic areas. “We’re still in the midst of the great experiment,” Cadigan said. “But there are reasons to believe that there will be some positives outcomes.”

Technology can bridge the workplace diversity gap

After a year that forced the nation to examine its relationship with race and equality, employers are increasingly turning to new technologies to help them gain momentum around diversity and inclusion efforts.

Since last spring’s police killing of George Floyd, corporate America has faced increased pressure to bring significant change to the workplace. Ninety percent of employers said that diversity and inclusion was a top priority for 2021, according to McKinsey.

Employers have turned to technology to help them with the heavy lifting around eliminating recruiting bias and changing corporate culture. These tools are crucial to holding employers accountable and creating a diverse and dynamic workplace.

“We want to fall out of the trap of calling it a trend — it’s up to the employees and the HR department to lead these initiatives and take ownership,” says Natasha Shifrin, global outbound sales director at Hibob, an HR software platform. “Technology allows you to have insights based on real data, so you’re making decisions based on fact and not on emotion.”

The COVID pandemic has also been a catalyst for this work. The widespread adoption of remote work and an anticipated hiring frenzy means that employers are turning to virtual recruiting, presenting greater opportunities to expand their talent pool.

Read more: The biggest recruiting trends this year

Seventy percent of employers plan to utilize remote recruiting strategies in 2021, according to a survey by LinkedIn. Artificial intelligence can help ensure that the recruiting experience is equitable from start to finish. The technology, for example, can identify language in job postings that may exclude certain candidates, a critical first step in committing to inclusive hiring efforts.

Natasha Shifrin, global outbound sales director at Hibob, an HR software platform.

“The words that we use make a difference for the people you’re going to attract to the role and the company,” Shifrin says. “Make sure the language you’re using is neutral and inclusive to different areas of the population.”

And while the tech industry favors the use of go-getter terms like “ninja” and “hunter” in job descriptions, Shifrin says that kind of aggressive language can actually deter candidates from applying. Identifying these triggering words helps neutralize the hiring experience.

Read more: Remote work can be a tool for recruiting a more diverse staff

Once prospective employees get past the initial application process, it’s critical for HR managers to be trained to identify their own implicit biases. This training requires people to look inward at what may be influencing their interactions and choices, says Howard Ross, an unconscious bias trainer at Udarta Consulting, a corporate D&I firm.

“The brain makes decisions based on previous experiences and those memories guide us in how we deal with current experiences,” he says. “We could go through almost every interaction between human beings in the workplace, whether it’s interviewing, recruiting, making hiring decisions, staff assignments, the marketing of benefits — it’s the real nature of how we interact.”

Virtual training has provided an opportunity for managers and employees to engage in these discussions more consistently, says Elena Goulas, content manager at Epignosis, a learning and development platform. Epignosis expanded their training modules to include more education around inclusion, discrimination and unconcious bias after responding to increased interest over the past year.

Elena Goulas, content manager at Epignosis, a learning and development platform.

“Training is no longer a nice to have; it should be an integral part of company culture,” she says. “Everyone should understand the concepts of diversity and equality and have consistent training to ensure that these values and practices are solid, from interns up to the CEO.”

Read more: Why annual diversity training isn’t enough to combat racism

Moving these trainings from the conference room to an employee’s living room makes learning more accessible and digestible for employees.

“Remote training is inclusive in and of itself because it provides flexibility, and the opportunities are endless when it comes to the content,” Goulas says. “People can participate at their own pace, which ensures that people are completing the courses and benefiting from the knowledge.”

But one training program isn’t going to create lasting change. To create long-term success, employers must commit to their diversity and inclusion strategy. Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to reach their financial goals, according to data from Gartner. Additionally, more inclusive workplaces are more innovative and dominate in their industry, according to the Josh Bersin Academy, a professional development resource.

And while technology can be an important tool, organizations should avoid turning it into a crutch, Shifrin says.

“The technology is only as good as the people using it,” she says. “It’s our responsibility at the end of the day to be mindful and hold ourselves accountable. When people are comfortable and people feel represented, they’re going to do their best work for you.”

Meet Harold Brown: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s first chief diversity officer

CINCINNATI — Bach, Handel and Mozart — those are the names you expect to see in a symphony orchestra program. In more recent years, American and Russian composers have joined the canon, such as Copeland, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.

But a pattern remains: Overwhelmingly white, western and from a different century.

Fans of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) know, however, that’s not their entire repertoire. For years, the CSO has held shows for contemporary, gospel, film scores, folk and showcased composers from around the world. Still, the image is there, and they hope a new hire can help change that.

What You Need To Know

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra hired Harold Brown as its first chief diversity officer
The role is part of the 10-part plan to improve diversity, inclusion and equity
Brown is focused on recruiting diverse staff and attracting a diverse audience
He hopes to improve the CSO’s involvement with Cincinnati neighborhood leaders

Harold Brown was born and raised in Ohio, growing up as he calls it “on the mean streets of Oxford.”

He said music was always a part of his life, but not necessarily the kind of music he’d associate with a symphony orchestra. 

“I played an instrument through middle and high school,” he said.  “I’ve always sung in choirs from a child in my church to my high school choir, college choir (and) church choir more recently.”

But most importantly, Brown loved it.

He went on to Harvard where he studied government and from there he began a career in public policy and later nonprofits. When he returned to Ohio, he became a leader at a number of philanthropic organizations such as KnowledgeWorks. There he focused on equity work, closing achievement gaps and education reform.

Brown said he never expected his career trajectory to land him at the CSO.

“When this position became known to me, I asked myself that question, too: I said, ‘Well I don’t have a classical music background but I’ve done lots of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), equity-focused work in other sectors,” he said. 

He was one of more than 80 applicants from across the country for the CSO’s chief diversity officer position. It’s a first-of-its-kind position for not only Cincinnati but for orchestras of its size across the country. As Brown stepped into his role in March, he said he only knew of one other.

“I was on the phone with my counterpart in Philadelphia who just assumed this position in November,” he said. 

Brown said the CSO entered his sphere a few years ago through their annual show, “Classical Roots.”

“Combining gospel music with the symphony was something that was very powerful for us so we became league donors and brought other people to those concerts and then we started to come to additional CSO concerts,” he said. 

Brown believes shows like that have the power to open doors. He knows from experience it did for him.

“Folks who may not want to or never have or maybe even fear coming to Music Hall for a traditional performance, it’s a way to expose them to that genre,” he said. Brown at his desk

It’s also what Brown said attracted him to leave his seat in the audience and join the CSO leadership team, though he said their efforts to improve inclusion and diversity did not start and end with him. The CSO launched a 10-point, 10-year Diversity, Inclusion and Equity plan last August.

“The CSO had already started a very aggressive plan that we will continue to build on and hold ourselves accountable for,” he said.

In his first few months, Brown said that will mean a lot of listening and learning. He’s still meeting with staff, performers and community members. From there, Brown hopes to build on the existing structure and goals the CSO has in place to recruit and train a more diverse staff and attract a more diverse audience.

According to CSO president Jonathan Martin, just 1.8% of orchestras across the country are Black and about 2.5% are Hispanic. Those statistics do not represent the country and they don’t represent Cincinnati, he said.

That’s why Brown said training and recruiting performers that represent their community is so important. 

“We want to be in that game we want to be out there making sure the CSO has every opportunity to bring those folks in,” he said.Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra digital performance

Despite the difficulties 2020 brought to the CSO, he said there has been a lot of innovation he’s hoping to build off of.

“The digital work that we’re doing has opened up a brand new vista,” he said. “That isn’t going to be just until we’re open again that’s going to be I understand a permanent part of what we do.”

Brown said it makes the CSO more accessible and he hopes it opens up more doors to Cincinnati audiences, though he said there is plenty more room to grow. For that, Brown said, he’s relying on local leaders to help him out. 

“We’re not there. We’re not raising our hands and saying we’ve arrived because we’ve hired this position and we have a diversity equity and action plan,” he said. “But I hope the community works with us, shares ideas and gives the CSO the opportunity to demonstrate that the commitment to a more inclusive experience is genuine and authentic.”

Majority of employees want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion, survey shows


  • Nearly 80% of workers in the most recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Sixty percent of workers in the survey say they approve of business leaders speaking out on social and political issues.
  • Far fewer (36%) say they want their own leaders speaking out.

Workers want business leaders to speak up on social and political issues and think companies can do more when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, according to the latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey. The C-suite should take notice: a majority of employees say it’s important for them to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. More than half say it’s very important to them. The poll was conducted among 8,233 employed adults across the U.S. between April 8 and 18, using the SurveyMonkey platform.

 The wave of news events over the past several months—voting rights debates in Georgia and other states, anti-Asian violence, and the trial and conviction in the George Floyd death—have prompted business leaders to wade into heated issues in a very public way. And while 60% of workers in the survey say they approve of business leaders speaking up about these hot-button social and political issues, far fewer (36%) say they would back their own company’s leadership speaking out regardless of what they were advocating.

Those at the top of the organization—CEOs, business owners, and other C-suite leaders—are the least likely to say business leaders should be speaking out. A little over half in this group approve of those in leadership positions speaking out on social and political issues, compared with 62% of the rank and file.

Diversity and inclusion matters, say employees

There’s far more agreement on diversity and inclusion issues. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and a third said their companies are doing “a lot” of work on this area.

“Workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs,” says Laura Wronski, a research science manager at SurveyMonkey. “They are more likely than others to say that they have good opportunities to advance their careers, and they are more likely to feel like they are paid well for the work they do.”Workers who are satisfied with their company’s efforts on [DEI] issues are actually happier with their jobs.Laura Wronski, research science manager, SurveyMonkey

While the social implications for valuing diversity and inclusion resonate with workers, the business case is equally strong. As companies position themselves for growth in the wake of the pandemic, they need the very qualities that define diverse and inclusive cultures—innovation and resilience.

“Our business came to standstill last year, and it would have been really easy for us to say ‘let’s have a time out and focus on the financials,’” says Laura Fuentes, chief human resources officer at Hilton and a Workforce Executive Council (WEC) member. “Instead, we leaned into conversations around privilege, racism, and how men need to show up and become an ally.”

Greg Cunningham, chief diversity officer at U.S. Bank and a WEC member, says that enlightened companies understand that equity is a catalyst for business growth. “It’s not just the Black community or the Asian community or women,” he says. “This time it feels like we’re all in solidarity with each other.”

Indeed, nearly 40% of the workers surveyed said that the events of the past year have made diversity and inclusion more of a priority at their companies.

“I think we’re at this inflection point where employees and leaders realize that the only way to grow and move forward is to bring more people into the tent,” Cunningham adds. “We all win when we all win.”

Job satisfaction connection

One of the biggest challenges companies are facing as the country works its way out of the pandemic is the ability to find the right talent. Tech companies have long struggled to fill demand, and the skills gap remains a significant hurdle. Respondents to the CNBC Technology Executive Council quarterly survey, for instance, said it had become harder to find qualified job candidates. In fact, the survey shows that almost half of respondents say that finding qualified employees remains their biggest risk.

Keeping employees happy and engaged is therefore a crucial element in this talent war. And an employee’s perception of his or her company’s DEI efforts has an impact on their job satisfaction, according to the SurveyMonkey poll. Those workers who say their company is “not doing enough” to prioritize diversity and inclusion have a Workforce Happiness Index score of 63, well below the average score of 72.

DJ Castro, chief human resources officer at Synchrony, and a WEC member, says millennials, Gen X and Gen Z are purpose-driven generations that act on principle and hold organizations accountable. “They’re opting to work for companies with clear value systems and corresponding behaviors around inclusion, transparency, fairness and sustainable business practices,” he adds.

Keeping and attracting the best talent, says Kevin Price, a WEC member and head of inclusion and diversity for Dixon Hughes Goodman, will be determined by “how well a company can saturate the talent lifecycle with the key principles of diversity and inclusion,” he says. “Remember, you want the culture on your walls to align with the culture in the halls.”

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