Startups are finally looking to close that diversity gap

By , 24 June 2015 at 15:04
Startups are finally looking to close that diversity gap

Startups are finally looking to close that diversity gap

By , 24 June 2015 at 15:04

Diversity in business is a hot topic not so much because it’s fair, but it almost guarantees a greater culture of innovation, creativity and understanding of an even more diverse market. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of talk happening about #WomeninTech, while there’s a lot less about the lack of other minorities in the space. And we’ve already talked about how there are very few companies looking to solve either problem.

Yes, it does frustrate me that the only place I never have to wait in line for the bathroom is any tech or startup event, but diversity is more than that. I recently learned I almost didn’t get a job because I’m the only extrovert among our small team of introverts. Diversity isn’t just based on which bathroom line you wait in, it’s about where you’re from, what you believe in and, most important of all, the assets you bring to the table.

“In order for any of this to be successful, it’s not just more women in tech, we need equality of opportunity. We need diversity across the board. The only way for it to be successful is if we bring everybody on board, not just one group,” said Heidi Walker, business evangelist at GapJumpers an alternative recruitment platform.

While diversity algorithms are flying back and forth, we uncovered a pair of companies that are finally looking past numbers talk and toward redefining what diversity truly means.

GapJumpers is ‘The Voice’ of the Job Search

We’ve all been there. We read a job description for a super cool sounding role at a dream company but then noticed certain job requirements that we weren’t certain our experience fulfilled.

Turns out that women are more likely to turn away, while a man will be more likely to give it a go regardless. Either way, based on the black-and-white of our résumés or CVs, we simply won’t get past many applicant tracking systems (ATS)—the human resources software being used more and more to make the recruitment process more efficient.

But we just know if given a shot, we’d be perfect for the opportunity, right?!

GapJumpers offers just that opportunity. Companies are using GapJumpers to offer blind challenges—like The Voice’s blind auditions—which test what applicants are capable of well before any CV is looked at or an interview is scheduled. This can range from technical roles to administrative to marketing—it’s all about giving an equal opportunity to candidates to test drive their suitability for the actual day-to-day tasks required for each role.

Each challenge is tailored to the job at hand and candidate submissions are put through different coding analysis software, quantifying things like coding language, level of syntax, level of creativity, accuracy and depth. Scoring from one through five is then made relative to other candidates’ work.

One company had developer candidates create the source code for the game Minesweeper—the candidate who was selected for interview had gone ahead and created a prototype including three levels of difficulty.  By doing so he demonstrated that we was willing to  go above and beyond the assigned challenge and really impressed the hiring manager. The candidate has a two-year community college degree and had been working as a network administrator. “It’s just such a great example of how that résumé would have never made it through the client’s applicant tracking system,” Walker said.  In addition, the candidate was an African American male, a underrepresented group in the technology field. The client was able to focus on selecting a candidate based on demonstrated merit, not education pedigree.

But, who are GapJumpers competition? Actually, it’s the internal referral. Walker says that the average company can get hundreds of résumés through their own ATS and names and backgrounds start to blur together. “What’s going to happen when an internal person brings a résumé to the hiring manager’s desk?” she posed. “Instead of going through the 125 who already applied, they will help ‘Joe’ since they are having a hard time distinguishing between résumés via the ATS and internal referral bonuses are cheaper and faster than a recruitment agency or headhunter.”

But that’s what leads to companies having diversity problems—we’re all recommending our friends who nearly always have the same background as we do.

Walker warned that “The keyword search algorithms in applicant tracking systems are skewed to favor white privilege.  What if you don’t fit that model?  For example, you are a military spouse who has moved frequently, or you put yourself through community college while supporting your siblings.  Perhaps you are a professional who was made redundant later in life, or you have retrained and want to break into a new field. There are so many ways that individuals become skilled today and our recruitment methods need to catch-up.  GapJumpers blind auditions fill that void.  Our platform provides a way for those from nontraditional backgrounds to get over that résumé-sifting bias.”

But what if the job description is too feminine?

Recently Walker met the Co-Founder and CEO of Textio, Kieran Snyder, when both were presenters at the National Center for Women and IT annual summit. Textio has been dubbed the “spell checker for gender bias.”

Yes, the judging of applicants can be as blind as can be, but what if job descriptions are turning away certain applicants? Can a job description really appeal to only one sex? Or a person from a specific background? Are we subconsciously turning off our best prospects with our poorly written or biased job descriptions?

Textio is a suggestive content management system built on the data of more than 10,000 companies. They’ve uncovered fascinating statistics like using the phrase “a proven track record” will serve to attract mostly male applicants, while “a passion for learning” appeals to female applicants.

Textio can predict the success of a job description in real-time while you write it. It not only predicts gender bias but helps companies to sell themselves by focusing on the best content, giving emphasis to appealing phrases like “good sense of humor” and deterrents to phrases loaded with corporate jargon.

After all, as the Textio’s motto goes: “Your words predict how well you will hire.”

And are these tools enough?

If we are talking about these often awkward topics of diversity, that means we’re giving more attention to measuring them. That’s the first step. And if companies are really looking to use tools like GapJumpers and Textio to attract the candidates most capable of doing the job, this is the next step.

But what more could business be doing to increase diversity? Tell us @tefdigital!

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