6 Actionable Strategies to Foster DEI in Tech Hiring

Despite the ethical and material benefits of good DEI practices, too many companies in tech have failed to achieve meaningful progress in this area. Following these guidelines will help curb that trend.

Written by Ari Montgomery
Published on Aug. 10, 2022
6 Actionable Strategies to Foster DEI in Tech Hiring
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It’s no surprise that the tech industry suffers from a lack of diversity. Despite many companies touting more aggressive efforts, the results are still underwhelming. But your business can take some actionable steps today to build a robust DEI program — efforts that have driven results for us at Treasury Prime.

6 Actionable Strategies to Foster DEI in Tech Hiring

  1. Get buy-in.
  2. Address unconscious bias.
  3. Generate a pipeline.
  4. Implement equitable interview processes.
  5. Hold the team accountable.
  6. Consider remote candidates.

More in DEIWhat Does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Mean in the Workplace?

 

Why Do Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matter?

You’ve heard the eye-opening numbers. Of the $350 billion in venture capital funding raised in 2021, just 2.1 percent went to firms with female founders. Of the top 1000 fintechs, just 7 percent have female CEOs, and only 11 percent of board members are women. At leading tech companies, only 6 percent of employees are Black and just 7 percent are Latinx. Without any seats for diverse voices, companies miss out on a range of talents, opinions and perspectives.

The 2020 McKinsey study “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters” shows that diversity and representation have a positive correlation with a company’s performance. Companies with 30 percent or more women executives were likely to outperform companies with less female representation at top levels. The study also showed diversity had positive effects on profitability, with diverse companies beating their less diverse counterparts by up to 36 percent.

At Treasury Prime, we’re working hard to build a diverse workforce. Over the past year, we increased the percentage of employees who are women in our workforce from 29 to 41 percent, with 42 percent of leadership positions held by women. We also increased the percentage of BIPOC employees from 25 to 42, with 42 percent of leadership positions filled by a person of color. 

As the McKinsey study suggests, these efforts correlate with overall company employee satisfaction. Our internal survey found 94 percent of employees are proud to call Treasury Prime their workplace and 76 percent of teammates rarely ever thought of job hunting. 

Here’s what you can do to start seeing similar results in your own company.

 

1. Get Buy-In

Having internal buy-in for an undertaking as complex as DEI is vital. Work with leadership and define objectives before developing a DEI curriculum. Objectives may vary depending on the current state of your company. For example, at Treasury Prime, our workforce was mostly white, cisgender men. So, we set a goal to bring more women and people of color on board, with an emphasis on our executive leadership positions.

Goals may also differ by team as well. Engineering (and other STEM fields) tend to be quite male-heavy. Consider meeting with the leaders of each team to consult on team-specific objectives and design a DEI program that allows each team’s efforts to ladder up to company-wide KPIs.

Every team in an organization has a stake in DEI and requires cross-functional collaboration and resourcing. DEI efforts can’t be supported by just a human resources or talent acquisition team or solely by an employee-resource group. Leaders across the organization need to buy into the goals to ensure that any DEI efforts are being followed and supported. For some businesses, this may also require hiring outside consultants and advisors as well as providing continuing education related to DEI for employees.
 

2. Address Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias describes notions or stereotypes about individuals or groups of people that shape our thinking and actions without our consciously realizing it. Our upbringing, interpersonal experiences, media consumption, and many other factors influence this type of bias. Unconscious bias doesn’t just affect your perception of people based on gender or ethnicity; it can also influence judgments about people based on religion, sexual orientation or even physical appearance. 

One of the first and most important steps in combating unconscious bias is acknowledging that it exists in the first place. We all have them. Oftentimes, the unconscious biases that we hold in our personal lives creep out into our professional lives and that’s why it’s so important to build a nuanced hiring process that enables your employees to understand their own personal unconscious bias and how to separate that from the candidate and interview process as a whole.   

Although there isn’t necessarily a step-by-step guide to eradicating unconscious biases since we’re all guilty of having them, some procedural and cultural practices can inform the hiring process:

  • Educate your teammates on what unconscious bias is, how it can manifest (a bias for specific names, a bias for specific educational backgrounds, etc.), and understand how it can affect company culture. 
  • Ensure your company culture and values are at the forefront. Employees have likely joined a company at least in part because they’re aligned with the company’s mission and values. Make clear that any processes that support DEI efforts are key to company values.
  • Make it clear to employees that they have the right to speak up against unconscious bias. If they aren’t comfortable addressing it with other employees or in a public channel, ensure a private and anonymous way exists for them to do so instead.
  • Be proactive. Look at where your company is now. If your leadership is primarily white, cisgender men, unconscious bias may have driven this outcome.
  • Bring diversity into the interview process. Although we all have unconscious biases, we all bring different viewpoints to the table. Having a wide cast of team members involved in hiring can make the process more equitable to candidates and even easier to notice and prevent unconscious biases from swaying decisions.
  • Consider how you write job listings and screen applications. Studies have shown that specific wording can affect how willing various demographics of applicants are to apply. And think about what questions you’re asking. Are you asking an applicant what pronouns they prefer? Are you providing space for them to tell you more than what’s listed on their resume?
     

This, of course, isn’t an exhaustive list. As the way we work changes, so will how we address unconscious bias in the workplace. As mentioned, advocate for continuing education to ensure that your team is abreast of best practices. 

More on Unconscious Bias16 Unconscious Bias Examples and How to Avoid Them in the Workplace

 

3. Generate a Pipeline

You should consider a few things in the interview process. First, when interviewing, don’t look for a culture fit; seeking this quality will simply deliver more of the same.  Rather, identify people who may add to your culture. A good candidate may not have the same personality or skill set as others. Instead, they may have complementary skills and traits that make them a great fit. For example, an engineer may not know how to code in a specific language but has shown an aptitude — and interest — in learning the language your company prefers to use. 

Further, rethink how you source candidates. Sharing openings to community-specific job boards (e.g., LGBT+, women in tech) can widen the pool of candidates and demonstrates commitment to pursuing candidates of diverse backgrounds.

Although it’s more time consuming, you should also consider a handpicked approach. If your team is interested in interviewing women of color or differently abled candidates, an online screening may not make such qualities clear. Using social platforms like LinkedIn can help talent acquisition teams take a closer look at candidates for qualities that may not come across via a resume. 

It can be difficult, for instance, to know an applicant’s gender identity from a name on a resume alone. If your team is prioritizing racial or sexual orientation diversity, this likely isn’t abundantly clear on most initial application screenings. An applicant’s LinkedIn profile can provide valuable context. You can learn a great deal simply by looking at a candidate’s profile photo, listed side projects, and interest groups.
 

4. Implement Equitable Interviewing Processes

Consider implementing a system that evaluates candidates beyond their hard skills. If an engineering candidate does not know how to code in a preferred language, think about how you can structure the application and interview process so that the applicant’s strengths can shine through. Some candidates may be strong technically but less adept at behavioral questions. Others may have a less developed skill set but have the aptitude to grow into the role. Complete an audit of your current application and of how the interview process is structured at your company currently and determine areas for improvement.

At Treasury Prime, we recently overhauled parts of our interview process that include a more exhaustive scoring rubric that covers hard technical skills, soft skills, and behavioral assessments to ensure that a candidate is evaluated through different lenses during the process. We’ve also made sure that candidates have a chance to speak to a recruiter and learn more about the job and Treasury Prime’s company mission and culture before giving them a take-home assignment. Previously, candidates would be required to work on an assessment before speaking to a team member.

You also need to have talent acquisition staff present for candidate debriefs. This helps ensure the discussions aren’t unfair to candidates. We have at least one talent acquisition team member included in hiring manager discussions about candidates. Should a hiring manager make a decision that seems influenced by unconscious bias, we can course-correct and recenter the conversation on relevant topics and metrics.

For example, a hiring manager might be excited about how similar a candidate is to themselves or to the wider team. As mentioned, there is value in hiring people who bring different thoughts and skill sets to the table, and having an outside voice from a talent acquisition team member helps safeguard against preferences like this. 

My biggest piece of advice for those hiring (and those who are looking for a job in tech) is looking for and valuing authenticity. Authenticity translates often into genuine excitement for a position. For me, that counts for a lot. A candidate may not have the exact skill set for the position but demonstrates a true eagerness to learn and be part of the company. I’ve found that these applicants make some of the best employees.

 

5. Hold the Team Accountable

All the measures you undertake should have a discernible impact, and you should listen to any feedback you receive. Regularly survey teammates to get a sense of what everyone thinks. At Treasury Prime, we survey the company and are transparent with the results. We also highlight areas of opportunity for improvement or anywhere we’ve fallen short. Our recent survey found employees were largely glad to call Treasury Prime their workplace, but we learned we have work to do with respect to company-wide processes. To address this, we are leaning into what our employees have reported as their favorite things about working at Treasury Prime and going directly to employees to get their recommendation for procedural changes and third-party tools that would make their day-to-day work easier.
 

6. Consider Remote Candidates 

Treasury Prime is a remote-first company. Having a decentralized workforce has made hiring a more diverse team easier rather than harder. Like many tech firms, we have an anchor in Silicon Valley, however, the Bay Area boasts the highest cost of living in the United States. For many people, this expense is an irreconcilable hurdle. Candidates may want to live somewhere that they can more easily buy a home, have more expendable income, or simply want to live in a more suburban part of the country. Now, knowing  that we can hire someone who may not want to or be able to move to the Valley allows us to tap into candidates we may never have considered (and vice versa) just a few years ago. 

More in HiringCandidates Should Interview Companies, Not the Other Way Around

 

Get Started Now

As much as I wish there was a playbook or formula for bringing more diversity to a workforce, there unfortunately isn’t one. Tech companies big and small continue to work towards improving DEI in their offices, virtual and otherwise, and it won’t happen overnight.

My biggest piece of advice is to simply get started. If you’re noticing inequities and a lack of diversity, it’s likely others in your company have as well. Taking the initiative, speaking with leadership, and getting next steps on the table can lay the groundwork for everything else discussed here. Advocate for yourself and for your team and again, ask for the resources to make it happen.

At Treasury Prime, our leadership team sponsored my certification in DEI from Cornell University before I gave a company-wide presentation on DEI and unconscious bias. This set us up for continuing success where we’ve already seen a 10 percent increase in women and 15 percent increase in BIPOC folks joining the team and a 15 percent increase in both women and BIPOC folks in leadership positions.

Hitting DEI goals will take time, and we are continually modifying the process to get there at Treasury Prime. The work is definitely worth it, though.

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