Is There Too Much Diversity Tech?

Employers, vendors weigh in on whether the abundance of diversity tools is a good thing

By Terena Bell August 15, 2018
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​Is there such a thing as too much diversity tech? Sjoerd Gehring at Johnson & Johnson doesn't think so. As global vice president of talent acquisition and people experience, he consistently receives sales pitches from vendors that say they can attract, vet or engage diverse candidates.

 "The more channels the better," agreed Ursula Mead, CEO of InHerSight—as long as the market isn't flooded. "What I don't want to see in our space is too much fragmentation of our efforts because then you start to lose the power that you often need in mass adoption."

In other words, in an HR tech market expected to reach $10 billion by 2022, only so many diversity startups can survive.  And buyers may begin to be overwhelmed by too many choices.

 "In a crowded ecosystem, there's always going to be great products and not-so-great products. But I believe that in this particular space—in diversity and inclusion—there can't be enough," Gehring said. In addition to his work at Johnson & Johnson, he's an advisor to two vendors: Checkster, which eliminates bias during interviews, and Fairygodboss, a review site where employees rate workplaces on factors important to women. InHerSight also ranks workplaces on similar factors.

From attraction to attrition, there's no shortage of players on the market. Both Fetcher and HiringSolved, for example, find diverse candidates. Blendoor removes bias-triggering facts from applications. For bias-free interview scheduling, there's chatbot Mya. Currently in private beta, Bizy helps managers recognize input from diverse employees. To remove bias in how input gets considered, there's Balloonr. Textbot Cleo helps employers engage employees after paternity leave. Vantage Point uses virtual reality to prevent sexual harassment. And there are at least two chatbots that monitor employee language: Guys Bot sends notices to people who type "hey guys" in Slack, recommending words like "team" or "folks" instead. And Allie helps women file complaints about men who interrupt them. Wherever bias or inequality lurks, there's likely a technology to fix it.

While Gehring contends that more diversity tech tools can only be a good thing, Johnson & Johnson doesn't work with them. It's not for lack of awareness; Gehring said that he gets sales e-mails every day and that Johnson & Johnson seeks new tools out. But the company currently uses an internal platform that he says has "the ability to much better understand what bias might exist in the hiring process," pairing it with Google Jobs API and one outside vendor: Textio, an augmented writing platform that CEO Kieran Snyder says isn't just a diversity tool. "Textio really isn't primarily a 'diversity solution,' " she said. "While addressing hiring diversity and unconscious bias is a big part of Textio, ultimately the power of the augmented writing platform is much broader."

Diversity is still a big part of Textio's marketing: The company blogs on diversity, releases studies on words that make job descriptions more female-friendly, and pitches diversity-themed articles to reporters. And for some employers, this technology does solve hiring inequality: Textio client NVIDIA increased female applicants by 28 percent after implementation.

In a sea of product offerings, HR managers must remain focused on why diversity tech even exists. "I think it's important that we have great solutions that reflect all of our different needs, but we also rally around the things that can really make changes in scale," Mead said.

 As Gehring evaluates products, he said, "It's up to organizations to make the strategic decision on who to partner with and what problems that will solve."

Terena Bell is a freelance writer based in New York.

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