Real Solutions for Hiring More-Diverse Tech Talent

By Catherine Skrzypinski Jun 14, 2016
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SEATTLE—While many technology giants such as Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo have “leaned in” with diversity initiatives in the past few years, tech executives say there is still much work to do when it comes to bringing women and minorities on board.

At the 2016 Talent42 Tech Recruiting Conference, Candice Morgan, head of diversity at Pinterest in San Francisco, said companies should set public goals around hiring diverse talent.

Tech firms have been transparent about their diversity statistics—and the lack of diversity within their workforces—since 2014, but there is room for improvement. Gender data at the biggest technology companies have revealed that women make up around 30 percent of the tech workforce. White workers make up 69 percent of employees, while the second highest ethnic representation, at nearly 14 percent, is Asian.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the representation of women in computer and mathematical operations is slightly worse at the halfway point of the 2010s when compared with the beginning of the decade.

Andrew Carges, vice president of talent acquisition at GoDaddy in San Francisco, shared how GoDaddy’s reputed corporate culture of misogyny changed after CEO Blake Irving took the helm in January 2013. Irving started a business initiative committed to gender diversity and immediately hired three women for roles on the company’s leadership executive board, including a chief technology officer.

“I’m here to help change this,” Carges quoted Irving as saying. “This is my job.”

GoDaddy’s 2015 gender diversity and salary statistics revealed that women now represent 20 percent of its technical workforce and 25 percent of the company overall, compared with 2014, when women occupied 18 percent of the technical roles. The web hosting company has also increased the number of women in management roles to 25 percent.

“This is a fairly dramatic change,” Carges continued. “GoDaddy evolved from a sexist advertiser during the Super Bowl to an advocate for women in tech.”

“The CEO sets the tone,” Morgan agreed with Carges.

Morgan said executives at Pinterest are striving to increase hiring rates for a more-diverse workforce in 2016. The popular pinning website is trying to increase its:

  • Full-time engineering roles to 30 percent women. Currently, 21 percent are women.
  • Full-time engineering roles to 8 percent of employees from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
  • Nonengineering roles to 12 percent of employees from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds. Currently at the company, Hispanic and black employees hold 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of the tech roles.

Pinterest executives are also tackling the diversity divide by adapting the “Rooney Rule,” an initiative from the National Football League where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.

Eliminating Unconscious Bias

Many tech companies, such as Google, are training new staff on unconscious bias to help eliminate the preconceived notions that are influenced by an individual’s background, cultural environment and personal experiences.

Morgan said Pinterest executives reviewed all of their job descriptions to remove words that may turn off candidates from particular groups from applying, such as the phrase “rock star,” which research has shown can skew toward a gendered interpretation and attract more male candidates.

Carges added that recruiters and hiring managers might also display bias toward a super-qualified candidate with a stellar resume. “If you see a software engineer with four years’ experience at Amazon who graduated from Stanford in your inbox, are you excited and are you running to your supervisor? That’s bias.”

Morgan said it might be helpful to remove information about a candidate’s educational background from an application. A recruiter might gravitate toward a particular graduate because they attended the same school, rather than assessing the person on the skills required for the position.

Cultivating Diverse Candidates for the Future Workforce

Both GoDaddy and Pinterest are reaching out to future programmers, hackers and developers at an early age. GoDaddy has teamed up with The Hour of Code, where students learn coding basics in 60 minutes, while Pinterest is working in partnership with Black Girls Code.

Pinterest says it is expanding its presence on historically black college and university campuses, as well as forming mentoring programs for college freshmen thinking about dropping their computer science major.

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Vancouver.

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